Meditations in Ruth : 4. Returning Home
Ruth 1:6,7 When she heard in Moab that the LORD had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, Naomi and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.
Naomi is an Israelite and she is away from home. The thing about that physical people of God was that they were supposed to be in the Promised Land, the land that had been Canaan and is now what we simply call Israel. The promises to Abram, Isaac and Jacob, the Patriarchs, had been in respect of that land. That is where the Lord would bless them, that is where the Lord would make them a light to the nations (Isa 49:6). It was, in fact, living in that land in relationship with the Lord, following Him and receiving all of His blessings, that they would become that light – that was God’s plan and, although it was Isaiah who coined the phrase, that was what He had spoken to the Patriarchs. And that included every single Israelite. Collectively they would be that light to the Gentiles. They could only be that when they were together in the land. We so often forget that or take it for granted, and Naomi and her husband either didn’t realise that or had forgotten it.
Naomi is in an alien place, where the blessing of God has not been pronounced over the nation, and as a result she has suffered the loss of her husband and her two sons. She alone is the survivor of this expedition. And then the word filters out of Israel and reaches Moab, that the famine has come to an end. It had obviously been the end of the cycle that we noted in the first meditation. Israel have returned to the Lord and He steps in again and blesses their harvest and declares good over it, and it flourishes and the famine comes to an end.
When Jesus fed the five thousand and the four thousand, he was subtly reminding the people that he was the one who could provide for them. The blessings of Deut 28 provided abundant provision from the Lord when the people stayed close to Him. As they returned to Him, He declared His blessing over the land and the famine comes to an end – and Naomi eventually hears about it in Moab.
She is living in an alien land and a land now full of bad memories of the loss of her family. It doesn’t take much intelligence to realise where the best place to live now is. She needs to get back to Israel. They have food and that is where home is. I think I have seen signs that say, “Home is where your heart is.” Well, actually in spiritual matters, your heart should be where your home is. Home is where God has established you and when your heart comes in line with His will, then you are in line for His blessing.
The parable of the prodigal son is the classic instance of this (Lk 15:11-24). The son leaves the home of the affluent father, a father who is willing to give him everything, and the son goes to ‘a distant country’ where he spends all he has. there is a famine there and he falls on very hard times and it is only when he ‘came to his senses’ that he realises that back home is where he should be.
Naomi’s experience is similar. She has lost everything in this distant land and she comes to her senses and realises that she should be back home. She doesn’t know what it will hold but it must be better than being here.
How many people, I wonder, find echoes of reality in this story, having gone away from God, gone away from a loving godly home and now find themselves in a place of dissatisfaction, a place of anxiety, a place of discomfort. This place does not ‘fit’, it is not where you were supposed to be. The London City Missionary, George Dempster in his books such as “Finding Men for Christ” often told of those he found living dissolute lives who had come from good backgrounds but who left home and fell on hard times.
But of course there may be those who say, “But you don’t know my home. I had to escape from it, it was so bad,” and that may be true and therefore we move away from talking about our physical home to the spiritual home that awaits you. This doesn’t just apply to heaven at the end of our lives, as wonderful as that will be, but ‘home’ is the place of peace and security knowing Christ, being known by God, a place of goodness and love in God’s presence – now! How many have walked away from childhood experiences of God, feeling they were inadequate foundations for life. True, they might well have been, but the only true foundation for life is ‘at home’ with God, made possible by what Jesus did on the Cross. That is the ‘home’ that will be calling some.
Naomi faced up to the realities of life where she was and what it was back home and wisely concluded home was indeed where he heart was and where she should be. As we will see, home was also the place where things could yet happen that brought her a place in The Book.