The leaf slowly fell at her feet. She held it up to the night sky and it glared back like the shine of a full moon. The leaf—half alive, half dead. Crumbling into bits. Withering away–in what seem to be a slow death from the living.
And the bird still sings in the dark.
The road to Bethlehem was well-trodden and Naomi and Ruth’s footprints were deeply carved into the soil long before Mary and Joseph made their journey. Two women who were withering away in their own sorrows–Naomi with the death of her husband and two sons, and her daughter-in-law Ruth grieving the loss of her husband, Naomi’s son.
Naomi with a shattered heart said to her daughters-in-law Orpah and Ruth, I’m going back to the land of Judah. I have nothing more to give. No sons. Nothing. Go and return to your homeland, your mothers’ home. God has punished me.
Through weeping of tears and mourning they embraced one another and Naomi prayed for her sons’ wives, The Lord dealt kindly with you. The Lord grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. (Ruth 1:8-9).
And Orpah, she gave her mother-in-law one last kiss—turned and walked away.
Ruth, the Bible says she “clave” to her mother-in-law. The Greek translation of clave is cling–bonded together—literally like glue. And Naomi acknowledged that Orpah was returning to her people, her god and encouraged Ruth to do the same. Ruth was not taking no for an answer. She was going with Naomi. She was going with God.
“Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17)
And at that moment they both said yes, their lives began to change.
The Bible gives us very little details of Naomi and Ruth’s lives prior to their leaving Moab. Did Elimelch, Naomi’s husband die of old age, sickness? What about Naomi’s sons—Mahlon and Chilion? Did they die of sickness, a tragic accident? Again, the Bible gives us very little of their story. The scriptures does tell us that Ruth and Orpah were women of Moab—a people who worshipped a pagan god.
Ten years can seem like forever to a child, but to an adult, ten years is like the flickering of a burnt candle—one minute it’s lit, glowing with a flame and then with a whisper of breath—gone. Ten years was the length of time Ruth was a part of Naomi’s family. And it was enough. It was enough time to learn of God’s goodness and grace—His comfort.
So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. Ruth 1:19.
As soon as Naomi and her Moabitess daughter-in-law entered into the city of Bethlehem, people began to talk, question, Is this Naomi? (Ruth 1:19)
Naomi heard their murmurings and answered, Call me not Naomi, call Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord hath bought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the Lord hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me? Ruth 1:20-21.
Naomi who was drowning in her sadness changed her name to Mara meaning bitter in the Hebrew language. And Ruth, she was humbly clinging to the hope of the Light despite the hardness of her past–despite the unknown of her tomorrows. And there was God in the midst, leading them both to one of their greatest blessings.
Follow a Beautiful Grace to read more of the Women of the Bible Series in the coming weeks–Wednesdays with the Women of the Bible
Naomi and Ruth, Part II, Gleaning the Harvest