Some days ago my fellow pastor Joshua and I went to visit a couple who had recently been blessed with a baby girl. When we inquired what the new baby’s name was, the mother replied, “Naomi!” I looked at Joshua and we exchanged broad smiles. The story of Naomi had been featuring prominently in our conversations lately, and we were both struck by the coincidence of it all.
When we told the couple the source of our rejoicing, they were exceedingly happy. We took time to thank God for His grace, for we felt His hand was upon this child.
We are living in a time when the Book of Ruth, and particularly the life of Naomi, is so very relevant for the Church. I would like to take some time this week to meditate on some of the lessons that we learn from this great book. To begin with, let me point out that the Biblical Book of Ruth is actually the story of Naomi. Without Naomi there would have been no Ruth. It is also a story about perseverance. Through her perseverance Naomi caused Ruth to live another life and come into the line of bringing our Savior Jesus Christ into the world.
Naomi lost her husband and her two only children in the land of Moab. She was left with nothing. There is nothing remarkable about Naomi losing her entire family. Misfortunes of this sort affect people in every generation. But, you see, when we take up our cross in circumstances that God allows into our lives, God is able to move on many different fronts. Nothing is written about Naomi’s lifestyle, but I am convinced the Godly life that she lived in the sight of her two Moabite daughters-in-law is central to the message in the Book of Ruth.
Ruth must have watched closely Naomi’s lifestyle. She must have watched as she lost, first her husband, then her two sons, one after the other. During these times of tragedy, many things must have happened. Maybe words were discreetly spoken behind her back. Questioning glances thrown her way. After each burial, her Moabite neighbors would no doubt go back home wondering about this “cursed” woman.
The pain and sorrow in Naomi’s life must have been plain for Orpah and Ruth to see.
And yet, Ruth must have seen something else in Naomi’s life as she struggled with her misfortunes: faith in a living God. Most likely Naomi did not react in the natural, like other people. She probably sang songs of praise to God like Paul and Silas would do much later in prison. She probably called in her two daughters-in-laws after every tragedy, and consoled them, and told them of hope in God, and of life after death.
Through her resoluteness Naomi proved her faith in a living God. Her beautiful faith was clear to all. Probably Orpah did not look hard enough, and when the opportunity came to separate from Naomi, she quickly exited the scene.
For Ruth, however, when that moment arrived, her decision was firm. She would follow Naomi. “And Ruth said, Entreat 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” (1:16-17).
When we take up our Cross and follow Jesus, God works miracles. Through that living faith we allow others into God’s Kingdom. Evangelizing, preaching and witnessing for Jesus are all vital components in bringing people to Christ, but what will get people firmly rooted and attain to the full realization of God’s purpose in their Christian lives is the divine power that can only come from lives that are totally surrendered to the Lord; lives that are suffering and dying daily with Christ.
The Apostle Paul explains it this way: “So then death worketh in us, but life in you” (2 Cor. 4:12). We all have our share of worldly tribulations, tests, trials and temptations. But these all occur so we may learn to take up our cross and follow Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 4:12-13 Paul says: “…being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: being defamed, we entreat.” Why would the early apostles go into all this trouble? The answer is: to bring life to others. There is no other means to achieve this other than to lose our lives through the revelation of the Cross. Had there been an easier way, Jesus would most definitely have taken it.
Are we living for ourselves, or for others? We cannot have our cake and eat it. If we are to live for others then we must die; and when we die, we reap a glorious, heavenly reward far beyond our wildest dreams.