Things had not gone well for Naomi.
There was famine in her hometown of Bethlehem. Then, after leaving for Moab with her husband and two sons in search of a better life, tragedy struck again. First, her husband died. Then several years later both of her sons died as well.
Who could blame Naomi for the bitterness that entered her soul? Who among us could endure such crushing loss and not be overwhelmed by sorrow and pain?
But something changed. Perhaps, at first, it was just the tiniest flicker of hope. Naomi heard that the Lord had visited His people in Bethlehem. So she made a life changing–really a history changing and life restoring–decision.
Naomi, along with her two daughters-in-law (although only one continued on the journey), set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.
Judah = praise. So really, you could say Naomi set out on the road that would lead them back to praise.
And that is always a good road to choose.
The story behind the name Judah is interesting. In Hebrew culture, names have great significance. Judah, of course, was one of Jacob’s twelve sons. One of the twelve tribes of Israel–the tribe Jesus was born into. Judah’s mom was Leah. You know the Leah that wasn’t loved. The Leah Jacob never wanted as a wife (you can read the story in Genesis 29).
Judah was the fourth son Leah bore to Jacob. With Leah’s first three sons, it is clear by their names that Leah had a bit of an agenda (see Gen 29:31-34). Her hope was that in bearing the children her sister (Jacob’s beloved wife, Rachel) could not, Jacob would finally love her.
But it didn’t work out that way. Just like things don’t always work out for us the way we hope.
Something shifted, though, by the time Leah had her fourth son. At that point she said simply, “‘This time I will praise the Lord.’ So she named him Judah.” (Gen. 29:35).
I think something must have shifted in Naomi, too, when she started on that road back to Judah. Her decision to return didn’t change everything immediately. If you read on in the story, you’ll see that she still felt bitter. She was still unsure. But even in that place of bitter loss and uncertainty, she made a decision that would ultimately turn everything around.
She set out on the road that would take her back to praise.
It’s important to remember that praise isn’t about feelings–it’s about focus. It’s about setting our hearts and minds on the One who is always worthy of praise, regardless of our feelings or circumstances. He never demands our praise, but He always deserves it.
Really, it’s about faith. It’s about choosing to turn our hearts in His direction simply because of who He is. Never is that more difficult than when our circumstances and feelings would lead us in just about any other direction–because that’s when praise is costly.
It’s also when our praise is sweet and precious to Him.
“Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name” (Heb. 13:15).
What about you? Are there things that have disappointed you? Things that have made your heart just a little bitter? Things that have pulled you away from focusing on the goodness and glory of God?
Wherever you’re at it’s not too late. You can turn around right now. You can shift your focus regardless of your circumstances …
And set out on the road that will lead you back to praise.
It just may be the most important decision you ever make.
Here is the podcast link for this week’s devo: Monday Morning Musings: The Road that Leads Back to Praise