God in the Dark

The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), April 7 

imagesNaomi spends a large portion of her adult life in the dark. In Moab.

She, her husband, and their two boys flee Israel during a time of oppression due to Israel’s disobedience. Moses had warned Israel to obey the LORD and promised God’s blessing upon them, “Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl” (Deut. 28:5). Sadly, Israel disobeyed the LORD and experienced His curse instead, “Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl” (Deut. 28:17).

Naomi and her family experience firsthand the emptiness of basket and kneading bowl due to Israel’s disobedience. They move to Moab to escape that curse, only to experience even greater loss—Naomi’s husband and sons die. Later, Naomi hears that God has visited His people and that their baskets and kneading bowls are once again full, so she decides to return home. Ruth, one of her daughters-in-law, determines to join her. She’d rather accompany a bitter woman who has a Living God than to return home to her own people, who worship an idol.

Naomi mistakenly believes that God’s hand is against her and prematurely (and wrongly) assesses her life, “The Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the LORD has brought me home again empty . . . . The LORD has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me” (Ruth 1:20-21). She has no idea that the good hand of God is for her and that He is plugging her into His redemptive story.

Naomi and Ruth arrive in Bethlehem right on time, at the height of barley harvest. Ruth joins the other women harvesting the fields and providentially finds herself in Boaz’s field, where he introduces himself to her and affirms her allegiance to the Living God, “The LORD repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge” (2:12). Boaz offers Ruth the leftovers from his fields and his protection. Little do Naomi and Ruth know how much the hand of God is for them!

The beginning of Ruth’s story reveals a number of truths:

  • It is always too early to assess your life. Naomi prematurely assesses her life and sees only her misery. God takes the difficulties and hardships of life and brings redemption through them.
  • God and His redemptive story are the epicenter of your life—not you—and His activity is rarely obvious to the naked eye. When Jacob blesses his son Judah before he dies, he declares, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people” (Gen. 49:10). That Messianic promise dictates the circumstances of Naomi’s life.
  • Hearing the truth ignites faith, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Naomi hears that God has visited His people, and she decides to return to Bethlehem.
  • It is always better to have God in the dark than to have idols in the light. Both Naomi and Ruth get that!

Questions from today’s reading (Ruth 1:1-4:12):

What event prompts Naomi to return to Bethlehem? What does this reveal about faith-based activity?

What had Ruth learned about God from Naomi even in the midst of Naomi’s great loss?

What faulty view about God does Naomi entertain as she prepares to leave Moab? What does this reveal about how people view God in the midst of grief and loss? How does the end of the story correct Naomi’s thinking?