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Surprised by Hesed … running on empty

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty.”
Ruth 1:20-21

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab (Ruth 1:1). Seems like a fairly noble thing for a man to provide for his family during a famine. After all, food in neighboring Moab was plentiful. And the sons of Elimelech and Naomi surely were in need, if names bore any significance: Mahlon meant sickly and Kilion meant puny. So off they went from the Promised Land, this little family of four, to live for a while.

Problem was, while there Elimelech died (1:3) leaving Naomi and her two sons alone. Well, not quite alone. The boys married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth (1:4). Possibly, just possibly, Elimelech consulted God before taking his family to Moab. However, we know the Lord didn’t think much of Moab: Moab’s a scrub bucket. I mop the floor with Moab (Psalm 60:8 MSG). Certainly He did not take kindly to His people marrying foreigners (Deuteronomy 7:3).

The little while stretched into ten years, and the two boys also passed away (1:5). In those days it was difficult to be widowed. To lose one’s sons, the remaining source of support, was devastating. Naomi was empty, empty, empty.

Think about it, the spiral from fullness to emptiness strikes all of us just that innocently at one time or other in our lives. A little worldliness here, too full of ourselves there, and lo and behold, we’ve crossed the border into the greener pastures of any old place. Oh we’re not far away from God, yet far enough to miss His voice. Or perhaps you’ve always lived in Moab, never knowing His loving kindness.

Not an auspicious beginning for a love story, but God is faithful. While Naomi may have thought herself at the end of her rope, in the silence of grief she was able to hear that the LORD had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them (1:6). It took her no time at all to set out for home.

If you’re out wandering ladies, running on empty like Naomi, hurry on home. God’s got a surprise waiting for you.

Nancy P

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