Updated: Oct 6
"[Obed] will renew your life and sustain you in your old age." Ruth 4:15
The journey through life, at times, is so very hard, and the hard circumstances tempt us to become hardened as well. Hardened with attitudes of pessimism, scarcity, bitterness, anger, and intolerance. Hardened with complaining, self-absorption, weakness, thanklessness, joylessness, and the like. But when we choose, as Naomi in the book of Ruth did, to leave the place equated with earthly loss and pain—meaning mentally leave, though a physical departure is sometimes needed and required—and when we then purposely remain in the place equated with God's presence, peace, and provision, I believe we position ourselves to receive an extra measure of God's kindness.
And from this outflow of Godly kindness, a renewal and a sustenance is birthed, bringing purpose and joy, whatever the season of life.
Five times the word kindness (one a variant of it) is used in the four-chapter book of Ruth. What is initially portrayed as a display of Ruth's kindness, and then Boaz's kindness, is really God's targeting kindness for Naomi, a woman who had endured a heavy load of heartache.
First, it was famine that had swayed her family from their homeland to foreign soil. Then it was the death of her husband, followed by subsequent deaths of her two grown sons—all in the span of ten years. And all in Moab, a land void of God's pervading presence. That's a lot of emotionally heavy enduring, especially in an environment that was incompatible with the ways of the Most High. Therefore, it's easy to understand, especially when assessed through a spiritual lense, how weak and fragile Naomi's emotions would have become. It's easy to understand how very empty the once-full Naomi would have felt. It's easy to understand why a bout with bitterness would have become her reality. It's easy to understand why a woman whose people had been chosen by the Lord Almighty would have believed His hand was against her. "
The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me." (1:21)
I want to make note of something right here that would be easy to overlook. Scripture does not record that Elimeleck, Naomi's husband, was led by the Lord when he transported his family from Bethlehem, which was in the the land of Judah (the "house of bread" in the land of promise), to a land antithetical the ways of God and His people. Instead of interceding for himself and his fellow Israelites, and waiting on God's provision during the famine (mentioned in the opening verse of Ruth), did Elimelek leave Bethlehem due to a lack of trust in God's mercy and care? Was Elimeleck in a season of his personal life in which he wasn't walking in close fellowship with the Lord? Did this lack of intimacy and reverence impact his spiritual hearing? Was he consumed by fear instead of faith concerning his family's needs, especially in regard to his sons who were characterized by weakness and frailty (as their names' meanings signify)? Was he in a place where he'd become careless? And did he then compromise their spiritual well-being by dwelling in an unsanctified environment, so long as physical needs were met? Was his death, as well as the deaths of his sons, somehow expedited, even caused, by the choices he made?
Though I have no answers to my wondering because the Word doesn't clearly specify, I think each is worth consideration because when we read the Bible, we must not merely consider stories and passages in isolation, but rather, consider each in context. We must consider whatever it is we are reading within the whole counsel of God's Word. And in regard to Israel as a nation—the people God had chosen and set-apart for Himself—He had instituted boundaries and established instructions, for His glory and His people's well-being. This is why I can't help but ask these questions.
But whether the answer is "no" to each or whether the answer to just one or every one is a definitive "yes," there's something far greater that deserves my consideration, and it is surely this: That in spite of Earth's cursed condition and man's weakness and frailty, a good, gracious, sovereign God would orchestrate a provisional plan in the life of His daughter who had suffered so much loss that it left her feeling empty and bitter. And, along with Naomi, His plan would marvelously include Ruth, the Moabite woman who had witnessed the presence of Yaweh in the mother-in-law she had so grown to love and so desired to stay connected and loyal to.
As each positioned herself to receive, first by returning to Bethlehem, the "house of bread," and then by gleaning and remaining in the fields of the kind kinsman-redeemer, the losses and pains of yesterday were eclipsed by the hope of tomorrow.
And, most assuredly, life was renewed and life was sustained for Naomi, as well as Ruth and future generations, through the birth of Obed.
Obed, the baby born from Ruth and Boaz's union, who would then become the father of Jesse. Jesse. who would then become the father of David. David, who would then become a "man after God's own heart," the shepherd-boy anointed King of Israel, in whose lineage Jesus the Messiah, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, would then emerge some thousand years later as a swaddled babe, born in Bethlehem.
The One who would save and sustain, redeem and renew.
The "Bread of Life" born in the "house of bread."
Oh, the marvelous kindness of our great God! The One who comes to the aid of His people, of which I'm included, solely because of Christ. When I have no means to help myself, I know I can turn to my Father, look to Him, and wait expectantly on Him. I know that, like Boaz did for Naomi and Ruth, my God does not rest until the matters of my heart are settled. In His impeccable timing. In His impeccable way. And through the process and in the outcomes, I find a renewal and a sustenance that keeps me energized through the seasons of life.
Oh, the marvelous kindness of King Jesus, my Guardian-Redeemer who takes notice of me! Never do I have to worry that I'm not in His sights. That I'm not on His mind. That I'm not in His heart. That my name is not engraved on the palm of His hands. And if hard times and hard seasons tempt me to doubt, I just look to Calvary's cross as proof. Because I've trusted in Jesus as my Savior, when the hard circumstances of this life tempt me to become hardened as well, I know that it's in the presence of Jesus, "the Bread of Life," that I find the provision and peace I cannot live without. And in this, I find authentic purpose and joy, whatever the season of life.
Fellow sojourner, most assuredly, it's the Lord's marvelous kindness that renews our life. It's His merciful, provisional kindness that sustains us in seasons in which a lot might be working against us, or in which a lot has already worked against us and now, like Naomi, we've become old in the journey.
Yet. . . we still make His presence the place we call home. Still remain in His fields. Still look to Him and His kindness. Still know that He is the only one that can make right—can sovereignly redeem and then use—all that's gone wrong along the journey that's been our life.
And it's in closeness to Him that new birth emerges—birth that brings renewal and sustenance for the journey's continuance, until we finally reach our forever home.