Lastly, Naomi and Ruth arrive in Bethlehem. Ruth 1:19-22 says:
“So they both went until they came to Bethlehem. And when they had come to Bethlehem, all the city was stirred because of them, and the women said, “Is this Naomi?” She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.”I went out full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?” So Naomi returned, and with her Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, who returned from the land of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.”
All the city was stirred when Naomi and Ruth came walking in because they hadn’t seen Naomi in so long. Did you notice what Naomi said when people began noticing she was back? She said, “Don’t call me Naomi (pleasant), call me Mara (bitter), because the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, but the Lord brought me back empty.”
What do you make of Naomi’s theology here? Do you agree with her? She thinks God has caused her emptiness and bitterness. She thinks God was not surprised at her trials. I agree with her, and I think you should too. Jesus does and made a similar statement when He said that not even a sparrow falls to the ground apart from His Father’s will (Matthew 10:29-31). What does this mean? It means God is sovereign. That God works, plans, ordains, and allows all things that happen, everywhere, good and bad. Naomi knows this, but she has forgotten something very important. God is not only sovereign, God is good as well.
You remember Joseph’s story in Genesis right? His brothers sold him into slavery, he spent years in jail, and when he was prince and saw his brothers face to face he told them that it was God who had done these things to him. In Genesis 50:20 he said, “As for you (brothers), you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” So Naomi is right to say that God has done these things to her, but she forgot what Joseph knew, that God has done these things for her good. Romans 8:28 confirms this, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good, for those that love God, for those who are called according to His purpose.” God works in the best possible way to bring about our best possible good. True, not all things are good, but God causes and works all things for good.
We know this from the rest of the book of Ruth. Ruth meets Boaz, he feeds her and Naomi, he married Ruth, had a baby and paved the way for the Messiah. Think about it: if there had been no famine, Elimelech wouldn’t have taken his family to Moab, if they hadn’t gone to Moab, Ruth wouldn’t be in the picture, if Ruth isn’t in the picture, she never would’ve married Boaz, if she didn’t marry Boaz, David wouldn’t exist, and if David didn’t exist Jesus wouldn’t be in the picture. If Jesus hadn’t been in the picture, we would have no hope. Naomi doesn’t know these things, she’s just angry. Therefore, we must be patient when we find ourselves in bitter seasons and be patient with those who receive bitter seasons from God in this life, because our sin will lead us to be angry at God. But hold onto Him and stay as close as you can to Him, because He’s up to more good than we could ever imagine or realize.
Chapter 1 ends on a note of hope, (read 1:22). The barley harvest has begun. There’s bread in the “house of bread” again. And the way is now open for Ruth to meet Boaz.