In my quiet time this week, I found myself thinking of the famous women in the Bible. I didn’t get very far, because when I reached Ruth, it suddenly struck me that I usually skip right past her mother-in-law, Naomi. Naomi, whose name means “my delight.” Naomi, whose testimony is one I’d like to emulate.
Of course, I am not looking for my husband to run away to Moab to escape a famine, but Naomi followed him faithfully. I can see her struggling when her sons married “outside the camp” and her daughters-in-law were heathens, but I also see that she had good relationships with both women.
When she heard that the famine was over, she quickly decided to return to her homeland, where she could expect to at least be cared for by the Israelite welfare system, which allowed the poor to glean in the corners and after the harvesters had done their work.
As she set out, both her daughters-in-law were ready to go with her. That speaks volumes of Naomi’s testimony. They recognized that she was different than they, and worth being around. Now, Naomi also realized that she couldn’t really expect either girl to be well received on the other end of her journey, and there wasn’t much future for them either. So she told them to stay in Moab where they had a better chance of a new life. Of course we know Ruth, recognizing that Naomi had something she wanted, refused to stay.
Where you go, I’ll go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people will be my people; and your God, my God (Ruth 1:16b). That statement must have been growing in Ruth as she watched Naomi’s life, leaving her home, then losing her family, and now going back to her people. Naomi’s everyday life must have been such that Ruth not only saw that she was different, but that she wanted to be like her. We don’t have a record of Naomi preaching at anyone, and that would have been unlikely. All we know is Ruth did not have to follow her, but she did because she wanted to. Wanted to so fiercely, she was willing to give up everything, including her gods, to follow Naomi’s God.
We all know that the story continues with Ruth catching the eye of Boaz, and that he becomes the Kinsman Redeemer according to the law and marries Ruth. When their son was born, Naomi was his nurse, helping to raise a new generation. And it dawns on me that even as Ruth is part of the genealogy of Christ, so is Naomi. Not by direct blood, since Obed was not her blood son, but she was his grandmother through Ruth. As such, Obed would have also seen her testimony, and if people then were like people now, he would have told stories of Ruth and Naomi to his sons, and their sons. And you know, one of Obed’s grandsons was named David.
Because one woman lived what she believed, a second was brought to follow God. And that second woman was an integral link in the line of Messiah. This challenges me because I am not a street preacher. I don’t take to overt evangelism, and am suited more to live for God and let others ask me questions because they see something different. I see Naomi as doing that same thing. Evangelism was not a big thing then, and the Jews rather had a sense of being better than other people because they were “chosen by God.” They had forgotten that He chose them in His mercy and not because they had anything to boast about.
Naomi lived what she believed, and God used her. Am I living what I believe? Are you living what you believe? Are we challenging a new generation to follow God?
Do not be discouraged if you don’t see immediate fruit. Everyday evangelism is about the long term. It’s about building relationships which then give you a right to speak into peoples’ lives. And God uses the lives of His children to draw others to Himself.
Many people are like Ruth, coming to God through the example of another. But are you willing to be a Naomi? To be the example for others to follow? To live for God even when you don’t think anyone is watching?
Let’s be the shining testimony to a generation that faces ever darkening days.