Empty. That’s what happens to us when there is sorrow. This story has a lot of sorrow in it. Three graves, for one thing. A foreign land, for another. Emptiness and loneliness and bitterness. So many unanswered questions!
It’s also one of the best love stories in the Bible. You have to get beyond the sorrow and bitter herbs first. In the end, good wins over evil. God has a way of doing that.
Naomi and her husband Elimelech leave the city of Bethlehem to go to the country of Moab where there is food and job security. Their two sons go with them. After Elimelech’s death, the sons marry pagan women; later, both of them die.
Naomi feels alone and bereft. There is nothing for her here, anymore. In desperation, Naomi decides to return to her country and her people. One daughter-in-law, Oprah, is persuaded by Naomi to stay behind. Ruth, the other daughter-in-law, insists that she will go with Naomi, declaring, “Your people will be my people, and your God my God.”
Together, they enter Bethlehem. The years have been cruel to Naomi, and people, hardly able to believe that it is she, ask, “Is this Naomi?”
“Don’t call me Naomi,” she says. “Call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me.”
Naomi had left Bethlehem with a husband and two sons. She left full, and she came back empty.
Widowed and childless, she enters back into the city of her people. She is empty. She went away full, and now she has returned with nothing to show for her travels..
Oh yes, she has Ruth – but she seems to have forgotten to count that blessing. Through the providence of Jehovah, Ruth does the next thing. She finds work to provide for both of them.
Over a period of weeks, Ruth finds a new husband and later has a son. Naomi finds a new purpose for living, for this child is considered a descendant of her husband Elimelech.
When Ruth and Naomi come to Bethlehem, they are probably penniless. Ruth does the next thing. It is barley season, and she finds a job gleaning behind others in somebody’s field. Day after day, Jehovah’s care and provision is evident as Ruth does the next thing; she is kept safe and kept fed – bringing food home for Naomi.
The beauty of this story is that Ruth and Naomi keep doing the next thing and God keeps providing.
I remember this story when I feel empty and barren or when I feel like I’ve come back barren. As Ruth kept doing the next thing, she found that God was more than able to provide. In the mundane of reaping barley in a field, she met Boaz. Ruth kept fitting into the plan Jehovah had for her, gleaning heads of grain in the field of Boaz. Who would have thought that her prince would be there in that field of barley?!
Boaz became her kinsman-redeemer, thus becoming a type of Christ. Their marriage produced a son. That son became the grandfather of King David.
From a pagan world to an unknown town, Ruth found Jehovah. She found Him to be her Provider.
Ruth came to Bethlehem empty, but her life became full.
He does the same for us when we keep doing the next thing. When we are willing to enter into the mundane of living, He will fill us beyond our wildest hopes and dreams. Instead of being empty, He will make us full.