Sunday 11 October
Naomi Loses Her Husband and SonsIn the days when the judges ruled,[a] there was a famine in the land. So, a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there. Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.
Naomi and Ruth Return to BethlehemWhen Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah. Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.” Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.” But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons — would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!” At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her. “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.” But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go, I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.
Message: - God’s Provision Never Stops!
Background to Ruth: - Because of famine in Judea, Elimelech and Naomi had to leave Bethlehem and went to Moab, to live. They had two sons, our passage record as Mahlon and Kilion. When Elimelech died in Moab, the eldest son would be responsible for providing for his mum, Naomi. Then, we hear, the sons took wives - Orpah and Ruth respectively but the sons too, died about 10 years after Eilimelech leaving no children who could look after Naomi’s daughters-in-law or Naomi herself.
Once Naomi heard the famine in Judea was over, she made plans to return to Bethlehem.
Pain and Grief
There was a bond between the three women birthed in a common grief for the loss of their husbands and of having no sons to look after them. As Naomi's plans to return home were being made, she encourages Orpah and Ruth to stay in Moab and find new husbands to care for them. Orpah was persuaded but Ruth is resolute! She intends to stay with her Mother in Law. Commentators suggest that all the while Naomi is in Moab, she keeps her faith and her devotion to God. Despite the loss of all she had, husband, sons, place in society. This faithfulness to God is, they say, what draws Ruth to stay with her, wherever Naomi goes, she goes too.
Dependence on each other
Having nothing, they are dependent on each other. Naomi, in her home town can offer Ruth the right to be there and to be looked after in accordance to the Jewish custom of kinsman-redeemer which we will look into a bit more next week. Ruth being younger was able to work to provide for herself and Naomi. God sees on the inside, the faithfulness of Naomi and Ruth in turn sees the same thing, perhaps both outward appearance and inward character. It is that which leads Ruth to follow not just Naomi, but her God too.
Who are we leading to God I wonder? Please don’t feel bad if you are unaware of anyone. I doubt Naomi was aware of the impact she was having on Ruth. God also has a hand in Naomi’s life! God provides a way to secure Naomi’s future back in Bethlehem way back generations before she was ever born. God provides her a companion in Ruth, for both the journey and for the years to come. And God is at work in their lives through Boaz, as we will see over the next couple of weeks.
The message I see here is that we can trust God to have been at work in the preparation for our needs today, to be at work in our lives today, even when we can’t see him at the moment, and He will be there for us tomorrow too.
I was speaking about ARK’s last week (Acts of Random Kindness) and we can see them here too. God doing something apparently random way before time that turns out to be just in time. The first ARC, if you think about it, Nomi’s sons could both have chosen girls of similar nature to Orpah, both likely to stay in Moab. Then, where would Naomi be? We will see other ARK’s next week as our story unfolds.
God’s quiet care and provision in our lives is often only seen in hindsight and for that reason is often missed today. That I believe is because we are people of the now! We want everything now, our social structure is so fleeting these days. Even misplaced capitals can break up friendships on social media. For those who are unfamiliar with the social niceties of texting, to use all capitals is the text equivalent of shouting. That reminds me of a story I came across of a mother being asked what life was like as she was growing up. Well, mum confiscated the children’s phones, computers, blocked Wi-Fi so they couldn’t access Netflix on the telly and told them to get out to play in the garden till the street lights came on. I am sure some of us will remember life like that, but I bet it would be a shock for so many of our younger generation.
We will look a bit closer at God providing for Ruth and by extension for Naomi too, over the next couple of weeks. Meantime as we reflect on what is going on in our lives today, perhaps we will see a bit of what God is doing in our lives. God still provides his little ARK's via people. The video I showed at the beginning of the service shows how a little ARK changed the life of so many people. You never know to whom you might be God’s holy servant, His Angel.
If you will allow me to quote Spike Milligan to you: -
Smiling is infectious, you catch it like the flu,
When someone smiled at me today, I started smiling too.
I passed around the corner and someone saw my grin.
When he smiled, I realized I'd passed it on to him.
I thought about that smile, then I realized its worth.
A single smile, just like mine could travel round the earth.
So, if you feel a smile begin, don't leave it undetected.
Let's start an epidemic quick, and get the world infected!
Spike Milligan wrote about one of the simplest ARCs, a simple smile, that lifts the hearts of so many people. It is the same with much of what God is doing today, making a way through simple folks like you and I!
Are you willing to be one of God’s way makers?