The AMI QT Devotionals from July 23-29 are provided by Pastor Jason Sato of OTR in Cincinnati. Jason, a graduate of UC San Diego (B.S.) and Westminster Theological Seminary in California (M.Div.), is married to Jessica, and they have three young children: Jonah, Lily, and Ayla (nine months old).
Devotional Thoughts for Today
“The Book of Naomi”
Ruth 1:1-5, 19-21 (ESV)
 In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons.  The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there.  But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons.  These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years,  and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband…
 So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?”  She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.  I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”
That the book of Ruth is named after Ruth is not surprising. Ruth is obviously amazing. She’s like a Bible superhero. But one can argue that the book of Ruth is really about Naomi. The book starts and ends with Naomi and sees Naomi change the most.
In the days of the Judges, God’s people are living in the Promised Land but they’re not following God. They’re doing whatever is right in their own eyes so God disciplines them through a famine. Rather than receiving that discipline, Elimelech and Naomi take their family outside of the Promised Land. This is not the same as moving because you got a job in another city. Being in the Promised Land is a key part of belonging to God’s people.
Elimelech and Naomi experience hardship and, their move to Moab, in effect, says that they are done with this land and with this God. They still believe in the Lord, that He exists and that He saved Israel from Egypt, but they do not trust Him with their lives or with their family.
After Elimelech dies, Naomi does not go back to Judah. Instead she finds Moabite women for her sons to marry, knowing that God has forbidden this because they will lead her sons away from the Lord. Moab is something like 60 miles away from Israel. It was possible that she could have found Israelite wives for her boys, but she does not care to do so. (Or, she couldn’t or wouldn’t dissuade her sons from marrying pagan women.) Then her sons tragically die as well.
Because she has nowhere else to go, Naomi returns to Israel and tells the people of Jerusalem how the Lord has turned her from sweet (Naomi) to bitter (Mara). She left full! Life was so good when she rejected God and His promises but now she is empty!
Naomi has rejected God’s discipline, left the Promised Land, encouraged her sons to become idolaters and then blames God for her misfortune. What is the response of God? To be inexplicably good to Naomi. God blesses her with Ruth, Boaz, and finally Obed (Naomi’s grandson).
We too lose faith and quit on God so readily, yet His loving kindness is steadfast. He continues to give. How often has God blessed us when we are lukewarm, in sin, or hard of heart? What other God loves like the Lord?
Prayer: Father, thank You that You love like no other person ever has or ever will. Time and time again I go my own way. Yet even when my heart is not right with You, You love me still. May I put all my trust in You.
Bible Reading for Today: Ezra 8