This week, leading up to Mother’s Day, we are looking at Seven Magnificent Mothers from scripture who exhibited characteristics to be admired, imitated, and praised.
Magnificent Mother #2: The Mother-In-Law
The second of our “Magnificent Mothers” is The Mother-In-Law. The mother-in-law is sort of a stereotypically dubious character in our culture. (Unless you are one, then they’re lovely.)
Perhaps you’ve heard this one: A man was out shopping one day when he saw six women beating up his mother-in-law. As he stood there and watched, a bystander said, “Well, aren’t you going to help?” He replied, “No. Six of them oughtta be enough”.
Or this one: Two women were discussing their mothers-in-law. One says, “My mother-in-law is an angel.” Her friend replies, “You’re lucky. Mine is still alive.”
I could go on, but I won’t. Our “magnificent” mother-in-law is found in the book of Ruth. I don’t think I need to tell you that it is Naomi to whom I am referring. Naomi and her husband Elimelech and their two sons moved from their home in Bethlehem to the land of Moab, because there was a horrible famine in Judah. Elimelech died, the boys got married, then about ten years later Naomi’s sons died, leaving two widows of their own – Orpah and Ruth.
There are two things that let me know that Naomi was a “Magnificent Mother.” First of all, she was more concerned about her daughters-in-law than she was about her own happiness. She told the girls to go home, find husbands, and be happy. I’m sure Naomi would’ve preferred the company of her daughters-in-law to the loneliness of an empty home, but she wanted them to be happy, to find happiness in a new marriage. And she selflessly believed they wouldn’t be able to find that if they tagged along with an old widow woman.
Secondly, Naomi must have been a “Magnificent Mother”, because when she tried to release her daughters-in-law, they didn’t want to go! Both of them wanted to go with her, to leave their families behind and stay with Naomi. What does it say about the love and kindness that must have been in Naomi that these women couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her!
But Naomi insists, and Orpah finally goes back to her family. But not Ruth. Ruth gives us that beautiful passage of commitment: “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” (Ruth 1:16-17).
Oh, that our lives would be so attractive to those around us that they would say to us, “Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” How many would come to the Kingdom if we had the selfless, compassionate, and magnetic character of The Mother-In-Law, Naomi.
~ Matt Kinnell,
NHIM Board Chair