To Moab and Back: Ruth 1 (4)
Opening Prayer: Psalm 102.1-4
Hear my prayer, O LORD,
And let my cry come to You.
Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my trouble;
Incline Your ear to me;
In the day that I call, answer me speedily.
For my days are consumed like smoke,
And my bones are burned like a hearth.
My heart is stricken and withered like grass,
So that I forget to eat my bread.
(Leominster: Not What My Hands Have Done)
Lord, hear my prayer and cry; hide not Your face from me!
In my distress and tears I sigh – Lord, hear my earnest plea!
My days like smoke blow past; my bones are scorched with sin.
My heart, like wilted, withered grass bends low to earth again.
Read Ruth 1.8, 9
1. How did Naomi bless her daughters-in-law?
2. How did they respond to that blessing?
Naomi was probably quite well-meaning here. She knew – or so she believed – that no Moabite would ever be welcome among the people of Israel (Deut. 23.3-5). Invoking the Lord’s blessing on them, she therefore urged her daughters-in-law to return to their mothers’ homes, where they might yet be able to find a husband.
Naomi acted in accord with her understanding of God’s covenant; yet, as she would discover, God’s covenant was a work-in-progress and would evidence surprising powers of inclusion neither she nor her neighbors could anticipate.
The love she showed for her daughters-in-law overcame the bitterness she felt (vv. 20, 21); this, too, is evidence of the redemptive and renewing grace of God in her life. Further, let us not overlook the courage Naomi showed in this decision. She would have to make the journey back to Bethlehem on her own, without the help and companionship of her daughters-in-law. The journey back to full restoration with the Lord can sometimes be lonely and difficult; however, they who are truly called and repentant will take it up courageously, relying on the grace and favor of the Lord.
We note some development in the character of Naomi. We sense her genuine concern and compassion for her daughters-in-law, and we hear the first expression of her faith in the Lord. She seems to be more concerned for their wellbeing than her own, yet she was trusting in the God of Israel to provide for her as well. Only the Lord can renew and restore His people, rebuilding their lives from the ruin that sin has made of them.
Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Naomi said, “Go, return” to two. One did go and return, the other stayed and traveled on with her. These are three women feeling all the emotion of loss, uncertainty, and fear of the unknown. Not unlike lost sheep without a shepherd.
How hard it must have been for Naomi to encourage them to go find “rest” with new husbands. And they, having lost their husbands, were now losing their mother-in-law, and all the shared memories of the life they had. Everything was topsy-turvy in their lives; and yet, they found hope in the idea of “return”.
One did return to her Moabite family; but two traveled on to return to the LORD. “For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (I Pet. 2.25).
1. Naomi showed compassion for her two daughters-in-law. How can we learn to be more compassionate toward the people in our lives?
2. What is God’s covenant? How does the new covenant in Jesus fit into God’s covenant? What benefits come to us as participants in that covenant?
3. How can you know when God is calling you to “return” to Him?
Naomi seems to have been a person of faith and piety. She dismissed her daughters-in-law with prayer. It is very proper for friends, when they part, to part with prayer. She dismissed them with affection. If relations must part, let them thus part in love. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Ruth 1.6-14
Closing Prayer: Psalm 102.12-14, 22-28
Give thanks to God that He hears your prayers, even when you are discouraged and doubting. Call on Him to revive you, and to lead all His churches more fully into the blessings of His love.
Psalm 102.12-14, 22-28
(Leominster: Not What My Hands Have Done)
But You, O Lord, abide forever in Your place.
Arise and stand on Zion’s side and lavish us with grace!
Revive Your Church, O Lord! Let all her dust and stones
be strengthened by Your mighty Word, and compact be as one.
Yet let us tell God’s Name and praise His glorious grace;
Let all as one His love proclaim together in this place.
Though now our strength is low; though shortened grow our days,
our God will not forsake us so, but keep us in His ways!
Of old You made the earth and heavens by Your hand.
Though they shall perish You endure; forever shall You stand.
They change, yet You remain the same, without an end.
Our children shall Your favor gain, and theirs shall be Your friend.
T. M. and Susie Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1-2 Samuel: Ancient Christian Commentary Series IV, John R. Franke, ed, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2005). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).