After the mourning period, Naomi's sons took Moabite women as wives, and all seemed normal over the next 10 years. But then, both of her sons died, leaving Naomi and her two daughters-in-law in a foreign land. Not only was Naomi a widow, but she no longer had sons to care for her well-being as tradition had called for. Naomi was sure God was dealing harshly with her, and she was unhappy.
Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem after hearing that the famine was over. So, loading up all of their belongings, Naomi and her two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, started on their journey. On the way, Naomi had a change of heart and instructed Orpah and Ruth to return to the homes of their biological mothers. The Bible doesn't say why Naomi encouraged the women to go home, but it's possible that she thought about where she was taking the girls, and felt the only thing she could offer was sadness and poverty. Naomi may also worried that God's dealings with her might negatively affect the lives of Orpah and Ruth.
Through her grief, Naomi couldn't see that God was guiding them to a more perfect fulfillment of His plan.
Through many tears and much conviction, Naomi convinced Orpah to return to her mother's home, but Ruth wasn't swayed. She had witnessed a deep-seeded faith in Naomi. The older woman had been such a loving and inspiring influence in her life that Ruth left her biological family behind to take shelter under Naomi's watchful care. Naomi was so moved by such an act of loyalty that she didn't speak another word about it.
Upon entering Bethlehem, Naomi and Ruth were greeted with excitement. The entire city was overjoyed at Naomi's return. But Naomi did not share their enthusiasm. She had returned a saddened, empty-handed woman, both widowed and childless. She was broken, convinced that God had inflicted her out of anger and bitterness. She didn't want to be called Naomi, meaning "My delight," but rather Mara, meaning "bitterness." Naomi had not only experienced utter ruin, but found her identity in the tragic state of her existence. And yet, God used Naomi to graft Ruth into the lineage of Jesus Christ.
Through her patience, wisdom and insight, Naomi guided Ruth into prudent interaction with Boaz, a close relative of Naomi's dead husband. This relative was a kinsman redeemer, or one of the next in line to take Naomi's daughter-in-law as a wife in order to carry on the family line. Boaz was a wealthy landowner with many fields. Naomi told Ruth to glean the leftovers in one of his fields. In humility and submission, Ruth did as she was told. This eventually led to a marriage with Boaz.
Naomi was behind the scenes directing Ruth's conduct in relation to Boaz, but it came from a heart of compassion and love. She wanted Ruth to marry again and have a family. Naomi was not concerned for herself, but rather for the welfare of a young woman who had dedicated herself to caring for Naomi, even though she was not obligated to. Putting Ruth in the spotlight was Naomi's greatest act of love.
As a reward for her selfless acts, God brought Naomi great joy and restoration through the marriage of Ruth and Boaz. When Ruth conceived and had a son named Obed, Naomi became his nurse and took him as her own. Not only was Naomi cared for in her old age, but she had a direct hand in the upbringing of Obed, who became the grandfather of King David. Naomi directly imparted her faith and good character into the next generation. The women of Bethlehem spoke well when they blessed Naomi at the birth of Obed, declaring that God had not left her empty-handed.