19They reached Bethlehem, and the whole town was excited to see them. The women who lived there asked, “Can this really be Naomi?”
20Then she told them, “Don't call me Naomi any longer! Call me Mara, because God has made my life bitter. 21I had everything when I left, but the Lord has brought me back with nothing. How can you still call me Naomi, when God has turned against me and made my life so hard?”
22The barley harvest was just beginning when Naomi and Ruth, her Moabite daughter-in-law, arrived in Bethlehem.
Ruth Meets Boaz
1-3 One day, Ruth said to Naomi, “Let me see if I can find someone who will let me pick up the grain left in the fields by the harvest workers.”
Naomi answered, “Go ahead, my daughter.” So immediately Ruth went out to pick up grain in a field. She didn't know it was owned by Boaz, a relative of Naomi's husband Elimelech, as well as a rich and important man.
4When Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and went out to his field, he said to the harvest workers, “The Lord bless you!”
They replied, “And may the Lord bless you!”
5Then Boaz asked the man in charge of the harvest workers, “Who is that young woman?”
6The man answered, “She is the one who came back from Moab with Naomi. 7She asked if she could pick up grain left by the harvest workers, and she has been working all morning without a moment's rest.”
8Boaz went over to Ruth and said, “I think it would be best for you not to pick up grain in anyone else's field. Stay here with the women 9and follow along behind them, as they gather up what the men have cut. I have warned the men not to bother you, and whenever you are thirsty, you can drink from their water jars.”
10Ruth bowed down to the ground and said, “You know I come from another country. Why are you so good to me?”
11Boaz answered, “I've heard how you've helped your mother-in-law ever since your husband died. You even left your own father and mother to come and live in a foreign land among people you don't know. 12I pray that the Lord God of Israel will reward you for what you have done. And now that you have come to him for protection, I pray that he will bless you.”
13Ruth replied, “Sir, it's good of you to speak kindly to me and make me feel so welcome. I'm not even one of your servants.”
If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us have been there. Bitter about our circumstances. Maybe even bitter about God’s involvement – perhaps blaming him for causing the problems, perhaps blaming him for allowing the problems to occur.
Naomi is so honest about the condition of her heart, she actually demands to be renamed! Naomi means “pleasant” and Mara means “bitter.” She even accuses the Lord of wrongdoing (v 21): “I had everything when I left, but the Lord has brought me back with nothing. How can you still call me Naomi, when God has turned against me and made my life so hard?”
It’s true Naomi had lost her husband and her sons, which were her means of survival in the ancient world. But it is not true that God brought her back with nothing. He brought her back with Ruth, but Naomi could only see the negative.
On the other hand, Ruth pushes on with a fierce loyalty to Naomi and a deep faith in Naomi’s God. Her situation is even worse, because she is without her husband or any family. These are not her people and she is vulnerable.
It is that commendable attitude that wins over Boaz, who then gives his protection (2:8-9) and, as a man of God, asks the Lord’s blessing for her (2:12).
It turns out that God had been at work redeeming a bad situation all along, and perhaps Naomi should have expected it. Scripture attests to his faithfulness (e.g. Psalm 33:4, 36:5, 86:15). It may be difficult to see in the hard times, but God is good all the time and he works all things for the good of his people (Romans 8:28).
Heavenly Father, you are faithful even when we are not. Please speak into our hearts and reveal any bitterness that has taken root. We ask for forgiveness, and that you would give us your patience and guidance to navigate dark and difficult times. Through Christ, Amen.