TO CHEW ON: "Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem, Judah, went to dwell in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. … Now the two of them went until they came to Bethlehem." Ruth 1:1,19
Today we begin reading the book of Ruth. The story starts with an Israeli man Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons Mahlon and Chilion. They leave their home town of Bethlehem for Moab because of a famine.
In Moab Elimelech dies, the boys marry Moabite girls, and then the sons die. Naomi is left husbandless, and maleless with only two foreign daughters-in-law to show for her years in Moab. It's not a good position.
She hears the famine is over and decides to return to Bethlehem. But I would guess the decision is not an easy one. She has pretty much nothing to show for the Moabite years. She is returning "empty" - Ruth 1:21.
The family may have been prominent in Bethlehem for when Naomi returns, not completely empty but with one daughter-in-law, "all the city is excited because of them; and the women said, 'Is this Naomi?'"- Ruth 1:19.
Can't you just hear the subtext? "Have you noticed Naomi's wrinkled face, her grey hair? She looked so good when they left. What happened?"
I can imagine Naomi dreading exactly such a thing. But I believe God is in this. Before He can move her on she has to come full-circle, back to the place where it all started (even though it means temporary humiliation).
I am reminded of at least two other instances where Bible characters are brought full circle.
Moses' return to Mount Horeb (or Mt. Sinai) proves God's presence is/was with him (Exodus 3:12; 19; the names Horeb and Sinai are used interchangeably for the same mountain).
Peter's full-circle trip to the Sea of Galilee is a confirmation of his call to leave fishing and follow Jesus (Mark 1:17; John 21:19).
What is God saying to Naomi when He brings her back to Bethlehem? Perhaps that her real provision ("Bethlehem" means "house of bread") and protection (Boaz speaks to Ruth of God bringing her to Israel to live under His wings - Ruth 2:12) are in God's land with His people?
Have you noticed God taking you full-circle? He's done that with me. Whenever He does, let's pay attention. There may just be something we need to hear.
PRAYER: Dear Father, thank You that no journey with You is wasted—when even I'm brought back to old starting points. Help me to learn from Your full-circle leading. Amen.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.