Autumn Conference 2020
Hello, my name’s Naomi and I live in Bethlehem in the land of Canaan that God has given to my people, the children of Israel. We don’t have a king, but when we need it, God raises up Judges to lead us in his name. This is my story:
As a child, I often wondered why I was put on this earth. Why was I created? What was my purpose? What was God’s plan for my life. I was an obedient daughter. I was brought up in a loving caring family.
Of course, my parents chose my husband. You could say that I had an arranged marriage. I dare not refuse my parents’ wishes. From an early age, I remember my mum teaching me how to be an obedient wife. I watched and learned from her. She was an excellent mentor.
Thankfully, my parents chose well and I ended up with a most handsome man. He turned out to be a kind, loving and caring man. His smile and laughter were ever so contagious. I moved in with his family as expected. Over the years, I learned to love his family as my own. I am not saying it was plain sailing; far from it. We had our ups and downs but grace, mercy and forgiveness got us through the tough times. God has a way of working things out if you listen to that sweet, gentle, still, small voice.
My mother in law was ecstatic when we had our first child – a son. The family celebrated the first grandchild. And then God blessed us with another son. Two beautiful boys – Mahlon and Kilion. Could life get any better? We had a huge family home and land. We lived in a joint family. The kids grew up around their aunts, uncles and cousins and their doting grandparents. You could say that we had it all. We were so very blessed.
Then, famine struck our nation. It was as if God had turned his face away from our people. We worshipped him and followed his ways and we were a praying family. But many of our neighbours had turned away from God and were following the Gods of the nations around us. Life was getting tough. We were unable to grow any crops. It was as if the land was cursed. We couldn’t all live together - too many mouths to feed. It was with a heavy heart that we left our family and friends for Moab, where we heard there was plenty of food. We comforted ourselves thinking it was only for a while and promised to return when things got better.
We finally arrived in Moab our new land. The people were strange and they worshipped strange Gods. They even sacrificed their children. How could they do such a thing? Our God has forbidden such behaviour. Life was so very hard but we finally got settled and started to make friends. Our sons grew up into handsome young men.
Then, tragedy struck! I lost the love of my life. The boys lost their father. The head of our family was gone. I was so overwhelmed with grief. All the joy was sucked out of me. All my dreams shattered. Thankfully, I was blessed with kind, loving boys who took care of me through the worst times. I stopped being angry with God and started praying again. I stopped saying why and started saying what now. Slowly, joy and peace were returning to me as I surrendered my worries and cares to God. Life returned to a new normality.
Both my sons fell and in love and married Moabite girls – Ruth and Orpah. It wasn’t what I wanted but they were beautiful souls and we made it work. Years went by and I was hoping for a patter of tiny feet. I prayed so hard for God to bless both my daughters in law with children. I was waiting on God to answer. I knew he would in his own time as his timing is perfect but I wanted him to hurry.
But that wasn’t to be. Double Tragedy struck. My world came crashing down. Both my boys were taken from me in an instant – just like that. I could not speak. I was in a trance, in a nightmare. Someone wake me up. The darkness overtook me. There was no light in my life. I moved and functioned but there were no feelings. Why God? Why would you want to hurt us and bring so much pain and suffering. What did we do wrong? Three widows – all grieving. My heart was broken and would never be mended. The joy had gone for good this time. I became cold hearted and bitter. I said, “The LORD’s hand has gone out against me.”
Then I heard some good news. I heard that God had restored our nation and provided food. I so longed to return to my people. There was nothing left for me here. So we packed up and started on our way back home. My heart was heavy. What would people say about me. My daughters in law would never be accepted by my people. They were foreigners and would be mistreated. I urged them to return to their respective families. They were still young and could find new husbands amongst their people. Even if I was to marry and have children they would be too old to marry them. I convinced Orpah to turn back but Ruth clung to me. She would not let me go. She said, “Where you go I will go and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” I hadn’t realised how much she had grown to love my God.
We finally reached home. My friends just about recognised me. Is this Naomi? Is she back? I rebuked them and asked them to call me Mara which means bitter as that’s how I felt. I wasn’t very pleasant to be around in those times.
We found somewhere to live. Wasn’t great but it would do. At least we had a roof over our head. Ruth went out to glean in the fields. Gleaning was part of our God’s law – he commanded that land owners should not harvest to the edges of their fields but leave the edges for the poor to harvest for themselves. She came back with so much grain. I was surprised. Someone must have been so generous to her. It happened to be my husband’s relative – Boaz.
Now it’s the custom amongst our people that, if a man dies without children, then his nearest relative should marry the widow and have children for him. Then the widow’s children can inherit the dead man’s property. He’s known as the kinsman-redeemer. This Boaz was a close relative and a man of good character, so I decided on a plan. I told Ruth to go to the threshing floor and, when Boaz lay down to sleep, to lie at his feet. When he asked what she was doing, she was to tell him he was her kinsman-redeemer.
Well, as I expected, Boaz immediately agreed to fulfil his role and married Ruth.
I feel that God has revived and restored me. He has put a new song in my heart. He has caused his face to shine on me again. He has given me a new purpose, a new beginning. I have been blessed with a grandchild – Obed. The bitterness has been replaced with so much joy and happiness. I love that gorgeous little boy. Such a cutie. God had a plan all along. I misunderstood when I thought his hand was against me. He was just working out a much better plan – not just for me but for the future. It wasn’t what I expected but his ways are not our ways. My journey has been a tough one but as I look back, God has always been there- every step of the way. Walking with me and carrying me. I have a feeling in my spirit that God is going to do something great through Obed. You see He doesn’t waste anything. He uses everything for his good purpose. So, that’s my story so far.