But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. I will go wherever you go and live wherever you live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. . . .” [Naomi told them,] “Don’t call me Naomi. Instead, call me Mara,for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me.” - Ruth 1:16, 20
Familiarity with spiritual issues over many years can breed disregard for them. The disciplines of spiritual life can become mundane. Then they are neglected and eventually fall into a state of serious disuse. Prayer is forgotten, worship loses its attraction, and service is burdensome. Estrangement from God’s people results. Sometimes a believer of long standing becomes weary of the things of the Lord and wearisome to all around him. By contrast, the new believer is so freshly alive to spiritual reality and so deeply grateful for grace received that he lives joyfully. Prayer is a delight, worship is a joy, service is a privilege, and fellowship is a treat.
What happens when the long-term believer living a joyless and disconsolate life meets a young believer living in the joy of salvation? This seems to have been the situation in the remarkable relationship between Naomi and Ruth. The older woman, a native of Bethlehem, had left with her family during a severe famine. The family had arrived in the land of Moab (traditionally an inhospitable place for people from Judah) and had apparently settled down there for a period of ten years. During this time, her sons had married Moabite women—not the sort of thing that was expected of God’s people. Then tragedy struck three times: Naomi not only lost her husband but both her sons as well. Deciding that she had nothing left to live for in Moab, and hearing that times were better in Judah, Naomi determined to return to her hometown.
One of Naomi’s daughters-in-law stayed in Moab. The other, Ruth, accompanied her mother-in-law back to Bethelehem. Ruth was utterly committed to her mother-in-law’s well-being. She even insisted, “Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” (Ruth 1:16-17). Ruth had become a devoted follower of Jehovah! She had intentionally turned from the worship of Moabite gods and had turned to the Lord for salvation. Commitment and compassion flowed from her heart—no doubt as a result of her newfound faith.
On arriving in Bethlehem, Naomi refused to answer to her name (which means “pleasant”) because, she said, “the Almighty has made life very bitter for me” (1:20). She demanded that henceforth she should be called “Mara” (which means “bitter”). In essence, Naomi was saying, “How can you call my life pleasant? It’s been very bitter.” The old-time believer had become sadly embittered by life, while the new believer grew sweeter.
In the community of believers, the ones who have traveled the road longest are supposed to show the way to the new arrivals. Sometimes, though, it works the other way around!
For Further Study: Ruth 1:14-22
Excerpted from The One Year Devotions for Men, Copyright ©2000 by Stuart Briscoe. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.
For more from Stuart Briscoe, please visit TellingtheTruth.org.