This sermon was based on Ruth 1.
Naomi Loses Her Husband and Sons
1In the days when the judges ruled, 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. 2The 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.
3Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, 5both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.
Naomi and Ruth Return to Bethlehem
6When 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. 7With 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.
8Then 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. 9May 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 10and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”
11But 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? 12Return 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— 13would 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!”
14At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.
15“Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”
16But 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. 17Where 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.” 18When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.
19So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”
20“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. 21I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
22So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.
SEARCHING FOR BREAD
- Bethlehem literally means ‘House of Bread’ – it was a place with God’s people, God’s presence and God’s promise.
- Elimelech – a man whose name means ‘The Lord Is King’ – didn’t live up to this name and he left God’s place in order to find bread in Moab.
- We can do likewise – look to satisfy our hungers in the wrong places. Jesus promises that he is the bread of life and in him we will never hunger.
CALL ME BITTER
- Naomi was in a very tough situation – her husband and both boys died in Moab, leaving just Naomi and her daughters-in-law (Orpah and Ruth).
- She would have had to deal with grief, isolation and economic struggles.
- Naomi became bitter – she no longer wanted to be called Naomi (meaning pleasant) but Mara (meaning bitter). She blames God for her circumstances.
ONE WHO CLINGS
- Naomi made the decision to go back home – and this had a knock-on effect for Orpah and Ruth.
- The sensible decision would be to go back to their family home. This is the decision that Naomi recommends and it is what Orpah does.
- Ruth decides to return with Naomi and care for her. This is a decision very costly to herself that is made out of love. She makes a covenant with Naomi.
- In this, Ruth is a picture of Jesus
THE BARLEY HARVEST
- The chapter ends with a glimmer of hope as they get back to Bethlehem just as the barley harvest has come.