The book of Ruth begins with burials and ends with births; Naomis story begins with bitterness and ends in blessedness. It wonderfully unfolds the providential dealings of God who "is very pitiful, and of tender mercy" (James 5.11). Naomi pictures the backslider, and her history proves that restoration is always possible.
A Weeping Widow (1.1-7)
Naomi left Bethlehem-Judah and was taken by her husband into the alien land of Moab to escape the famine and preserve the family, but tragedy soon struck. Her husband and both sons died suddenly. Naomi was left bereft, broken and bitter. She was away from family and friends, forlorn and forsaken, a widow in the depths of grief and depression. Many believers have known similar suffering. Naomis faith had failed in leaving the people of God and letting her sons marry Moabite girls. Hope of spiritual revival faded in her soul, but God is faithful. However, feelings of failure, and memories of better and brighter days turned her heart again to Jehovah. She heard that prosperity had returned to Judah - God had not abandoned His people. Were some caring souls still in touch and praying for her welfare? Naomi longed for her land and her Lord; her heart had never really left Judah!
A Winsome Widow (1.8-18)
The consideration that Naomi showed to her daughters-in-law is tender and touching. She prayed for them: "the Lord deal kindly (in love)", "The Lord grant you that ye may find rest". Her faith was strengthening, communion was returning; there were strong spiritual stirrings. Her testimony was not lost, and the effect on Ruth was dramatic - she traced the signs of godliness in her mother-in-law and her heart was won. She committed herself entirely to Naomi, to her people and to her God in one of the most remarkable confessions of faith and loyalty in Scripture. Ruth was led to Jehovah and to Boaz by Naomis winsome ways. Do we attract or detract by our behaviour, are we winsome or loathsome?
A Wailing Widow (1.19-22)
On arrival in Bethlehem-Judah Naomi was worn and weary. After ten long years of absence the world of Moab had left its mark! In bitterness of soul and brokenness of spirit, she cried, "Call me not Naomi, call me Mara (bitterness)". She publicly repented and acknowledged she had been the subject of divine displeasure and discipline: "I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty". How like the prodigal; what hard lessons to learn! Yet her appreciation of God was enhanced, for twice she calls Him "Shaddai" (Almighty), the all-sufficient One. Does divine chastening in our experiences yield "the peaceable fruit of righteousness" (Heb 12.11)?
A Waiting Widow (2.1-2)
Naomi had taught Ruth the concessions of the law regarding strangers, and the possibility of recovering the inheritance and the family name (Lev 19.9; Deut 25.5-6). However, she did not yield to haste, but was content to wait upon God in simple faith. She did not exploit her relationships, or aggressively claim her rights under the law. She waited for God to guide. We do well to emulate her patience and trust in our circumstances: "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him" (Ps 37.7).
A Wise Widow (2.19-3.5, 16-18)
When Naomi heard of Boaz kindness to Ruth her hopes revived; she recognised the divine hand and blessed God. She wisely advised Ruth to obey Boaz, and stay in his field. Naomi realised that his grace was a hint of possible redemption, so she instructed Ruth in the procedure for the proposal of marriage. On Ruths return, she saw the token of Boaz good faith and wisely said, "Sit still, my daughter the man will not be in rest until he have finished the thing". Many of us have been blessed by the ministry of wise women, and we praise the Lord for their memory.
A Wealthy Widow (4.14-17)
Naomi was amply rewarded with the perpetuation of the family name. Little did she realise that the marriage of Ruth and Boaz also connected her to the royal line of Judah and the Messiah. Her story is recorded to encourage us who are also "Prone to wander, prone to leave the God we love".