I am not a spontaneous person. In fact, I plan my life at least 6 – 12 months in advance. I like the feeling of safety and control. But, while I may not be a risk-taker myself, I do enjoy living vicariously through other people’s adventures. This is one of the reasons why I am obsessed with reading. I find it thrilling without actually needing to experience the excitement personally.
For me, one of the most enchanting and captivating stories in all the Bible is found in the book of Ruth. Ruth is one of the few women listed in Jesus’ genealogy and we find her life nestled serenely between Judges and 1 Samuel. Ruth was compassionate and respectful. Graceful and honest. Generous and honorable and kind. But, when we take a closer look at the humble Ruth, we see another mighty woman playing an important behind-the-scenes role. Her mother-in-law, Naomi.
Your greatest contribution to the Kingdom of God may not be something you do, but someone you raise.Andy Stanley
Naomi and her husband (Elimelech) were Hebrews who made the decision to leave their home in Bethlehem when a famine threatened their livelihood and, with their two sons, moved to Moab. I can only imagine the grief Naomi must have experienced as they left their families, their traditions, and their culture behind in hopes of providing a more secure life for their sons, Mahlon and Chilion.
Upon arriving in Moab, a place where God was neither worshipped nor obeyed, Naomi recognizes their mistake in leaving Judah. Instead of experiencing a better life in this foreign land, Naomi experiences terrible pain and heartbreak when Elimelech and Mahlon and Chilion die.
Having lost her husband and sons, Naomi decides it’s time to go home. Ruth (Mahlon’s wife) and Orpah (Chilion’s wife) begin the trip to Bethlehem with Naomi but, after realizing how nearly impossible it would be for them to remarry in a Jewish community, Naomi urges these women to return to Moab.
Orpah obliges. Ruth, however, refuses to leave the mother-in-law that she dearly loves and replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” (Ruth 1:16 NLT) Because of Naomi’s faith, Ruth forsakes her past life and embraces God’s plan for a new life.
We should never underestimate the power of a mother’s faith.
As the women entered Bethlehem, the town was excited to see Naomi. Naomi, who’s name means pleasant and agreeable, pleaded with the people to call her Mara, which means bitter. “I went away full, but the LORD has brought me home empty. Why call me Naomi when the LORD has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy upon me?” (Ruth 1:21) The once sweet and beautiful Naomi now bore painful scars.
Her suffering made a path for despair and hopelessness.
Isn’t this true for so many of us? We start off on a new adventure thinking it will bring us joy, but instead we are met with heartbreak and regret. Our suffering, like Naomi’s, leads us down a dark path of despair and hopelessness, leaving painful scars in its wake.
Thankfully, Naomi’s story doesn’t end there. Ruth, feeling responsible for the care of her aging mother-in-law, goes into Boaz’s harvest fields to glean food. An excited Naomi realizes that Boaz, who is a blood relative of Elimelech, is free (by Jewish law) to marry Ruth. Naomi patiently and wisely instructs Ruth on how to present herself to Boaz with a marriage proposal… and the rest is history. Naomi secures the continuation of her family name through the marriage of Ruth and Boaz.
Her joy was restored.
Once Naomi acknowledged God’s sovereignty and fully submitted to His will, God redeemed her. He turned her mourning into dancing and Naomi, through Ruth, became the grandmother of Obed, the great-grandmother of Jesse, and the great-great-grandmother of mighty King David.
One of Naomi’s greatest contributions to this world came through Ruth, the woman who lovingly called her ‘mother’ and friend. God is using you, just like He did Naomi, to raise the next generation of Kingdom warriors. Don’t give into despair, sweet mama, Your contribution is more important than you might ever realize this side of heaven.
Abundantly More: Knowing God and Making God Known.
Then the women of the town said to Naomi, “Praise the Lord, who has now provided a redeemer for your family! May this child be famous in Israel. May he restore your youth and care for you in your old age. For he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you and has been better to you than seven sons!” Ruth 4:14-15 NLT