Saturday, July 16, 2005

Studies in Ruth - Chapter 2

The God who Provides
What happens when you trust God? What does it mean to be under God's care? Can God be trusted with the details of my life? Will he take care of even the smallest thing? What happens when a person leaves the security of living their own way and throws themselves on God's care?

In Ruth we can see the answers. They are acted out in front of us. And the great theme of chapter two is that God blesses abundantly those who trust in him.

As we come to the start of ch 2 we are aware that Ruth and Naomi have arrived back in Bethlehem and are penniless widows with no visible means of support. The question still hangs over them - who is going to provide? They have entrusted themselves into God's keeping, they have brought their lives into line with his word and his will, but still they are homeless and hungry. And as we look at these two without visible means of support we find that we see that the following verses unfold for us the invisible means of support that God provides for them.

These verses are a living example of the truth of Romans 8:28

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Experiencing God's Providence
Consider the closing verse of chapter 1:
22 So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.

They had just travelled somewhere in the region of 40 to 50 miles, on foot, from the low lying fertile plains of Moab up 1300m up through the desert mountains up to Bethlehem which was high above the plains. They complete this journey just as the barley harvest in commencing. Now the barley harvest only lasted a matter of days. And so Ruth allows herself no times for recuperation after their arduous journey. She loses no time at all in getting out into the fields to see about getting some means of support for herself and Naomi.

But let us note God's provision in this. We see it in each of the 5 verses from ch1:22 to 2:4

No.1 Just in Time
22 So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.

They arrive just in time. A few days later and they would have missed it. A month or two earlier and they would have had a long wait. God brought them to Bethlehem at just the right time. To do that the news of his provision that we read of in 1v6 had to get to Naomi at the right time. She had to leave, and get to Bethlehem. And yet God ordered all these things just so that they were perfect. God orders even the details of our calendars.

No.2 Just the Man
1 Now Naomi had a relative on her husband's side, from the clan of Elimelech, a man of standing, whose name was Boaz.

Another providence of God. We are introduced for the first time to the man who will transform the story. Boaz, the redeemer. Naomi hasn't been left entirely helpless. God has provided someone. God does that for his people - he provides others to be there for them, to help and to encourage. He often goes before us into situations and has someone there. He provides for his people.

No.3 Just the law needed
2 And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, "Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favour." Naomi said to her, "Go ahead, my daughter."

Ruth asks to go out and glean in the fields. Again this is the providence of God. God had decreed in Lev 19:9-10

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.

He reinforced in Deut 24:19-21

19 When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow

When his people harvested the land they were not to harvest right to the edges and right into the corners of the field, nor were they to gather anything that they had dropped. Instead they were to leave that for the poor, the fatherless, and the foreigner. Ruth was all three. But God had provided for her in his law.

No.4 Just the field
3 So she went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech.

There were no fields as we know them. Just vast open tracks of land. Divided and subdivided without fences or hedges. Each owner knew his land. It would have been marked off with a boundary stone at the edge. He may have had several pieces of land, not necessarily side by side. But to the outsider it would have looked like a jumbled patchwork. Of all the fields in Bethlehem she could have picked with the patchwork facing her, Ruth happened to pick Boaz's field. The Hebrew of this verse is great - The author literally writes, "Her chance chanced upon a field belonging to Boaz". One commentator says, "you can imagine the author with his tongue firmly in his bearded Jewish cheek saying, "As luck would have it.". Here is God at work behind the scenes again, directing and guiding her to the right place. See how God directs even our footsteps!

And then the fifth of these five co-incidences:

No.5 Look who just turned up
4 Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, "The LORD be with you!" "The LORD bless you!" they called back.

Ruth happens to pick the right field, and "Just then" Boaz happens to come along to see how the workers are getting on!

In the life of Ruth it looked like a series of co-incidences, but for a sovereign God there are no accidents.

So it is in your life. God is at work behind the scenes. He is ordering everything. It is no accident that you are living where you are, when you are. It is no accident that you are doing what you do and living where you are any more than it was an accident that it was these particular workers in this particular field in ancient Bethlehem.

God weaves the threads of our lives. Think of what strange threads God has been weaving in your lives. The providences that for some of you brought you to Christ. The people who spoke to you. Or the providences that brought you to this church. Or the providences that happen each day - some are painful providences, some are delightful. God is at work. He is working all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.

God has placed you here for a purpose. He has orchestrated the events of your life thus far for a reason.

If you are not a Christian, it is to continually point you to the God you need, the God who gives you everything, the God who is at the same time giving blessings to you, and yet angry with you.

And if you are a Christians that is immensely comforting. And we need to learn to see his handiwork in these things and to praise him for it, and even when things seem to be dark and dismal here is a truth we can still cling to - God is sovereignly orchestrating the events of your life, so that like Ruth you will reach a point, where you can look back to the hard times and see the reason why they happened, and how God had meant it for good.

Doesn't it excite you to know that everything in your life is under God's control - that even your past can be used by him, that whatever circumstances you are in God has brought them about for your good! That doesn't mean you can sit back and do nothing - Ruth has just walked 40 miles, climbed a mountain and now is out working in the heat of the day to scrape together enough food for herself and her mother-in-law to live on. She isn't swanning around the field, fluttering her eyelids, looking for a man to marry. Neither is she sitting at home feeling sorry for herself, waiting to see what God is going to do - she is out there working for all she is worth. But as she throws herself into living her life, and providing for those that God has placed in her care, then God guides her in the paths she should go in.

How wonderful and exciting. As you seek to follow, and to get on with living your life God's way - he will orchestrate everything for your good.

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