Rev. Haak is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Lynden, Washington.
In a sense we can call Naomi a prodigal daughter (Luke 15:11ff.). She left her spiritual Father’s house and lived for ten years in a place where He did not reveal Himself in His love in Christ. And she did return to Bethlehem-Judah, even as the prodigal son returned to his father’s house. She returned because she realized that there was no other place on earth where she could find blessedness. By God’s grace her return was in the way of acknowledging her sin and her Lord’s faithful chastening of her (Ruth 1:20, 21). Naomi’s bitterness was not a resentment towards God. Nor when she says, “the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me,” does she accuse God of cruelty. Rather her bitterness is the knowledge of sin and its effects. She sees her afflictions as the loving rod of God (Heb. 12:6). In all her actions and words she shows a spirit of humbleness before God and of submission to the afflictions she received (I Pet. 5:5, 6). This contains many lessons for us.
Jehovah is plenteous in mercy (Ps. 103:8; Ps. 86:5, 15). Already in Naomi’s return, and then in the material provisions God supplies, we begin to see the hand of God’s grace. This was not a bitter deed of God, but a most pleasant work of God, and both Ruth and Naomi begin to see that God is taking care of them in His grace. The Lord had not forsaken Elimelech’s family because of their unbelief, but in His mercy would restore. What if there were no mercy with God? We would all lose our portion in His covenant due to our faithlessness. But God maintains our lot and inheritance (Ps. 16).
Rev. J. Heys makes an important observation at this point. “What is striking is the fact that Naomi with her husband and sons left Bethlehem-Judah, for earthly bread during a famine, and came back with a Moabitess who was seeking spiritual bread. This daughter-in-law, Ruth, sought the bread of life. Ruth came for spiritual reasons.”
Ruth displays that indeed she was a true child of God in her care for her mother-in-law, her humility (to glean was to beg, Luke 16:1-12), her industry, and in her trust in God’s providence to lead her. Boaz recognizes this in his words of blessing to her in Ruth 2:12: “under whose wings thou art come to trust.”
Boaz is a man who honors the covenant of God. His faith in God hallowed his life as a master towards his servants, and as a man among God’s people. Ruth’s love for God’s covenant touched Boaz, and he promises her freedom and protection in his fields.
Truly, those who wait upon the Lord shall not be ashamed. Bitterness over sin leads to the wondrous joy in the covenant mercy of God, who not only puts away our sin and restores us again, but also gives us to trust in His mercy to make straight our way.
1. Why did Naomi’s return cause such a stir in the city? What do you think is meant by the question, “Is this Naomi?” (Lack of recognition, surprise, contempt, compassion on her poverty, or…?
2. Though Naomi calls herself “Mara,” we do not see bitterness expressed. What spirit do we see expressed toward God and her present condition? (Note in vs. 20, 21 that she refers to God twice as Almighty and twice as Lord Jehovah]. Any significance?)
3. When Naomi speaks of being full and empty, is she speaking in earthly or spiritual terms? In light of your answer:
a. Is it often the case when earthly needs are abundantly satisfied that we are spiritually lacking, and vice versa? Why?
b. Can you give examples from Scripture, or your own life?
4. Naomi is a picture of the child of God under affliction, and with patience under it (Phil. 4:11; Rom. 5:3-5, etc.). Discuss this statement: It is not affliction itself, but how affliction is borne, that does us good.
1. Study in names: Give the meaning and significance of the name Boaz.
2. Much can be learned in Ruth regarding practical godliness. Identify, explain, and apply these virtues in Ruth.
Devotion to parents:
Trust in God’s providence:
3. How are we to depend upon and live our lives in the light of Gods providence?
4. What salutations did Boaz and his servants exchange? (See Ps. 129:7, 8.)
What is the significance?
Should we use such?
Is there a danger in overuse?
5. Why did Boaz show kindness to Ruth? In what ways did he do so? What does this tell us?
6. How are you doing on your memory work?!!