Ruth 1:19-20 – Now the two of them went until they came to Bethlehem. And it happened, when they had come to Bethlehem, that all the city was excited because of them; and the women said, “ Is this Naomi?” But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.
In my last post, I wrote about the children of Israel stopping at a place called Marah. Today I want to continue my discussion of the sin of bitterness.
If you are familiar with this story, then you are ahead of my thinking; but for those of you who are not, I will go back a little.
Naomi and her husband went to the land of Moab with their two sons to avoid the famine in Bethlehem. After they got to Moab, her husband died. Her two sons married Moabite women and they lived together for about ten years. Then they died. Around this time, Naomi hears that there is food in Bethlehem and decides to return. Her daughters-in-law decide to go with her; but in the end Ruth is The only one to remain with her.
When they get to Bethlehem everyone is excited to see her. It’s been at least 10 years since she departed, maybe longer. One commentator mentions that she is altered in her appearance somewhat because of time and circumstances which cause the women of Bethlehem to ask “Is this Naomi?” (Bitterness will cause the most beautiful person to look unattractive).
Naomi immediately tells the women, “Don’t call me Naomi (Pleasant), call me Mara (Bitter). And then she explains why:
I’m not judging Naomi, but it’s pretty obvious here that she is bitter. So bitter, she wants to be called bitter. So bitter, she believes the Lord has dealt very bitterly with her. Again, I am not judging her because I can only imagine the devastating heartache that would accompany the loss of both husband and children. So I get it.
What I have a problem with is, just like Naomi, people have a tendency of blaming the Almighty God for their heartaches and disappointments. The Bible doesn’t elaborate on how her husband and sons perished, but whatever caused their deaths, she laid the blame at God’s door.
Just like the children of Israel at the place called Marah. In the past when they complained, it was always about how they should have stayed in Egypt; in Egypt we had this, and in Egypt we had that! I could just hear them saying, “In Egypt we had water to drink!” Basically, it was better when…
Have you ever felt like that in your walk with God? Things were better before I got saved; before I started tithing, before I went into the ministry…these are words of bitterness.
In my opinion, bitterness short-circuits a heart of gratefulness. In the case of the children of Israel, they had just finished celebrating the crossing of the Red Sea, and yet they quickly forgot that God had done a mighty work on their behalf. At that water, they should have been asking Moses, “What has God instructed you to do about this water because things are looking ripe for a miracle? Or they should have just continued to praise Him in the wilderness for all He had done with an expectancy of Him getting ready to do something greater.
Naomi was still alive! Ruth had come with her to help provide and take care of her. She had made it back to Bethlehem without an trouble. She had much to be thankful for. But she wasn’t concerned about anything but the fact that she had loss so much! Ruth was also a widow. A very recent widow. And yet, Naomi doesn’t seem to care. Another thing she didn’t care about was her daughters-in-law spiritual well-being. After all, she encouraged them to go back to their people and back to their gods. Her bitterness was so deep that she could only see her pain and her losses. Nothing else. No one else.
Rightly she said that she should be called bitter because she was a very bitter woman.
But Naomi had a loving Father. One who doesn’t easily offend. One who knows we are imperfect beings. One who understands.
God was not responsible for her losses, but He was certainly preparing to bless her. In my next post I will conclude the matter. Wonderful Jesus!