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  • Susan Brown

Ladies’ Bible Study – Naomi


Text: Ruth 1-4

Write a thumb-nail sketch of the person’s life.

Our study today is about a pleasant woman who lived a hard life.  What can we learn from her and her trials?

We know that she was a nice lady because her name means “pleasant.” In that culture people didn’t just give their children names that sounded nice. They meant something. Often they would change the names if the person changed.  So we know that Naomi had a pleasant personality.  She married a man named Elimelech His name is even better. It means, “my God is king.”

That sounds like he loved the Lord and that God was his boss– the One who made the rules.  You would think they would have had an easy life.  Some people think that Christians don’t have problems. It’s true that if we follow God and obey, we will escape a lot of the troubles that come with sin. That’s why God said not to do those things!  It is also true that He blesses obedience. We are living on earth, though, not in heaven. We will have troubles and tribulations here.

Naomi’s first hardships were her two sons. Their names were Mahlon and Chilion.    Those names mean “sickly” and “puny.”  Is it hard to pleasant when there is sickness in the house?  When your children don’t live up to your expectations?  Naomi’s name didn’t change here. She was still pleasant.

The second and biggest hardship came when her husband wanted to move somewhere he shouldn’t go.  Even though his name meant “my God is king,” he still made a major mistake.  Do you think Christian husbands sometimes make mistakes?   Naomi’s husband certainly did.  We can understand, because the land of Israel was going through a bad time. It was a dark part of Israel’s history.  Joshua and all the leaders who had helped conquer the promised land had died.  They were ruled by judges, which were in part, military leaders, and in part, spiritual leaders.  Mostly, though, everyone did what seemed right to them, and we can read in the book of Judges that those things they did weren’t right at all by God’s standards.  The people kept falling into sin and God kept on sending judgements to straighten them out.  One of these judgements was a famine. There wasn’t enough food.

If God is your king, do you think He can provide food for you?  Yes, our model prayer says “Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matt. 6:11) We can trust Him to provide our needs for us.  But Elimelech didn’t trust God.  He decided he better do something to take care of his family, so he moved to the land of Moab, taking his family with him.  Even though Elimelech made a mistake, Naomi was still “pleasant.”  That’s when it is hardest, I think, for a woman to be a good wife. When her husband is wandering from the Lord, it is hard to be pleasant and loving. But Naomi evidently was. And she followed her husband.

The Moabites worshipped the horrible god, Chemosh. They thought Chemosh would be pleased with human sacrifice and they sacrificed their own babies to this ugly idol.  This wasn’t the sort of place to raise a family!  Their two sons grew up in Moab and married Moabite girls.  I’m sure they weren’t what Naomi wanted for her boys, but she evidently tried to have a good attitude about it, anyway.  We know that because we see in Scripture that her daughters-in-law loved her.  She called them “my daughters.”  She was still “pleasant.”

Elimelech died, and so did Mahlon and Chilion. Can you imagine how Naomi must have felt?  She was alone and poor, far from her home and her people.  She decided to go back to Israel. She had heard that the famine was over.

Her daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, went with her part of the way, but she told them to go back. It would have been nice to have company, somebody who belonged to her, but she was more concerned about them than about herself. She said, “Go back to your family and get married again.”

Orpah cried, but left her. Ruth insisted on going with her.  “Don’t ask me to leave you,” Ruth said. “I will go wherever you go. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God.”

Naomi must have been a good mother-in-law to inspire that kind of loyalty. Her testimony of her faith in God must have been great, too. Ruth was ready to leave, not only her people, but the god they worshipped. She was ready to follow Naomi’s God, the one true God.

Once she got back home to Israel, Naomi told everyone about  her sorrows. “Don’t call me ‘Pleasant,’ any more,” she said. “Call me Mara (bitter) because bitter things have happened to me”

At last we see her name changed. Do Christians ever go through times of bitterness and struggle?  Yes. Should we condemn those people?  No, we should do our best to understand and help. If they are truly saved, they will overcome their grief and bitterness.  Pleasant Naomi went through a time when she felt bitter — but she is never called that.  She did overcome.

God didn’t leave her alone and poor. He gave her a daughter-in-law who was ready to work and take care of her.

Naomi was probably still young and could have married again, but we see that she was more concerned about seeing Ruth happily married. We will learn of Ruth and the rest of her story next week. We can see, though, that Naomi ended up with family and with people to care for her.  She had hardships in her life, but God brought her through them all.

List all of her characteristics. What does the Bible say about those character qualities?

She was pleasant.  

The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord, but the words of the pure are pleasant words.  (Prov. 15:26)

Pleasant words are as an honeycomb sweet to the soul, and health to the bones. (Prov. 16:24)

LACK of kindness — contentiousness.

A continual dropping in a rainy day and a contentious woman are alike. (Prov. 27:15)

She (the virtuous woman) opens her mouth with wisdom, and in her tongue is the LAW OF KINDNESS.  (Prov. 31:26)

She submitted and followed her husband, even though she might have known it led into hardship.

Eph. 5:22

She showed her faith by her life. We know that because Ruth was ready to leave the god of her country and childhood to follow the one, true God.  Naomi’s actions and attitudes had an impact on Ruth’s life.

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. (James 1:22)

How did her life and character affect her husband and children?

We don’t know much about her husband, except that he must have thought Naomi was a good name for her.  She followed him and encouraged him, even when he might have been making a wrong decision.

She was good to her family. She was good and kind, so that must have made a happy home, even in the land of Moab.

What do you think is the leading lesson taught by her life?

God wants us to show the character quality of pleasantness and kindness. It can have a  huge effect on our husbands, our families, our friends, and our church.

What applications can you make to your life?

Does it ever seem that no one likes you or appreciates you?  Maybe we need to take a look at our attitudes. If your family had to give you a name, what would they call you.  Would our families describe us as pleasant?  Would our names be “Nagging,” or “Grumpy” instead?

It’s odd that we show our best selves to people who aren’t really important to us, and we show our most unlikeable selves to those we love best. It’s important to be pleasant to those we love.  How do you start being pleasant?

Start with your attitude.  If you have an attitude of gratitude, you will be happier. If you count your blessings and think of what God has given you instead of what you don’t have, you will be happier, and that happiness will show on your face and in your voice.

Smile, even if you don’t feel like it. Think about how your face looks. You want it to look pleasant. Otherwise, people you love won’t want to stay around and look at it.  It’s strange, but often just smiling will make you feel happier.  Maybe it’s because if you smile other people smile back — and your spirit gets a lift, too. Send your loved ones off every day with a smile. Welcome them home with a smile. They will be drawn to you and want to come home.

Say kind words. Think of something positive to say to your children, to your husband, to your pastor, to your friends.  Praise them, even if you have to search for something to praise them for.  People become what you call them. If you tell your child he is bad, he will believe you and be bad.  If you tell him he is lazy, he will become lazy.  If point out his good qualities, and tell him he is smart, and obedient, and a hard worker, he will believe you and become those things.

Say words in a kind tone.  In her tongue is the “law of kindness.”  That means whatever she says, it is in a kind, pleasant way.  You can say the same words in a cross way and it will make your loved pull away from you.  Listen to how you sound when you talk to your family.  Is the “law of kindness” in your lips?

Show an interest in them, and in the things they are interested in.  Stop and listen and look in their faces when they are telling you something. If you listen to them when they are little, they will be more likely to talk to you when they are teenagers.  They will be your friends when they are grown up.  Do the same with your husband. Listen to him. Pay attention to what he is saying. You want him to talk to you, not to some other woman.

People are drawn to pleasantness.  I challenge each of you to be “Naomi” this week — to be pleasant and kind. You can do it!

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