NAOMI SAYS GOODBYE
But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother's house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. And they said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.” Ruth 1:8-13
In his book Necessary Endings, Dr. Henry Cloud explains how there are times in life where we need to have a clear ending with a person or place so that we can heal up and move into a new season of life. This is what happens after the funerals in Moab.
The family should never have moved to Moab in the first place, and tragedy and misery were their only experiences there. So Naomi had a necessary ending with Moab. She determined that while they turned their back on God when they set their face toward Moab, it was time for her to repent and return to the Lord by now turning her back to Moab. In this, we learn that for the good to begin, the bad must end.
Devastated at the loss of her husband and only sons, Naomi remained determined to run to God’s people and presence in her hometown, hoping that God might also pour out His blessing upon her. Along their journey, Naomi paused to have the first of many dialogues in the book. Roughly two-thirds of the verses in Ruth contain dialogue, and most of the words in the book are on the lips of the characters. As a result, this is a personal book about relationships amidst tough times and a case study in how to respond to hardship and tragedy.
Naomi encouraged her daughters-in-law to not venture with her, but rather return to their families, as she had no future to offer them. At least the prospect of remarriage and a new life remained possible for them in Moab. Because the women had bonded in love through tragedy—to such a degree that Naomi now viewed them as “my daughters”—Naomi offered the first of many prayers that appear throughout the book, asking God to give Ruth and Orpah husbands (1:8–9, 2:12, 2:20, 3:10, 4:11–12, 4:14).
By the closing of the short book, every single prayer is answered by God. Curiously, not one of the prayers is uttered for someone’s own well being, but rather only for the blessings of God to be bestowed upon others. Theologically, prayer is simply the fruit of faith in God’s providence, as the one who prays does so trusting that He does hear and can answer. Naomi’s prayer for God to “deal kindly” in 1:8 also introduces an important word that is spoken of as a characteristic of both God (2:20) and Ruth (3:10). That Hebrew word hesed is a little word that summarizes the totality of God’s positive attributes such as love, grace, mercy, kindness, patience, and faithfulness. Hesed rightly reveals the nature of God in Ruth and the correlating life of Ruth who imitates Him.
In her prayer, the heart of Naomi is revealed as her view of God and her emotions spill out. Despite the fact that her deceased husband’s poor leadership and foolish decisions are responsible for much of the devastation in her life, she rightly confesses that even the darkest days of her life were not lived apart from God’s providence. Indeed, everything either passes from or through God’s hand of providence, which is a great mystery we all struggle with at times. In this, we can identify with the pain of Naomi. Her questions are not answered by God, but she continues to seek His presence and people as an act of faith amidst her pain.
- Naomi had been out of relationship and community with God’s people for over a decade. Have you ever had a season away from God’s people? How did it go? See 1 Corinthians 15:33.
- Why is it so important to be with God’s people in God’s presence? See Hebrews 10:25.