From Bitterness to Blessing – From “Mara” back to “Naomi” – Only God can pull it off!

Today I’m so impressed by the fact that when we’re following Jesus and trusting God, as bad as things may seem to be at times, God is in control working on our behalf, and things can change because of His sovereign activity and end up better than we ever imagined!

That is the way it happened to Naomi in the little book called Ruth in the Old Testament.

The story takes place during the time of the “judges” – not a good time for the nation of Israel! There had been a famine in the land and so Naomi and her husband, Elimelek, moved for a while to Moab. There the two sons married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. Then things got worse! First Elimelek, Naomi’s husband died. Then a little later Noami’s two sons died. In that culture, where women were completely dependent on husbands and sons for support, this was a disaster! In desperation, Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem in Israel. Ruth, her daughter in law, insisted on going with her – Orpah decided to stay in Moab. Despondent and destitute (and perhaps a bit bitter), Naomi told her old friends in Israel, “Don’t call me Naomi (meaning pleasant), call me Mara (which means bitter)! She could not see any hope – no husband, no sons, no visible means of support, two dependent women completely at the mercy of charity.

But God was working behind the scenes although they did not know it! Ruth offers to go to the grain fields and “glean” (i.e. pick up the “leftovers” the reapers missed). She just “happened” to choose the field of Boaz, a rich landowner (and unbeknown to her a close relative of Naomi’s husband). Boaz was attracted to Ruth and showed her unusual kindness and gracious provision and protection. In that culture male relatives of husbands of women who had lost a spouse had responsibilities as “kinsmen-redeemers” (this involved both marriage, fathering children, and property rights). Naomi realized this and devised a plan to take advantage of the relationship to Boaz. Ruth cooperated with the plan, did her part, and God worked behind the scenes! The result? Boaz, the rich landowner, married Ruth and fathered children through her! The name “Mara” was forgotten and abandoned – Naomi and Ruth’s situation turned out better than they could ever have imagined or dreamed of! In fact, King David, Israel’s greatest king-leader, was a descendant of Ruth’s son! (You really should read the whole story in this little Old Testament book – only 4 chapters!)

Oh how wonderfully God works! We experience trouble and trials… we think disaster… We are tempted to “throw in the towel,” give up, and even abandon our faith (we might even blame God for everything that has happened to us and asked to be renamed, “Mara”)! But God may be at work behind the scenes in ways we could never imagine or have dreamed of! In fact, we have a wonderful assurance about this in God’s Word…

Apostle Paul assures us, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose… What then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? … In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us!” (From Romans 8:28-39 – My advice? Read the whole passage!)

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