O. T. #560 "Returning Home Can be Bitter Sweet"
July 20, 2015
Ruth 1-Part 5
And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. Ruth 1:20
LET IT GLOW
I was so excited to move back near my hometown after being gone 17 years. My mother was very excited, also. Little did I know that within 6 weeks she would be gone. So little time to settle into a house and church and catch up on time gone by. Returning home can be bitter sweet, as it was for me and Naomi. Read on for an explanation.
Although Ruth succeeded in persuading Naomi to stop trying to dissuade her from going on to Bethlehem with her, Naomi's witness must have made a powerful impression on Ruth. It probably was not a quiet journey, what with two women walking together.
Naomi and Ruth went on the road from Moab to Bethlehem, some 60-75 miles downhill and uphill would have taken about 7-10 days. They would have descended 4,500 feet from Moab into the Jordan Valley, then ascended 3,750 feet through the hills of Judea. (MacArthur)
Bethlehem was about 5 miles southwest of Jerusalem. It would have been surrounded by lush fields and olive groves. Its harvest were abundant. These two were now walking in the will of God because that is where their decedents King David and Jesus Christ would later be born. This move was more than convenience, for it was fulfillment of Scripture-Micah 5:2 and 1 Samuel 16:1.
Their arrival would have been during the barley harvest, which was one of two harvests for Israel. It took place in the spring, around April or May. It was a time of hope and plenty in Israel.
Are we walking in the will of God? Do we have hope and plenty in our heart? What are we harvesting-happiness or bitterness?
LET IT GROW
The mother in law's return home would have been bitter sweet. Obviously, it was good for Naomi to be home as she walk through the gates of Bethlehem, for she was among her family and friends once more. Yet, accompanying her was a Gentile, a Moabite, too.
The whole town was stirred up with Naomi's return. (verse 19) The key Hebrew word here is wattehom meaning echoed with excitement. The word "conjures up images of joyous shouting and happy, animated conversations in response to an event... Here one imagines excited citizens scurrying about the streets shouting the good news to others, who then do likewise." (Hubbard)
This well-loved, prominent person in her society must have aged over the 12 years in Moab. She had a rough life with her 3 men dying. Perhaps the people were unsure that this was actually Naomi.
You will recall that Naomi's name meant pleasant in the Hebrew language. Now Naomi wasn't feeling very pleasant, since she told her friends to call her Mira, which means bitter. Naomi was asking that they not call her a name which was no longer true of her personal experience or disposition. (It was common for names to be interchangeable based upon one's life-changing experiences in the ancient Near East.)
Naomi was not suggesting that she had become a bitter person, but that Providence had handed her a bitter cup to drink. Did she see the hand of God in her sufferings, even in the midst of a life of bitter grief? She had remained steadfast in her faith in God's sovereignty throughout her trials. Naomi's love for God and her commitment to His will is evident. Did she consider it to be God's punishment for her family's forsaking their inheritance in Israel to be justifiably deserving?
Almighty in Hebrew is the name Shaddad, which we call El Shadiah.
Not only did Naomi change her name, but she says she left full and returned empty. After all, she had left with a husband and two sons, to return with only a barren and foreign daughter in law. Although Naomi thought God was against her and brought her home empty, He providentially arranged events to redeem her (Ps. 119:71, 75) and preserve her line for the coming Messiah (1:22).
How is the state of our heart? Is it angry, fearful, grieving, questions, doubtful, unbelieving or strong in faith no matter the situation? Are your prayers lasting for a long season, unanswered? Be assured, dear one, God is at work, whether behind the scenes or under the soil, even if we cannot see the results. Goodness will soon be cropping up for us to reap like the barley harvest has in our story.
He has made everything beautiful in it's time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11
LET IT GO
Let go of any bitterness that has taken root in my heart towards others.
Seek God's forgiveness.
Allow God to fill me with His love for those who have hurt me, for I can't do it on my own.
Let sweetness replace bitterness.
Let go and let's go with God.