Wednesday, May 8, 2024
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Lagos, Nigeria

t is another Mother's Day when we honor our women who strive to live up to the expectations of their duties as mothers and wives. We also challenge those who are failing to sit up.

Today I want our women to learn from the lives of two mothers and their daughters-in-law, whose stories we found in the Bible; Ruth the daughter in-law of Naomi and another, the daughter in-law-of Rebecca whose name was not given,.

Rebecca was the wife of Isaac, the son of Abraham. Rebecca and Isaac gave birth to a set of twins; Esau and Jacob. It is the life of Esau's wife we want to look into, also the life of Ruth, the daughter in-law of Naomi.

All that we know about Esau's wife are contained in four verses of the book of Genesis 27:46 & 28:1-3 while the story of Ruth is contained in the 5 chapters of the book named after her.

We read in Chapter 1 of the book of Ruth that Naomi and her husband, Elimelek were from Bethlehem but there arose a famine and they relocated to the land of Moab with their two un married boys named Mahlon and Kilion who both eventually married Moabite girls; Orpah and Ruth. With time, Elimelek, the husband of Naomi, died and later the two boys also died without children.

At hearing that the situation had become better at home, Naomi decided to return to her native home in Bethlehem after 10 years of sojourn in Mohab. The two wives decided to return with their mother in-law. Naomi pleaded with them not to do but to return to their parents. What will they benefit by going with Naomi? Though the custom permitted them to marry the brothers of their deceased husbands and raise children for the deceased but the deceased had no brothers. Again, Naomi was already a widow and could no longer raise husbands for her daughters-in-law. Ok, if she even was able to bear sons, would the girls still be able to bear children by the time the boys would get matured? So it was a bad situation.

Eventually, Oprah agreed and returned to her people while Ruth insisted that she was going to go with her mother in-law.

What must have made Ruth to make such a seemingly hopeless decision?

I can only conclude that the relationship between the mother in-law and the daughter in law was super. Naomi must have been treating his wives not just as wives but as her own daughters. The wives in return must have been treating Naomi not just as a mother-in-law but as their own mother. The wives and Ruth in particular must have been given proper home training and they (the girls) must have been responsive to the training. Oprah and Ruth must have been very respective to their mother in-law. The wives must have been very dutiful with house chores. They must have accorded their husbands their right places when they were alive.

I always say it, for a marriage to be successful, everyone in the marriage must make every effort to outdo the other in pleasing the other.

As the case of Naomi and her daughters-in-law could be seen, the setting looks completely an African communal living though they were not Africans.

I ask you Grandmas, how are you treating your daughters-in-laws? As daughters or as slaves? I ask you younger women "Do you treat your mothers-in-law as you would your mothers?"

I have witnessed situations, where the wife puts to bed and the mother of the husband, who claimed she came to give some helping hands, rather than being a relief to her daughter-in-law, became a big burden. She would sit down relaxed, commanding and dictating what meal the nursing mother must prepare for her. She will complain that the nursing mother did not wash her clothes. She will even ask the nursing mother to drive well-wishers back to their destinations.

What normally disturbs me is when a grandma, a woman herself, who one will expect to understand and treat her daughter-in-law very gently, behaves otherwise compared with a story of another grandma who had visitors from the village, who when the mother- in-law observed that the village women were demanding too much from her son's wife, turning to abuse, she simply called her to a corner and asked her to drive away for sometimes till the visitors were gone. Tell me how such a wife will not have respect for her mother in-law who is so protective?

But if it happens otherwise and the mother in-law takes side with the visiting Village women and starts to criticize her own wife, labeling her as lazy, tell me how the wife will be happy with such a mother in-law?

Let me add that husbands have the responsibility to protect their wives from abuse from his relatives.

I have seen situations where the husbands, though not pleased with the treatments, which his relatives are subjecting his wife to, but rather than cautioning them, kept mute.

Our behavior or let me say that the way we relate with other fellows, tells stories about ourselves, our family and our relationship with God and not just by the words of our mouth.

Ruth told Naomi, her mother-in-law not to persuade her to return to her parents. She told Naomi "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. 17 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)

18 The Bible said that when Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said nothing more (Ruth 1:18).

For Ruth to make this decision, she must have seen in Naomi, someone dependable, who comes from a good family, which she desired to key in to. We did not read that Naomi preached to Ruth about her God, Naomi's life must have been a sermon and testimony of the worship of a Holy and good God.

I know women who when they pray, it is as if heaven is descending down but their behavior is not consistent with their prayer life.

Let me say a word about Ruth as well. She must have been amiable and meek, which made her lovable by her mother in-law. She must have behaved herself before her mother in-law, in ways that Naomi could not do otherwise but liked and loved her, otherwise, Naomi would have refused her (Ruth) offer to go with her. Naomi would have said to her "God has spared me of your wild behavior, so you cannot go with me" Instead, Naomi prayed for them saying "May the LORD reward you for your kindness to your husbands and to me" (Ruth 1:8)

Further reading of the story in chapters 3-5 revealed how God blessed the faithfulness of both wife and mother-in-law to each other. After they returned to Naomi's family in Bethlehem, Ruth got married to a wealthy relation of Elimelek by the name Boaz and Ruth became the great grandmother of king David through whom our Lord Jesus Christ came to earth.

Let us now look into the record of Rebekah's daughter-in-law. In the book of Genesis 27:46, it was recorded that

"Rebekah said to Isaac her husband, "I'm sick and tired of these local Hittite women! I would rather die than see Jacob marry one of them."

We do not read of any particular offense which Rebekah charged Esau's wife with, except for the strong regret she uttered to her husband, Isaac as earlier quoted.

Could Rebekah have been a difficult mother-in -law?

Not likely because Isaac too was not satisfied with his daughter-in-law as we see him sternly instructing Jacob not to marry any of the local girls.

In Genesis 28:1-2, Isaac called for Jacob, blessed him, and said, "You must not marry any of these Canaanite women. 2 Instead, go at once to Paddan-aram, to the house of your grandfather Bethuel, and marry one of your uncle's, Laban's daughters).

What kind of a wife could Esau's wife had been?

It is not difficult for me to speculate from my wide experience.

She might have been a very rude wife to her parents-in-law.

She might have been an incorrigible someone who did not take corrections, who felt she was wiser than every other person, who spoke carelessly to her parents-in-law. She might have been quarrelsome who fought with everyone. She might have been lazy at house chores and a dirty person who cares very little about the cleanliness of her flat, talk less of the compound. She could be someone who cared very little about the children; the children cleanliness, appearance etc.

One midmorning, I met a highly educated woman, in fact a Medical Doctor, in a public place, nicely dressed but her toddler in the car, unkempt with splashes from overnight drooling (lala, in Yoruba) that ran from the mouth.

A story was told of a woman say to her father-in-law "At 70 you behave like a child, senseless person." You will ask what the crime of the father-in-law was. The old man called his granddaughter "olodo" meaning 'not smart' while coaching her in the subject of Arithmetic.

"You are teaching her with the old method" the daughter- in- law fumed. But the old man never saw the mother of the child one day, check what the children did in School. And the old man she berated had a Post graduate degree in Physics while she who knew the new method does not even have University education.

Rebekah and Isaac might have witnessed a similar scenario or one that was even worse with their daughter-in-law, the wife of Esau.

In such a situation "What should the father-in-law do" You will ask "Report it to her father" The Old man did exactly that. And what was the response of the woman's Biological Father" I have reprimanded her"

A normal father, I believe, will proceed instantly to meet his in-law, call her daughter to a meeting and rebuke her sharply on her knees.

This fits the situation why the Yorubas' say "You can marry a bad girl but it is terrible to have a bad-in-law" The daughter has revealed the type of home she came from and her father has confirmed it.

Our grandparents responded to such a situation appropriately. They throw the baggage of the bride out and if she returns to her parents, the parents will not open the door for her. By that she learns manners.

A mother went to settle a rift between her son and his wife. They both stated their case. Though the wife was at fault completely but for the sake of peace, this woman knelt down before her daughter-in-law and said "Don't be angry, I am the one who offended you-----"Rather than the daughter-in-law to scream and say "Mum what are you doing, kneeling down for me?" She continued to bluff "I can take care of myself, I can take care of my daughter" She earned more money than her husband, so her husband and mother-in-law could go blazes.

I heard that this grandmother confessed that the marriage of his son to this girl was the most frustrating thing to her in all her life.

Woman, who are you? A Naomi, a Ruth or Oprah or Esau's wife?

Let us pray.