Summary: Four observations about the way that God was at work in bringing Naomi and Ruth to Bethlehem.

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All scripture quotations are from the New Living Translation of the Bible

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A father was trying to explain to his four-year-old daughter the concept of marriage. But she just wasn’t getting it. So he decided that maybe some visuals might help.

He pulled out the wedding album and went page by page – pointing out the bride arriving at the church – the entrance– the wedding ceremony – the recessional – the reception. Finally, the little girl said: “Now I get it. That’s when mommy came to work for us.”

Happy Mother’s Day!

It’s not easy being a mom, is it? And it really is a hard concept to grasp – how you pour your life into your family – your children – and they don’t really get it. Sure they appreciate what you do for them. But they don’t – perhaps can’t – understand what you feel – how you feel every time they get sick – the worry you feel when they’re not home on time – the agony you go through when they make dumb choices that you know will have an impact on their entire lives.

Being Mom isn’t easy. Ask Naomi. Her husband dragged her away from their extended family out into the land of Moab. Of course, there was a good reason – a famine back in Bethlehem. They had two sons both of which had issues. I say that based on their names – one meant “sickly” and the other, as best we can tell meant something like “loser.”

So you can imagine that her mothering experiences were not – well – ideal.

And then, of course, her husband dies. And then the two sons die. And she is stuck by herself in a foreign country. Although she does have two daughters-in-law.

Naomi decides to go back to Bethlehem. The famine is over she has heard – so it seems wise to go back. She packs up the little she has left – obviously a very poor woman and starts down the road – her daughters-in-law follow.

“No,” she tells them. “Go back to your own mother’s home – at least there you have a chance of getting another husband. But if you go back to Bethlehem with me what will you have? I’m not going to have any more children who could grow up to be your husbands.”

So there is this big emotional scene out on the pathway. Neither daughter-in-law wants to leave Naomi. But finally Orpah agrees that it would be best to return to her mother’s home. Ruth, on the other hand, is stubborn stubborn stubborn. She is determined that she is going to stick with Naomi.

You know the rest of the story. They both return to Naomi’s hometown of Bethlehem. And in hind-sight all of this means that Naomi and Ruth end up being two of the most important mothers in the Bible. But it was not an easy or a very romantic journey.

I would like to make four relatively quick observations about the bitter return to Bethlehem and what it all means – not just to for the unfolding of the whole biblical story but also for our lives as well. So here we go.


There did not appear to be an ounce of pretense in this woman. Life had knocked her to the ground and kicked her around for awhile – and she had absolutely no problem acknowledging that reality. She was not the stoic. She was not pollyanna.

After all of the loss in her life she gave up her daughters-in-law – or at least tried to. Then when she arrived back in Bethlehem she said to her old friends there: Verse 20 – “Don’t call me Naomi, Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me.”

There is a little play on words here. “Call me mara for the Almighty has marred me.”

Stuff has happened to me. I can’t pretend otherwise. I’m a bitter old woman.

Now, of course, this is not what we want to hear from people. We know that protracted bitterness tends to kill people. And no one really wants to be around someone who oozes bitterness.

But this doesn’t appear to be acidic in nature. She is simply acknowledging the reality of a hard life. And there is nothing wrong with that.

Maybe you’ve been through the mill yourself – deaths in your family – divorce – brokenness – aloneness – isolation. Hey, there is nothing wrong in acknowledging this – it’s a part of who you are and what has happened in your life.

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