Anglican Morning Devotion, 22 August 2021 Anno Domini
A ministry of the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi? 20And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. 21I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me? 22So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter in law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest.” (Ruth 1:19-22; all scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
There are important lessons on choices we make in our lives, and how those decisions are hurtful to us, and those close to us, when made outside the counsel of Almighty God. There are a couple of old German Dutch sayings which go: “We grow too soon old, and too late smart,” and “It is better to lose the anchor than the whole ship.” These wise old sayings suggests to our minds that time is fleeting, and opportunity flies away; however, with only a small bit of time left, after all the time wasted, we should make the best of that time remaining in life. Though Naomi has wasted some of her best years in Moab, she has, in her latter days, returned to the place of her birth and the favored home of blessing. Better late than never, and even with our last remaining days, we can find that favor of God in our lives. An example of this fact can be found in the life of the great composer of the Messiah, George Friedrick Handel who was discouraged to continue composing until, at age 54, he met with phenomenal recognition in his work of Messiah. Though our ship of life may be grounded on the breakers or stones of the far shore, we may yet reach out for that life preserver that the Lord makes continually available to ship-wrecked seaman.
Though Naomi left Bethlehem Judah with a husband and two sons, she now returns with a single soul so well favored by the Lord – Ruth. There have been very few women of the character of Ruth. She is a singular example to all women – and to those of us less lovely men. She had a character of faith and love that was not affected, but genuine and pure to such a degree that the Lord allowed her to be included in the accounted genealogy of the Lord Jesus Christ. She was, as well, privileged to be the great-grandmother of King David. So the line of David and Jesus descends from a Jew and a Gentile.
“So they two went until they came to Bethlehem.” We may start out with more than we finish with in the way of souls. Churches certainly seem to do so. Three began the journey, and one (Orpah), turned back. Confucius said that “the journey of one thousand miles begins with the first step.” He could have added wisdom to that statement if he ended his comment with “and ends with the last step.” Unless the last step is taken toward Bethlehem, one falls short of the journey. But “they two went until they came to Bethlehem” – all of the way! The lesson of life here is that a journey worth beginning is worth completing.
“And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi?” The women travelled together apparently on foot to Jerusalem. The going must have been slow due to Ruth’s aging mother-in-law (Naomi), but determination and perseverance will at last realize success. After so many years, and such great losses, Naomi once more graces the gates of Bethlehem. She had been away so very long that all of her family, friends, and neighbors considered that she must be dead – but God never gave up watching over Naomi even if she had been in a far country, and a great distance out of His divine will. The whole city was anxious to see Naomi. They probably could not believe their eyes for two reason: 1) As stated earlier, they presumed she had perished in Moab; and 2) The years had not been kind to Naomi. Her name means pleasant, but she does not appear at all to fulfill the merits of that name anymore. That is the toll that living away from God can take on a body. They all wondered, “Is this really Naomi?” Well, yes, it WAS Naomi. Though the container was battered and bruised, the soulful contents were the same.
It is amazing how ingeniously we are able to find ways for blaming God when we have departed from Him. When the women asked, “Is this Naomi?” she responded, “Call me not Naomi (pleasant), call me Mara (bitter): for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.” That is like a young child going into the briar patch where his mother has forbidden him to go, and then blaming his mother for all of the cuts and scratches he got there. We go where God has not told us to go, get into deep ruts and troubles, and then have the audacity to blame God for what has happened to us! Has God really dealt bitterly with Naomi in Moab where God was not a partner to her misfortune. She placed herself in jeopardy by going where she was not supposed to go, and she did so with her eyes open. Do we often do the same in our Christian walk?