Posted by: Esther | May 5, 2008

From Pleasant to Bitter

Ruth 1:6-7 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the land of Moab, for she had heard in the land of Moab that the LORD had visited His people in giving them food. So she departed from the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah.

Under submission to her husband, Naomi left the “house of bread” to live in the land of God’s washpot (Psalm 60:8). There, Naomi lost everything meaningful to her: her husband and two sons. One may ask, “Why does God allow such suffering on those he loves?” To answer this we must first believe that God is sovereign over His creation. He knows what is best for each of us, because He knows our past, present, and future.
Psalm 139 speaks of God’s omniscience best. Here are just the first three verses:

Psa 139:1-3 O LORD, You have searched me and known {me}. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.

We must also believe that God wants nothing but joy for us.

Psalm 5:11 But let all who take refuge in You be glad, Let them ever sing for joy; And may You shelter them, That those who love Your name may exult in You.

Isaiah 30:18 Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him

It is my perspective that Naomi’s losses were not because of God’s wrath or judgement on her for something she did wrong, for Naomi was under the submission of her rebelling husband.

Genesis 3:16b Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.”

Naomi followed her husband into rebellion, yet in submission to her husband, she was also honoring the Lord.

1Cr 11:7-9 For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.

Unfortunately the unthinkable had to happen in order for Naomi to be blessed. We might think, “Surely there could have been a better way to bless her. Surely her husband and sons did not have to die in order for her to receive a blessing.”

Romans 9:20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?”

When Jesus’ disciples asked why a certain man was blind, He answered:

John 9:3 “{It was} neither {that} this man sinned, nor his parents; but {it was} so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

And what a great set of work we will see as God graciously redeems Naomi’s namesake.

But I believe it is God’s words through Paul’s to the Corinthian church that sheds light on Naomi’s actions here:

1 Cor 7:34 The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

Following the example of her husband, Naomi follows her stomach back to the “House of Bread.” Considering that Naomi was raised among people that worshipped idols and a husband who followed his stomach, her actions are certainly understandable.

Ruth 1:8-9 And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the LORD deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me. “May the LORD grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept.

Now why would a believer in the one true God send her loved ones back to worship a false God? Remember that Naomi was raised among people that worshipped idols and a husband who followed his stomach and not his God. Her actions here are an example of the world she is from. Conversion is always a process. When we first accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior our world views do not automatically disappear from our hearts. For example, it may take years before we realize that abortion is murder and that evolution is contrary to Biblical truth. Naomi is going through a process of conversion here as well. She has learned to tolerate idol worship for so long that she has become desensitized to the practice.

Ruth 1:10-13 And they said to her, “{No,} but we will surely return with you to your people.” But Naomi said, “Return, my daughters. Why should you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? “Return, my daughters! Go, for I am too old to have a husband. If I said I have hope, if I should even have a husband tonight and also bear sons, would you therefore wait until they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters; for it is harder for me than for you, for the hand of the LORD has gone forth against me.”

Naomi’s main concern for her daughter-in-laws is husbands, or the lack of. If a woman in those days lost her husband it was the duty of the brother to marry his sister-in-law in order to carry on the deceased’s name.

Deuteronomy 25:5-6 “When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be {married} outside {the family} to a strange man. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. “It shall be that the firstborn whom she bears shall assume the name of his dead brother, so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel.

We also have a glimpse into Naomi’s true feelings about this tragedy when she explains, “ for the hand of the LORD has gone forth against me.” We will see more of this as we continue in this chapter.

Ruth 1:14-18 And they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. Then she said, “Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you {or} turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people {shall be} my people, and your God, my God. “Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if {anything but} death parts you and me.” When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.

The name Orpah means youthful or fawn. Ruth means friendship. And here we see that they are true to their names. Like a young fawn, Orpah returns home, but like a true friend, Ruth is willing to stick it out no matter what the outcome. Ruth is willing to completely cut herself off from her heritage and culture. She is willing to be a foreigner in a land that calls her an enemy and worship a God whose “hand is against them.”

Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.

In this response, Ruth is a picture of Christ.

Philippians 2: 4-8 do not {merely} look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, {and} being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Galations 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.

Ruth 1:16b-17 …where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people {shall be} my people, and your God, my God. “Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.

How sad it is that so many couples today say these very words to each other on their wedding day, but unlike Ruth, they quickly become a fawn and divorce when trials and tragedy occur.

Ruth’s powerful and persistent response silences Naomi’s plea for her to return to home.

Ruth 1:19 So they both went until they came to Bethlehem. And when they had come to Bethlehem, all the city was stirred because of them, and the women said, “Is this Naomi?”

The fact that the city was stirred at the site of them indicates that Naomi must of been well known. Remember that Naomi’s name means pleasant. As she enters the city, she must not have looked very pleasant.

Ruth 20-21 She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. “I went out full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?”

Naomi goes from being pleasant to bitter and from full to empty. Yet Naomi was not complaining, rather she was confessing that God had to deal dramatically with her in order to get her attention. This protest is a signature of hope. We see this type of response to God’s chastening hand in other parts of His Word:

Psalm 74 O God, why have You rejected {us} forever? Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep of Your pasture?

Psalm 22 My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.

These responses were a petition for God’s deliverance. And from this we learn that running from God will only result in emptiness.Yet it was in this emptiness that Ruth was led to belief in a God that would allow this. Naomi’s faith had not wavered here and Ruth had been taking notice all along. This is the reason that Ruth had the confidence to trust Naomi’s God.


Ruth 1:22 So Naomi returned, and with her Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, who returned from the land of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.

The barley harvest is the time of Passover. The Passover is a symbol of Jesus’ death and ressurection. The barley harvest, Passover, marks the beginning of God’s blessings on Naomi and Ruth, just as Christ’s death and resurrection is the foundation and the very grace that we have received from above.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. {This was} to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, {I say,} of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.



  1. Very good read: tragic loss, Soverign God over creation blesses over the past/present/future, submission of woman to man, blessing of death, worldly conversion when accepting Jesus as Savior, marrying widow by brother, strong faith in the God of mother-in-law, early demonstration of Ruth before time, example for marriage vows, return home from full to empty/from pleasant to bitter, petition of God’s deliverance, and last the passover, barley harvest, God’s grace and redemption by faith. Your message is well taken!

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