And Naomi said to her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother's house: the LORD deal kindly with you…
The Hebrews were fond of benedictions. "The Lord bless thee and keep thee," "And Jacob blessed Joseph, and said, The God which fed me all my life long unto this day, the angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads." "The Lord bless thee out of Zion." These Scriptures of olden time touch us so tenderly, because they recognize the living hand, the loving heart of God. It is this which will make them never grow old. It is this which makes their inspiration living, and keeps their fountains of consolation open still. We are always meeting and parting, journeying forth and returning home. Our families are broken up, our churches have gates of entrance and departure, and the picture of life is always one of a tent-life. We are pilgrims and strangers, as all our fathers were. The keynote of all that I have to say to you from this text is in that word "kindly." The argument is this. We can understand kindness in the sphere of the human, and rise from that to a prayer for the Divine kindness. No society in any age can be cemented together by force alone. Feudalism, for instance, in olden times, was not all terror. The baron could command his dependents in time of war, as he fed and housed and clothed them in times of peace; but, as the old chroniclers tell us, there was often a rare hospitality, a hearty cheerfulness, a chivalrous affection in the somewhat stern relationship; nor will any political economy of government ever be able to preserve nations in allegiance to each other, or at peace amongst themselves, without the cultivation of Christian brotherhood.
I. THE LORD KNOWS BEST WHAT KINDNESS IS. The Lord deal kindly with you. Has he been kind? That is the question for us all. At times we should have been tempted to answer, No! The vine is blighted, the fig tree withered, the locusts have spoiled the green of spring, the little lambs have died. Kindly? Yes, we shall answer one time when we stand in our lot at the end of days. For kindness is not indulgence. I am thankful that this once common word has dropped out of our prayers - Indulgent Father. No word in the English language describes a feebler state of being than the word indulgence; it refers always to the weaker side of our nature; that which is pleasant to us, that which eases us of pain and of discipline and effort. Prayer like this goes to the heart; more especially from the Naomis of the universe who have had so hard a time of it, to whom life has been so full of bereavement and battle. But if you study life, you will see it is the indulged who complain; it is those nursed in the lap of luxury who whine and whimper if the sun does not shine, if the pomegranate, and the fig, and the grape do not supplement the bread. Indulgence breeds supercilious mannerism and contempt for common things in them; and all seems so very strange if men, and women, and things are not ready for their comfort. God's kindness to us may take forms which surprise us. At the heart of his severest judgments there is mercy, in the bitter spring there is healing water, in the desolated altar there is the downfall of idolatry. Abba, Father, we cry, and he seems not to hear us. The wild winds seem to waft away into empty space our cries for help and pity, but he who sitteth in the heavens hears and answers according to the wisdom of his own will. The kindest things God has ever done for us have been, perhaps, the strangest and severest. So it was with Daniel, and Jacob, and Joseph, and Abraham our father. All God's ways are clone in truth, and truth is always kindness, for the music of the universe is set in that key. The throne of the Almighty himself has its firm pillars planted on that. Away we go to business and duty. Farewell to son and daughter. Go thy way, pilgrim of life, with knapsack and staff; henceforth our paths are separate, and for you there will come battles when we cannot fight beside you, burdens we cannot help you to bear. To another hearth you will come at evening, when the day's work is done, and the anodynes of sympathy are needed for the worker's heart. "Go thy way. The Lord deal kindly with thee."
II. THE LORD ALONE WILL BE WITH US ALL THROUGH OUR FUTURE PILGRIMAGE. Apart from Divine power, which we have not to bless with, there is Divine presence which we all need. Christ will be with us to the end. Never will come a battle, a temptation, a solitude, a sorrow, a needful sacrifice, but the Lord will be at hand. The scepter will never be laid in front of an empty throne. The Lord reigns. It is touching to see the struggles of modern thought in the minds of men who have drifted away from the incarnation and resurrection of our Lord. "The ocean encroaches more and more each year" - to use a figure of one who has marked the "ebb" of thought - "and he watches his fields eaten up from year to year." Yes, says the same writer, who is depicting the drift: - "The meadow-land, whereon he played in the innocent delights of childhood, has now become a marshy waste of sand. The garden where he gathered flowers, an offering of love and devotion to his parents, is now sown with sea-salt. The church where he offered up his childish prayers, and wondered at the high mysteries of which his teachers spoke, stands tottering upon the edge of a crumbling cliff that the next storm may bring down in ruin." And this is rightly called "an experience of spiritual misery." Pathetic, indeed, is this. The picture is most touching and saddening! Who can feel it more than those who suffer the eclipse of faith? We, who worship here, trust in the living God, who as we believe revealed himself to our fathers by the prophets, and who in these last days has spoken to us by his Son, whom he hath made heir of all things, and hath given us this testimony, in that he hath raised him from the dead. - W.M.S.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother's house: the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me.