The Backslider's Return
Ruth 1:19
So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem…

Naomi had wandered. But Naomi might return. God had not cast her away. He will never cast away those who truly love Him. He calls them back again to true repentance. He heals their backslidings and loves them freely. Then, like Peter, they may strengthen their brethren. They have an experience of human infirmity which they had not before. They know the dangers and temptations which surround the Christian's path. They can comfort others with the consolations wherewith they are comforted of God. But the backslider must return with total self-renunciation. Thus Naomi even renounces her right to her former name. "Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me." They said, "Is this Naomi?" "Yes, I was Naomi when I was contented and happy in the house, and among the people of God. I was Naomi when we took sweet counsel together, and walked to the house of God in company. How foolish was I thus to wander from His holy ways! Call me not Naomi now. I have no right to that name. All was pleasant then. But the remembrance is bitterness now. Call me Mara. Let me come back as the poorest of the poor, sorrowful, and self-condemned." The backslider feels no claim to a former Christian character. He is compelled to say, "Call me not a Christian. I have forfeited that blessed name. Call me a sinner, the chief of sinners. But as such, suffer me to return again to God. 'I am no more worthy to be called a son; make me as one of Thy hired servants.'" The backslider must come back with conscious emptiness. He has nothing to bring; nothing to offer. Naomi says, "I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty." How true is this! What can you bring back from your wanderings in Moab but the bitter remembrance of your folly? Nothing but sadness can come from a careless backsliding from God. And so far as your own acts and conduct are concerned, you must return to Him with perfect emptiness. If Divine grace and long-suffering shall receive you — if the Holy Spirit shall consent to restore you, and lead you back to the mercy-seat, once more accepted — it will be all as a free gift to the chief of sinners. Yet how precious is the expression, "The Lord hath brought me back"! Yes, though I am empty, and have nothing; though I am vile in His sight, and "mine own clothes abhor me," though I was worthy of His rejection and His wrath, yet He did not leave me in my sin, nor suffer me, unpardoned, to perish. But I come back empty. Everything has failed me except the loving-kindness and mercy of my God. No condition can be more humbling than this. Let this work of the Holy Spirit have free course in you. Do not attempt the least justification of yourselves. Speak not, think not, of any temptation that led you astray, or of the influence of any companions, or of the want of watchfulness of any friends, or of the unfaithfulness of others in instructing and warning you, or of the example and habits of others in the social circle in which you live, as the least extenuation of your own guilt. Oh, no! You have no one to blame but yourself. You have been tempted only because you were drawn away by your own lust. Yet, while the backslider himself mourns, others rejoice over him. "It came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them; and they said, Is this Naomi?" Her friends had not forgotten her. They gather around her again with delight. All Bethlehem rejoices; Naomi's poverty and wanderings are forgotten. She has herself returned, and this is enough. The poor prodigal had hardly time to say, "Father, I have sinned," before his father buries his voice in his own bosom, and lifts up a sound of joy which completely drowns the accents of the wanderer's grief. Oh, what a song of praise does his restoration awaken! Heaven and earth unite to say, over the returning wanderer, "Is this Naomi?" Is this the wanderer? This the captive that we thought was lost? This the giddy child that was bent to backsliding, and fled from all restraint? Sing, O heavens, for the Lord hath done it. Shout, ye lower parts of the earth, for the Lord hath blotted out as a thick cloud their transgressions, and as a cloud their sins!

(S. H. Tyng, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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?

WEB: So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. It happened, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and [the women] said, "Is this Naomi?"

Never Seemed There a Sadder Contrast
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