Bible Society of South Africa

Bitter becoming sweet again – 10 June 2021

By Ben Fourie

Bible text(s)

Ruth 1:1-2GNBOpen in Bible reader

While reading a book of IL de Villiers (I think it was him) I suddenly realised that although the book is called Ruth, the story is actually about Naomi. Recently, in the new Afrikaans translation called Die Bybel: 2020-vertaling, in the introduction to the book Ruth, I read that the central story of the book was about the poor widow, Naomi. She had no future, but through apparently ordinary, everyday events, God created a new future for her.

Although the storyline of Ruth, and the beautiful love story of Boaz and Ruth, is an important part of the book, the way that God deals with Naomi’s life problem, is something to behold. It is slightly ironic that Naomi and her family left for Moab because of a famine, while the town where they were living was called Bethlehem – house of bread. They lived in Moab quite long and we see that Naomi’s husband died after some time. Her two sons married girls from Moab but after ten years the sons also died. Her problem is stated in verse 5: “Naomi was left all alone, without husband or sons.”

For a widow in a strange country, it was a very difficult situation. There was no breadwinner left and no family except for her two daughters-in-law. As a widow, she did not have much standing in society. In those times, a woman’s standing in society was determined through familial relationships of husband and family.

When she arrived back in Bethlehem, she said to the women, “’Don’t call me Naomi … call me Marah, because Almighty God has made my life bitter.’” Bitter yes, but not forgotten or forsaken by God. We read about the boy that was born from the union between Boaz and Ruth in chapter 4 verse 16: “Naomi took the child, held him close and took care of him.” This actually means that she “adopted” him as her own son. He was named Obed, meaning “servant of God”. He was the grandfather of King David from whose lineage the Messiah would come.

God remembered Naomi and changed bitterness into joy.

Prayer: We praise you O Lord for being faithful at all times and when life becomes bitter, you are only a prayer away. Amen

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