Monday morning. If the rulers of my nation have their way, I will be one of many who won’t have a job next week. But there will be bending. This is a point of crisis. The nation will break, or the rulers will break. All I know is that it is in the hands of God. Personally? The emotions are all over the place. But in God I have a confidence I did not have a couple of weeks ago. What worries me is that the children now know fear, in that the security they had that Dad would always bring home the bacon has been shredded.
They fear widowhood. Being a widow in Biblical times was close to a death sentence. When you lose not only your husband but both your sons, in a strange land you are refugees in, then it is no wonder that Naomi, which means pleasant, changed her name to Mara, which means bitter. Her hope had been taken away with the death of her sons.
And she knew of no kinsman who would provide for her. She was a stranger. The first thing she did was return to her native village, and her tribe. Perhaps they would think blood was thicker than water.
1 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. 2 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. 3 But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 These took Moabite wives; the name of one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, 5 and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.
6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the Lord had visited his people and given them food. 7 So she set out from the place where she was with her two daughters-in-law, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. 8 But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. 10 And they said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” 11 But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? 12 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, 13 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.” 14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
15 And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” 18 And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.
19 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?” 20 She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi;[a] call me Mara,[b] for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 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?”
22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.
5 Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.
3 Honour widows who are truly widows. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. 5 She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, 6 but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. 7 Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
The first thing to say here is practical. I will find some way of supporting the family. Somehow. If there is door, we will take it. A man has a duty, before God, to provide for his wife and to care for his mother if she is widowed. Women have other tasks, and the way we are designed means that there will always be a division of labour.
There have always been true widows like Naomi: to oold to remarry, too old to have more children, and hoping on their redeemer. Such women are often great prayer supporters, and the backbone of church social work. They need their space and support from the church.
But now we have too many false widows: not married to their husband but to the state, who provides for them. Young enough to remarry — but they re all too often lacking a spirit that will allow them to submit to any man, Christ included.
This leads to spiritual vulnerability, that leaves them bitter. Not understanding that in these times when there is no hope, getting through will lead to our redemption.
For this world is fallen, malevolently so. But we are not to be them. We are not to be like them.