This week in our message series on female heroes of the Bible, we are introduced to the touching story of Ruth and Naomi. Naomi had lost everything. Several hundred years after the Hebrew people had entered the Promised Land, a famine struck the area. Naomi and her husband had been forced to emigrate as refugees from Bethlehem to the high plains of Moab in what is now modern-day Jordan.
Going from bad to worse, her husband died after arriving there, leaving her a widow in a strange land. Fortunately, her two grown sons cared for her, but they also soon died, stripping her even of the promise of grandchildren. It was as if God had cursed her. “My lot” is “bitter,” she cried out. “I went away with an abundance, but the Lord has brought me back destitute” (Ruth 1:13, 21-22).
Despite the many voids in Naomi’s life, God filled in the blanks. First, he gave her Ruth to accompany her. Naomi faced the difficult choice of remaining in a strange land or making the arduous, ten-day trek back to Bethlehem. It would be a dangerous journey that few women would dare to take without a man. The mountainous terrain was treacherous. There was the very real possibility of bandits lying in wait along the way. And then there was the matter of crossing the Jordan River, which would be raging and overflowing its banks at that time of year.
Though Naomi had tried to convince both her foreign daughters-in-law to remain in their own land and remarry, Ruth would not be dissuaded. “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay,” she insisted (Ruth 1:16).
Indeed, Ruth remained her constant companion along the way and supported Naomi by scrounging for food after they returned to Bethlehem. Since it was the harvest, there was no time or manpower to plant and reap their own crops. The best they could do was join the ranks of the poor permitted by the Law of Moses to follow behind the harvesters and pick up what was left behind (Leviticus 19:9; 23:22; Deuteronomy 24:19-22).
God also soon gave Naomi a grandchild, who became the grandfather of King David. As Naomi took the child into her arms, the townswomen cried out, “Blessed is the Lord, who has not failed to provide you today with an heir! May he become famous in Israel! He will be your comfort and the support of your old age, for his mother is the daughter-in-law who loves you” (Ruth 4:14-15).
When all seems lost, believe that the Lord will fill in the blanks. Mourning, grief, and pain can devastate us. But we need not live like shells of our former existence. Though we may not be able to glimpse what the future holds, we can believe that God will restore us to wholeness and new life, if we allow it.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Father Roger Gustafson