What About Naomi?

You are no doubt familiar with the account of Ruth and Naomi in the Book of Ruth.

I have always been puzzled by Naomi’s response to her old neighbors’ question in Ruth 1:20,21 when they meet her as she returns from the land of Moab. They ask, “Is this Naomi?” And she answers:

Call me not Naomi [that is, Pleasant], call me Mara [that is, Bitter]: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.

I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?

This morning’s sermon at the Lynden United Reformed Church by Rev. Chris Gordon was entitled “Bitter Exile, Sweet Exodus”. He pointed out that Naomi, at this point, was revealing herself to be self-centered and bitter towards God, rather than repentant that she and her family had left the church of God looking for a better life. She felt that God had been against her; as she said to her daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth: It grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me. – Ruth 1:13b.

Not only did Naomi believe that God had been against her, she felt that He would continue to be against her daughters-in-law if they went with her to Bethlehem. So much did she believe this that she sought to turn them away from the path of life, and back to idolatry:

And she [Naomi] said, Behold, thy sister in law [Orpah] is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou [Ruth] after thy sister in law. – Ruth 1:15.

Had the Lord’s hand really gone out against Naomi?

The truth of the matter was, Naomi did not return home empty, as she imagined. She came home with a dear, godly daughter-in-law, Ruth. Ruth testified to Naomi, Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. (Ruth 1:16b). In Ruth 4:15 it was testified of Ruth that she loved Naomi so much that she was better to her than seven sons.

Naomi was angry that the Lord had not provided for her in Moab, where she and her husband were living, apart from the Church of God. In love to Naomi, the Lord stripped her of that for which she was lusting. He was teaching her a blessed lesson, that He must be first in the hearts of His people. God emptied Naomi to fill her with that which was of lasting value, and to bring her to true conversion.

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