I. CHANGE: RUTH 1:20
II. CIRCUMSTANCES: RUTH 1:21
III. CONSOLATION: RUTH 1:22
INTRODUCTION: We have seen from the previous verses how that the two women left Moab and are now heading to the “House of Bread,” Bethlehem. As the two women: Naomi and Ruth, drew near the village, there were workers in the field who were shocked to see Naomi after so long a time of absence from Israel. Verse 20 ends with the question, “Is this, Naomi?” In that verse she gives her answer, “Call me not Naomi, but call me Mara.”
She attests that her circumstances have changed the concept of her character. Naomi, meant “Pleasantness” whereas Mara meant, “Bitterness.” The last ten years or more affected her gravely and she reveals the depth of her despair by asking that her former life and name be changed to the present time of despondency and despair. While we may fault Naomi for this assumption, sometimes we Christians enter into the Slough of Despair and there we find ourselves with memories of past blessings and happiness, thinking we will never be better and that the sun will not shine upon us again. However, the sun did eventually shine upon Naomi and it will shine upon us if we remain faithful to Him.
In these verses of Scripture, I see three things. I see where the CHANGE occurred in Naomi and sometimes that same change can happen to we who are faithful to God. Next, I see the CIRCUMSTANCES of Naomi and how she arrived at this feeling. Then, I see where the CONSOLATION occurred to her. God was faithful to His daughter and will be faithful to us if we stay true to Him.
I. CHANGE: It is true that people change. I guess it is inevitable, but we are not quite the person we were ten years ago. Sometimes we change for the better-sometimes for the worse. Such was the instance with Naomi. She left her homeland with two boys and a husband, but now they sleep in Moab. She now returns with one of her former daughter-in-laws. Along the journey of her life, she encountered some radical happenings and now she returns home alone-save with her gentile daughter-in-law.
One of the ways that Naomi must have CHANGED was in her Concepts of God, Himself. She left Bethlehem with her soul full and her stomach empty. While in Moab, she was able to satisfy her physical appetite yet she lost her happiness. Out of these dire straights, she attributes her misfortunes to the God who she has served. Yet, her devotion to God was remarkable because Ruth said that she would embrace the God of Naomi. However, circumstances affected Naomi greatly and the only One she could blame was God. Where was her Concepts of God that sustained her during the draught, the deaths, the dismays of life? Her inner thoughts and ideas about God were changing and perhaps no one knew except her. Finally, her real thoughts and Concepts of the God of all gods came tumbling forth from her lips: “Call me not Naomi, call me Mara.” She blamed God for what she had gone through. I never read where God upbraided her for these thoughts. He knew Naomi and He knew that deep down in her soul, she still believed in Him. Are we any different from her? No. We often are faced with events that challenge our Concepts of God and our relationship with Him, but He is always patient and kind and He eventually rescues that soul which truly believes in Him.
Not only did Naomi’s concepts about God and herself CHANGE, so did her Character. She was different upon her return home. The CHANGE in her self-identity became evident, but also her true Character, began to shine through her facade. She felt that for some reason or other, she was being unjustly bothered with the circumstances of her life. She seemed to say, “Why me?” She had done all she knew what to do. She remained faithful to God in a foreign land to the point that she won a gentile woman to embrace her God. Yet, she really believed that she was not the same person she once was and she felt her old identity ease away only to be replaced by a bitter, inward looking person. She did not like what she saw and felt, but she could not deny it. She felt that her very core of being was transformed into one whom she did not like, but one she could not run away or flee from it.
The enemy of our soul is adapt at doing this to God’s children. Job’s wife fell into that trap when she told Job to curse God and die. She hated to see the love of her life suffer and she thought that God had abandoned her mate. She changed on the inside due to outward circumstances and she wanted an end to her husband’s suffering. Let us not judge Job’s wife nor Naomi too harshly-sometimes we are just as guilty as they were. We all would like to go to Heaven on a bed of roses, but that is not how God wants us to live. He sends us rain along with the sunshine-it is only how we internalize the shifts in life that change us. Naomi felt that her true self was gone-the God who loved her dearly was only refining it. Naomi recovered and we can too if we refuse to allow events to permanently change who we really are.
The third part of this CHANGE, which she felt, has to be seen from her eyes. She felt that there was no end in sight to her distress. Her problems, which started long ago, were multiplying on an ever-faster rate of a downward Continuum. She felt that this was it-from now on life would only get worse. She felt that for some reason, God had started His tests on her and there was no end in sight. Poor Naomi; she could not see it then, but God was getting her ready for a direct purpose. He was setting the stage for Naomi to suggest to Ruth to go to the field of Boaz and begin working for him. The first chapter of Ruth shows a dejected Naomi. The last chapter of this small book shows that Naomi was a very good grandmother. However, now she felt that the CHANGE was permanent-but God meant it for only a season. Let us remember, that whatever we are going through at the time, do not give up the faith. Hang in there-God will come in His time to rescue us. The change, which Naomi felt, was only temporary. She returned to being a “Pleasant” one and not a “Bitter” one. We can do the same if we, like Naomi, do not allow outward events to CHANGE or transform us on the inside for the worse.
II. CIRCUMSTANCES: The circumstances of Naomi’s plea to have her name changed to Mara reflects some things which happened to her over her recent past and also reflects what we sometimes do-blame God for our calamities.
The first thing I note about this part of my sermon refers to some Comparatives in her past and present circumstances. She said she “went out full” and returned home “empty.” She went out in her youth and returned in old age. She went out full of health, hope and home. She returned broken in health, hopeless and homeless. She felt as if God had done this to her for some reason of which she could not fathom.
Secondly, she did what a lot of us do-she Charged God for all of her bad turn of events. We tend to do the same thing as she did: we have a tendency to blame God for all of our downturns and calamities. It is easy to do this because we cannot see the purpose of what God is trying to do in our lives. The load she carried as she went home was onerous. She struggled to make sense of a once happy and vibrant life. Now, she returned home, broken. There just was no other one to blame or to Charge, but God, Himself or so she thought. “Why, oh why, me?” These words haunted her. She did not return home with grandchildren, sons or a husband. She did not return home directing an oz driven wagon full of household items. She returned home carrying most of her possessions in a hand bag. Some one did this to her and in her mind it was God. He moved against her for reasons unbeknown to her. He was the One who oversaw all of her events. She assessed judgment on Him-He who loved her dearly and was merely setting her life apart from all others just so He could bless her. God does these things, you know. We may have a hard time comprehending the “Why” when we should be praying, “Why not!” Naomi eventually learned this lesson; it was a hard lesson; but, once learned, she was able to say, “Thy will be done.” May we ever live in that sacred place of saying the same, “Thy will be done.” Naomi is introduced to us here as one who became censorious-but we last see her being a sweet and obedient servant of God.
Thirdly, these circumstances, which befell her and those, which bedevil us are Constructive happenings in the saints’ lives. Without experiencing the things she endured, she would never have had the privilege of helping Ruth find Boaz. Without the events of her life, she would never have had her name recorded in sacred Script. He who is the Master Designer of the saint’s lives was working all of these calamities, which befell her, for her good. What we feel of that which is bad-He can turn it to our good. In all of this, Naomi never lost sight of God. She questioned Him but she still submitted herself to Him. We must do likewise.
III. CONSOLATIONS: In spite of all, which befell her, there were plenty of things over which she could rejoice.
The first thing I notice of which she could rejoice and of which she eventually did rejoice was the fact that there was some type of Celebration in her heart, knowing she was at last home. She had journeyed long. She had endured much, but now she was home and it was time to celebrate. She serves as a type of we who look for that city which is not built by hand. We too, experience life at its worst and at its best, but someday we too will make it Home and we will celebrate forever.
Not only did she draw comfort from the fact that she was home and she could celebrate in her home going, but she had a Companion to go with her. We too are not left to walk alone. We too have a Companion, which walks with us and will help us make the journey Home. Let us celebrate that we are not alone.
The last thing I note is that with her helper and with her arriving home, she serves as a type for the Church, the redeemed. We will all gather as one, some day in the future, as we celebrate our Homecoming into Heaven. We will renew old acquaintances: we will relax-at last; and, we will be able to rejoice knowing our trip is over and we have made it.
Yes, Ruth went with Naomi to her new home-Jesus goes with us to our new Home. We are like Ruth-we are tag-along, but oh the joy to walk with the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Some day we will make it home and the multitude will ask us if we are whom we say we are. We will answer, “Yes, but my new name is Redeemed because the old has past away and behold, all things are now new.”
III. CONSOLATION: In verse 22 of our text, I see where things began to take a turn for the better. In verse 20, we see where Naomi thought that a real CHANGE had occurred within her, for the worse. In verse 21, we see where she looked at her CIRCUMSTANCES to make her statements of hopelessness and despair. However, in this verse, we begin to see where Naomi had undergone a change in her life and this change was evident through out the rest of the book of Ruth. This, I term, as Naomi’s Consolation from God.
The first part of my last point has to do with Naomi’s Celebration of her realization that maybe-just maybe, things would begin to improve in her life. Naomi, in spite of all of the happenings of her past, had ample reasons to be happy. One of the reasons to celebrate was that she was at last going home. We, like her, are strangers in a foreign land. We live on this Earth, where Satan dominates. We are pilgrims passing through his land. We suffer greatly due to Sin, which entered this world ages ago. We loose loved ones. We go hungry for spiritual companions. We are bereft of money and things. We are often alone, but remember we are going Home. We may be discouraged at times, but we have ample reasons to celebrate, we are going Home. Every footstep she took in the direction of “The House of Bread” was one footstep closer to home. Along the way, she picked up a fellow traveler. Her life was not in vain, and she had reason to celebrate. Her CONSOLATION was the fact that she was nearer home than she had been for a long time. Why not celebrate? Christians, let us celebrate also, we are one day closer to our Home than we were yesterday. We may have much to endure, but the City set on a Hill is visible from where we stand. We ever look for that City not made by hands and as we draw near it, our hearts beat with anticipation that we are nearing Home. Like Martin Luther King, Jr., we can say as we near the environs of Home, “Free at last.”
Not only was she able to celebrate by going home, she walked with a Companion. She had an earthly companion to walk with her, but we have a Heavenly Companion to walk with us. Naomi was able to explain to her earthly companion signposts along the way of life as she neared the City. We too walk with One who explains the signposts of our Heavenly journey. No longer did Naomi drag her footsteps. No longer was she cast down. Now, she quickened her pace as she neared home and the companion had to hurry to keep abreast of her and to listen to what she had to say. Our Companion walks on, explaining the things of our Heavenly journey and we have to walk quickly to keep up with Him. He had lived for a while in gentile territory, but now, he is gathering His Companions to hasten with Him to make it to the Heavenly City.
Not only did Naomi draw CONSOLATION from her present circumstances, she was Consumed by the fact that she was home at last and things were going to change. She had reason to be enveloped with happiness by her latest change of events. Her troubled soul was at last drawing favorable CONSOLATIONS from the newfound events. At last, she was able to let her blessings consume her troubled soul. Besides this, she came home at the correct time-the barley harvest. This was the time of ingathering of the crop and Naomi came home at the right time.
Someday, our Heavenly Companion will walk with us into the Holy City when God completes the Harvest of souls; at that great ingathering of God’s people. We will be like Naomi-happy at last, and we will draw our CONSOLATIONS from He who is our Heavenly King.