It was April and the beginning of barley harvest when Naomi, with Ruth, returned to Bethlehem. The whole city was excited. They hadn’t seen Naomi in years and the women of Bethlehem almost didn’t recognize her. So, they asked, “Is this Naomi?”
Over time, everyone changes, but Naomi’s grief had greatly altered her countenance. Her face did not express the pleasant, delightful and lovely person she was when she left.
Quickly Naomi retorted, “…Do not call me Naomi, call me Mara [meaning bitterness], for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?”
Naomi felt the shock and disbelief of losing her family, leading to extreme sadness and her plea for the girls to return home. But somewhere between Moab and Bethlehem, sadness turned to anger.
Ranting, Naomi uses the Hebrew word ra’a’, pronounced raw-ah and translated afflicted. Its proper meaning is “to spoil” literally “by breaking in pieces”. Other definitions include, hurt, do mischief and punish.
Trying to make sense of tragedy, grief sometimes confuses the mind and distorts truth. Here it caused Naomi to see God as a merciless taskmaster, who used the death of her husband and sons as punishment for leaving Bethlehem. No wonder she spewed such angry words.
Nevertheless, what is the truth of the situation?
Elimelech, Mahlon and Chilion may have died anyway, even if they had stayed in Bethlehem. We live in a cursed universe where physical death is inevitable. It’s a part of life and the end-result of the sin nature we inherited from Adam. Still, we must be careful not to trivialize Naomi’s pain, for it was real and very deep. Losing a loved one to death causes a gamut of emotions, directed mostly toward the One who could have stopped it.
Truth is, Almighty God is not vindictive, purposely taking the life of a loved one to punish you for disobedience. Vindictiveness is a sinful human characteristic we have imposed upon God. Our Sovereign God is love. He is slow to anger, long-suffering, and not willing that any should perish. He grieves with the griever. He collects their tears and numbers their wanderings. God knows that sin entering the world caused the need for physical death, and He knows how being separated from a loved one feels. (I John 4:8; I Corinthians 15:22; Nehemiah 9:17; Ezekiel 18:19; Ezekiel 33:10-11; II Peter 3:9, Psalm 56:8; Romans 5:12; Mark 15:34; Hebrews 4:14-15.)
Yes, He could have stopped the tragedy, but God had great and eternal purposes for allowing it.
In her tirade, Naomi heard her own sharp words along with God’s common Hebrew name, “El Shaddai” translated “the Almighty”. According to Bible teacher, Kay Arthur, El Shaddai is the All-Sufficient One.
Sometimes it takes verbalizing our feelings to realize how wrong we are.
Naomi wrongly blamed God and she never spoke that way again.
Through it all, Naomi learned to trust God and she helped Ruth do the same. Together they discovered, the Almighty, El Shaddai, is sufficient in every situation and He is their adequate supplier for every need.