Ever since I decided to start this new blog feature (so, like, 10 days ago), I’ve had Ruth on my mind. Growing up in the church as a female, of course I was very familiar with one of the only two women in the Bible who has an entire book named after her – she and Esther get a disproportionate number of Bible studies and women’s meetings assigned to them.
Yet, it’s never really been one of my favorite stories. There are a whole lot of cultural things going on here that I just do not understand (the mother-in-law/daughters-in-law relationship; the kinsman redeemer; sleeping on the floor at a man’s feet…), and although I obviously like the “romance” and happy ending, I’ve never focused much on the book.
For some reason, though, Ruth’s was the only name that kept coming to mind as I thought about who to discuss this week. So, I decided to re-read her story and see what God had to show me. And, of course, I found something I’ve never noticed before (I love that about the Bible).
If you’re unfamiliar or less inundated in Ruth’s story than me, take a minute to go check it out. It’s a quick read.
As Ruth goes out to the fields to gather the scraps left behind by the harvesters so she and her mother in law Naomi wouldn’t starve (side note: I’ve been told if this type of gleaning were common practice, we could end world hunger. Food for thought. No pun intended.), she winds up in a field that belongs to a man named Boaz. Here comes the cultural part I don’t quite understand, but the gist is that Boaz was a relative of Naomi’s and one of the only men who could restore to the family what had been lost through the death of Naomi’s husband and sons. Ruth didn’t know any of this; she was just out trying to get some grain.
The NIV says that Ruth went to work, and “as it turned out”, found herself in Boaz’s field (Ru 2:3). Other versions says, “she happened” to stop at his property. I LOVE THAT!!!! Here is Ruth, simply caring for her MIL, going about the daily business of being impoverished, and as if by sheer coincidence, she “happens” upon the field of the man who can completely turn things around for her. Only, of course, it’s not coincidence at all. God knew exactly where Ruth needed to glean, and He led her to that field, where Boaz would notice her and His whole perfect plan would be set in motion.
So often, I’ve found myself wondering how my life is going to work out – where I’ll meet that guy or what my 5 and 10 year plan will be, worrying about how all the pieces will fall into place. There is so much that I don’t know or see, but in that little “as it turned out” clause is a sweet reminder that God’s got things under control. As I’m going about my daily business, He’s working behind the scenes, leading me each step of the way so that I am in position when the plan begins to unfold and I can finally see the fruit of what He’s been doing all along. My responsibility is simply to remain close to Him so that He can lead me and show me all that He has in store.
A friend recently (and quite out of the blue, which made it even better) reminded me that God is always working, and that the answers to our prayers can come in a day, just like they did for Ruth. Her divine “meet-cute” set things in motion that would lead not only to food on the table, but an escape from poverty altogether, a marriage, a new family, and a place in the lineage of Jesus. And as is always the case when God works in our lives, His plan wasn’t just a blessing for Ruth, but many other people benefited as well: Boaz, who gained a wife and soon after, a son; Naomi, who went from bitter to blessed; and God’s own Son who would be a direct descendant of Ruth. It boggles my mind to try to comprehend God working so many different moving parts – and parts with free will at that – into a cohesive whole that blesses all of His children and also glorifies Him…but He’s amazingly big enough to do all of that. It’s pretty spectacular to think about.
So, just as Hannah encouraged us to keep praying last week, let Ruth encourage us to have faith behind our prayers, because in one day, God can completely transform our lives, doing exceedingly above all that we could even ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20 – one of my favorites). And that transformation can have an impact that will live on for millenia, if we will only trust Him to do His work in His time, while we simply walk in obedience to what we know to do right now.
Oh, and by the way, we’ll talk about Rahab soon, I’m sure, but she, the prostitute from Jericho, was Boaz’s mother. Apparently, he came from good stock, and because his own mom was a non-Hebrew, perhaps that made him more willing to marry Ruth, a girl from Moab. Just one more way that God is working even before we’re born to prepare us for His great plans.