When Naomi heard in Moab that the LORD had attended to His people by providing them with food, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to leave the land of Moab.
did that. Not simply when he said, "I will arise;" but when be arose and went to his father. Directly the eye and the heart and the step agree, then the whole is settled. We read nothing of the preliminaries of departure. Who does not know the power of the loadstone when it first begins to act? When the breeze swells the sail from the foreign port, the sailor sees not the intervening waters, but the home cottage under the familiar cliffs. There are many beautiful home-returnings in the Bible, but the best of all is the son seeking the father's house.
I. HEARTS ARE UNITED BY COMMON EXPERIENCES. These daughters-in-law were not of her land, nor of her religion; they were not Hebrews; but they were widows! A common sorrow is a welding power, uniting hearts more closely than before. It is said that a babe in a house is a new clasp of affection between husband and wife. True; but an empty cradle has done more than a living child. During the time of these ten years these two wives remained still heathen. We do not know what family they sprang from, or if they were sisters. We do know that Naomi exercised no control or domination over their religious principles. She respects their personal liberty and responsibility; she even urges Ruth not to let natural affection for her override her religious convictions, but to go back to "her gods," as Orpah did. "Behold, thy sister-in-law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister-in-law." What a sorrow it must have been to her that her sons had married heathen women. We can respect that sorrow. And we can see that Naomi did not slight her own religion when she said these words, but used them as a test of the sincerity of Ruth. A common sorrow had brought them all very close together. "For," as Bailey says in Festus, "the world is one, and hath one great heart."
II. RETURN JOURNEYS HAVE A TOUCHING ELOQUENCE IN THEIR SCENES. There were the places Naomi had traversed with her husband and her boys; places of rest under the shadow of the rocks, and of refreshment at the wells. Much must there have been, to recall conversations touched with anxiety concerning their future in the land of Moab. So would many places speak to us today. There, care gazed at us wistfully, and we remember all the thoughts it suggested. There she heard the tinkling of the bells of the camels, as the little trading cavalcade passed by her. What reminiscences! And they would all remind her of the good hand which had led her on, and never forgotten or forsaken her.
III. RETURN JOURNEYS REMIND US OF LITTLE EPISODES OF LIFE THAT ARE OVER FOR EVER. We cannot in the ordinary course of an unbroken and unshifting home realize the flight of time so well as when we have marked changes, which by their very abruptness divide life into chapters, which, like volumes, have their commencement and close. A new nest has to be built, and new trees have to be sought to build it in. Thus with ordinary observation we may notice how those who have had to seek new homes find the pilgrim-nature of life more marked in their thought than those who are born and brought up and settled through the long years in one home. There is a dreamy sense of continuance unbroken in some lives! "That she might return!" But she would not, could not take all of herself with her. She would leave, as we all do, a memory of character, an influence of good or evil over those who had been associated with her in the foreign land. - W.M.S.
I. SHE RETAINED HER RELIGION — HER ALLEGIANCE TO THE ONE TRUE AND LIVING GOD — IN THE MIDST OF SURROUNDING IDOLATRY.
She arose... that she might return.
1. God's house of worldly correction is to God's people a school of heavenly instruction. Naomi's crosses and losses she met with in Moab made her soul to sit loose from that cursed country, and to long for Canaan — that blessed land of promise. God's rod hath a voice (Micah 6:9), and now Naomi's ear was open to hear the instruction of it (Job 36:8-10; Micah 2:10). It is a rich mercy when affliction brings us from worse to better, from Moab to Canaan, further off from sin and nearer to God.
2. Godly souls should lead convincing lives. Such and so amiable was the conversation of godly Naomi in the eyes of those two daughters of Moab that it convinced them both — to love her and her people, and to go along with her out of their own native country unto her land. Plato saith, "If moral virtue could be beheld with mortal eyes, it would attract all hearts to be enamoured with it." How much more, then, would theological virtue or supernatural grace do so?
3. Every heart should hanker heavenward, as Naomi did homeward from Moab to Canaan.
II. SHE BELIEVED IN GOD EVEN IN THE MIDST OF ADVERSITY.
III. SHE EXERCISED AN INFLUENCE FOR GOOD ON OTHERS.
1. On those who had known her intimately — her own household.
2. On those who had known her long — long enough to find out her true character.
3. On those who, according to all experience, are least easily influenced by one in her position — on her daughters-in-law.
IV. SHE COULD DENY HERSELF FOR THE GOOD OF OTHERS.
1. It would have been an advantage to her to have these two strong, active young women with her to work for her in her old age. But a settlement would be easier for them in their own land than in Judah. So she bade them return, and was willing to go home alone.
2. She rose, too, above that petty jealousy which might have been excused in one so circumstanced, and wished them that provision which was the best security for rest and honour for a woman: "rest each of them in the house of her husband." Naomi's religion was no mere surface thing. It had become a part of herself. It had informed her character. It saved her from the corruptions of idolatry, from despair, and it enabled her to exercise a beneficent power over those who knew her best. What imperfect religion could do for her the sublime faith of Christ can do for all.
(S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
How that the Lord had visited His people in giving them breadI. GOD SEETH HIS PEOPLE IN ADVERSITY AND WANT, AND COMETH IN HIS DUE TIME TO HELP THEM (Exodus 3:7, 8), which is from His mere mercy and the stability of His love and promise to His people.
II. GOD HATH EVER HAD MORE SPECIALLY A PEOPLE OF HIS OWN CALLED "HIS PEOPLE." This should make us to examine ourselves how we be God's people, whether according to creation or after the work of regeneration.
(R. Bernard.)I. GOD WILL CERTAINLY REVIVE HIS PEOPLE WITH SOME GOOD NEWS FROM HEAVEN WHEN THEIR HEARTS ARE ALMOST DEAD WITHIN THEM UPON EARTH (Proverbs 25:25). This cheered up her drooping spirit, that was almost dead within her by her manifold afflictions. This is one of God's methods, first to kill and then to make alive (1 Samuel 2:6; Psalm 16:10; Psalm 18:16; Psalm 90:3); the good news God sent concerning the weal of Zion to His people as they sat weeping by the waters of Babylon (Psalm 137:1, 2) was a little reviving to them in their bondage (Ezra 9:8); and when His people were humbled He then granted them some deliverance (2 Chronicles 12:7). Heaven is called a far country (Matthew 25:14); good news from thence brought in by the Holy Spirit. Oh, how welcome should that be to us and how unspeakably comfortable! (1 Peter 1:8).
II. GOD HATH HIS VISITING TIMES AND SEASONS IN RELATION TO HIS OWN PEOPLE.
1. Sometimes God visits their sins (Jeremiah 14:10), and then He fulfils His word of threatening evil against them. This is called God's visiting in His anger (Job 35:15), but He retains not His anger for ever (Psalm 57:11).
III. GRACE AND BOUNTY FOLLOW WANT AND PENURY THROUGH DIVINE GOODNESS TO HIS PEOPLE. After a long scarcity (of ten years) God visits them with plenty. This holds true both in the temporal and spiritual famine (Amos 8:11).
(A. Thomson, D. D.)
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