Naomi is probably the most famous mother in law in the bible. She begins the story on the back foot, having lost her husband, Elimelech, and both married sons whilst in Moab where they originally fled to find food. But she has Ruth*, her Moabite daughter in law, who refuses to leave her when she decides to return to her Israelite homeland of Bethlehem (lit. 'house of food).To reflect her loss she wishes now to be called not Naomi (pleasant) but Mara (bitter).
'I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty' (Ruth 1:21).
(Is everything that goes wrong God's fault: is everything that goes right down to His provision? Interesting thought...)
But Naomi and her daughter in law arrive in Bethlehem at the beginning of the harvest, a sure narrative and theological harbinger of fruitfulness to come. And that's what you keep feeling in this story: hope after desolation. It's like watching a gentle rom com but a lot better - you know everything is going to be all right.
Thanks to a fortuitous encounter with a relative from way back, Ruth and Naomi have the chance to be 'redeemed' in the manner of Levirate law regarding remarriage of widows. Boaz is the gentleman in question - a 'kinsman-redeemer' - and a jolly kind chap at that. He is willing to marry Ruth the foreigner from Moab and to count any ensuing offspring as, effectively, children for Naomi.
So although she arrived in Bethlehem a widow and childless, she ends up cradling baby Obed, grandfather of King David, in her ageing arms, whilst the women comment of the baby, 'He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter in law who loves you and who is better than seven sons, has given him birth' (Ruth 4:15).
It's never too late to be blessed.
*to be continued tomorrow...