Naomi has set her face to the west. She is going home to Bethlehem, widowed and childless after more than a decade in a foreign land. She has no idea whether she will be welcomed or rejected. The road home is a footpath through the jungle-filled wilderness of the Jordan River Valley. Stopping on the path, she pleads with her daughters-in-law, repeating the words, Turn back, my daughters, and voicing her belief that the hand of the Lord has turned against me (vv. 11-13).
Naomi has no future in Moab. With no family to supply husbands for her daughters-in-law, she is the end of her line and at the end of her rope. While the future for Orpah and Ruth is bleak, it is not hopeless. They have families to return to in Moab. Yet they have a decision to make, too. Surprisingly, both Orpah and Ruth want to go with their mother-in-law.
What about Naomi makes them cling to her despite her destitution? What about their past experiences make them reluctant to go back home? Scripture makes no judgment on Orpah’s decision to return. For a moment this family holds one another, caught between the graveyard behind them and the jungle before them.
At some point in our lives, and maybe more than once, we come to a place where we lament with Naomi, the Lord has turned against me. We, too, are caught between a graveyard and a jungle. Like Naomi, we must leave our losses in Moab. We must set our face toward the jungle and walk through it one step at a time. As it turns out, Naomi’s story will be a prelude to the story of Jesus’ birth. Because we know that story, we can trust that God is still working to redeem us, and our world.
When in your life have you walked through the jungle? How has God been at work in subtle or hidden ways?
God, we are so often afraid. Help us continue to walk in faith even when the path is tangled and hard to see. Amen.