“Naomi. Listen, please.”
Elimelech was ready to explore exotic lands and discover a new way of life. He was bored to death in Bethlehem. Sure, they had a place here. He was eking out a decent living but what good is that if every day is the same and there is no frivolity to life?
“My husband, you know I will follow you anywhere, but Moab is forbidden territory. They worship strange gods and who knows what danger lies there for us. I love you, but you are breaking my heart. What about our friends and family here? Can you just walk away from them?” Naomi knew her pleas were falling on deaf ears and Elimelech had made up his mind.
“What dangers, my love? “ Elimelech chuckled. “You worry too much. We will all be fine and if it is not, we will simply return. The boys need adventure and so do I. Surely our God is not limited to the temple—He is greater than that. If we worship Him from Moab, will He not still hear us?”
Naomi cast her eyes to the ground blinking back the tears of her fear and frustration. His mind was set, and in a few days she would bid farewell to the security and safety of her homeland where her faith and her family ties were strong and thriving.
“Naomi, there is famine here. I make this journey for you and my sons—so that we may eat and live and prosper.”
“Yes my husband”, Naomi whispered as a single tear dropped to the earthen floor. It was done. She was in God’s hands now.
Moab was quite different from anything Naomi had ever known. She did not mingle much with the other women. She spent her time caring for the household and meditating on the God of her ancestors. At first, it seemed as if Elimelech had made the right choice. Work was easy to find, their bellies were full of fruit and grain and her sons eventually took wives.
The Moabite women were as exotic and as strange as the land and the gods they served. Naomi would have none of it. When Orpah and Ruth joined her household, she immediately took the spiritual reigns, training her new daughters in the ways of her Lord. She found them thirsty for spiritual understanding and willing wives, helpful and eager to please her sons and their parents. Eventually, though, God dealt His hand.
The famine spread and people were dying. Naomi pleaded with Elimelech to return home, but he would not. The fever took them all—her husband first and then her sons. God’s hand was brutal and beneath it Naomi’s life sifted away like so much ash.
Orpah returned to her family after a tearful and difficult farewell as Naomi made plans to return to the land of her fathers.
“Naomi, I will not leave you—you are my mother. Where you go, I will go and your God will be my God.” Peering intently into Ruth’s deep and mysterious eyes, Naomi understood why her son had been so smitten with her. There was something so alluring about this beautiful Moabitess that even in her bitterness and despair, Naomi could not turn her away. Perhaps Ruth was right; the journey would be easier with her than without her. Returning in widowhood held not much hope for her only perhaps now that the harvest had begun, she would not starve.
Her return was not without gossip. Elimelech’s widow had returned with a foreigner; a beautiful newly widowed one at that. Ruth garnered attention wherever she went. She felt the lustful eyes of the men burning into her back, the whispers of the other young women were at times almost more than she could bear. No one befriended her. No one dared. In the midst of social rejection and the financial poverty that accompanied her widowhood, Ruth knew that above it all, Naomi’s God had a plan. He had not brought her out of Moab to fail and so, silently she began seeking the plan, prayerfully assuring herself that the God of Israel would not forsake them.
Ruth leaned down to wash, catching her own reflection in the bowl. She leaned closer as though studying her features for the first time. “How different I am from the women here”, she murmured. Just then a glimmer of light danced across the surface of the water. Instantly she knew. “Boaz is our way.”
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