When Life Changes You
So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, "Can this be Naomi?" 20 "Don't call me Naomi," she told them. "Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.” Rth 1:19-20 NIV
“And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him." Rth 4:15 NKJV
Life can change us. No, it really can. Often for people, as time goes on, they become burdened by the disappointments and difficulties of life. Sometimes these disappointments are a consequence of their choices, while others are the randomness of life. Nonetheless, life can be hard, and consequently, we become hardened.
This was the story of Naomi. She and her husband and two sons had left Bethlehem during a famine and “left the promised land, crossing the Jordan'' and retreated to the wilderness, the city of the Moabites. Make no mistake about it, this was an arduous and significant physical demand. It appears that they addressed a spiritual problem with a natural solution. Trying to fix the spiritual with the natural will usually never work. It did not for them because Naomi experienced great difficulties. She lost her husband and her two sons. She was left. She was bitter. She was not hopeless though, for when she heard that Bethlehem was flourishing again she would pack up and make that long journey alone with only Ruth by her side. Two women taking this journey. Not an easy task. Naomi was strong.
When she arrived in Bethlehem it was profound. Let’s let the scriptures speak: So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, "Can this be Naomi?" Did you get that? The whole city stirred. They became excited that she had returned. Maybe they had been praying for a while for her. Perhaps, this was a holy stirring, providing the confirmation of God’s will.
What might this text indicate about the celebration of their entrance say about Naomi? Perhaps, it suggests that she was an impact player. People knew of her for her kind deeds. Yet, the text also suggests something subtle but worth noting. They questioned if this was actually her. Listen to the text once again, and the women exclaimed, "Can this be Naomi?" Interesting isn’t it that they questioned if it was her. Maybe, those ten years had taken such a toll on her that she literally looked different. She had aged, she was not the same as she was before. The people saw her and assumed it was her, but were not entirely sure due to her transformation as a result of trauma. You see, those years did take their toll on her. Life can do that, can’t it?
For you and I, maybe we have been in Moab and yes, it has changed us as well. Not only did they question her due to the apparent physical change, but also Naomi looked within and saw a profound change as well. Listen carefully to what she said: "Don't call me Naomi," she told them. "Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.” Naomi’s time away had changed her on the outside and perhaps most importantly, had changed her on the inside. This was a tragic life event. A life that was once filled with hope and a future was boxed in by yesterday’s losses. She who once was pleasant in good works was now bitter and withdrawn. It happened to this lover of God. Unfortunately, it has on some level happened to you and me as well. Did I mention life can be messy?
The goal of God was to restore this saint. God would do so through a number of carefully engineered transactions. They were divinely orchestrated. We observed two ways in which God worked. First, God worked in the hearts of men and women; her community, second, God worked in the external events of life.
God worked and life was becoming restored. Listen to our text to better illustrate this, and may he be to you a restorer of life. Did you get that? Obed, this little baby, this powerless and dependent child would serve a very specific purpose in the life of Naomi. It would be a restorer. In other words, it would take this child to bring Naomi back to being Naomi again. In the Hebrew language the word “restore” means to turn back. Naomi needed to come home, she needed to return to a place and a person that she used to be. It would take an infant to do so. A powerless, dependent infant. You see, restoration can often come not by what is done to us but rather by what we do. A project, a ministry, and a person. All of these can cause us to come out of ourselves and lose ourselves in something bigger than ourselves. An Obed, if you will.
What has God given you today? What is your Obed? Like Naomi, we can sometimes drift. Drifting from ourselves, our God, and our purpose. God has a way of providing us with a community, and a commitment to bring us home. To bring us back to the person we used to be. Find your Obed. You will be glad you did.