When Naomi saw that [Ruth] was determined to go with her, she said no more to her. (Ruth 1:18)
What was Naomi feeling after hearing her daughter-in-law’s speech (vv.16-17)?
I’m more and more convinced Naomi was hushed because she didn’t think she deserved the love Ruth lavished upon her. Naomi’s experience in this opening chapter is one of heartache. First, she’s forced to leave her homeland as a refugee in search of food. Then once they settled in a reviled neighboring country, her husband died.
After that, some hope: her sons got married to a couple of local women. But of course, her sons die too.
She’s left in a rival land with daughters-in-law who are also of rival descent.
So when she hears a glimmer of hope in the rumors of abundant food in Judah, her home, she is resolved to go back. But she’s resolved to go back alone.
She doesn’t have any more sons for Ruth and Orpah to marry and bring security (as was the necessity in that time.) She thinks she’s too old to marry a new man and have new kids. The time it would take is too long anyway, they’d find other men and she’d still be left alone. Better to be left alone now.
A woman with a low view of herself and her situation, Naomi is a woman in need of redemption. Though she needs it, she doesn’t feel like she’s capable of being hopeful again.
I think we’re more like Naomi than we would like to admit. While your situation might not be as dark as hers, there are times in all of our lives we feel we aren’t in the realm of hope. Maybe we don’t feel we deserve love. Maybe we feel like God’s face has turned against us.
We might be tempted to tell Naomi to “look at the bright side,” or “focus on the positive,” or even “it’s time to buck up” as if Naomi could overcome her guilt, shame, and sadness all by her lonesome. We might give her a self-help book, or recommend the newest craze in self-actualization. But that would still be leaving it up for Naomi do it herself. God helps those who help themselves right?
The good news for Naomi is her redemption doesn’t come from within but from one who shows her unmerited grace and mercy: Ruth. Even though she felt like she didn’t deserve it, Naomi was still given hope.
Even if we don’t feel like we deserve it, one of Ruth’s descendants (Matthew 1:5) died so we would be forgiven and was raised so we would be called righteous by God. We find grace and hope in an apple that didn’t fall too far from the tree.
You don’t have to try harder. You don’t have to pray harder. You don’t have to work harder. It is a gift we accept, just as Naomi stopped arguing and accepted her new life with Ruth.