Naomi is on her way back, bitter at God for her losses. But God was waiting for her in Bethlehem, she just didn't know it yet. God's grace is always ready for anyone who will come.
I am going to pick up with a verse we read yesterday.
At this they wept again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her. "Look," said Naomi, "your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her." But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me." When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.
How different the reactions of Orpah and Ruth. They had started on a journey with Naomi; they were already on the road to Judah when she told them to go back. At first neither of them budged. Then she told them all the reasons they had to stay and there were no reasons to continue on. So they all wept together. Then Orpah kissed Naomi goodbye and left. Ruth clung to her (and thank God she did!!) and upheld her covenant with Naomi as her daughter-in-law. There will be times in our lives that we will weep. God does not promise believers a rosy life with no battles. We will weep. But will we weep then turn back and head to the past? Or will we weep and move forward, as Ruth did?
So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, "Can this be Naomi?" "Don't call me Naomi," she told them. "Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me." So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.
Here was Naomi, once again being bitter against God. She blamed God for the loss she had. She lost her husband and her sons to death, and a daughter-in-law who turned away from her. All she had left was "Ruth the Moabitess". The writer makes a strong point when he calls Ruth the Moabitess. In 1 Kings 11:1-4, the Lord told the Israelites not to intermarry with the Moabites because they would turn their hearts after their gods and away from His. Perhaps the writer is reminding of us something that Naomi wanted to keep quiet. All she had left was a source of embarrassment for her.
But the most important words in this part of scripture are "as the barley harvest was beginning". They were arriving just as the renewed fullness of the land is beginning to be harvested. How great God is that just as she was finding her way back, He was already starting to provide His blessings to her. He will do the same for us. We may not yet see what the blessings are, but He is preparing for us blessings if we will just turn back to Him.
How great is our God!