So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem…
Return after long absence to scenes of youth always affecting; he who returns is changed; they who receive him are changed too. Observe the reception which Naomi met from her former neighbors at Bethlehem. Their question, "Is this Naomi?" evinces -
1. Surprise. She is living! We see her again! Yet how is she changed!
2. Interest. How varied has been her experience whilst absent! And she loves Bethlehem so that she returns to it in her sorrow!
3. Compassion. "All the city was moved about them." How could those who remembered her fail to be affected by the calamities she had passed through? Consider the sentiments expressed by Naomi upon her return.
I. HER GRIEF WAS NATURAL AND BLAMELESS. "I went out full," i.e. in health, in youth, with some earthly property; above all, with husband and sons. "The Lord hath brought me home again empty," i.e. aged, broken down in health and spirits, poor, without kindred or supporters. "Call me not Naomi," i.e. pleasant; "call me Mara," i.e. bitter. Her lot was sad. Religion does not question the fact of human trouble and sorrow. And she was not wrong in feeling, in the circumstances, the peculiar pressure of grief and distress. We remember that "Jesus wept."
II. HER RECOGNITION OF GOD'S PROVIDENCE WAS RIGHT; WAS A SIGN OF PIETY. She attributes all to the Almighty, to the Lord. Observe that in two verses this acknowledgment is made four times. In a world over which God rules we should acknowledge his presence and reign in all human experience. If trouble comes to us by means of natural laws, those laws are ordered by his wisdom. If by human agency, that agency is the result of the constitution with which he has endowed man. If as the result of our own action, he connects actions with their consequences. Therefore, let us reverently recognize his hand in all that happens to us!
III. HER INTERPRETATION OF GOD'S PROVIDENCE WAS MISTAKEN. "The Lord," said Naomi, "hath testified against me." Men frequently imagine that if God could prevent afflictions, and yet permits them, he cannot regard the afflicted in a favorable and friendly light. But this is not so. "Whom he loveth he chasteneth." The Book of Job warns us against misunderstanding the meaning of calamity. Christ has also warned us against supposing that Divine anger is the explanation of human griefs and sufferings. "All things work together for good unto those who love God." How often is it true, as the poet Cowper knew and sang -
"Behind a frowning providence
God hides a smiling face!" - T.
Parallel VersesKJV: So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi?