Has your life ever taken an unexpected turn, either for good or for bad? Have you had your life mapped out, convinced you knew what was ahead, only to have God lead you in an unexpected direction? Have you ever felt like your life was a roller coaster full of ups and downs and twists and turns?
In today’s episode of All God’s Women we look at Naomi, a woman who lived a roller coaster life. At one point she even thought God had abandoned her and left her with nothing to look forward to, But God, in His infinite mercy, brought her a surprise plot twist at the end that was better than anything she could have expected.
n the beginning of the book of Ruth, we meet Naomi, an Israelite woman from Bethlehem blessed with a husband and two sons, living the good life.
Then famine hits their beloved land and her husband Elimelelch moves the family to the pagan land of Moab.
Within a short period of time, her husband dies.
But at least she still has her sons.
Then her sons each marries Moabite women. While she would have preferred they marry Hebrew women, she accepts the foreign wives, looking forward to the grandchildren who are sure to follow.
But before long, both her sons die, leaving her in a foreign country with two foreign daughters-in-law and no grandchildren to pass along the family name.
So, learning that the famine in Bethlehem is over, Naomi determines to return to her mother land of Bethlehem. When she tells the daughters-in-law of her plans, something surprising happens. They announce that they are going with her.
Why would Orpah and Ruth choose to leave their family and friends and the only life they’d ever known to accompany the mother of their dead husbands to a foreign country that worshipped a foreign god?
The name Naomi means “pleasantness”. It would appear that the young women were attracted to Naomi because of her pleasing personality. Perhaps they saw something in her that their Moabite family and friends were missing. Could it be that if they followed her, they could find out the secret to the peace she possessed?
Forever watching out for others, Naomi discourages the women from going with her, not because she wouldn’t appreciate the company on the long journey, but because she has nothing to offer them. She doesn’t want to disappoint them.
Orpah takes her advice and returns home, but Ruth stands steadfast in her dedication to Naomi. For reasons we may never truly understand, Ruth makes a lifelong commitment to her mother-in-law. Her speech found in Ruth 1:16-17 is considered to be one of the most romantic dedications ever. It’s often read at weddings and considered the ultimate example of love for many couples. But this kind of commitment between a woman and her mother-in-law? It shows us that neither Naomi nor Ruth are ordinary women. There’s something special about each of them.
I’m sure that Naomi expected to quietly slip into Bethlehem without notice, but as soon as they arrive, the townspeople start chattering. The Bible tells us that all the city was excited. It shows us how very beloved Naomi was.
Only she’s not the same woman. She’s aged. Whereas she left young and beautiful, now she’s tired and weary looking. She tells everyone to call her Mara instead of Naomi because God has dealt bitterly with her, but it doesn’t appear anyone listens to her because she’s continued to be called Naomi throughout the rest of the book.
I’m not sure what Naomi would have done had she returned on her own. As it was, since they arrived at the beginning of barley harvest, Ruth offered to go to the fields and glean grain to support the two of them.
One thing led to another, and Ruth found a second chance at love with Naomi’s kinsman redeemer, Boaz. They married and had a child.
Naomi, who thought her best days were over, had a surprise plot twist that gave her a baby to treasure, and not just any baby, but a baby who was the father of Jesse, the grandfather of David, and, in the direct lineage of Jesus.
It’s interesting what follows after the mention of the baby’s birth. Rather than focusing on Ruth and Boaz, the Bible tells us what the women said to Naomi. “Blessed is the LORD who has not left you without a redeemer today, and may his name become famous in Israel. May he also be to you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” It goes on to say, “The neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi!”
We all have unexpected twists and turns in our life, which can cause us to grow bitter like Naomi, but not knowing what’s happening next can be a good thing. When we get discouraged thinking our best days are behind us, God can throw us an unexpected treat.
When famine hit the promised land, Elimelech picked up and moved his family to a pagan country. He tried to escape misery, but it didn’t work out the way he expected. The family may have escaped famine, but they couldn’t escape death.
Like Elimelech we may do everything in our power to avoid difficult times. But the Bible doesn’t promise us a problem-free life. We’re going to have trials. We need to face them by turning to God, not fleeing in fear.
In these days and times, it’s easy to get discouraged, to feel at times that God has forsaken us. We may feel the need to run and hide and hope that we can escape trials. But God doesn’t work that way. He takes us through difficult times so that He can grow us and show us His true love and mercy.
We can trust Him to take care of us even when we’re angry and bitter. He still loves us. And just as He took care of Naomi throughout her life, He’ll take care of us as well.
Unlike the popular saying, it’s not that He won’t give us more than we can handle. Instead, He will give us far more than we can handle. But He’ll be there, right by our side, showing us that we don’t have to handle it alone. He’s there to see us through on the other side and show us amazing mercies and miracles.
Lord God, we come to you today, thankful for your everlasting love and kindness. Thank you for never forsaking us, even when we may stray from your perfect will for our life. Thank you for second chances and for unexpected blessings later in life. Forgive us for those times when we get discouraged and even bitter. Provide us with individuals who will encourage us when we lose heart. Give us wisdom and direction. In Christ Name. Amen.
That concludes today’s episode of All God’s Women. Tune in next week when we talk about Naomi’s daughter-in-law Ruth, a woman who knew who to follow.
Bible Study Review
- Why was Naomi living in Moab?
- What were the names of her two daughters-in-law?
- What was the reaction of the townspeople when Naomi returned to Bethlehem?
- What name did Naomi give herself when she returned to Bethlehem?
Thoughts to Ponder
- The Bible is filled with Israelites who fled the Promised Land during times of famine. In many cases, they got caught up in the pagan world. Do you think this was the case with Naomi?
- Why do you think Ruth chose to go with Naomi to Bethlehem?
- Why do you think the book of the Bible is named after Ruth, but it begins and ends with Naomi?
- If those around you based their opinion of God on what they knew from you, would they be willing to follow Him?
- What kind of relationship do you have with your children and their spouses? Are you setting an example for them to follow?
- Think about a time when you felt like you had nothing to look forward to and God gave you an unexpected blessing.
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