Act 2: Bethlehem – Bitterness or Blessing?

Ruth 1:19-22

Having decided to remain within her comfort zone, Orpah took her leave of Naomi and Ruth. Ruth, committed in the strongest possible terms to following God and caring for her mother-in-law, began the difficult journey to Bethlehem with Naomi. It is good to think of their situations in terms of a journey rather than a trip. A trip usually has the destination in primary view, giving much less attention to the process of reaching it. For both Naomi and Ruth, what they experienced along their journey is quite probably more significant than the actual walk itself. Not that travel was easy, quick and safe in those days. Far from it!

The journey for two women apparently alone was long and toilsome, and not free from danger. Two rivers, Arnon and Jordan, had to be forded or otherwise crossed; and the distance of actual journeying cannot have been less than fifty miles. Thus, weary and travel-stained, they reach Bethlehem, and neighbours, doubtless never looking to see Naomi again, are all astir with excitement. It would seem that though the news of the end of the famine had reached Naomi in Moab, news of her had not reached Bethlehem. OTC for English Readers, Ellicott

If it truly were a journey of fifty miles, that would mean almost certainly at least one overnight stop with its associated issues – how, where, what cost, with whom. On major trade routes there were places where travelers could find food and shelter for the night. But, they would be patronized almost exclusively by men engaged in some type of business activity, not necessarily hospitable in a good way to single women. Then there was the rigor of the walk itself, the weight of all their possessions, the looks and comments that were directed their way by other travelers. But of greater importance yet was the journey each experienced in their innermost being along that dusty road.

A. pondering v.19a

thoughts

Their journey was definitely planned, not a heat-of-the-moment kind of departure. Details of packing, travel route, supplies for the journey, particular destination, all likely were considered. Many unknowns, though, that would have occupied thoughts of both Naomi and Ruth as they walked along.

Ruth: much new and potentially exciting – places, people, customs. At the same time intimidating – would she be accepted, could she learn quickly enough, would she be able to carry out her vow to Naomi, what about the different ways of worship she had heard about.

Naomi: how would the old neighborhood look, how will I bear the pain, who was still there, how will I bear the pain, how well had Elimelech’s inheritance been cared for, how will I bear the pain, what kinds of questions would people ask, how will I bear the pain, how would or should she respond, how will I bear the pain, how could she explain Ruth’s presence

emotions

The author is a master of understatement: “Now the two of them went until they came to Bethlehem.” It stands to reason that this was an emotional journey in both senses for Naomi and Ruth – a trip colored by strong and wide-ranging emotions, a journey from one place to another in their emotional perspective.

Loss for both women was recent, they were still very much in the grieving process. From what follows in the story, it seems Naomi was stuck, not having fully accepted the death of Elimelech more than ten years prior. To that was added the grief of the death of both sons. It was the magnitude of her loss that occupied her thoughts and emotions, viewing herself as emptied out of all that had significance.

Naomi’s overwhelming grief added to Ruth’s burden of responsibility. It also meant that if she were to effectively guide and guard her mother-in-law, Ruth’s grieving and emotions would have to wait. Yeah, right. Maybe to outward appearances, but not on the inside. Somehow God enabled Ruth to do her own grieving and help Naomi through the process at the same time. Perhaps her eyes of faith were not clouded with tears the same as Naomi; perhaps she could recognize God’s hand in their circumstances for good, something Naomi was unable to do at that time.

B. pity v.19b

can this possibly be…?

Word of their imminent arrival reached Bethlehem, all the ladies of town were waiting to greet Naomi. Elimelech’s family was a prominent one in town, their leaving years before would have attracted great attention as did Naomi’s return. The language of the passage could be taken numerous ways; given how women of town conducted themselves at the time of Obed’s birth, we’ll presume they were genuinely concerned for Naomi’s well-being.

But something was wrong, terribly wrong. This couldn’t be Naomi yet it sort of resembled her. Was it possible? She was so different from how they remembered her. It truly was Naomi, but what could possibly have brought about such astounding change in her? Everything about her seemed somehow different though recognizable.

she left with so much…

Naomi had a complete family when she left; true, the boys weren’t in the greatest health. But they had the means to move to a better situation and continue prospering. It was the sort of situation that should have meant no worries for the future. Guaranteed security whether in Bethlehem or Moab, given the Midianites didn’t destroy everything.

she has so little… she looks so…

What’s this? Naomi could carry all her earthly goods by herself! And where are the men? She had no one to care for her, to provide for her material needs. She certainly wouldn’t look like that if she still had means. How old was she really? The adversity she had experienced was evident in her face, her demeanor, her voice. You can almost hear the excitement fade away, the conversations trickle off into silence as Naomi’s friends and former neighbors realize her joyless condition.

C. perspective v.20-21

bitter, not pleasant

Perhaps Naomi visibly winced each time someone called out her name. Immersed in her grief she couldn’t bear to be reminded that her name meant pleasant, once descriptive of her character and circumstances. Just as unresolved guilt can lead to depression, so, too, can unresolved grief. Slowly but surely Naomi had gone down that spiral of despondency as she limited her focus to what she had lost. All she could think about was what she had lost, all that had gone wrong in her life, all the plans and dreams she shared with Elimelech that had come to nothing.

the object of God’s displeasure and judgment – El Shaddai

Naomi acknowledged God’s hand in her circumstances but only in a harsh and punishing way. She referred to him as El Shaddai, the Almighty or Sovereign One, the one who has the power to do as he pleases. She believed that her circumstances were the result of God’s actions but she couldn’t get beyond the hurt, the pain of profound loss, to see how any good might come of it.

bereft of what she valued – Yahweh

What Naomi valued the most went with her on her journey from Bethlehem to Moab. What she valued the most stayed in Moab, buried in three graves. Naomi knew God, at least by name; in fact, she knew him not only as the absolute sovereign El Shaddai, she knew him also as the covenant God of his people, Yahweh. She declared it was the covenant God who brought her home again, albeit empty.

D. potential v.21-22

returning empty – what does that say about God? and about Ruth?

Naomi had some lessons to learn: her most valuable possession was the one whom she credited for causing her affliction. God was the one who would fill her life and her arms in ways that she could never imagine. Perhaps it is significant that the name she used for God – El Shaddai – is used 31 times in the book of Job (48 total OT). True, Job experienced much adversity at the hand of El Shaddai; but he also received much more by way of blessing. The same would ultimately be true for Naomi

the second lesson: Ruth was her second most valuable possession. In God’s perfect plan for Naomi’s future, Ruth would be the conduit of his blessing. Family, financial resources, food and shelter, all came to Naomi through Ruth and the plan that God had ordained for Ruth’s life. It is often God’s way to use that which we overlook as the means by which he purposes to bless us.

the third lesson: empty means ready to be filled. In her grief Naomi could only see her emptiness as a liability, not a possibility. She wasn’t ready to see that when she became empty God could fill her with that which was far superior: Himself, a future, a place in the royal line of Messiah. Nor did Naomi recognize that God used her difficult circumstances in part to bring Ruth into the family.

Ruth is portrayed in all of this as the silent bystander. Judicious silence is a characteristic of the virtuous woman; knowing when to be quiet is often as important as knowing when to speak. Ruth’s opportunity would come but what Naomi needed at that moment was simply the knowledge that Ruth would honor her commitment, that she would not run off to greener pastures once Naomi was back among friends.

May God give us grace to learn from Naomi’s experience what is of true value and Ruth’s example how to effectively help those in need!

p { margin-bottom: 0.08in; }a:link { }

Act 2: Bethlehem – Bitterness or Blessing?

Ruth 1:19-22

Having decided to remain within her comfort zone, Orpah took her leave of Naomi and Ruth. Ruth, committed in the strongest possible terms to following God and caring for her mother-in-law, began the difficult journey to Bethlehem with Naomi. It is good to think of their situations in terms of a journey rather than a trip. A trip usually has the destination in primary view, giving much less attention to the process of reaching it. For both Naomi and Ruth, what they experienced along their journey is quite probably more significant than the actual walk itself. Not that travel was easy, quick and safe in those days. Far from it!

The journey for two women apparently alone was long and toilsome, and not free from danger. Two rivers, Arnon and Jordan, had to be forded or otherwise crossed; and the distance of actual journeying cannot have been less than fifty miles. Thus, weary and travel-stained, they reach Bethlehem, and neighbours, doubtless never looking to see Naomi again, are all astir with excitement. It would seem that though the news of the end of the famine had reached Naomi in Moab, news of her had not reached Bethlehem. OTC for English Readers, Ellicott

If it truly were a journey of fifty miles, that would mean almost certainly at least one overnight stop with its associated issues – how, where, what cost, with whom. On major trade routes there were places where travelers could find food and shelter for the night. But, they would be patronized almost exclusively by men engaged in some type of business activity, not necessarily hospitable in a good way to single women. Then there was the rigor of the walk itself, the weight of all their possessions, the looks and comments that were directed their way by other travelers. But of greater importance yet was the journey each experienced in their innermost being along that dusty road.

A. pondering v.19a

thoughts

Their journey was definitely planned, not a heat-of-the-moment kind of departure. Details of packing, travel route, supplies for the journey, particular destination, all likely were considered. Many unknowns, though, that would have occupied thoughts of both Naomi and Ruth as they walked along.

Ruth: much new and potentially exciting – places, people, customs. At the same time intimidating – would she be accepted, could she learn quickly enough, would she be able to carry out her vow to Naomi, what about the different ways of worship she had heard about.

Naomi: how would the old neighborhood look, how will I bear the pain, who was still there, how will I bear the pain, how well had Elimelech’s inheritance been cared for, how will I bear the pain, what kinds of questions would people ask, how will I bear the pain, how would or should she respond, how will I bear the pain, how could she explain Ruth’s presence

emotions

The author is a master of understatement: “Now the two of them went until they came to Bethlehem.” It stands to reason that this was an emotional journey in both senses for Naomi and Ruth – a trip colored by strong and wide-ranging emotions, a journey from one place to another in their emotional perspective.

Loss for both women was recent, they were still very much in the grieving process. From what follows in the story, it seems Naomi was stuck, not having fully accepted the death of Elimelech more than ten years prior. To that was added the grief of the death of both sons. It was the magnitude of her loss that occupied her thoughts and emotions, viewing herself as emptied out of all that had significance.

Naomi’s overwhelming grief added to Ruth’s burden of responsibility. It also meant that if she were to effectively guide and guard her mother-in-law, Ruth’s grieving and emotions would have to wait. Yeah, right. Maybe to outward appearances, but not on the inside. Somehow God enabled Ruth to do her own grieving and help Naomi through the process at the same time. Perhaps her eyes of faith were not clouded with tears the same as Naomi; perhaps she could recognize God’s hand in their circumstances for good, something Naomi was unable to do at that time.

B. pity v.19b

can this possibly be…?

Word of their imminent arrival reached Bethlehem, all the ladies of town were waiting to greet Naomi. Elimelech’s family was a prominent one in town, their leaving years before would have attracted great attention as did Naomi’s return. The language of the passage could be taken numerous ways; given how women of town conducted themselves at the time of Obed’s birth, we’ll presume they were genuinely concerned for Naomi’s well-being.

But something was wrong, terribly wrong. This couldn’t be Naomi yet it sort of resembled her. Was it possible? She was so different from how they remembered her. It truly was Naomi, but what could possibly have brought about such astounding change in her? Everything about her seemed somehow different though recognizable.

she left with so much…

Naomi had a complete family when she left; true, the boys weren’t in the greatest health. But they had the means to move to a better situation and continue prospering. It was the sort of situation that should have meant no worries for the future. Guaranteed security whether in Bethlehem or Moab, given the Midianites didn’t destroy everything.

she has so little… she looks so…

What’s this? Naomi could carry all her earthly goods by herself! And where are the men? She had no one to care for her, to provide for her material needs. She certainly wouldn’t look like that if she still had means. How old was she really? The adversity she had experienced was evident in her face, her demeanor, her voice. You can almost hear the excitement fade away, the conversations trickle off into silence as Naomi’s friends and former neighbors realize her joyless condition.

C. perspective v.20-21

bitter, not pleasant

Perhaps Naomi visibly winced each time someone called out her name. Immersed in her grief she couldn’t bear to be reminded that her name meant pleasant, once descriptive of her character and circumstances. Just as unresolved guilt can lead to depression, so, too, can unresolved grief. Slowly but surely Naomi had gone down that spiral of despondency as she limited her focus to what she had lost. All she could think about was what she had lost, all that had gone wrong in her life, all the plans and dreams she shared with Elimelech that had come to nothing.

the object of God’s displeasure and judgment – El Shaddai

Naomi acknowledged God’s hand in her circumstances but only in a harsh and punishing way. She referred to him as El Shaddai, the Almighty or Sovereign One, the one who has the power to do as he pleases. She believed that her circumstances were the result of God’s actions but she couldn’t get beyond the hurt, the pain of profound loss, to see how any good might come of it.

bereft of what she valued – Yahweh

What Naomi valued the most went with her on her journey from Bethlehem to Moab. What she valued the most stayed in Moab, buried in three graves. Naomi knew God, at least by name; in fact, she knew him not only as the absolute sovereign El Shaddai, she knew him also as the covenant God of his people, Yahweh. She declared it was the covenant God who brought her home again, albeit empty.

D. potential v.21-22

returning empty – what does that say about God? and about Ruth?

Naomi had some lessons to learn: her most valuable possession was the one whom she credited for causing her affliction. God was the one who would fill her life and her arms in ways that she could never imagine. Perhaps it is significant that the name she used for God – El Shaddai – is used 31 times in the book of Job (48 total OT). True, Job experienced much adversity at the hand of El Shaddai; but he also received much more by way of blessing. The same would ultimately be true for Naomi

the second lesson: Ruth was her second most valuable possession. In God’s perfect plan for Naomi’s future, Ruth would be the conduit of his blessing. Family, financial resources, food and shelter, all came to Naomi through Ruth and the plan that God had ordained for Ruth’s life. It is often God’s way to use that which we overlook as the means by which he purposes to bless us.

the third lesson: empty means ready to be filled. In her grief Naomi could only see her emptiness as a liability, not a possibility. She wasn’t ready to see that when she became empty God could fill her with that which was far superior: Himself, a future, a place in the royal line of Messiah. Nor did Naomi recognize that God used her difficult circumstances in part to bring Ruth into the family.

Ruth is portrayed in all of this as the silent bystander. Judicious silence is a characteristic of the virtuous woman; knowing when to be quiet is often as important as knowing when to speak. Ruth’s opportunity would come but what Naomi needed at that moment was simply the knowledge that Ruth would honor her commitment, that she would not run off to greener pastures once Naomi was back among friends.

p { margin-bottom: 0.08in; }a:link { }

Act 2: Bethlehem – Bitterness or Blessing?

Ruth 1:19-22

Having decided to remain within her comfort zone, Orpah took her leave of Naomi and Ruth. Ruth, committed in the strongest possible terms to following God and caring for her mother-in-law, began the difficult journey to Bethlehem with Naomi. It is good to think of their situations in terms of a journey rather than a trip. A trip usually has the destination in primary view, giving much less attention to the process of reaching it. For both Naomi and Ruth, what they experienced along their journey is quite probably more significant than the actual walk itself. Not that travel was easy, quick and safe in those days. Far from it!

The journey for two women apparently alone was long and toilsome, and not free from danger. Two rivers, Arnon and Jordan, had to be forded or otherwise crossed; and the distance of actual journeying cannot have been less than fifty miles. Thus, weary and travel-stained, they reach Bethlehem, and neighbours, doubtless never looking to see Naomi again, are all astir with excitement. It would seem that though the news of the end of the famine had reached Naomi in Moab, news of her had not reached Bethlehem. OTC for English Readers, Ellicott

If it truly were a journey of fifty miles, that would mean almost certainly at least one overnight stop with its associated issues – how, where, what cost, with whom. On major trade routes there were places where travelers could find food and shelter for the night. But, they would be patronized almost exclusively by men engaged in some type of business activity, not necessarily hospitable in a good way to single women. Then there was the rigor of the walk itself, the weight of all their possessions, the looks and comments that were directed their way by other travelers. But of greater importance yet was the journey each experienced in their innermost being along that dusty road.

A. pondering v.19a

thoughts

Their journey was definitely planned, not a heat-of-the-moment kind of departure. Details of packing, travel route, supplies for the journey, particular destination, all likely were considered. Many unknowns, though, that would have occupied thoughts of both Naomi and Ruth as they walked along.

Ruth: much new and potentially exciting – places, people, customs. At the same time intimidating – would she be accepted, could she learn quickly enough, would she be able to carry out her vow to Naomi, what about the different ways of worship she had heard about.

Naomi: how would the old neighborhood look, how will I bear the pain, who was still there, how will I bear the pain, how well had Elimelech’s inheritance been cared for, how will I bear the pain, what kinds of questions would people ask, how will I bear the pain, how would or should she respond, how will I bear the pain, how could she explain Ruth’s presence

emotions

The author is a master of understatement: “Now the two of them went until they came to Bethlehem.” It stands to reason that this was an emotional journey in both senses for Naomi and Ruth – a trip colored by strong and wide-ranging emotions, a journey from one place to another in their emotional perspective.

Loss for both women was recent, they were still very much in the grieving process. From what follows in the story, it seems Naomi was stuck, not having fully accepted the death of Elimelech more than ten years prior. To that was added the grief of the death of both sons. It was the magnitude of her loss that occupied her thoughts and emotions, viewing herself as emptied out of all that had significance.

Naomi’s overwhelming grief added to Ruth’s burden of responsibility. It also meant that if she were to effectively guide and guard her mother-in-law, Ruth’s grieving and emotions would have to wait. Yeah, right. Maybe to outward appearances, but not on the inside. Somehow God enabled Ruth to do her own grieving and help Naomi through the process at the same time. Perhaps her eyes of faith were not clouded with tears the same as Naomi; perhaps she could recognize God’s hand in their circumstances for good, something Naomi was unable to do at that time.

B. pity v.19b

can this possibly be…?

Word of their imminent arrival reached Bethlehem, all the ladies of town were waiting to greet Naomi. Elimelech’s family was a prominent one in town, their leaving years before would have attracted great attention as did Naomi’s return. The language of the passage could be taken numerous ways; given how women of town conducted themselves at the time of Obed’s birth, we’ll presume they were genuinely concerned for Naomi’s well-being.

But something was wrong, terribly wrong. This couldn’t be Naomi yet it sort of resembled her. Was it possible? She was so different from how they remembered her. It truly was Naomi, but what could possibly have brought about such astounding change in her? Everything about her seemed somehow different though recognizable.

she left with so much…

Naomi had a complete family when she left; true, the boys weren’t in the greatest health. But they had the means to move to a better situation and continue prospering. It was the sort of situation that should have meant no worries for the future. Guaranteed security whether in Bethlehem or Moab, given the Midianites didn’t destroy everything.

she has so little… she looks so…

What’s this? Naomi could carry all her earthly goods by herself! And where are the men? She had no one to care for her, to provide for her material needs. She certainly wouldn’t look like that if she still had means. How old was she really? The adversity she had experienced was evident in her face, her demeanor, her voice. You can almost hear the excitement fade away, the conversations trickle off into silence as Naomi’s friends and former neighbors realize her joyless condition.

C. perspective v.20-21

bitter, not pleasant

Perhaps Naomi visibly winced each time someone called out her name. Immersed in her grief she couldn’t bear to be reminded that her name meant pleasant, once descriptive of her character and circumstances. Just as unresolved guilt can lead to depression, so, too, can unresolved grief. Slowly but surely Naomi had gone down that spiral of despondency as she limited her focus to what she had lost. All she could think about was what she had lost, all that had gone wrong in her life, all the plans and dreams she shared with Elimelech that had come to nothing.

the object of God’s displeasure and judgment – El Shaddai

Naomi acknowledged God’s hand in her circumstances but only in a harsh and punishing way. She referred to him as El Shaddai, the Almighty or Sovereign One, the one who has the power to do as he pleases. She believed that her circumstances were the result of God’s actions but she couldn’t get beyond the hurt, the pain of profound loss, to see how any good might come of it.

bereft of what she valued – Yahweh

What Naomi valued the most went with her on her journey from Bethlehem to Moab. What she valued the most stayed in Moab, buried in three graves. Naomi knew God, at least by name; in fact, she knew him not only as the absolute sovereign El Shaddai, she knew him also as the covenant God of his people, Yahweh. She declared it was the covenant God who brought her home again, albeit empty.

D. potential v.21-22

returning empty – what does that say about God? and about Ruth?

Naomi had some lessons to learn: her most valuable possession was the one whom she credited for causing her affliction. God was the one who would fill her life and her arms in ways that she could never imagine. Perhaps it is significant that the name she used for God – El Shaddai – is used 31 times in the book of Job (48 total OT). True, Job experienced much adversity at the hand of El Shaddai; but he also received much more by way of blessing. The same would ultimately be true for Naomi

the second lesson: Ruth was her second most valuable possession. In God’s perfect plan for Naomi’s future, Ruth would be the conduit of his blessing. Family, financial resources, food and shelter, all came to Naomi through Ruth and the plan that God had ordained for Ruth’s life. It is often God’s way to use that which we overlook as the means by which he purposes to bless us.

the third lesson: empty means ready to be filled. In her grief Naomi could only see her emptiness as a liability, not a possibility. She wasn’t ready to see that when she became empty God could fill her with that which was far superior: Himself, a future, a place in the royal line of Messiah. Nor did Naomi recognize that God used her difficult circumstances in part to bring Ruth into the family.

Ruth is portrayed in all of this as the silent bystander. Judicious silence is a characteristic of the virtuous woman; knowing when to be quiet is often as important as knowing when to speak. Ruth’s opportunity would come but what Naomi needed at that moment was simply the knowledge that Ruth would honor her commitment, that she would not run off to greener pastures once Naomi was back among friends.

p { margin-bottom: 0.08in; }a:link { }

Act 2: Bethlehem – Bitterness or Blessing?

Ruth 1:19-22

Having decided to remain within her comfort zone, Orpah took her leave of Naomi and Ruth. Ruth, committed in the strongest possible terms to following God and caring for her mother-in-law, began the difficult journey to Bethlehem with Naomi. It is good to think of their situations in terms of a journey rather than a trip. A trip usually has the destination in primary view, giving much less attention to the process of reaching it. For both Naomi and Ruth, what they experienced along their journey is quite probably more significant than the actual walk itself. Not that travel was easy, quick and safe in those days. Far from it!

The journey for two women apparently alone was long and toilsome, and not free from danger. Two rivers, Arnon and Jordan, had to be forded or otherwise crossed; and the distance of actual journeying cannot have been less than fifty miles. Thus, weary and travel-stained, they reach Bethlehem, and neighbours, doubtless never looking to see Naomi again, are all astir with excitement. It would seem that though the news of the end of the famine had reached Naomi in Moab, news of her had not reached Bethlehem. OTC for English Readers, Ellicott

If it truly were a journey of fifty miles, that would mean almost certainly at least one overnight stop with its associated issues – how, where, what cost, with whom. On major trade routes there were places where travelers could find food and shelter for the night. But, they would be patronized almost exclusively by men engaged in some type of business activity, not necessarily hospitable in a good way to single women. Then there was the rigor of the walk itself, the weight of all their possessions, the looks and comments that were directed their way by other travelers. But of greater importance yet was the journey each experienced in their innermost being along that dusty road.

A. pondering v.19a

thoughts

Their journey was definitely planned, not a heat-of-the-moment kind of departure. Details of packing, travel route, supplies for the journey, particular destination, all likely were considered. Many unknowns, though, that would have occupied thoughts of both Naomi and Ruth as they walked along.

Ruth: much new and potentially exciting – places, people, customs. At the same time intimidating – would she be accepted, could she learn quickly enough, would she be able to carry out her vow to Naomi, what about the different ways of worship she had heard about.

Naomi: how would the old neighborhood look, how will I bear the pain, who was still there, how will I bear the pain, how well had Elimelech’s inheritance been cared for, how will I bear the pain, what kinds of questions would people ask, how will I bear the pain, how would or should she respond, how will I bear the pain, how could she explain Ruth’s presence

emotions

The author is a master of understatement: “Now the two of them went until they came to Bethlehem.” It stands to reason that this was an emotional journey in both senses for Naomi and Ruth – a trip colored by strong and wide-ranging emotions, a journey from one place to another in their emotional perspective.

Loss for both women was recent, they were still very much in the grieving process. From what follows in the story, it seems Naomi was stuck, not having fully accepted the death of Elimelech more than ten years prior. To that was added the grief of the death of both sons. It was the magnitude of her loss that occupied her thoughts and emotions, viewing herself as emptied out of all that had significance.

Naomi’s overwhelming grief added to Ruth’s burden of responsibility. It also meant that if she were to effectively guide and guard her mother-in-law, Ruth’s grieving and emotions would have to wait. Yeah, right. Maybe to outward appearances, but not on the inside. Somehow God enabled Ruth to do her own grieving and help Naomi through the process at the same time. Perhaps her eyes of faith were not clouded with tears the same as Naomi; perhaps she could recognize God’s hand in their circumstances for good, something Naomi was unable to do at that time.

B. pity v.19b

can this possibly be…?

Word of their imminent arrival reached Bethlehem, all the ladies of town were waiting to greet Naomi. Elimelech’s family was a prominent one in town, their leaving years before would have attracted great attention as did Naomi’s return. The language of the passage could be taken numerous ways; given how women of town conducted themselves at the time of Obed’s birth, we’ll presume they were genuinely concerned for Naomi’s well-being.

But something was wrong, terribly wrong. This couldn’t be Naomi yet it sort of resembled her. Was it possible? She was so different from how they remembered her. It truly was Naomi, but what could possibly have brought about such astounding change in her? Everything about her seemed somehow different though recognizable.

she left with so much…

Naomi had a complete family when she left; true, the boys weren’t in the greatest health. But they had the means to move to a better situation and continue prospering. It was the sort of situation that should have meant no worries for the future. Guaranteed security whether in Bethlehem or Moab, given the Midianites didn’t destroy everything.

she has so little… she looks so…

What’s this? Naomi could carry all her earthly goods by herself! And where are the men? She had no one to care for her, to provide for her material needs. She certainly wouldn’t look like that if she still had means. How old was she really? The adversity she had experienced was evident in her face, her demeanor, her voice. You can almost hear the excitement fade away, the conversations trickle off into silence as Naomi’s friends and former neighbors realize her joyless condition.

C. perspective v.20-21

bitter, not pleasant

Perhaps Naomi visibly winced each time someone called out her name. Immersed in her grief she couldn’t bear to be reminded that her name meant pleasant, once descriptive of her character and circumstances. Just as unresolved guilt can lead to depression, so, too, can unresolved grief. Slowly but surely Naomi had gone down that spiral of despondency as she limited her focus to what she had lost. All she could think about was what she had lost, all that had gone wrong in her life, all the plans and dreams she shared with Elimelech that had come to nothing.

the object of God’s displeasure and judgment – El Shaddai

Naomi acknowledged God’s hand in her circumstances but only in a harsh and punishing way. She referred to him as El Shaddai, the Almighty or Sovereign One, the one who has the power to do as he pleases. She believed that her circumstances were the result of God’s actions but she couldn’t get beyond the hurt, the pain of profound loss, to see how any good might come of it.

bereft of what she valued – Yahweh

What Naomi valued the most went with her on her journey from Bethlehem to Moab. What she valued the most stayed in Moab, buried in three graves. Naomi knew God, at least by name; in fact, she knew him not only as the absolute sovereign El Shaddai, she knew him also as the covenant God of his people, Yahweh. She declared it was the covenant God who brought her home again, albeit empty.

D. potential v.21-22

returning empty – what does that say about God? and about Ruth?

Naomi had some lessons to learn: her most valuable possession was the one whom she credited for causing her affliction. God was the one who would fill her life and her arms in ways that she could never imagine. Perhaps it is significant that the name she used for God – El Shaddai – is used 31 times in the book of Job (48 total OT). True, Job experienced much adversity at the hand of El Shaddai; but he also received much more by way of blessing. The same would ultimately be true for Naomi

the second lesson: Ruth was her second most valuable possession. In God’s perfect plan for Naomi’s future, Ruth would be the conduit of his blessing. Family, financial resources, food and shelter, all came to Naomi through Ruth and the plan that God had ordained for Ruth’s life. It is often God’s way to use that which we overlook as the means by which he purposes to bless us.

the third lesson: empty means ready to be filled. In her grief Naomi could only see her emptiness as a liability, not a possibility. She wasn’t ready to see that when she became empty God could fill her with that which was far superior: Himself, a future, a place in the royal line of Messiah. Nor did Naomi recognize that God used her difficult circumstances in part to bring Ruth into the family.

Ruth is portrayed in all of this as the silent bystander. Judicious silence is a characteristic of the virtuous woman; knowing when to be quiet is often as important as knowing when to speak. Ruth’s opportunity would come but what Naomi needed at that moment was simply the knowledge that Ruth would honor her commitment, that she would not run off to greener pastures once Naomi was back among friends.

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Act 2: Bethlehem – Bitterness or Blessing?

Ruth 1:19-22

Having decided to remain within her comfort zone, Orpah took her leave of Naomi and Ruth. Ruth, committed in the strongest possible terms to following God and caring for her mother-in-law, began the difficult journey to Bethlehem with Naomi. It is good to think of their situations in terms of a journey rather than a trip. A trip usually has the destination in primary view, giving much less attention to the process of reaching it. For both Naomi and Ruth, what they experienced along their journey is quite probably more significant than the actual walk itself. Not that travel was easy, quick and safe in those days. Far from it!

The journey for two women apparently alone was long and toilsome, and not free from danger. Two rivers, Arnon and Jordan, had to be forded or otherwise crossed; and the distance of actual journeying cannot have been less than fifty miles. Thus, weary and travel-stained, they reach Bethlehem, and neighbours, doubtless never looking to see Naomi again, are all astir with excitement. It would seem that though the news of the end of the famine had reached Naomi in Moab, news of her had not reached Bethlehem. OTC for English Readers, Ellicott

If it truly were a journey of fifty miles, that would mean almost certainly at least one overnight stop with its associated issues – how, where, what cost, with whom. On major trade routes there were places where travelers could find food and shelter for the night. But, they would be patronized almost exclusively by men engaged in some type of business activity, not necessarily hospitable in a good way to single women. Then there was the rigor of the walk itself, the weight of all their possessions, the looks and comments that were directed their way by other travelers. But of greater importance yet was the journey each experienced in their innermost being along that dusty road.

A. pondering v.19a

thoughts

Their journey was definitely planned, not a heat-of-the-moment kind of departure. Details of packing, travel route, supplies for the journey, particular destination, all likely were considered. Many unknowns, though, that would have occupied thoughts of both Naomi and Ruth as they walked along.

Ruth: much new and potentially exciting – places, people, customs. At the same time intimidating – would she be accepted, could she learn quickly enough, would she be able to carry out her vow to Naomi, what about the different ways of worship she had heard about.

Naomi: how would the old neighborhood look, how will I bear the pain, who was still there, how will I bear the pain, how well had Elimelech’s inheritance been cared for, how will I bear the pain, what kinds of questions would people ask, how will I bear the pain, how would or should she respond, how will I bear the pain, how could she explain Ruth’s presence

emotions

The author is a master of understatement: “Now the two of them went until they came to Bethlehem.” It stands to reason that this was an emotional journey in both senses for Naomi and Ruth – a trip colored by strong and wide-ranging emotions, a journey from one place to another in their emotional perspective.

Loss for both women was recent, they were still very much in the grieving process. From what follows in the story, it seems Naomi was stuck, not having fully accepted the death of Elimelech more than ten years prior. To that was added the grief of the death of both sons. It was the magnitude of her loss that occupied her thoughts and emotions, viewing herself as emptied out of all that had significance.

Naomi’s overwhelming grief added to Ruth’s burden of responsibility. It also meant that if she were to effectively guide and guard her mother-in-law, Ruth’s grieving and emotions would have to wait. Yeah, right. Maybe to outward appearances, but not on the inside. Somehow God enabled Ruth to do her own grieving and help Naomi through the process at the same time. Perhaps her eyes of faith were not clouded with tears the same as Naomi; perhaps she could recognize God’s hand in their circumstances for good, something Naomi was unable to do at that time.

B. pity v.19b

can this possibly be…?

Word of their imminent arrival reached Bethlehem, all the ladies of town were waiting to greet Naomi. Elimelech’s family was a prominent one in town, their leaving years before would have attracted great attention as did Naomi’s return. The language of the passage could be taken numerous ways; given how women of town conducted themselves at the time of Obed’s birth, we’ll presume they were genuinely concerned for Naomi’s well-being.

But something was wrong, terribly wrong. This couldn’t be Naomi yet it sort of resembled her. Was it possible? She was so different from how they remembered her. It truly was Naomi, but what could possibly have brought about such astounding change in her? Everything about her seemed somehow different though recognizable.

she left with so much…

Naomi had a complete family when she left; true, the boys weren’t in the greatest health. But they had the means to move to a better situation and continue prospering. It was the sort of situation that should have meant no worries for the future. Guaranteed security whether in Bethlehem or Moab, given the Midianites didn’t destroy everything.

she has so little… she looks so…

What’s this? Naomi could carry all her earthly goods by herself! And where are the men? She had no one to care for her, to provide for her material needs. She certainly wouldn’t look like that if she still had means. How old was she really? The adversity she had experienced was evident in her face, her demeanor, her voice. You can almost hear the excitement fade away, the conversations trickle off into silence as Naomi’s friends and former neighbors realize her joyless condition.

C. perspective v.20-21

bitter, not pleasant

Perhaps Naomi visibly winced each time someone called out her name. Immersed in her grief she couldn’t bear to be reminded that her name meant pleasant, once descriptive of her character and circumstances. Just as unresolved guilt can lead to depression, so, too, can unresolved grief. Slowly but surely Naomi had gone down that spiral of despondency as she limited her focus to what she had lost. All she could think about was what she had lost, all that had gone wrong in her life, all the plans and dreams she shared with Elimelech that had come to nothing.

the object of God’s displeasure and judgment – El Shaddai

Naomi acknowledged God’s hand in her circumstances but only in a harsh and punishing way. She referred to him as El Shaddai, the Almighty or Sovereign One, the one who has the power to do as he pleases. She believed that her circumstances were the result of God’s actions but she couldn’t get beyond the hurt, the pain of profound loss, to see how any good might come of it.

bereft of what she valued – Yahweh

What Naomi valued the most went with her on her journey from Bethlehem to Moab. What she valued the most stayed in Moab, buried in three graves. Naomi knew God, at least by name; in fact, she knew him not only as the absolute sovereign El Shaddai, she knew him also as the covenant God of his people, Yahweh. She declared it was the covenant God who brought her home again, albeit empty.

D. potential v.21-22

returning empty – what does that say about God? and about Ruth?

Naomi had some lessons to learn: her most valuable possession was the one whom she credited for causing her affliction. God was the one who would fill her life and her arms in ways that she could never imagine. Perhaps it is significant that the name she used for God – El Shaddai – is used 31 times in the book of Job (48 total OT). True, Job experienced much adversity at the hand of El Shaddai; but he also received much more by way of blessing. The same would ultimately be true for Naomi

the second lesson: Ruth was her second most valuable possession. In God’s perfect plan for Naomi’s future, Ruth would be the conduit of his blessing. Family, financial resources, food and shelter, all came to Naomi through Ruth and the plan that God had ordained for Ruth’s life. It is often God’s way to use that which we overlook as the means by which he purposes to bless us.

the third lesson: empty means ready to be filled. In her grief Naomi could only see her emptiness as a liability, not a possibility. She wasn’t ready to see that when she became empty God could fill her with that which was far superior: Himself, a future, a place in the royal line of Messiah. Nor did Naomi recognize that God used her difficult circumstances in part to bring Ruth into the family.

Ruth is portrayed in all of this as the silent bystander. Judicious silence is a characteristic of the virtuous woman; knowing when to be quiet is often as important as knowing when to speak. Ruth’s opportunity would come but what Naomi needed at that moment was simply the knowledge that Ruth would honor her commitment, that she would not run off to greener pastures once Naomi was back among friends.

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