Ruth - Naomi's Story

Ruth 2:11-12              From Bitter to Pleasant                                            WC McCarter
We basically get the entire story of the book of Ruth in chapter nine of The Story. This book is one of only two books in the Bible named after a woman (what’s the other one? Esther), and this book is one of only two books in the Old Testament named after a non-Israelite (what’s the other? Job). Despite all of her significance in the narration, Ruth is not the main character of the book that bears her name. Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law is the main character. This is a dramatic story of love and faithfulness between people. There is a lot for us to learn from this book.
Let’s take a look at Naomi’s story found in the book of Ruth to see what we can learn about God and how He deals with people. I would like to take you through the content of the four chapters in the book of Ruth and then share with you how I think we can find our story in Naomi’s story.
Scripture Reading (p. 123) – This is the Word of God
Chapter 1
This dramatic story of love and faithfulness between people takes place during the time of the Judges. What do we know about this period? The people are sinful. Because of their sinful disobedience, God has allowed a famine to come upon the land. “Bethlehem” which means “house of bread” will have no bread in it. Thus, Elimelek and Naomi head to Moab with their two sons, Mahlon and Kilion. Within the first five verses of the book of Ruth, disaster has come crashing down on Naomi’s head over and over again. In these first five verses, she has had to move to a foreign country, she has lost her husband, and she has lost both of her sons.
(APP) Have you ever had disaster come crashing down on you and your family? Have you had seasons in your life when you had one setback after another? What do you do in those times? Sometimes you are forced to do things you would not want to do just to survive that time of trial. You have to humble yourself for the benefit of others. Do you think that Naomi and Elimelek wanted to live in Moab? Of course not, the Moabites were despised among the Israelites because they were descendants of the incestuous relationship between Lot and one of his daughters. They had also had many conflicts with the Moabites through the years. What you do in these times is hold on for dear life and honor your God.
Naomi hears that the Lord had been good to the people in her homeland, and she decided to go back to Israel. At this point, we read of an emotional occasion between Naomi and her two daughters-in-law. Both of the daughters want to go with Naomi. She must have been an amazing woman for her daughters-in-law to love her this much. Naomi tells the two of them, “It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!” Orpah then returns to her parents, but Ruth will not let go. Naomi tries again to persuade Ruth to go back to her family, and Ruth replies with those famous words, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”
At the end of the chapter, Naomi tells the people of Bethlehem to call her Mara, which means, “Bitter.” She said, “The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
Chapter 2
We found out at the end of chapter one that when the two women arrived in Bethlehem the barley harvest was beginning. At the beginning of chapter two, we are introduced to Boaz. We are told that he was a relative of Elimelek, and he was a man of good standing. Ruth takes advantage of the Mosaic Law which commanded in Lev 19:9-10, “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.”
Boaz immediately takes interest in Ruth, the foreign woman. Boaz himself was a descendant of a foreigner, Rahab the prostitute. Boaz calls for Ruth and tells her to glean only in his fields along with the other women. It was not safe in just any field of Israel during the time of the judges. People were rebellious and sinful during this time, but Boaz stands out from the culture as one who cares for others, looks after the poor, and sees past someone’s nationality.
(APP) We, too, must stand out from our culture today. Everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes, but we must do what is right in the Lord’s eyes. We are to consider the poor and those who are in the most desperate need. I understand that it is difficult because there are so many simply using the system, but you will know when someone really needs your help. We must look at others with the eyes of grace. We must look past their nationality, their heritage, and even their sin. Should we help those who continue in sin? Of course not, but how will they come out of their sin unless someone like you or me reaches out to them?
Ruth’s reputation had gone before her. Boaz knew all that she had done for her mother-in-law, Naomi. So, we have two people who are outstanding among the people: Boaz and Ruth. Boaz goes above and beyond the call of the Mosaic Law. Not only is Ruth allowed to pick up the leftovers, but Boaz tells his men to intentionally leave some extra stalks for Ruth to gather.
(APP) Do we go above and beyond what the Lord has commanded? The Lord Jesus even taught us that if someone compels us to go a mile, we are to go two miles with them. If someone wants your shirt, give them your coat as well. As Christians, we are to do more than we are even expected to do for others.
Ruth reported to Naomi how her day had gone. Naomi was excited about the news. Naomi praised the Lord for His goodness toward them. She realized that Boaz was a kinsman-redeemer (or guardian). All of the bitter things that had come upon Naomi were beginning to turn around.
Chapter 3
Naomi knows that she and Ruth cannot live like this forever. Ruth would need a home where a husband could provide for her and she could bear children. Thus, Naomi has a plan for Ruth to make a proposition to Boaz. In chapter two, Boaz had blessed Ruth and said, “May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” Now Ruth is asking to come under the wing of Boaz for protection and provision when she says, “Spread the corner of your garment over me.” Boaz is honored by the proposal and promises to redeem Ruth if a closer kinsman does not. Boaz sends her home to Naomi with lots of barley.
Chapter 4
At the end of chapter three, Naomi tells Ruth to wait to see what happens. She is confident that Boaz will do all that he can to redeem them. Boaz is a righteous man. He knew that there was a kinsman who was closer in relation to Naomi and Ruth than him. He waits by the city gate with the elders of the town and, without pressure, makes known to him the situation. The man says that he will redeem the land, but then backs out when he learns about the women. Maybe he was already married or did not have enough resources to care for Naomi and Ruth. When he declines, Boaz immediately states in front of all the witnesses that he will redeem Ruth the Moabite. He buys all the property that had belonged to Elimelek, Mahlon, and Kilion.
And all the people said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel.” We read at the end of the book that Boaz and Ruth were the great-grandparents of King David (Naomi was the great-great-grandmother). From their line also came the Christ.
Conclusion- Finding Your Story in God’s Story
1) What a fantastic story of love and faithfulness between people.
2) What a wonderful story of how the Lord provides for His people, even when they think that everything is ruined for them.
3) The story of Naomi makes Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Throughout Naomi’s story, God does not directly become involved. There is no story of God coming to speak face to face. There are no angels sent with messages from God. There are no visions or dreams. But all along God was at work. Our lives are much the same.