Saturday, January 14, 2017

Naomi


Women of Israel's Heroic Age
"Naomi"

Because Naomi often gets over looked in the shadow of Ruth, I wanted to give Naomi her own story apart from Ruth. 

Naomi: "The Woman Who Tasted the Cup of Bitterness."

Key Scriptures: Ruth 1-4 (The book of Ruth covers about 11-12 years).

Name Means: “My joy,” “My bliss,” or “Pleasantness of Jehovah.”

Her Character: Charming, agreeable, attractive...Until deep sorrow overshadowed her.

Her Sorrow: To loose everything that she loved. Her home, her husband, and her sons.

Her Joy: The family she thought she had seen perish was restored.

Pre-Story: During the rule of the Judges, Israel suffered a serious famine which was deemed to be one of the punishments visited upon the people when they had sinned (Leviticus 26:14, 16).

Elimelech the Ephrathite of Bethlehem, married to Naomi, is thought to have belonged to one of the outstanding families in Israel, being a brother of Salmon, prince of Judah, who married Rahab. Elimelech, decided to emigrate with his family to another land where food was more plentiful, and so traveled from Judah and settled in the highlands of Moab. (The land of Moab may sound remote, however, it was only some 30 miles from Bethlehem-Judah, a long enough journey in those far-off days when they had no transportation).

Her Story: Ruth’s life story began in Moab, where as a young Moabite woman, she married a man from Bethlehem. They were members of a Hebrew race. A famine causes them to move with their two sons, (Mahlon and Chilion) from their home in Judea to Moab. Naomi and her husband felt they were going into a far country because Moab was a land of foreign worship.

It was not long before Naomi discovered the error in leaving Bethlehem for in the new and heathen land nothing but misfortune dogged her footsteps. Her two sons married women of Moab, (Ruth and Orpah). The Jewish law forbade marriage outside of the nation.Then to make matters far worse, Naomi’s husband died. He had fled to Moab to escape a possible death from famine, and died in the midst of plenty.

After they lived in Moab about 10 years and with her widowed daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, to shelter. Naomi was determined to return to Bethlehem, her home of birth alone, but her daughters-in-law insisted on going with her. Along the way, Naomi stopped and said to them, “Each of you go back to your mother’s home. May the Lord show faithful love to you as you have shown to the dead and to me. (Ruth 1:8)

Orpah, kissed Naomi goodbye and went back to her own people, but Ruth hugged Naomi sobbing and begged her to take her to Bethlehem. “Where you go, I will go. Where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if anything but death separates me from you.” (Ruth 1:16). Together, they traveled to Bethlehem.

As Naomi and Ruth entered the city, all the city met them and cried, “Is this Naomi?” The repetition of her significant name irritated her as she cried; "Call me not Naomi (pleasant, winsome, agreeable), call me Mara (bitter): for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the Lord hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me? (Ruth 1:20).

Naomi could not bear the contradiction between the name she bore, and the person she was. Ten years in Moab with all its anguish, and also the loss of fellowship with God and His people had dried up her finer feelings. Once so sweet, Naomi was now sour, and blamed God for the poverty and desolation she had endured.

Naomi and Ruth plunged into life facing poverty and solitariness, but with a different outlooks. Both women were widows and sufferers, but suffering old age often yields to hopelessness and despair, whereas suffering youth rebounds and seeks to be responsive to the life that is around. Thus Ruth felt the stir of excitement in her new surroundings.

Naomi knew they must eat, and knowing that her mother-in-law, whom Ruth surrounded with loving care, was too old to bend her back to work in the fields, Ruth goes out and secures work as a gleaner in the fields of Boaz. Son of Rahab and Salmon, Boaz was a wealthy landowner of Bethlehem, and kinsman of Elimelech, Naomi's late husband. Under the law, landowners were required to leave grain along the edges of their fields for the poor to harvest.

What romance followed is more fully told in our study on Ruth (Next week). Boaz, related to Naomi’s husband, was therefore connected by marriage to Ruth, and by Jewish custom, Boaz, as next of kin, could be regarded as Ruth’s rightful betrothed. So with nothing to stop them, and to the great joy of everyone in Bethlehem, Ruth and Boaz were married.

Soon they had their first child, a boy, and they called him Obed. Naomi laid the baby in her lap and smiled down at him. “The LORD has blessed me,” she said. How true that was! That little boy grew up and had a son called Jesse and when he grew up he had a son called David, who became a great king, and from their family, many, many years later, came yet another king and his name was Jesus.

Her Place in God's Divine Plan: Nestled in between dramatic and suspenseful stories of the mighty judges of God and the kings of Israel, is the most popular mother-in-law/daughter-in-law story ever told. What an amazing plan God had for a series of 'little' things that all add to important pieces in God's divine plan. God had chosen Ruth for the genealogies of Israel.

Her Challenges Along the Way: Naomi had to leave everything that she held dear. Such an uprooting from her native home must have constituted a real sacrifice. Sincere in her faith, she loved the people of God and was strongly attached to the wonderful traditions of her race.

Her Victories: After loosing everything, hopeless and destitute, Naomi found the strength to put one foot in front of the other and move forward. Resulting in God replacing everything she had lost and so much more.

Lesson We Can Learn from Her Legacy: Grief and sorrow do not trump love. Ruth shows us how teaching looks in the real, hard parts of life. Could it be she was inspired by the affection and the blessings given to her by her mother-in-law? The love given endures. The kindness continues. Because that’s how God writes this story. Not with condemnation, but with a family, even though diversified by faith and country, hinged and hanging on love.

Have you ever felt like everything in your world was crumbling around you? Have you ever known a grief so deep that you felt there was no hope? Sometimes when we are in our darkest hour, all we can see is the dark. This is when we can see God at work, shining His light into our darkness.

Genealogy:
Birth: Between 1370 and 1031 B.C. Bethlehem, Judah.
Parents: Parents: Ploni Almoni (Father of Naomi - Mother (Unknown).
Married: Elimelech.
Children: Mahlon and Chilion

*In the entire Bible, there are only two books named after women. One is Esther, the other is Ruth.

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