Every cloud has a silver lining” is a proverb that is often used to encourage a person whose chips are down. One wonders how many times Naomi heard this during those difficult years in Moab—that even in the midst of tragedy and despair, there is the prospect of better things to come.
Indeed, the silver lining does appear for Naomi. There is good news! Sometime after the death of her two sons, Naomi hears that there is now food in Bethlehem. The famine in Judah, which has lasted more than 10 years (Ruth 1:1, 4), is finally over. The weather has changed and the rains have come, nourishing the fertile land to produce a bountiful harvest. The reason given for the availability of food, however, is not agrarian but theological. It is not so much that the rains have come; rather, it is that “the Lord [has] come to the aid of his people” (1:6; see Leviticus 26:3–5). When His people turned to Him for deliverance, God “remembered his covenant and out of his great love he relented” and withdrew His disciplining hand (Psalm 106:43–45). Interestingly, the Targum (the ancient Aramaic paraphrase of the Hebrew Bible) says that the famine ended because of the merit and the petitionary prayer of the judge “Ibzan of Bethlehem”, fourth of the six minor judges (Judges 12:8), whom the Rabbis identify with Boaz.
That it takes the Israelites more than 10 years to return to God tells us something about how rebelliously stubborn and stiff-necked they are (Deuteronomy 9:6, 13; 31:27). They would rather suffer than repent. What is true of them may well be true of us, too. Often, we are quick to sin but extremely slow to repent. We ask for deliverance without repentance.
Reversing the direction she and Elimelek had taken, “[Naomi] and her daughters-in-law [prepare] to return home from there” (Ruth 1:6). Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe astutely observes: “Naomi’s decision was right, but her motive was wrong. She was still interested primarily in food, not in fellowship with God. She was returning to her land but not to her Lord”.
The good news Naomi hears is that “the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them” (1:6). The expression “by providing food” in Hebrew literally means “gave them bread”. Is this not the same good news we have today? God has come to our rescue, giving us “the true bread from heaven” (John 6:32). To all who are spiritually hungry, Jesus extends this invitation: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry” (6:35). Perhaps, like Naomi, we just need to return home to the Lord.
Why do you think it took the Israelites so long (10 years) to repent?
Would you agree that often, we are quick to sin but extremely slow to repent? Why or why not? How can we become more sensitive to sin in our lives?