In his book, Job: The Wisdom of the Cross, Christopher Ash argues that the book of Job shows us how God treats His friends. It’s a strange claim, considering that Job is a book about a righteous man who loses everything for no apparently defensible reason. But Ash notes that Job points forward to the Cross, which demonstrates that “there is undeserved suffering that makes possible undeserved blessing.”
If Job is considered an important biblical example of human suffering, Naomi is next in line. In many ways she is the female counterpart to Job: a woman who loses everything for reasons we don’t know and can’t understand.
The example of Job also gives us some context for understanding Naomi’s accusations against the Lord (vv. 20–21; see Job 30:20). Her words of complaint fit with the ancient Hebrew tradition of lament, which the psalmists use as part of the faithful language for prayer (see Psalm 22). What’s more, it’s clear that Naomi hasn’t given up on believing in the goodness of God. She blessed Ruth and Orpah, asking God to be kind to them, and she also recognized the Lord’s goodness to Israel in ending the famine (vv. 8–9).
Naomi can’t, however, deny the painful suffering she has endured. God is good to Israel, but God isn’t good to her. She can’t yet see that Ruth’s unswerving loyalty is evidence of God’s faithfulness. In a book that is often celebrated as a story of romantic love (we’ll later meet the dashing suitor, Boaz), what is truly breathtaking, at least at the outset, is Ruth’s love for Naomi. She makes a covenant with Naomi with terms even stricter than those of the marriage covenant: “May the LORD deal with me. . . if even death separates you from me” (v. 17).
Apply the Word
The end of Ruth 1 hints at God’s blessing to come: “The barley harvest was beginning” (v. 22). The famine was over; the suffering had ended. This is God’s promise to all of His children! Take heart from today’s key verse. Famine is never the last word in the life of the Christian, not when God has promised a new creation (see Revelation 21).