The Return of Naomi

Prophet Elisee Yao / 21 Jul 2019

Naomi was a Jew. She was happily married and had two sons; she was blessed. But something happened. There was famine in the land, and when it struck, Naomi and her husband decided to leave and live in the land of the Moabites (Ruth 1:1). Remember that Moab was cursed by God because he opposed Israel on their way to the promised land. God told His people not to have dealings with the Moabites, but when Elimelech and Naomi (along with other Israelites) heard that the blessing was in Moab, they decided to compromise.  

We are so similar. When we face desperate situations, we tend to abandon hope. The church of the Lord Jesus started with the blessing of the Spirit: people were being healed, and saved, and multitudes were added to the church. People were filled with the Holy Ghost, speaking in tongues, and demonstrating other gifts of the Spirit. Things were going well until persecution struck, and people decided to reason over the Word. Many have started to believe that being baptized in the Holy Spirit is no longer relevant or necessary, and that speaking in tongues is strange and unwelcome. People have fallen into a pattern of chasing the blessing instead of the Blesser.

Perhaps we should ask ourselves: where do we go to look for the blessing? We so often go to the world (to the land of the Moabites), because we believe that life in the kingdom is just too challenging. Even though God blessed us in the kingdom with the Spirit, many have decided that we would rather go after what we can handle, what is within our control, what we can touch, and what we can see. The blessing of the Lord is not always tangible, so the church starts to compromise.

Miracles are the fruit of living an uncompromising life.

The first gospel that was preached is often far different to the gospel we hear today. In Acts 2, the gospel (as taught by Peter) was first and foremost repentance from sin, followed closely by receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Yet, the common gospel we hear now is more like: ‘Come to Jesus! He died for you, He will bless you, and all your troubles will be gone!’ The problem is that this is not at all the gospel that the disciples preached. They taught taking up your cross and following Christ no matter what. Plainy said: the apostles preached death to self. The modern church, however, doesn’t want to talk about death to self, hell, or sin anymore. Since we are already holy, why mention private sin? Yet, those we refer to as God’s generals were hammering on holiness. No wonder the church has lost its power! No wonder we cannot replicate what the apostles were doing, since miracles are the fruit of living an uncompromising life. 

Naomi needs to return!

Today, if you ask someone to pray and fast, they defer saying that they have stomach problems, or some other illness, or that fasting is not wise because it is too risky. We don’t even believe that God can heal us anymore. The gathering of the saints, it seems, has become the gathering of entertainers. In the Acts church, the Holy Spirit arrived with the sound of a ‘rushing mighty wind’ (Acts 2:1-4). We cannot experience Him like this anymore, so we try to simulate it by bringing smoke machines onto the pulpit. When did we start needing this machine as a substitute for His glory? The Shekinah Glory that filled the room when the priest was ministering is gone, so we use all sorts of coloured lights to mimic the effect. Naomi needs to return! Naomi has been in the land of the Moabites for too long. A church needs to arise out of the church we have come to know: this church is the vibrant church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Naomi needs to return.

The disciples were so carnal. After Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well, the apostles urged Him to eat, and when Jesus said that He had already eaten, they assumed that she (or someone else) had fed Him (John 4:27-34). They did not perceive that Jesus' food was “to do the will of [His father]” (v34). The church has become extremely belly-driven! The first consideration when planning retreats or camps is the menu, because without food the people will not attend. People can’t seem to seek God without food anymore, just like Naomi who went to the land of Moab to fill her stomach. The famine left Naomi and her family without anything to eat, so she withdrew from her land in search of food. Naomi didn’t know that this was a trap set by the enemy. Similar to a mousetrap, when the world wants to draw you in, it starts to present things that appeal to your carnal senses. But when you buy into those things, your life is over, and you may not realise it until it’s much too late. When the Bible directs us to take up our cross and follow Jesus, this means laying down our lives for Christ.

While in Moab, Naomi experienced abundance. She needed to go back home but she was not persuaded to return until her hands were completely empty. Naomi only came to her senses once she had lost the blessing. We find the same thing in today’s church. There are some people who dessert the church until the world starts turning up the heat. Then they run back and the first thing they expect is prayer and blessing. But where were they in the famine? The life[1] in Christ is beyond the comfort of material possessions and blessings. If the church does not change its mind about the blessing, we will never have an authentic church. Why is it that so many pastors are preoccupied with numbers, and less concerned about the state of the souls in their church, and the depth of their individual relationships with the Lord Jesus Christ?

If the church does not change its mind about the blessing, we will never have an authentic church.

Naomi’s husband and their sons were all dead. In fact, Naomi should have died as well, but God kept one aside as a witness[2] for Himself. God always allows a survivor who will live to tell the story; who will witness to others. These survivors are called the remnant and you and I form part of the remnant. Naomi was a survivor. When her hands were empty, she decided to go back but her thought patterns were so tainted by the affliction that she wasn’t able to perceive her daughters-in-law accompanying her home as a blessing. Naomi did not realise that this was an important part of the story: soul-winning and discipleship for the kingdom. Instead, she thought it was about her. How many of us feel that we can’t preach the gospel because we ‘can’t put the burden on others’ or we shouldn’t bother them? Naomi did the same! Naomi told her daughters not to follow her but to rather stay, because they would be better off in Moab. Naomi didn’t want these two women to experience the trials that accompany the Christian life.

God always allows a survivor who will live to tell the story

Naomi told them to stay, but Ruth[3] understood. Ruth declared her loyalty and insisted upon following Naomi. Where are the souls who can speak like this? Those who can say that no matter what is going on in their life at that moment, that they will follow Christ. Souls that say, “Christ, and Christ alone, I will follow”.

“For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me”
Ruth 1:16-17

Ruth promised Naomi that nothing but death would separate them. Are we honestly willing to make this vow to the Lord and mean it? To say, “Lord, You have me, You saved me, and now it doesn’t matter what happens to us, I will follow You!” The scary truth is that if you haven’t made up your mind like this, you are double-minded. You need to understand that God did not call you so that you can just benefit off of Him to serve your own needs. God called you so that you can be a representative of Heaven spreading the good news of the kingdom here on earth. You don’t need wealth or material possessions to follow your destiny, all you need is God and the revelation that what you have in your spirit, no money can buy; Christ in you cannot be quenched or bought or altered by anything that this world has to offer.

Orpah left because she didn’t understand the dynamics of following her destiny. Her understanding of destiny was the here and now: current circumstances. But Ruth understood that her destiny lay in the future. It didn’t matter what the current situation looked like, Ruth overlooked the ‘here and now’, seeing it as only one chapter in the timeline of life. Ruth had the discernment and wisdom to see in the Spirit, and to understood that her future was with Naomi. So they went back to the land of Israel together.

This is a prophetic lesson for all of us: a call to leave the world, and return to the kingdom.

Your future is with the Lord. We are in the end times, and the church has stayed too long in the world (Moab). Naomi’s story serves as a prophetic lesson for all of us: a call to leave the world, and return to the kingdom. The message is not that God will not bless His children, but rather that God does not want His children to pursue the blessing. He expects His children to pursue Him. Even though the Lord had blessed Abraham, regardless of all his blessings, God told him that “I AM…your exceedingly great reward” (Gen 15:1, NKJV). The land was not his reward, Isaac was not his reward; God was His reward because when you have God, you have everything. God wants the church to see the blessing as an added bonus rather than their goal. His desire is that “we seek first the kingdom and His righteousness” so that “all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt 6:33, NIV). We so often have it the other way around. We think that the proof of our success in the kingdom is what we own in the world. Yet, heavenly possessions cannot be measured by earthly standards. You can own so much in this world, and yet be tragically unsuccessful in the kingdom. The proof of your success in the kingdom lies in the depth of your humility. When you come to a place where you can sincerely say, “Lord not my will, but let Your will be done (Mark 14:36; Luke 22: 42).”

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth" 
Matthew 5:5, NKJV

[1] Life: This life in Christ, is the life in you: the zoë life

[2] Witness: Like Elijah, when they said that everybody had been killed, but God said that He had kept 7000 for Himself

[3]  Ruth means friend

Full reading: Ruth 1: 1-22 (NKJV)

1Now it came to pass, in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem, Judah, went to dwell in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. 2The name of the man was Elimelech, the name of his wife was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion—Ephrathites of Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to the country of Moab and remained there. 3Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left, and her two sons. 4Now they took wives of the women of Moab: the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth. And they dwelt there about ten years. 5Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died; so the woman survived her two sons and her husband. 6Then she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the Lord had visited His people by giving them bread. 7Therefore she went out from the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah8And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each to her mother’s house. The Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9The Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” So she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. 10And they said to her, “Surely we will return with you to your people.”

11But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Are there still sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? 12Turn back, my daughters, go—for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, if I should have a husband tonight and should also bear sons, 13would you wait for them till they were grown? Would you restrain yourselves from having husbands? No, my daughters; for it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me!” 14Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. 15And she said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.”

16But Ruth said:

“Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
17Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.”

18When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her. 19Now the two of them went until they came to Bethlehem. And it happened, when they had come to Bethlehem, that all the city was excited because of them; and the women said, “Is this Naomi?” 20But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?” 22So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. Now they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.

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