Ruth 1:19
So Naomi and Ruth traveled until they came to Bethlehem. When they entered Bethlehem, the whole city was stirred because of them, and the women of the city exclaimed, "Can this be Naomi?"
ConstancyB. Bernard.Ruth 1:19
Here is the Commencement and Close of a PilgrimageW.M. Statham Ruth 1:19
Never Seemed There a Sadder ContrastW.M. Statham Ruth 1:19
The Backslider's ReturnS. H. Tyng, D. D.Ruth 1:19
The Changes of LifeW. M. Statham.Ruth 1:19
The Changes Wrought by TimeWm. Braden.Ruth 1:19
True FriendshipC. Ness.Ruth 1:19
Heart Wounds ReopenedJ.R. Thomson Ruth 1:19-21

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.

So they two went until they came to Bethlehem.
I. THAT THEY ARE TO BE ADMITTED INTO OUR FELLOWSHIP WHOM WE FIND TO BE CONSTANT IN A GOOD COURSE, AND TRUE LOVERS OF GOODNESS, WHATSOEVER THEY WERE BEFORE. Naomi thus admits of Ruth, no doubt, with great comfort. Thus Paul alloweth of Mark (2 Timothy 4:11), though before he had refused him (Acts 15:38), and willeth others to entertain him (Colossians 4:10, 11).

II. THAT GOD LEAVETH NOT HIS IN DISTRESS, OR ALTOGETHER COMFORTLESS. Naomi went out with husband and children, and lost them; she returneth not alone, but God sent her one to accompany her and to comfort her.

III. THAT A TRUE RESOLUTION WILL SHOW ITSELF IN A FULL EXECUTION. She resolved to go with Naomi, and so she did, till she came to Bethlehem. By this may we learn to know the difference between solid resolutions and sudden flashes, raw and undigested purposes, between true resolutions and such as be made in show, but in substance prove nothing so, never seen in the effects.

IV. IN THIS THEIR TRAVEL TO CANAAN, AND THEREIN TO BETHLEHEM, NOTE THREE THINGS: THEIR UNITY, FERVENCY, AND CONSTANCY. They went together lovingly, they ceased not to go on, they did not linger, they took no by-paths, neither forgat they whither they were going, till they came unto Bethlehem in Canaan. As these thus went to Canaan, so should we unto the spiritual Canaan and heavenly Bethlehem; we must go in unity (1 Corinthians 1:10), and be of one heart (Acts 1:14; Acts 2:1, 46, and Acts 4:24), in a godly fervency (Romans 12:11; Titus 2:14; Ezekiel 3:14), as Elijah, Nehemiah, the angel of Ephesus (Revelation 2:1, 2), and as our Saviour, whom the zeal of God's house had eaten up. And we must go in a constant spirit, and not be weary of well-doing, for "he that continueth to the end shall be saved."

(B. Bernard.)

1. Such is the faithfulness of our heavenly Father to all His children, that He never fails nor forsakes them; but when one comfort faileth them, He findeth out another for them. The loss of one relation is made up out of God's fulness by raising up another.

2. There be but few friends that are true friends. Here be but two together.

3. Such are fast and faithful friends indeed that accompany each other to the worship of God — to Bethlehem. Many there be that do accompany each other to Bethaven, or house of wickedness, to play-houses, and places of revelling, etc. This is rather a betraying than a befriending one another. A carnal friend is but a spiritual enemy, who advised the ruin of his soul for the recovery of his body (2 Samuel 13:3). The truest friendship is to save and deliver a friend from the greatest evil, which is sin; but to tempt any to it, and to tolerate them in it, is not the part of a true friend, but of a real enemy.

4. 'Tis matter of astonishing admiration to hear of, and be eye-witnesses of, the great afflictions that do befall some persons, both great and good.

5. God works wonderful changes in persons, families, cities, countries and kingdoms.

(C. Ness.)

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.)

All the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi?
Ten years ago she left, but is not forgotten. The story of her battle with poverty and consequent emigration are well remembered. But what a change! This bent form and aspect of despair tell a pitiful tale. Time and sorrow have wrought their cruel work. Ten years, and such troubles as hers leave terrible marks behind at her time of life. Wrinkles, grey hairs, and feebleness of body soon reveal themselves. Care makes men and women grow old very fast. We look twice — thrice, at the acquaintance of former years, before we believe our eyes. "Is this Naomi?" That means, where are the husband and the sons? It is no vulgar curiosity that prompts the inquiry. Women who knew Naomi well, and attended her wedding, are there; men, too, who were intimate friends of Elimelech; young men also, who as boys often played with the dead lads Mahlon and Chillon, all eagerly repeat the question to each other as they cluster round the two poor, travel-stained, weeping women. It is a bitter hour. The wounds are opened afresh. For no questions cut so keenly as those which remind us of beloved ones who have passed into the shadow of death.

(Wm. Braden.)

I. HERE IS A RETURNING PILGRIM. Home has been but a tent life, and the curtains have been rent by sorrow and death. She tells us the old, old story. Here have we no continuing city. Bethlehem — home! Oh! that strange longing to live through the closing years in the country places where we were born! It is a common instinct.

II. HERE IS A GODLY PILGRIM. Travel-worn and weary, with sandled feet, she is coming to a city sanctified by the faith of her fathers. "Is this Naomi?" If there is not so much of what the world calls beauty in her face, there is character there, experience there. The young Christian starting on his pilgrimage is cheerful enough. He goes forth full of enterprise and hope. Do not be surprised if in after-years you ask, "Is this Naomi?" How careful, how anxious, how dependent on God alone!

III. HERE IS AN ANCESTRAL PILGRIM. Ancestor of whom? Turn to Matthew 1:5, and you will find in the genealogy of our Lord the name of Ruth. Do you see in the blue distance One coming from the judgment hall? Do you hear the wild cry of the mob, "Away with Him! away with Him! Crucify Him! crucify Him"? Come near and gaze. Behold the Man! As the reapers asked, "Is this Naomi?" so we ask, "Is this Jesus?" Is this He whose sweet face lay in the manger? Is this He who passed the angels at heaven's high gate, and came to earth, saying "Lo! I come to do Thy will, O God"? Yes I Bowed, bruised, broken for us. The same Saviour, who now endures the Cross, despising the shame. Well may we wonder and adore!

IV. HERE IS A PROVIDED-FOR PILGRIM. Back to Bethlehem, but how to live? how to find the roof-tree that should shelter again? She knew the Eternal's name, "Jehovah-jireh," the Lord will provide. So it ever is. Trust in the Lord and you shall never want any good thing. Believe still in your Saviour, and provided for you will be all weapons of fence, all means of consolation, all prosperity that shall not harm your soul. As the snows hide flowers even in the Alps, so beneath all our separations and sorrows there are still plants of the Lord, peace and hope, and joy and rest, in Him. Blessed indeed shall we be if we can rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.

(W. M. Statham.)

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