Don't Call Me Naomi, Call Me Mara!
Naomi was an older married woman living in Bethlehem-Judah with her husband and two sons during a famine. Naomi’s husband decided to move the family to Moab where food was plentiful. Here’s the problem; Naomi and her family were Jews (GOD’S covenant people), and the Moabites were heathen descendants of a man named Lot and the sexual relationship he had with his daughter.
The name Bethlehem-Judah means ‘house of bread’. The city was part of the Promised Land GOD gave to His people, but Naomi’s husband made a unilateral decision to go to a land of accursed people to feed his family without seeking counsel from the LORD. If this wasn’t a recipe for disaster I don’t know what would have been! While in Moab Naomi’s husband died and each of her sons married a heathen woman. After ten years Naomi’s two sons died. All she had left were two widowed, heathen daughters-in-law. Naomi thought it best that they leave her and return to their family households and she would return home.
Often just like Naomi we find ourselves in a situation not of our own making that jeopardizes our sense of well-being. We resolve to be agreeable and go along with a decision someone else has made. The ‘someone else’ may be a spouse, employer, or spiritual leader. If negative consequences are the result of their decision, we may be forced to confront our own feelings of bitterness. Listen to what Naomi told the residents of Bethlehem when she returned home:
“…‘Call me not ‘Naomi’ (pleasant), call me ‘Mara’ (bitter): for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty; why then call ye me ‘Naomi’, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?’ ” (Ruth 1:20 &21, KJV)
Naomi blamed GOD four (4) times for her circumstances and her bitterness. Wait a minute; whose idea was it to move from covenant land to Moab? It was her husband’s idea. Was Naomi deaf and dumb while her husband was talking about the move to Moab? No. Why didn’t she challenge her husband to pray and seek GOD’s counsel first? We don’t know. Why didn’t Naomi realize that no matter how bad things may be in the land of Promise, it’s always better to remain in GOD’S appointed place? We don’t know.
It is said that hindsight is 20/20. It is now clear to see that Naomi’s accusations concerning GOD were skewed and unjust. Naomi chose to glorify her dead husband while she vilified the living GOD to the hometown people. She did so even though He graciously led Ruth, her daughter-in-law, to accompany Naomi and remain with her in Bethlehem. Ruth told Naomi while in Moab:
“Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for wither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy GOD my GOD. Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.” (Ruth 1:16 &17, KJV)
While GOD’S chosen people were busy doing their own will instead of the will of GOD, Ruth the Moabite was gleaning bits of Truth about the GOD of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob from what they were saying about Him. SAVING FAITH began to grow in Ruth’s heart!
Humans often have wrong beliefs about GOD because of ignorance of His WORD, our faulty judgment, and erroneous perspectives. We have wrong beliefs about GOD because we are people-centered and people-dependent. Naomi could not bring herself to place the responsibility for her bitterness on her own passivity or on her dead husband’s poor leadership of the family. Nevertheless, in the midst of Naomi and her family’s error and rebellion the LORD was gracious; He gave Naomi a daughter! Ruth would go on to work in the fields and support Naomi and herself. Later, Ruth would marry a near kinsman of Naomi’s named Boaz and bear him a son named Obed. Obed sired a son named Jesse, who later sired a son named David. Naomi’s great-great grandson David placed her in the lineage of Israel’s Messiah, JESUS of Nazareth! The bondage of bitterness obstructs our view of GOD’S provision.
FAITH IN THE GRACIOUSNESS OF GOD to provide for us whether we are right or wrong and despite what others do or don’t do is always the remedy for the defiling root of bitterness. I wonder if Naomi publicly rescinded her indictment of GOD when His gracious plan for her restoration manifested. Did Naomi think to bless the LORD as loudly as she blamed Him while holding Obed close to her bosom? Did Naomi think about rejecting the name ‘Mara’ and embracing her own name once again? The women of Bethlehem-Judah praised the LORD on her behalf and here’s what they said:
“…‘Blessed be the LORD, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel. And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age: for thy daughter-in-law, which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath borne him.’ ” (Ruth 4:14 &15, KJV)
In her own way Naomi was just like many of us toward GOD: liberal with our gripes and stingy with our gratitude; liberal with our fault-finding and stingy with our faith! Let’s try to turn this pattern around, what do you say?
DECLARE: “LORD JESUS I renounce the spirit of passivity-Ahab and going along to get along. I receive instead a spirit of holy boldness to speak a word in season to those pushing their own agenda. If I do find myself in a situation that seems negative I will: give You thanks, trust You to reveal to me Your hidden purposes, and have faith that You make all things work together for the good of those who love You and are called by Your name. Amen.”