19 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?”
It seems like things may be looking up a bit for Naomi. Her daughter-in-law has shown incredible loyalty and love to follow her back to her homeland. A new, fresh start. But the despair is deep.
The women arrive home…Bethlehem. The whole town is in a stir. Imagine a life with no tv, cell phones, 24/7 news, Facebook updates and Instagram stories. The return of Naomi was BIG news. Can’t you hear the whispers and questions.
When we imagine our homecoming, we want to come back looking good, with sweet reports of the great life we left and exciting stories of our adventures away. Verse 21 tells us she left Bethlehem full. There may have been a famine they were escaping, but things were good. The last thing we want to do is crawl back home heartbroken with nothing. Worse off than when we left.
Naomi’s reaction quickly reveals her state of mind. She tells them to change her name to Mara…bitter. Names had much meaning in her culture. Naomi is placing her identity in her current circumstances. She recounts that she left full and returned empty. She recognizes God’s sovereignty, but feels He has afflicted her and brought misfortune upon her. She is basically having a pity party, but who can really blame her. In her narrow view of her life at this point, things are bleak.
This passage ends letting us know that the barley harvest was beginning. Recall that Naomi’s family initially left Bethlehem because of a drought and famine. No crops were being produced and people were starving. Upon her return, the barley harvest is beginning. Crops are growing again. New life. Perhaps this is a hint of what is to come for Naomi. God is so big, so good, so present… and has so much yet to show Naomi. Her identity isn’t based on her marital status, number of children, wealth or social status. Her true identity in the One who provides and redeems.
Do you often find you have a narrow view of your life based on your immediate circumstances? Do you have a hard time looking forward or trusting that God has good plans when you are in the thick of a rough patch of life? Do you tend to plant your identity in your circumstances?
How can we keep our eyes up and ahead, toward God, trusting that He has it all under control and His plans are bigger and better than anything we can imagine? How can we remember our true identity in God and who He says we are?