“Now the two of them went until they came to Bethlehem. And it happened, when they had come to Bethlehem, that all the city was excited because of them; and the women said, “Is this Naomi?” (Ruth 1:19 NKJV).
In the days when the judges ruled in Israel there was a famine in the land, and therefore Elimelech and his family fled Bethlehem to dwell in the country of Moab. Sadly, in the space of ten years, Elimelech and his two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, died. So, Naomi (Elimelech’s wife) became completely devastated.
But, when Naomi heard that God had visited His people by giving them bread, she decided to return home, not anymore as Naomi but as Mara (Ruth 1:1-7).
Naomi returned to Bethlehem with one of her daughter-in-laws (Ruth) who clung tenaciously to her and would not leave her as Orpha did. Although Naomi passionately entreated and persuaded Ruth to turn back to her people, yet Ruth would not abandon her to misery and grief even when there seem to be no gain or benefit in following and cleaving to Naomi.
What a selfless love!
The Scripture points out Ruth’s selfless love in Ruth 1:
14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
15 And she said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.”
16 But Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God.
17 Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.” (NKJV).
What a resolution!
It takes this kind of resolution to follow and cleave to the Lord Jesus in this world of uncertainties.
When Naomi and her devoted daughter-in-law, Ruth, eventually returned to Bethlehem, the Scripture states that “the whole city was excited because of them; and the women said, “Is this Naomi?” (Ruth 1:19 NKJV).
But, unfortunately Naomi had allowed her bitter experience, misfortune or tribulation while sojourning in the country of Moab to change her name, disposition, self-image or identity.
The Scripture records in Ruth 1:
20 But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.
21 “I went out full, and the LORD has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?” (NKJV).
The name “Naomi” (My delight) is derived from a root signifying sweetness or pleasantness (Smith’s Bible Dictionary).
But, in the light of her bitter experience and her present pitiable plight, Naomi thought her old name had become inappropriate and so she refused to answer Naomi. Rather, she wanted to be identified with her bitter experience and so she adopted a new name, Mara (Sad, bitter).
Apparently, Naomi had allowed her bitter experience in life to erode her sweetness and pleasantness. She had become completely overwhelmed, submerged or immersed in her misery and grief. She allowed the loss, misfortune or tragedy she experienced while sojourning in the country of Moab to redefine her life, to becloud her purpose, and to erode her joy and confidence in God.
Many believers today, like Naomi, who are called to be the salt of the earth have allowed their bitter experience in life to erode their saltness or flavour (Matt. 5:13). They have allowed their trials, tragedies or tribulations in life to redefine their lives, to submerge their joy in the Lord, to becloud their purpose, image or identity in Christ, and to erode their conviction and confidence in their God.
As a believer in Christ, unlike Naomi, you must never allow your bitter experience or tragedy in life to redefine your life, to submerge your joy in the Lord, to becloud your divine purpose or vision, or to shake, diminish, or erode your confidence in God.
You must hold fast unto God’s promises regardless of your circumstances. You are who God says you are and not what your past, present, or future circumstances say you are. Don’t bear or answer any name contrary to what God has called you in His Word.
The Scripture admonishes you not to “look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:18 NKJV).
Sadly, in her ignorance and bitterness, Naomi maligned God, saying, the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. “I went out full, and the LORD has brought me home again empty.” (Ruth 1:20 NKJV).
Sadly, many believers today, like Naomi, are ignorantly maligning God by holding him responsible for every evil, misfortune or tragedy that befalls them in life.
James warns us against this tendency in James 1:
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.
14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.
15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (NKJV).
God never told Elimelech (Naomi’s husband) which name means “My God is King” to leave Bethlehem (the house of bread) in the days of famine. But contrary to his name, Elimelech chose not to abide in God’s presence or stay under God’s authority.
Rather, Elimelech chose to go down to the country of Moab to be unequally yoked together with the unbelievers, thereby making himself vulnerable to the devil who devoured him and emptied him of all that God had blessed him with.
What a lesson for us today!
The Scripture sternly warns us.
1 Peter 5:
8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. (NKJV).
38 Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.”
39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. (NKJV).
Beloved, quit maligning or blaming God for your failure, sickness, misfortune or tragedy in life. God will never test or punish the born-again believers with evil. God is not the source of evil, but of good. (Jam. 1:16-17).
However, if you have made yourself vulnerable or susceptible to the devil’s attack by not dwelling in the secret place of the Most High (that is, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ), like Naomi, you need to arise today, repent and return to abide under shadow of the Almighty.
When Naomi returned to God in Bethlehem, God began to restore all that the devil has devoured and stolen from her. God restored her joy, confidence, sweetness and pleasantness. Ruth bore her a son called Obed, who became the grandfather of King David.
The Scripture records Naomi’s restoration in Ruth 4:
14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel!
15 “And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.”
16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him. (NKJV).
Friend, if you also return to the Lord Jesus today, He will wipe away your tears and restore all that you have lost to the devil. Like Naomi, you will take back “the child” (whatever blessing the devil has devoured or stolen from you) and become comforted, and the people around you will bless the LORD with you.
Stop wasting away in a far country, return home now to Christ!
The Scripture amply states God’s promise to restore those who return to Him.
1 O Israel, return to the LORD your God, For you have stumbled because of your iniquity;
2 Take words with you, And return to the LORD. Say to Him, “Take away all iniquity; Receive us graciously, For we will offer the sacrifices of our lips.
3 Assyria shall not save us, We will not ride on horses, Nor will we say anymore to the work of our hands, ‘You are our gods.’ For in You the fatherless finds mercy.”
4 “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, For My anger has turned away from him. (NKJV).
12 “Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say: ‘Return, backsliding Israel,’ says the LORD; ‘I will not cause My anger to fall on you. For I am merciful,’ says the LORD; ‘I will not remain angry forever.
13 Only acknowledge your iniquity, That you have transgressed against the LORD your God, And have scattered your charms To alien deities under every green tree, And you have not obeyed My voice,’ says the LORD.
14 “Return, O backsliding children,” says the LORD; “for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.
15 “And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.
16 “Then it shall come to pass, when you are multiplied and increased in the land in those days,” says the LORD, “that they will say no more, ‘The ark of the covenant of the LORD.’ It shall not come to mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall they visit it, nor shall it be made anymore.
17 “At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the LORD, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem. No more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts. (NKJV).
Prayer: My Dear Heavenly Father, I return humbly and wholeheartedly to You today. Forgive me of my backsliding. Lord, I begin to receive back all that I have lost to the enemy while I was away from You, in Jesus’ name. Amen.