Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"
Let's pay a visit to Naomi (whose name means "Pleasant"), who repented in sorrow for her husband's Old Covenant unbelief. Elimelech was fortunate to be born an Israelite, which meant he was heir to all the promises God had made to their father Abraham. Best of all, his inheritance was in the most favored spot of all the twelve tribes--Bethlehem, "the House of Bread." Elimelech should have remembered how Abraham's faith was tested during a temporary famine in the "land that [God said] I will show you" (Gen. 12:1). Surely, Abraham's God would not permit Elimelech's family to suffer if they hung on by faith in Bethlehem until the economic recession was over!
But no, Elimelech heard there was prosperity in the heathen land of Moab. Let's provide for our children better than we've had for ourselves, he told Naomi; and the dear, sweet "pleasant" lady went along with his plans. Taking their two young sons, Mahlon and Chilion, they packed up and moved. She probably cheerfully told everybody goodbye; no more hard times for us! They would never give up the message, etc., etc., you know.
Well, Naomi's dear husband died, which was a terrible blow to her faith. But she still had her two fine young Israelite sons. And then the inevitable: growing up in worldly schools, they fell in love with worldly girls, and married Orpah and Ruth, pagan girls. Oh yes, they were good upright girls, but "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel" (Eph. 2:12). The boys had "married out of the truth."
And then they both took sick, and--horror of horrors--they died! Naomi was devastated. All the wealth they had accumulated was now a painful burden to her. She gave herself a new name--Mara, "Bitter." "The Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty. ... The Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me" (Ruth 1:20, 21).
But the dear Lord is not harsh. "Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the Lord" says another man who repented bitterly for his people's Old Covenant unbelief (Jeremiah, Lam. 3:40). God had simply been forced to leave Elimelech to have what he had chosen--a pagan culture, and Naomi, one with him, had to suffer.
But read the story in the Book of Ruth to the end, and behold the goodness of the Lord. She "came back to the church," and did the Lord ever receive her!
--Robert J. Wieland
From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: January 10, 2003.
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