Book of Ruth: Persevering with God from Pleasant to Bitter to Pleasant Again

We praise the patience of Job, but how about the perseverance of Naomi? True confession I have read the book of Ruth at least 30 times, and each of those 30 times up to this year, I have not come away a big fan of Naomi. The book’s named after Ruth, she’s the heroine. She’s the star.

Reading through the Bible this year left me with a greater appreciation for Naomi. In the space of 5 verses, Naomi experiences a famine, a move out of her home country for at least two years, the death of her husband, the death of both her sons. 5 quick verses to read, 5 times of tragedy, of suffering. The only times of pleasure listed is the marriage of both her sons. Though they die, the daughter-in-laws’ live, and in the case of Ruth becomes an advocate for Naomi.


Naomi entreating Ruth and Orpah by William Blake 1795 U.S. Public Domain

If you check the footnotes as you read through the book of Ruth (and you should check the footnotes), you discover that Naomi’s name means “pleasant”. But when she comes back to her home town Bethlehem from her 5 tragedies and 10 plus years in Moab, the city is stirred, they wonder if it is Naomi that they see?

She replies, “Don’t call me Naomi … Call me Mara.” While Naomi means “Pleasant,” Naomi means “Bitter.” She then says, “The LORD has afflicted me.” (Ruth 1:20-21)

So why the admiration of Naomi? Because whether she is pleasant or bitter or anywhere in between, she still holds on to the Lord.

By the time you reach Ruth 3, Naomi is actively searching for a home for Ruth — a path that will lead to Boaz, that will lead to Christ. Naomi worked through her bitterness, and she did it with belief in the LORD, even when she felt a bitter hand was being played.

By Ruth 4, Naomi’s friends are telling her how pleasant her life is with a daughter-in-law worth 7 sons. The LORD she has trusted in from pleasant to bitter to pleasant has proven faithful once again.

Don’t know today if your life is pleasant or bitter or somewhere in between, but hang in there with the patience of Job and the perseverance of Naomi.


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