Naomi is in a dark time of her life. Her husband made a dangerous decision to leave Israel and dwell among pagans, dying shortly after. Her two sons took pagan wives, and also died shortly after. Where is Naomi now? She is left with two foreigners in her family in a foreign land. She then declares that , “the hand of the Lord has gone out against me”.
Is God against me?
I don’t feel like He is, yet I do not feel at all. Afflicted me? Perhaps, I don’t know how much of this is my fault. Or His. Or whether this is even a question I should answer.
Naomi in her moment of despair, forgot the blessings of God. She cries out the impossibility to birth and raise more sons for her daughters – she had forgotten about Boaz. She had left Israel because of the famine, but she just heard that the famine over Bethlehem was broken! She came back with Ruth, a woman of such selflessness, humility and love, yet said that she “went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty”.
What does this story mean to me today? My afflictions are not exact to Naomi’s – my suffering is of my own sin and destruction. It is not clear in the passage whether Naomi’s sufferings are due to her sin, or whether it was simply part of her life. Yet, I too cannot see God’s love and affection for me in this. My suffering is legitimate and well-deserved – what then can I do now?
Ruth here models for me, what true “clinging to” looks like. Naomi presented her a life of widowhood and childlessness, and Ruth said yes. Ruth saw beyond the suffering to a God that she had grown to love, and a mother-in-law she loved as well. Ruth left her family, her culture, her language, in pursuit of a life dedicated to serving her newfound God and mother. Indeed her saving faith here had nothing to do with her knowledge of religious practices, or even her expertise in Jewish theology – she was an alien. But yet she was blessed beyond measure, for she had found God more valuable and of surpassing worth compared to her old life, familiar and comfortable it might have been.
God is rather inconspicuous in this book, with little to no mention of His direct action. Yet even here where He is not easily seen, He is still working all things for the good of those who love Him.
Help me to keep You in focus, that every other pursuit, comfort, desire may fade into the background. May I not grow weary in clinging to and serving You, but that I may do so with joy, humility, grace – as modelled by Ruth – knowing that God You are my sun and my shield.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
If you, O Lord should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness, that You may be feared.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with Him is plentiful redemption.
And He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.