As we start reading the book of Ruth, chapter 1 points us to one person: Naomi, and to one characteristic: emptiness.
Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the LORD has gone out against me.” Ruth 1:12-13
Chapter 2 turns our attention to Ruth however, and we nearly forget about her mother-in-law. Chapters 2 and 3 both follow the same pattern: a meeting between Ruth and Boaz is bookended by conversations between Naomi and Ruth. But we almost wonder … what happened to Naomi and her needs?
The narrator opened the book by deliberately calling our attention to the emptiness of Naomi! Yet we nearly lose track of when the “romance” of Boaz and Ruth takes center stage.
The author, however, does not lose track of Naomi as easily as we do! While we’re happily watching Boaz and Ruth figure out the details of the kinsman-redeemer situation, Naomi is there. But, she’s not just giving Ruth the advice she needs (although she is doing that); she’s also waiting patiently for God to fill her emptiness.
How is that emptiness filled? Well, through Boaz’s generosity, her empty stomach is full. But really, that’s not the issue. She’s had food since she moved to Moab with Elimelech. Her real emptiness is internal. Will God fill the void left by the death of her husband and the loss of her family line and inheritance?
We wait till chapter 4 for the answer to this question. In one sentence the narrator wraps up all the important details related to Ruth and Boaz (4.13). Then the focus returns to Naomi.
Naomi receives praise and honor because of baby Obed! She cares for the little boy and the women of Bethlehem rejoice in Naomi’s newfound fullness!
God does indeed make empty things full!
However, there’s an important detail about the way God filled Naomi’s emptiness – he did not fill it with more of its original fullness. He filled it with something rather different. Naomi didn’t get a new husband. She didn’t get two more adult sons and daughters-in-law. She got Boaz (an older “son”) and she got Obed (a grandson).
She did not complain about this “secondhand fullness” from God, however. She rejoiced in God’s provision. And think about what God was doing when he filled Naomi’s emptiness: he was saving the world! Through Obed came Jesse; through Jesse came David; through David came Jesus.
Let’s boil it all down:
- Emptiness happens. It’s real. God allows it.
- God makes empty things full, though he may do so in a way that is remarkably different from the original.
- When he answers in a different way, it’s because he has a bigger plan in mind.