Thursday, October 18, 2007

Naomi

I recently read the book of Ruth and saw an aspect of the story that I had never paid much attention to before. I guess since the main character in the story is Ruth, I have always focused on her part in the story. But as I read it this time, there was something new that stuck out to me. One thing I love about reading the bible, is that no matter how many times I have read it before, God always has more to say to me when I read it again. The story begins with Naomi. Naomi has two sons who marry girls in Moab where they are living. After some time, Naomi's life encounters some tragic events. Not only does she lose her husband, but her two sons die as well. She is left alone with her two daughters-in-law Ruth and Orpah. Naomi decides that she is going to return to her homeland and urges her two daughters-in-law to return to their own homes because she doesn't figures they will be better off with their own families. Ruth, however, vows to Naomi that she will stay with her. She says (1:16-17), "Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me." Now in this exchange Ruth is showing an intense love and affection for Naomi. I think we can assume that Naomi was a loving mother-in-law who probably comforted Ruth when her husband died. I think that Naomi was truly looking out for Ruth's best interest, when she urged her to return to her family. I think that she valued Ruth more than she cared about her own happiness. So they returned to Bethlehem together. But it's there that Naomi tells her friends, (1:20)"Don't call me Naomi (which means pleasant), but call me Mara (which means bitter), because the Almighty has made my life very bitter." Now, she has many reasons to feel this way. She has lost her husband and two sons. Really, who could blame her. But as I read this story again, God showed me something. He had provided Ruth, whose undying devotion and loyalty was evident. Ruth could have left her and gone back to her family, but she chose to stay with Naomi and help her through this. Naomi was focusing on the wrong thing and it was causing her to be bitter. I can relate to Naomi. Not because I've experienced the same tragedy, but because I can easily take my eyes off of God's blessings and focus on what I don't have or things that I wish were different. Sometimes the very thing we're longing for is closer than we realize. At the end of the story, the women say to Naomi who is holding her new grandson, "your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth" (4:15). Sometimes we can't really see the blessing until it slaps us in the face. These ladies help Naomi to see how God used Ruth, the loyal daughter-in-law and friend, to bring more happiness to Naomi's life than she ever dreamed. This has got me thinking, what blessings am I taking for granted today?

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