Cross Points 11.20.20

Discipleship Afoot:  Walking in Moab

Naomi’s life had become difficult.  After she came to Moab with her husband and two boys, fleeing the drought in Bethlehem, her husband dies.  Her two sons then marry Moabite women, a concern since Moabites worship the vicious false god Molech – who’s teaching sometimes required the sacrifice of children!  After 10 years both her sons also die.  She and her daughter’s-in-law are left without support.

What to do?  Naomi decides to walk back to Bethlehem, she’s heard the drought is over and “the house of bread” (what Bethlehem means) now has bread again.  Her two daughter’s-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, start out with her.  Knowing their background, knowing support back home will be tough to find, knowing they have family in Moab, Naomi (who now calls herself Mara, meaning “bitter”) encourages them to go back.  Orpah loves Naomi and weeps but decides to return home.  Ruth, on the other hand, clings to Naomi, and says, “where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge.  Your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16).

This story was one of several that crossed my mind as Rexanne and I walked in ancient Moab while visiting Jordan in 2018.  Mt Nebo is there, where Moses got to see the Promised Land.  We stood on Mt Nebo and could almost see Jerusalem on the hills across the Dead Sea, with Bethlehem just south of that.  Where did Naomi live while here?  Maybe in the area of Madaba, an ancient city just east of Mt Nebo.  We walked its streets and talked to the modern-day minority Christians who live and work there, in this Muslim country.  Was it near here that Naomi lived, where she told Orpah and Ruth to return home, and left to seek her fortune in her own country to the west?

It’s interesting that Ruth would cling to Naomi and stubbornly stick with her.  Why?  Naomi is self-proclaimed as bitter, and she openly blames God for her circumstances.  “Call me Mara (bitter)” she tells old friends as she moves back into Bethlehem, “for the almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.  I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty” (Ruth 1:21, 22).  This will take a positive turn soon.  God will bless both Naomi and Ruth.  The messiah will come from their bloodline many generations down the road!  But before this happens, what makes Ruth so loyal to Naomi?  I like and agree with what Mark Buchanan says in his book God Walk (which I’ve used for inspiration and ideas in this series).

To quote from Buchanan’s book, “Likely, Ruth has seen Naomi at her best – her most resilient, most determined, most pleasant (the meaning of the name Naomi!).  Now, when Ruth sees Naomi at her worst, she knows its not the whole story.”  And something else is going on here.  Naomi holds nothing back from her God, giving him the full weight of her anger and misery.  Ruth could never do that with Molech, the god who demands without mercy, even to sacrifice your children!

Ruth glimpses something worthwhile, something beautiful – Naomi’s God handles her deepest pain!   No other faith has a god like that.  Ruth stays loyal to Naomi and wants this God for herself!  As we keep walking in life, as life hits us hard, its OK to be brutally honest with God.  Just don’t abandon him!  Meanwhile, always know as Naomi did, that clinging to the bread of life is what you need.
Cross Point: “The women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel!’  Ruth had a son named Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David.”
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