Day 3: From Pleasant to Bitter

Read: Ruth 1:15-22

Reflect: Today’s reading brings us to the most well known and the most often quoted passage in the book of Ruth. “For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God my God” (vs 16). It’s a beautiful statement of love, kindness and loyalty (there’s that hesed idea again). No wonder why it gets repeated frequently at weddings…

But let me make 3 observations about these words. First, for Ruth, this appears to be the moment of her conversion. The decision to follow Naomi was a rejection of false gods and an embrace of Israel’s God. This poor, destitute widowed Moabite woman rejects her upbringing and its gods to throw herself before the mercy of Naomi’s God… and it is not at all clear yet if Naomi herself believes in this God! 

Second, God uses broken, sinful people to accomplish his good purposes. Naomi is literally trying to talk Ruth into rejecting her and her God. But God, in his infinite kindness and goodness, uses that to draw Ruth to saving faith. 

And third, all of this has turned Naomi bitter. We read that when Naomi realized that there was talking no Ruth out of going with her that she “said no more” (vs 18). Translated literally, she “stopped talking to her.” Naomi was so upset at Ruth that she just decided to stop talking to her at all… which, of course, must have made for a really long walk back to Bethlehem. When they arrive back in Bethlehem, crowds came up to see the long lost Naomi. And what does she say? “Do not call me Naomi (meaning “pleasant”), call me Mara (meaning “bitter”)” (vs 20). In her mind, she left full (a husband and two sons) and came back with nothing (which, as an aside, tells you what she really thinks of Ruth). 

And yet, even as we see a woman caught in bitterness and emptiness, the narrator gives us hope. Naomi left Bethelehem in the midst of a famine (1:1), but returns at the start of the harvest (vs 22). Naomi can’t see it yet, but there may still be hope on the horizon.

Respond:

  • How did you come to faith? We read of Ruth’s conversion story. Use the opportunity to reflect on your own. 
  • When has God used you in someone else’s life even when you were angry and bitter at God? 
  • Who do you need to go confess to that, in your anger, you tried to push away as Naomi did to Ruth? 
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