Message from the Monthly Flyer February 2017
Ruth 1:19-22 – CEV – They reached Bethlehem, and the whole town was excited to see them. The women who lived there asked, "Can this really be Naomi?" Then she told them, "Don't call me Naomi any longer! Call me Mara, because God has made my life bitter. I had everything when I left, but the LORD has brought me back with nothing. How can you still call me Naomi, when God has turned against me and made my life so hard?" The barley harvest was just beginning when Naomi and Ruth, her Moabite daughter-in-law, arrived in Bethlehem.
The first chapter of the book of Ruth tells us the story of Naomi, an Israelite woman who had moved to the land of Moab with her husband Abimelech because there was a severe famine in Israel at that time. When they arrived in Moab, her husband died after a while. They had two sons who eventually married Moabite women. They also died in the course of time, leaving the widowed Naomi alone with her two daughters in law Ruth and Orpah. After a certain period of time had passed, Naomi heard that God had blessed her native country with food and she decided to return home where she belonged. She decided to move out of that country that had brought so much sorrow and loss to her. Maybe she had tried to convince her husband about staying in Bethlehem in those days, but with no avail. Maybe she had encouraged their moving out to escape the suffering due to the famine. We do not know. But we can imagine that the heart of Naomi was full of remorse, regret and resentment.
Naomi was so caught up in her sorrow that she did not notice the great blessing that God had given to her in the person of Ruth. While her other daughter in law Orpah, decided to go back to her country, to her people and to her gods, Ruth clung to Naomi and decided that only death would separate the two of them. Ruth was just a very special person who was going to positively impact the life of Naomi for ever. Sometimes we are so busy thinking about our mischief, our pain, our disappointments and grieves, that we don’t notice the blessings around us. Naomi had reached a junction in her life where she had naturally decided that it was over for her. She had lost the people that she loved the most and had sacrificed so much for. She was old and she was now a poor widow. She had decided to go back to Bethlehem where she planned to spent her last days in bitterness and be buried. She did not know that God was not through with her yet and was still writing her story.
Upon arrival at Jerusalem, Naomi was recognized by a few women behind the veil of her sorrow. “Is this Naomi?” they asked. But Naomi had already decided to change her name. She had decided to be called by what her circumstances brought into her life: bitterness, sorrow, disappointment, failure, loss, pain, discouragement, grief, regrets… every sparkle of joy had left. Her happiness had vanished in the sea of her pain and sorrow. She was old and she considered herself a left over. She was angry with God for taking away her husband, her two sons and her wealth. She had left the city of Jerusalem in abundance and was now returning empty. She had been beaten by life’s difficult circumstances and saw herself as a loser. It seemed as if there was no more hope left at all for her. Many of us can understand how Naomi felt and can identify with her. But God had not said His last word in her life yet.
The name Naomi means “pleasant” or “sweet” (International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia). Naomi felt that she no longer identified with that name. She told her friends to call her Mara, which means bitterness. They really pitied her as she told them the story of her sorrowful life. But she forgot that she is the daughter of the Almighty God who is able to change the bad and make it good. Yes, it is never the end in our life until God says so. The way we feel about our situation is not the way God looks at the situation. He is able to turn the darkness into light and bring back life and joy where there is no hope. The Lord once asked Ezekiel who was standing before a valley of dead human bones: “Son of man, can these bones live?” His answer was “O Lord God, thou knowest” (Ezekiel 37:3 - KJV). There is nothing too hard for the Lord. He makes decisions in all sovereignty and He has only the best in store for us, even if we have to experience loss and pain to get there. God is able to put back the broken pieces of our lives together and make a brand-new picture that reflects His glory. He is the resurrection and the life and those who trust in Him shall not be ashamed. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).
Naomi was soon to realize the goodness, kindness and power of the God who watches constantly over His people and has only good plans for them according to Jeremiah 29:11. He used Ruth to bring back hope, joy and life in the heart of the embittered Naomi. We serve a God who feels our pain and is close enough to wipe away all our tears. Sometimes we think of ourselves of being a failure. But it is God who writes our story and Jesus died so that we will live a victorious life. He is more than able to bring restoration in our lives and strengthen our faith (Joel 2:25). He is able and more than able to heal the wounds of our past experiences with His precious blood. It is not over until Jesus says so. We can still smile and testify about the goodness of God, just like Naomi who became a grand-mother in Israel, and a happy one for that matter.
Naomi’s tears were wiped away when Ruth married Boaz, a wealthy man who became the father of Obed, king David’s great grand-father. And at the end of the story, Naomi’s name changed again from bitterness to happiness. God made her happy by giving her a grandson who would take care of her in her old age (Ruth 4:15 - CEV). So, what can we learn from Naomi’s story? We should not allow the situation we are passing through to call us Mara and make us bitter. Instead, when you are passing through a though time, encourage yourself in the Lord just like David did (1 Samuel 30:6 - KJV) and call yourself blessed, highly favored of the Lord, the head and not the tail, the apple of God’s eye and His beloved. You are God’s very peculiar and precious people, chosen and called by His name. Like the old song says, it is well with your soul because God is able to bless you beyond all your expectations. Together with the Psalmist, we can say these words with confidence:
“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” (Psalm 121 - ESV)
Let it be so in Jesus mighty name! Amen! mt
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