For some reason, I was led the book of Ruth to study the character Naomi. Some divine intervention led me there. Naomi is quite an interesting character. Let me tell you her story:
Naomi’s husband and both sons passed away. She was left with two daughter-in-laws in a land filled with famine. So, she decides to embark for her home land (Bethlehem) because she has heard that God had given that land plentiful harvests. She starts on this journey with her daughter-in-laws. Then, she tells them to leave her. To go back to their mothers and find new husbands because she cannot grant them security. She is too old to marry again and give them sons to marry. She points out what all God has done to her and becomes very bitter towards Him. One of her daughter-in-laws tearfully says goodbye and leaves. But, Ruth does not. She tells her mother-in-law that she will follow her. That Naomi’s God shall also be her God. Naomi and Ruth continue onto Bethlehem.
Upon their arrival, Naomi is greeted by people and asked if it is really her that is back in the land. When she answers them, she tells them to call her “Mara” because it means bitter and she has become very bitter at God, as she believes He has taken everything from her and now rules her with his fist.
While in this land, Ruth stays with her mother-in-law and heads out to barley fields to gather whatever she can so they can eat. A man tells his workers to let her gather what she can and to purposely drop barley heads for her. Ruth gathers enough for her and her mother-in-law, who then sends her back and tells her to put on her best dress and perfume. To go back to the man, uncover his feet, and lay beside him while he sleeps.
Ruth does as she is told. Fast forward a little and this man takes her as his wife and into his home. Ruth then becomes pregnant and bares his son, Obed. Naomi is told about this birth and goes to meet her grandson. When she meets him, she takes him and holds him to her breast as she cuddles him. It is said that she loves her grandson as much as her own sons and that Ruth has given Naomi more love than seven sons. In the end, this grandson becomes the great-grandfather of David/a direct ancestor to Jesus.
I did some thinking about all of this. Naomi has a very similar story to me. One of loss. One of becoming a little bit bitter at God. Naomi had become very bitter with God about all her loses and grief. Although she was bitter with God, and verbalizing this bitterness (enough to change her name to the literal word “bitter”), God stayed with her. He didn’t leave or forsake her. He gave her Ruth as a faithful daughter-in-law and a grandson to love as her own son. In the end, we may be bitter at God for taking those we love from us, but God will not abandon us. Instead, He will give us hope. He give us a promise of love.
Naomi’s story is one of hope. She was bitter, but God didn’t leave her. He gave her a grandson to love on until she died. He gave her another family. He did not abandon. I find it ironic that she changed her name to mean “bitter” when instead I think she really should have it changed to “hope.”