The book of Ruth. This particular book of the Bible has intrigued me for quite some time. I have read it, re-read it, highlighted and analyzed it. Yet again, the Spirit continues to goad me in its direction as if there is still much left to be discovered in the book’s four short chapters. Often times I’ve heard women talk about “waiting on/for Boaz”. I even found myself laughing hysterically as I passed a woman in Walmart whose shirt read “Waiting on Boaz. Not Yoaz”. With countless other similar phrases floating around, I found myself wondering how many women must share that same sentiment. Shortly after that, I found myself wondering how many of those same women were actually willing to be like Ruth, so that when Boaz does appear, they’re ready. I can’t answer that on their behalf, but I can say that perhaps that is the reason why I have been lead here yet again. Ruth is not the only person who appears in this book from which much can be learned. And so, as always, I think it best to start at the beginning.
Part One- “Out of Nowhere”
Very early in chapter one we meet a husband & wife, Elimelech and Naomi, and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion. Due to a famine in their homeland of Beth-lehem-judah, they have decided to journey to Moab. By verse three, Elimelech has died. Whoa! Three verses in and this woman is already a widow. Thank goodness she has her two strong sons who have now taken wives, right? Despite losing her husband, her family has grown.
Verse five…Mahlon and Chilion are dead. While we do learn that some time has passed (possibly the span of a little over a decade), verse five makes a point to remind us of all Naomi has lost. It says, “And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.” Everything Naomi left Beth-lehem-judah with was now gone. For most of us, we'd probably react a lot like this:
Naomi pulls it together and decides to return to her homeland. Word had spread in Moab that the famine in Beth-lehem-judah was over and “…the Lord had visited his people in giving them bread” (v. 6). With her daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, by her side, she heads home. Along the way, she begins to instruct the women to leave her and return to their mothers’ homes. Initially, the women both object and vow to see that she makes it to her homeland.
In verse eleven, we find Naomi pleading that they leave her. In her state of mind, she cannot fathom why they would want to continue the journey. She says, “…for I am too old to have an husband…” and states that even if she did hope for one, and as a result was able to bear more sons, waiting for those sons to be of age for marriage was a waste of time for both Orpah and Ruth. She says “…for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord is gone out against me” (v. 12-13). This verse really stood out to me because we see Naomi acknowledge that the Lord is responsible for everything that happens; even though it is adversity in this case. In the verse that follows, Orpah finally does as she has been instructed, kisses her mother-in-law, and returns home. Ruth remains by Naomi’s side.
I’m not sure how many miles they had to walk from Moab to Beth-lehem-judah, but Naomi insisted on filling up that time with chatter about Ruth turning around and going home as well. Finally, Ruth has had enough. In my favorite verse of the chapter she says, “…Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God…” (v. 16). In other words, me and you us never part.
Naomi seemingly “gets the picture” and doesn’t ask her to leave again. Someone speaking that beautifully to me would probably make me be quiet too. The women eventually make it to Beth-lehem-judah and Naomi is recognized by the people of her homeland. She requests that they now call her Mara instead of Naomi due to all of the hardships she has faced since leaving.
The next verse really resonated with me. In it, Naomi states, “I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty…” (v. 21). I think the reason it stands out above the other verses in the chapter is because of how I was able to relate my own life to Naomi’s. Recently, I have been haunted by thoughts of not only coming home to an empty house, but also having feelings of emptiness in other areas of my life. Like Naomi, I leave the house daily in many ways “full”. I’m usually full of tasks to accomplish for the day; full of places I need to be at particular times; full of thoughts of the people I need to contact, meetings to attend, and appointments to make or cancel. Once those tasks are completed, like Naomi, I return to my place of dwelling feeling empty and to a home void of a husband and/or sons.
The important aspect to note in that same verse comes at the end of it. Naomi says, “…and the Almighty hath afflicted me…” (v. 21). She doesn’t blame her circumstances on the enemy. She doesn’t blame herself. She doesn’t blame her deceased husband for leaving her. She doesn’t blame her grief. She attributes her current state to God alone. Yet again, Naomi has acknowledged that the Lord is in control.
This serves as a reminder that even when we don’t like the place(s) we’re in, God is still at work.
(Be on the lookout for Part 2, "Who's That Girl?")