“So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.”
This is how the first chapter of Ruth ends, and it’s one of the most tragic chapters imaginable. An Israelite named Naomi had left Bethlehem with her husband because of a famine there, and the couple had taken their sons, Mahlon and Chilion, to Moab. If you look at the history of the Moabites in the Old Testament up to this point, it’s clear that Moab was a despised place.
Our God has a track record of taking the darkest days and shining light in the brightest ways. In Him we have a hope that will not put us to shame.
While in Moab, Naomi’s husband and her two sons died, and she is left alone with the wives of her two sons. These two Moabite daughters-in-law are named Orpah and Ruth, and Naomi urges them to say in Moab while she goes back to Bethlehem in hope that maybe God will provide for her. Orpah stays, but Ruth “clung to her” (Ruth 1:14).
When Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem, everyone takes notice. “It’s Naomi. You’re back.” But Naomi tells them not to call her Naomi but to call her Mara (a Hebrew word that means bitter), “for,” she says, “the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me” (20).
Naomi feels totally empty, totally barren. In a sense, she’s hopeless, and this is what I love about today’s verse. It says that Naomi and Ruth came to Bethlehem “at the beginning of barley harvest” (22). It’s not a time of famine anymore in Bethlehem. This is a time of harvest, and not just any harvest, but a harvest that will lead to unimaginable blessing for Ruth and Naomi, and, as we’ll eventually see at the end of this story, for generations to come, ultimately culminating in Jesus.
You, or someone you know, may be walking through dark, difficult times. You may feel hopeless or tempted to despair. Hear this good news: Our God has a track record of taking the darkest days and shining light in the brightest ways. He has a track record of taking the most hopeless situations and totally transforming them by His grace into the most hopeful situations.
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