The town women said to Naomi, “Blessed be GOD! He didn’t leave you without family to carry on your life. May this baby grow up to be famous in Israel! He’ll make you young again! He’ll take care of you in old age. And this daughter-in-law who has brought him into the world and loves you so much, why, she’s worth more to you than seven sons!”
Naomi took the baby and held him in her arms, cuddling him, cooing over him, waiting on him hand and foot. The neighbourhood women started calling him “Naomi’s baby boy!” But his real name was Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David. (Ruth 4:14-17 MSG)
The scene we are taken to is one of Naomi, a young boy in her arms and women of Bethlehem gathered around her. We don’t know if she happens to be at the market place or at the temple or at a feast or celebration or outside her home but…again we don’t get the context. All we know is there is a ‘grandma’ whose arms were empty but are now full and the women have noticed. When Naomi left Bethlehem she had two sons but she returns with no sons but even worse with no grandson, no legacy and no dream. As soon as the women arrive back in Bethlehem and the women recognise her, she declares her identity: Mara…bitter, empty.
In just a few minutes of reading, we go from empty to full but we know that no story unfolds in this time frame. The reality is this child in her arms is NO blood relative. Ruth is not a blood relative of Naomi, and Boaz is her dead husband’s relative, yet she is being blessed by the women of Bethlehem as if this child was a direct blood relative. God has knit two hearts together in the midst of uncertainty and grief and created something precious. It is simply beautiful how God uses the story of Ruth and her pledge to her mother-in -law, to weave blessing and the goodness of God into Naomi’s life. When we look at where Naomi was in chapter one, young , married with two sons, heading on an adventure with her husband, away from the house of bread to a foreign land, hearts hopeful and expectant for something better than what they left only to to leave her empty, broken and bitter..she ends up bitter, empty and hurting…yet this story is one of exemption and the beauty of a woman who back in chapter three pushed Ruth out to discover her own way and blessed her and in return…a child, a legacy and and turning her life around.
Chapter One: When I feel empty and bitter or resentful ..the best place to go is the house of bread…back to the bread of life. Even when I am where I should be, the outcome of fullness and return I long for, takes time. It took some time to have her arms filled. There was strategy involved. There were other people involved in the process and there was the God factor. There is no way Naomi’s arms would be filled without the hand of God and others willingly doing what they needed to do in the process.
Chapter Two: When those around me are feeling to follow me in my insecure steps to the places I feel God is leading and I feel uncertain but they still want to follow…This story helps me feel that God is a part of their story redeeming mine.
When others are working in the field and gleaning and experiencing the joy of being blessed by the owner of the field, I can, like Naomi, be a part of their story celebrating it rather than being resentful because there will come a day when their story brings a return to my own.
As I hold the byproduct of redemption in my hands, the fruit of God’s blessing in my hands, it brings incredible gratitude and overwhelming sense of the good news of God…Oh that the women who are holding out their empty arms would return to the house of bread and women whose arms are full would experience the declarative blessing of those around them. I am also humbled by the fact that much of the blessings I ever hold in my arms are the result of others who have stepped out in obedience in their own story.
My greatest concern is so often for the empty handed women still waiting and processing the time frames of God’s redemption for them to be fulfilled.
Father, as I enter this day …today is a day where I feel my arms are both full and empty. I know there is a sense of emptiness in some arenas of my life. There are often days when I feel like the Naomi with empty arms and bitter heart wishing that ‘they’ would call me bitter. I have felt the grief and sadness of feeling bereft and having no control over my circumstances. I know you are using this story to inspire me to stay in faith and do what is hard because your word in Ruth is a story of promise and a lesson in staying near the house of bread. Stir hope and breathe strength over my empty hands. Help me recognise the Ruth’s who will bring blessings to my hands through their obedience and where I am simply a connection to other’s hands in the hand of a redeemer.