One day Naomi said to Ruth, “My daughter, it’s time that I found a permanent home for you, so that you will be provided for. Boaz is a close relative of ours, and he’s been very kind by letting you gather grain with his young women. Tonight he will be winnowing barley at the threshing floor. Now do as I tell you—take a bath and put on perfume and dress in your nicest clothes. Then go to the threshing floor, but don’t let Boaz see you until he has finished eating and drinking. Be sure to notice where he lies down; then go and uncover his feet and lie down there. He will tell you what to do.” “I will do everything you say,” Ruth replied. So she went down to the threshing floor that night and followed the instructions of her mother-in-law. After Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he lay down at the far end of the pile of grain and went to sleep. Then Ruth came quietly, uncovered his feet, and lay down. Around midnight Boaz suddenly woke up and turned over. He was surprised to find a woman lying at his feet! “Who are you?” he asked. “I am your servant Ruth,” she replied. “Spread the corner of your covering over me, for you are my family redeemer.” “The Lord bless you, my daughter!” Boaz exclaimed. “You are showing even more family loyalty now than you did before, for you have not gone after a younger man, whether rich or poor. Now don’t worry about a thing, my daughter. I will do what is necessary, for everyone in town knows you are a virtuous woman. But while it’s true that I am one of your family redeemers, there is another man who is more closely related to you than I am. Stay here tonight, and in the morning I will talk to him. If he is willing to redeem you, very well. Let him marry you. But if he is not willing, then as surely as the Lord lives, I will redeem you myself! Now lie down here until morning.” So Ruth lay at Boaz’s feet until the morning, but she got up before it was light enough for people to recognize each other. For Boaz had said, “No one must know that a woman was here at the threshing floor.” Then Boaz said to her, “Bring your cloak and spread it out.” He measured six scoops of barley into the cloak and placed it on her back. Then he returned to the town. When Ruth went back to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “What happened, my daughter?” Ruth told Naomi everything Boaz had done for her, and she added, “He gave me these six scoops of barley and said, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’” Then Naomi said to her, “Just be patient, my daughter, until we hear what happens. The man won’t rest until he has settled things today.” So Boaz took Ruth into his home, and she became his wife. When he slept with her, the Lord enabled her to become pregnant, and she gave birth to a son. Then the women of the town said to Naomi, “Praise the Lord, who has now provided a redeemer for your family! May this child be famous in Israel. May he restore your youth and care for you in your old age. For he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you and has been better to you than seven sons!” Naomi took the baby and cuddled him to her breast. And she cared for him as if he were her own. The neighbor women said, “Now at last Naomi has a son again!” And they named him Obed. He became the father of Jesse and the grandfather of David.
Dear God, as a widow in that time, Naomi was really pushing water uphill. She had so few options for herself, and she knew that if Ruth didn’t act soon she would be in the same boat. Did they manipulate Boaz? Yes. Did they use Boaz for his money and position? Sure. But in that system, did she have much choice?
Here’s what I like about this story that is subtle. The name “Mara” (Ruth 1:20) didn’t stick. You didn’t make her life bitter. In fact, through Ruth, you gave her hope. Through her son Kilion (presumably Kilion is the one who married Ruth), you brought this woman into her life who would look out for her. She didn’t know it. Had her husband not died and had her sons not died, they might have stayed in Moab forever. But with those deaths she was forced back to Judah and Bethlehem. She was forced back to what would become the City of David. And why did it become the City of David? Because her daughter-in-law, Ruth, would marry Boaz and have a son. And what did the women of Bethlehem (the future City of David) say to her?
Praise the Lord, who has now provided a redeemer for your family! May this child be famous in Israel. May he restore your youth and care for you in your old age. For he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you and has been better to. you that seven sons!”
Not all of us will get to see even that beginnings of what you are doing like Naomi did. We don’t know if she ever saw David born, although it’s certain she never saw him as king or even kill Goliath. But she got to see Obed. She got to cuddle him and care for him. There was nothing about her any longer that fit the term Mara.
Father, my prayer right now is for everyone who feels like their name is Mara because they feel like you have made their life bitter. I saw a man in church this morning who was sitting alone. I noticed some things about him that made me wonder if he was there seeking you from a desperate place. I spoke to him briefly, and he didn’t indicate anything was wrong, but I at least wanted him to know that someone noticed him this morning and cared. I have some family members who are currently struggling. They might feel like the name Mara fits them. Help them to let go of that label. Help them to embrace your love. Help them to look for ways to extend love to others. Help them to take their eyes off of themselves and find ways to serve. And heal their wounds through your Holy Spirit and your presence. And help me to be there for them as well.
In Jesus’s name I pray,