Monday, October 20, 2008

Ruth: Full Circle

In the first chapter of the book of Ruth, as Naomi returned to Bethlehem, she was greeted by a chorus of women, who greeted her: “Can this be Naomi?”

Maybe they didn’t expect to see her again. Or perhaps she was changed by time and grief.

In any case, Naomi responded with blame and bitterness: “Don’t call me Naomi. My name is now Mara (bitter).”

We can see a bit of a play on words in this exchange. The women were asking if this was Naomi, whose name meant pleasant. Naomi replied: I’m not pleasant but bitter.

But Naomi comes full circle by the end of the book. Again, the women greet her. This time, in Ruth 4:14, they don’t ask her a question but deliver a truth:
“Praise the Lord, who has not left you without a family redeemer today.” (Ruth 4:14)

This chorus of women is a used as a device to reveal Naomi’s state. Where they once questioned Naomi’s condition – and she saw herself as misused and bitter – now they declare to her a new state: blessed.

Where she thought God had stolen away her family, these women remind her that he has instead miraculously restored a family to her.

The text calls the new baby the son of Naomi, which legally would have been true. Under the law, this new son would replace her husband and sons, providing her with the protection she needed.

Naomi was redeemed. And the women joyfully deliver the good news to her: God, whom you assumed had stolen away your life, has instead restored it. Praise the Lord.

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