It is written:
“Long ago, during the time the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a man named Elimelech left the town of Bethlehem in Judah. He, his wife, and his two sons moved to the country of Moab. 2 The man’s wife was named Naomi, and his two sons were named Mahlon and Kilion. They were from the Ephrathah family of Bethlehem in Judah. The family traveled to the hill country of Moab and stayed there. 3 Later, Naomi’s husband, Elimelech, died, so only Naomi and her two sons were left. 4 Her sons married women from the country of Moab. One wife’s name was Orpah, and the other wife’s name was Ruth. They lived in Moab about ten years; 5 then Mahlon and Kilion also died. So Naomi was left alone without her husband or her two sons.” (Ruth 1:1-5.)
One of my favorite people in the Bible is Naomi. This amazing lady is often overshadowed by her daughter-in-law Ruth, which is unfortunate; because we can learn many fine lessons from her.
The first thing that stands out in my mind about Naomi is that the Bible doesn’t mince words about the fact that she is a child of God who struggles with sin. If you will think, the Bible here makes it clear that Naomi and her entire family have decided to turn against God and His Word.
“By going fifty miles to the neighboring land of Moab, Elimelech and his family abandoned God’s land and God’s people for the land and people of the enemy. The Moabites were descendants of Lot from his incestuous union with his firstborn daughter (Gen. 19: 30–38), and they were the Jews’ enemies because of the way they had treated Israel during their pilgrim journey from Egypt to Canaan (Deut. 23: 3–6; Num. 22—25). During the time of the judges, Moab had invaded Israel and ruled over the people for eighteen years (Judg. 3: 12–14); so why should Elimelech turn to them for help? They were a proud people (Isa. 16: 6) whom God disdained. “Moab is my washpot,” said the Lord (Ps. 60: 8 KJV), a picture of a humiliated nation washing the feet of the conquering soldiers. The consequences. The name Elimelech means “my God is king.” But the Lord was not king in Elimelech’s life, for he left God completely out of his decisions. He made a decision out of God’s will when he went to Moab, and this led to another bad decision when his two sons married women of Moab. Mahlon married Ruth (Ruth 4: 10), and Chilion married Orpah. Jews were forbidden to marry Gentile women, especially those from Ammon and Moab (Deut. 7: 1–11; 23: 3–6; Neh. 13: 1–3; Ezra 9: 1–4). It was the Moabite women in Moses’ day who seduced the Jewish men into immorality and idolatry, and as a result, twenty-four thousand people died (Num. 25)….Why would a believing Jewess, a daughter of Abraham, encourage two pagan women to worship false gods? I may be wrong, but I get the impression that Naomi didn’t want to take Orpah and Ruth to Bethlehem because they were living proof that she and her husband had permitted their two sons to marry women from outside the covenant nation. In other words, Naomi was trying to cover up her disobedience. If she returned to Bethlehem alone, nobody would know that the family had broken the law of Moses. “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Prov. 28: 13 NKJV). When we try to cover our sins, it’s proof that we really haven’t faced them honestly and judged them according to God’s Word. True repentance involves honest confession and a brokenness within. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Ps. 51: 17). Instead of brokenness, Naomi had bitterness.” (Warren Wiersbe, Be Committed: Doing God’s Will Whatever The Cost OT Commentary-Ruth/Esther, 20-23 (Kindle Edition); Colorado Springs, CO; David Cook)
The Jewish Targum even adds this note to the passage: “they transgressed the decree of the word of the Lord, and took to them strange women.”
Naomi was not perfect, and the Bible assures us of that.
What can we learn from this?
First, this points to the credibility of Scripture. The Bible does not cover up people’s sins or imperfections; it reaffirms them and acknowledges them (often with disheartening and alarming clarity). The sacred books of the pagans usually portray their heroes and heroines as flawless. Not so the Bible. Indeed, everything in Ruth shouts of the accuracy and historical reliability of this Book. Names, times, places, well-known events, unflattering and shocking sins and behaviors from this text affirm its accuracy.
Second, this reminds us that God’s people are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Being saved does not transform us overnight into a perfect Christ-like follower. The redeemed will always struggle with temptation and sin in this world. Is this not a theme we find all through the Word?
Psalm 38:4-For my iniquities have gone over my head; Like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.
Psalm 39:8-Deliver me from all my transgressions; Do not make me the reproach of the foolish.
Psalm 40:12-12 For innumerable evils have surrounded me; My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up; They are more than the hairs of my head; Therefore my heart fails me.
Psalm 130:3-4-3 If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?4 But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared.
Proverbs 20:9-Who can say, “I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin”?
1 John 1:8-.If we say that we have no sin, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
This is not an excuse for sin in our lives; instead it is a reminder that we need to constantly draw closer to Christ as He sanctifies us; and we must never think that we will reach perfection in this world.
Philippians 3:12-15- I don’t mean that I am exactly what God wants me to be. I have not yet reached that goal. But I continue trying to reach it and make it mine. That’s what Christ Jesus wants me to do. It is the reason he made me his. 13 Brothers and sisters, I know that I still have a long way to go. But there is one thing I do: I forget what is in the past and try as hard as I can to reach the goal before me. 14 I keep running hard toward the finish line to get the prize that is mine because God has called me through Christ Jesus to life up there in heaven. 15 All of us who have grown to be spiritually mature should think this way too. And if there is any of this that you don’t agree with, God will make it clear to you.
Third, despite her imperfections, God was still working in the life of Naomi: even when it seemed that Naomi was thru with God, He was not thru with her. He did not leave her side but continued to provide for her and to minister in her life.
Just because we are imperfect and struggle and sin, God is still working on, in, and thru us. Trust Him, even when the process is painful and we don’t understand.