And she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?” (Ruth 1:20-21, NASB)
These verses are taken from the May 14th reading in our devotional Bible. They reflect the struggle and pain of living in a world ravaged by sin; which in its final outcome, results in death. In context, we learn Naomi has drastically experienced the effect of sin’s destructive consequence; the deaths of her husband and two sons.
Prior to this, there had been a famine in Bethlehem of Judah, the home of Naomi and her family. Famines, too, are the result of a world steeped in sin; yet Naomi had her husband and her sons, so they would weather the storm together. I’m sure leaving home to traverse to a foreign land was not the desired option for them, but they would survive and even thrive. We learn that when they arrive in Moab, Naomi’s sons end up getting married to Moabite girls. Now the family has grown and the prospect of grandchildren was just around the corner! Certainly Naomi must have reasoned that God had taken a bad situation and brought good from it. That is until the tragic and unforeseen deaths of her husband and sons. With no one left to support her and to carry on her family line, in devastating grief Naomi decides to return home. She begs her daughters-in-law to return to their families and there gods. Somewhat reluctantly, Orpah does. However, Ruth would not. Exemplifying an undying devotion rarely seen, she would stay at her mother-in-law’s side no matter what. In summary of what she expresses to Naomi, Ruth declares, “…your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” After making this commitment, Ruth and Naomi return to Bethlehem.
That brings us back to the above scriptures. Upon her return, the local women ask in excitement, “Can this be Naomi?” It must be stated at this juncture that the name Naomi actually means ‘pleasant one.’ Names were incredibly important within the culture and were given to communicate a dominant aspect of an individual’s personality or character. Thus, Naomi must have been a joy to be around. We can infer this from the town’s reaction to her return. However, they discover something has changed about her. Life has been cruel to her and she rejects her given name in exchange for a new one; Mara which means ‘bitter one.’ Her perspective on life was that God had somehow punished her and her life had become completely empty. This view was based on circumstances that surrounded her, which actually blinded her to the profound blessing of Ruth; the real reason she had gone to Moab.
Because Naomi was widowed with no immediate sons to care and provide for her, she would need a relative to “redeem” her by marriage; one who would be able to provide children to carry on the family line. The problem was obviously that Naomi was getting on in years and past her child bearing ability. However, Ruth was not. We learn that there was a “kinsman redeemer” in the family named Boaz and through the providential Hand of God, He eventually ends up marrying Ruth. This was no small union because we discover soon after that Ruth will bear a son named Obed, whose name means ‘worshipper;’ aptly named because Naomi no longer saw her fulfillment in the things God provides, but in the God who provides those things. Obed was the grandfather of King David, and David would establish a throne upon which the Messiah, Jesus, would eternally occupy. Through the bitter events of Naomi’s life, God was creating a family line for His Son! While Naomi could not have possibly seen this or known the future, her life becomes the ultimate example of God working all things toward the good. Her influence has astronomically exceeded her life on earth. She was and is in no way “empty” but “full” beyond her wildest imagination!
The application is found in this reality. As children of God, no matter how difficult it may be, we must not allow the circumstances that surround us to blind us to the greater truth rooted in faith. We have the ultimate “Kinsman Redeemer.” His name is Jesus and he has saved us from our sin. In faith, we must understand that what we might consider an immense evil in our life, God intends to “birth” a much greater good. The significance of our lives will far exceed the length of them this side of heaven. Things that seem to make no sense here will one day prove to be momentous in God’s grand cosmic plan. Take heart child of God! You’re a child of the King!