I want to be sweet.
Down here in the south, that's a good thing. "Oh, she's so sweet!" "Well, aren't you just the sweetest thing!" "Wasn't that a sweet song?" "Just look at that sweet baby!" "Okay kids, be sweet!" Sweetness carries with it a connotation of being desirable, doesn't it?
I've been reading through my Old Testament, spending some time in Ruth. One of my first impressions of her is that she was sweet. Even in her unspeakable grief following the loss of her husband, brother-in-law, and father-in-law, she was loyal to her mother-in-law. As I read the account of her resolve to stay with Naomi, her sweet spirit flows off of the page.
"But Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God." (Ruth 1:16) This must have been such a comfort to Naomi, who was already in a strange land due to famine, and had lost those closest to her- her husband and children. What unspeakable grief she must have been experiencing! This could've been such a time of great isolation for her, but sweet Ruth "clung to her." (Ruth 1:14)
And Naomi needed a "sweetener." Her life was so marked with grief that she gave herself a new name, "Bitter." The word for it in the Hebrew was "Mara," and that's what she was asking those in her hometown to call her upon her return. She came home with a new identity- bitterness. "Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me," she had said. (Ruth 1:20) But sweet Ruth was by her side, and I believe it was to have a great effect on Naomi.
The Old Testament records another time when something "Mara" needed a sweetener. Exodus 15 records that after the people had crossed the Red Sea into the wilderness, they went three days without anything to drink. When they finally came upon the welcomed sight of water, "they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore it was named Marah." They grumbled, and cried out to the Lord, who showed Moses a tree branch that he threw into the water, "and the waters became sweet." (Ex. 15:25) What the people needed was not available until God acted. This time, He chose to act through a branch.
As I read and reflected on the instance at the waters of Marah with Naomi in mind, I realized that He sent a "branch" into her bitterness as well- Ruth. Sweet Ruth married Boaz, and gave birth to Obed. "Then the women said to Naomi, 'Blessed is the Lord who had not left you without a redeemer today, and may his name become famous in Israel. May he also be to you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.' " (Ruth 4:14)
The child of whom they spoke was Obed, the father of Jesse, grandfather of David. Ruth was King David's great-grandmother! And the "Branch" (Isaiah 11:1) which was to come, Jesus, would offer sweet salvation to those of us stuck in our bitter sin. He can trace His earthly familial roots to sweet Ruth. I believe she had "branch-like" qualities. She sweetened the waters of Naomi's bitterness, and was to begin the family line that would eventually lead to the "root and branch of Jesse."
Is there someone you know who could use a sweetener today? Do you know someone who is embittered by life's circumstances or is in a bitter struggle with sin? Could you be that branch for them? If you are in Christ, you are a part of the Branch, the True Vine. Could He use you to sweeten the waters in someone's life? Maybe, like Ruth, He could use you to "cling to" someone... to not abandon them in their grief. Ruth certainly had her own reasons to grieve, but she allowed God to use her to sweeten someone else's time of pain. I'd like to follow her example, how about you? I want to be sweet!
I'd love for you to visit my personal blog (where I try to always be sweet!) One Day More .