April 2016 - Naomi


Looking at a tapestry you see a beautiful picture.  Turn it over and the same colours at the back, but often with ends of wool, knots and mixed threads.  Life is like the back of the tapestry.  It isn’t tidy.  BUT, if we allow God to work at the front, He will create a beautiful scene out of all our mismatched ends.


In between Judges and the stories of the Kings of Israel there is a little book, four chapters long; a quiet tale of ordinary life.  It shows that when God weaves His tapestry He adds whatever threads he chooses for the best possible result.


This is the book called Ruth, but it is Naomi who is the backbone of the story, the one who underpins it and without whom, the story would not have happened.


Naomi, her husband, Elimelech, and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, lived in Bethlehem.  In a time of great famine, Naomi’s husband decided they should move to Moab, a distance of about fifty miles and the other side of the Dead Sea.  (The salts in the Dead Sea meant that people couldn’t sink in it – a very apt thought for the unsinkable Naomi!)


Whilst they lived in Moab, Naomi ensured that they kept their faith in the One God.  They stayed in Moab for ten years and during that time Naomi’s husband died, her sons married local girls and then they also died.  Naomi was left a stranger in Moab feeling desolate.  Hearing the famine in her own land was over, she decided to go home.


Naomi was a loving, caring mother, and mother-in-law because both of her daughters-in-law, wanted to go back to Bethlehem with her.  Orpha changed her mind but Ruth insisted that she would not let Naomi make the difficult return journey on her own but would make her future life with her mother-in law.


Naomi had followed her husband, kept the faith, inspired her daughters-in-law and now, in sorrow, wanted to go home.  She was a quietly strong woman, open-handed, full of faith and kind to others, and when they returned to Bethlehem, Naomi’s friends and relations welcomed her and Ruth to be part of their community.  Naomi, however, under the burden of her losses, told her friends to call her Mara, meaning bitter, for she was feeling bitter towards God.


Which of us would not sympathise with someone in Naomi’s position railing at God for a while?


Back in her own land Naomi recovered her spirits.  It was the time of the barley harvest and food had to be found.


Naomi was not someone to be put in a corner and forgotten about.  She regretted not having grandchildren, and made a plan.  It was the custom, at that time, if a man died without children then the nearest male relation would marry the widow and children would be given the name of her first husband.  Naomi knew full well who was next of kin, and Boaz, a wealthy farmer, was the best choice.  Naomi sent the beautiful Ruth, in the custom among poor women, to glean in Boaz’s fields.


Boaz noticed Ruth.  It was love at first sight and he cleared all obstacles in order to marry her.  Naomi had her wish for a grandchild, a boy, grandfather of King David and of the family tree Jesus was born into in Bethlehem a thousand years later.


Naomi wasn’t from a grand family or of great importance in the community, but we all know that God likes using ordinary people because He makes them extra-ordinary.  Naomi had lost much but, though she complained a bit, she did not lose her faith; in fact she was instrumental in Ruth accepting the Jewish faith.


If we think again of our tapestry, Ruth might be a gold thread used in a special place but Naomi is more like the green of the grass, representing those who hold and continue the faith by example, as much as by word, serving others but with grit and a strong backbone; vital, as seen from the front but maybe a little untidy underneath.  With Naomi, we are all part of God’s rich tapestry.


Barbara Symonds

Webpage icon November 2016. God’s Blueprint for success
Webpage icon October - 2016. Shiphrah and Puah
Webpage icon September 2016. Mary, mother of Jesus
Webpage icon August - 2016. Martha
Webpage icon July - 2016. Unnamed; taken in adultery
Webpage icon June - 2016. Anna, daughter of Phanuel
Webpage icon May 2016 - The First Christian in Europe
Webpage icon March 2016 Mary Magdalene
Webpage icon February 2016 - The woman at the well