What Can We Learn From Naomi? Part 2: The Book of Ruth

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Ruth Chapter 2


Before we go farther, let’s finish chapter one before we dive into chapter two. In verse 19 Naomi and Ruth return to Naomi’s country and everyone knows about it.  They were the talk of the town. They had left for a better life, to flee the famine but have returned empty-handed. Not only have they both lost their husbands, but this means Naomi has lost both her children as well.  I cannot imagine how devastating this must be. Losing her family may have transformed Naomi because some of the people in the town almost didn’t recognize her.

19 So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”

20 “Don’t call me Naomi,[b]” she told them. “Call me Mara,[c] because the Almighty[d] has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted[e] me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”

22 So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.

In verse 20 Naomi tells people “Don’t call me Naomi, call me Mara.”  We see that Naomi means pleasant, but Mara means bitter. Naomi didn’t feel pleasant or happy anymore, she felt bitter and she felt that God had punished her by taking away her family. But in chapter two something changes. 

Verse 1-3 tells us:

1 Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, a man of standing from the clan of Elimelek, whose name was Boaz.

2 And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.”

Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.” 3 So she went out, entered a field and began to glean behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she was working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelek.

4 Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The Lord be with you!”

“The Lord bless you!” they answered.

5 Boaz asked the overseer of his harvesters, “Who does that young woman belong to?”

6 The overseer replied, “She is the Moabite who came back from Moab with Naomi. 7 She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.’ She came into the field and has remained here from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.”

8 So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me. 9 Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.”

10 At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She asked him, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?”

11 Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. 12 May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”

13 “May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord,” she said. “You have put me at ease by speaking kindly to your servant—though I do not have the standing of one of your servants.”

14 At mealtime, Boaz said to her, “Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar.”

When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over. 15 As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, “Let her gather among the sheaves and don’t reprimand her. 16 Even pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.”

17 So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah.[a] 18 She carried it back to town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered. Ruth also brought out and gave her what she had left over after she had eaten enough.

19 Her mother-in-law asked her, “Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!”

Then Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one at whose place she had been working. “The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz,” she said.

Ok, we can tell this chapter is not about Naomi anymore it is about Ruth, but that’s it, Naomi turned her attention from herself to her daughter-in-law.  She began asking questions because Ruth brought home all this food. Naomi could’ve been so caught up in her grief that she continued to say “wow is me”, but she didn’t.  She looked at her daughter-in-law and knew that she was suffering too and was trying to move on.  She saw that Ruth brought home all this food which added up to be about 30 pounds, Naomi decided to step out of herself and find out how Ruth was doing and where she got all that food. Then she began to praise her relative Boaz for his kindness.  Continue reading:

20 “The Lord bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our guardian-redeemers.[b]

21 Then Ruth the Moabite said, “He even said to me, ‘Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain.’”

22 Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with the women who work for him, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed.”

23 So Ruth stayed close to the women of Boaz to glean until the barley and wheat harvests were finished. And she lived with her mother-in-law.

This chapter teaches us that: 

Naomi Focused on Others

Too many times we get caught up in our own situations and our own problems and we forget about what others around us are going through.  If you look around there is always someone in a worse situation than ourselves. Thinking of others will not only allow you to reach out and help others, but it will help you heal as well.  I’m not saying it is a quick fix for what you are going through, no one wants that, but focusing on others will help you put your own situation into perspective so you can be better equipped to get through what you are facing. 

It is a win/win, it glorifies God (Matthew 5:16) and it is a way of praising God (I Peter 4:10-11).

Matthew 5:16 – In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

I Peter 4:10-11 – Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

What can you do to help others and be more focused on others in need than on your own self?  This could be helping a neighbor in their yard, volunteering at church or a soup kitchen, start a group crocheting hats for the homeless, be company for someone (or a friend’s relative) at a retirement home, read to the blind, the possibilities are endless.  Start at home with your neighbors, relatives or church and then think bigger. You can do so much and help so many by focusing on others. 

Again, this week commit to being a Naomi.  Commit to thinking of others instead of yourself. What will you do to focus on others?  

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