A Time of Bitterness

Growing with God: A daily devotional with Tonia Slimm.

Ruth 1:19-22 (NIV)
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?” “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.

Ruth 1:19-22 (MSG)
And so the two of them traveled on together to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem the whole town was soon buzzing: “Is this really our Naomi? And after all this time!” But she said, “Don’t call me Naomi; call me Bitter. The Strong One has dealt me a bitter blow. I left here full of life, and God has brought me back with nothing but the clothes on my back. Why would you call me Naomi? God certainly doesn’t. The Strong One ruined me.” And so Naomi was back, and Ruth the foreigner with her, back from the country of Moab. They arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.
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“So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole city was stirred because of them, and the women asked, “Is this Naomi?” She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi (sweetness); call me Mara (bitter), for the Almighty has caused me great grief and bitterness. I left full [with a husband and two sons], but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?” So Naomi returned from the country of Moab, and with her Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law. And they arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.” -AMPLIFIED

We continue with Naomi and Ruth’s story within God’s story. We find them both arriving back at Naomi’s hometown. This trip was approximately a 50 mile journey from Moab to Bethlehem; which would have been a 7-10 day trip. It was a rough and dangerous trek; especially for two women to make alone. Consider what was transpiring in Israel at this point in time and the mentality of people; this was a very treacherous undertaking for these two. The journey would have involved traveling through areas where thieves and robbers would have taken Vedanta of passers-by; thinking nothing of killing them for whatever they had.

Notice what happened once they arrived to Bethlehem; the “whole town was soon buzzing”. Funny how everyone knows your business in a small town. Consider this though, when Naomi had left Bethlehem she had left with a husband and two sons; apparently well off too. Now she returns without her husband and sons, with only a daughter-in-law and not so well off materially. The townspeople’s response was this, “Is this really our Naomi? And after all this time!”

Naomi’s response was filled with bitterness, hence why she now changes her name. “Do not call me Naomi (sweetness); call me Mara (bitter), for the Almighty has caused me great grief and bitterness. I left full [with a husband and two sons], but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?”

Charles Spurgeon writes these words about Naomi; “God can soon change our sweets into bitters, therefore let us be humble; but he can with equal ease transform our bitters into sweets, therefore let us be hopeful. It is very usual for Naomi and Mara, sweet and bitter, to meet in the same person. He who was called Benjamin, or “the son of his father’s right hand,” was first called Benoni, or “the son of sorrow.” The comforts of God’s grace are all the sweeter when they follow the troubles of life. (The Interpreter)

It is always wise to remember that our ways are not God’s ways; neither are our thoughts His thoughts. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts higher than your thoughts. “For as the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth, making it bear and sprout, and providing seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so will My word be which goes out of My mouth; it will not return to Me void (useless, without result), without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” -Isaiah 55:8-11 (AMP)

It is always wise for us to remember that we are to praise him always. In the Good times praise His Name and in the bad times do the same. In everything let us give thanks!

George MacDonald, Scottish author, once said, “We can let God take our troubles and make out of them a garment of Christian fortitude which will not only warm our souls but also serve to inspire others.”

My Prayer:
Lord, help me to accept the bad times along with the good; for you use those times to mold me into the person that you desire me to be. When those tough times hit remind me that you are still with me and you still love me. It helps me when I recall Psalm 23, “Though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, You are with me.” In the midst of the troubles remind me to continue to praise your name; for you are a good, good God.

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