Ruth 2: Providence in Action
Providence or the act of being provident can be defined as having the foresight to prepare and make provision beforehand. Think of people rushing to the grocery store when snow is forecast. Paul used a form of this word when he admonished us to ‘ make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires’, Romans 13:14. ( You realize your old nature wants to influence you to plan ahead to make provision for sin.) When applied to God the idea of providence takes on a vastly larger dimension. God’s Providence encompasses everything in the universe from His creation of the universe and everything in it to every aspect of human existence. The providence of God is the divine superintendence of all things guiding them to their divinely predetermined end . Acts 17 reveals God chose the time and place where each person would be born. (Which also means God chose my parents for me.) Jesus said not even one sparrow could drop from the sky without God’s knowledge. He even knows the number of hairs on your head. In other words, God is sovereign in this universe and in complete control of all things. ( I Chronicles 29) Nothing is impossible for Him. Now consider how God accomplishes this through man’s free will: his sin; through faith and belief in Him; through unbelief: through love for Him[ as well as through hatred of Him; through our wrong decisions and mistakes is more than I can imagine, but believe nevertheless. Scripture tells us we are without excuse. This is a subject of which I cannot begin to understand, much less teach- for ‘ since ancient times, no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, Who acts of behalf of those who wait for Him.” ( Isaiah 64) This little story is a story of a BIG God- A God of Providence, as we observe providence in action.
Let me just remind you of this: God is too wise to be mistaken and He is too good to be unkind.
Today we meet another important person in this story of Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi. We meet Boaz. Boaz is the son of Salmon, the husband of Rahab the harlot who had helped the spies prepare for the battle of Jericho. ( Joshua 2)
Now let us look where providence has led Naomi and her daughter-in-law to so far. Remember, Elimelech had led his wife, Naomi, and two sons to Moab during a famine in Bethlehem. Providence would have Elimelech die there. Providence would work out its way through marriage of his two sons who would take Moabite wives and then the two sons died. So in the first chapter, Naomi loses her husband, and her two sons and ends up a widow with two widowed daughters-in- law in the alien country of Moab. Her bitterness and emptiness is evident in her words- “ It is more bitter for me than you, because the Lord’s hand has gone out against me. “ And upon return to Bethlehem, Naomi says: “ Call me Mara(bitter) because the Almighty has made my life bitter. I went away full , but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi(pleasant) ? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me? ( Ruth 1)
Are you bitter today? Do you have a grudge against God? Do you think He has mistreated you? Naomi certainly did, and she was very verbal about it. Naomi’s pain is BIG-and her God is small. We are about to see just how BIG – her God is and hopefully be encouraged because this BIG God is our God also.
Naomi wants her circumstances to change and who can blame her. But God will not change our circumstances until our hearts are changed. If our circumstances change for the better, but we remain the same, then we will become worse. Joanie Erickson was paralyzed from the neck down as a teenager. She was bitter over her circumstances and the life she was left with after her accident. However, God changed her heart and she was able to accept and even come to embrace the circumstances as those God had allowed for her good and His Glory. What an impact she has had on many through her ministry. And there are so many stories like that throughout history.
Chapter 1 of Ruth revealed how big, Naomi’s problems were. I know there are chapters in your life, when your problems loomed so BIG- you wondered how you would ever get out of them or through them. Perhaps you even find yourself today in a chapter in the story of your life where your problems seem so big and long lasting – they are all you can think about 24/7. Now in chapter 2, we will see God’s Providence in action and realize His Providence is always in action. Jesus said: “ My Father is always at work”. ( John 5:17) Chapter 2 of Ruth reveals how BIG our God is.
The first verse reveals this new all-important character in the story, Boaz. We are told in the first verse- Boaz is from the clan of Elimelech, a man of standing in the community. He is a kinsman of Naomi and thus a kinsman of Ruth. Boaz’s very existence is by the providence of God( as is mine and yours) – his father is Salmon, and his mother Rahab the harlot who helped the spies in preparing for the battle of Jericho.
Notice also it is harvest time, just after the celebration of Passover. All of these seemingly ordinary events are not ordinary at all when God’s Providential Timing is at work.
Here is what is important for us to note in this lesson;
*If we want God to work in our lives and circumstances and accomplish His gracious purposes, there are certain conditions we must meet. Let us observe these conditions in this story of God’s Amazing Grace and Providence.
- We must live by faith. Notice what kind of woman Ruth is. Verse 2 of Ruth 2: “ Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eye I find favor. (NIV)” “Let me now go to the field to glean ears of corn after him in whose sight is find grace.”(KJV) First of all notice God in His Providence, had already given an agricultural law through Moses in Leviticus and Deuteronomy regarding gleaning. Gleaning was the act of gathering after the reapers. God has said the owners were to leave this for the poor so that they might feed themselves. Notice also it required that the poor work if physically possible. Since it was God who gave the harvest, He had every right to tell the people how to use it. ( Has not God provided you and yours with a harvest? He has also told you what to do with it. You can keep 9/10ths of it but give 1/10 to Him for the storehouse of the temple, that there might be food in His house. ) This act took faith on the part of the young widow, Ruth. She was a Moabite, a hated enemy of Israel living in a foreign country. Her language may have been a barrier. She is a widow also- so in a society where a woman is a 2nd class citizen, she is also a widow,with no provider or human protector; and a foreigner in addition from the country Moab, hated by the Israelites. It took an act of faith on her part to even go out alone and into the field. She is in a very vulnerable position. She offers up a prayer- ‘ let me now go to the field and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I will find grace.” Where God guides-He provides. Ruth is industrious. She is willing to work hard. She also has faith the God of Israel will lead her and provide for her. She comes to a field , not knowing whose field it is, and there she gleans. The field ‘turns out’ to belong to Boaz. Let us note the sequence of events- going back over 10 years, Elimelech’s decision to go to Moab during a famine, a mistake on his part, that God will work together for good. His two sons marrying Moabite women and the dying- all appear to be a tragedy. Thus the return to Bethlehem where there is now food. They return at harvest time following the Passover and the field she happens to have selected belonged to Boaz. These lands would be the very lands, where David would tend his father’s flocks years later. Providence meets hard work through faith in God’s guidance and promises. As football coaches are fond of saying: Luck is when opportunity meets preparation. In other words providence does not favor the lazy. This is why we are to wait on the Lord and do good. James also reminds us – faith without works is dead. Ruth had faith and she was willing to work. Providence at work. Ezekiel saw the providential working of God in a vision which depicted God’s Throne that was moved here and there by ‘ wheels within wheels’ a complex, magnificent structure that pictures the awesome sovereignty of God who supervises everything and keeps it running.
- We must live by the Grace of God. Ruth’s prayer that morning was ‘ in whose sight I shall find grace.(KJV) ‘ What is grace? Undeserved favor. Favor bestowed on one who does not deserve favor. The channel of that grace will be through the man of Boaz. We have already been told Boaz is a man of standing and a kinsman of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech. His first words reveal what kind of man Boaz is in his greetings to the harvesters: “ The Lord be with you!” Can you not see his smiling face? Boaz loves his people, he loves hard work and hard workers. He prays for his workers. The admire him also they respond with “ The Lord bless you.” Is this not how the workplace should be? Boaz has a foreman- so he inquires of him – who is the young woman? ( Referring to Ruth) Obviously she has caught Boaz’s attention. Perhaps Ruth is a lovely young woman- we do not know. In my opinion- in Gods Providence- Boaz was in the beginning stages of falling in love. Not only is it harvest time. Not only did Ruth have the faith and courage to go work in the fields to glean grain for her and Naomi- she prayed she would find grace in the eyes of whose field she gleaned. She did not just happen to pick Boaz’s field, it was the providential will of God. At the same time, God led Boaz to this very field at the same time and placed Ruth where she was in Boaz’s sight. God was about to create a relationship that would completely alter her and Naomi’s circumstances and the circumstances of history. Now the picture of a kinsman redeemer is clearly portrayed here. Boaz is a picture of our Lord Jesus Christ in His role as kinsman redeemer and also as bridegroom of the church. Like Ruth, we were outside the family of God as lost sinners. We were spiritually bankrupt and starving with no good thing about us that we should deserve God’s favor. But God took the initiative to make a way for us to enter into His family and all His provisions – just as we will see Boaz.
Grace always means God makes the first move to come to our aid. He comes to our aid, not because we deserve it, but because He loves us. We love him, because He first loved us.( IJohn 4:19) Our kinsman redeemer, the Lord Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners.
Boaz as a type of kinsman redeemer, takes the first steps to meet Ruth’s needs. I believe because Boaz is a type of the Lord Jesus, Boaz first loved Ruth, perhaps from the first time he saw her.
Boaz first speaks to Ruth, for Ruth knew she must not speak to him first. Is it not amazing to you – that God through Jesus Christ has first spoken to us! “ God has spoken in these last days to us by His Son.” ( Hebrews 1:1-2) He speaks to us in His Grace. He will instruct us in the way of salvation- His gift to us. He will guide us with His eye. He will direct our path and the way we are to walk. In doing so, He promises to provide our needs and protect us.
Watch how Boaz speaks to Ruth. “ My daughter, listen to me.” Not ‘hey you’- but ‘my daughter’. Perhaps he called her that because she was younger, or maybe used it as a term of endearment. But already, Boaz is treating her like a family member. He tells her: “ Do not glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with my servant girls. Watch the field where the men are harvesting and follow after the girls. I have told the men not to touch you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the jars the men have filled.” This means Ruth would follow immediately after the reapers and get the first gleanings, the best part. Does not our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus promise to guide us with His counsel and afterwards receive us to glory? Has not Jesus shared with us his riches of mercy and love and grace? I did not deserve it. I did not merit it. It was all of grace. And now He instructs me how I should walk.
“At this she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed , “ Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me- a foreigner?” ( Ruth 2: 10) Ruth had prayed she would find grace in the eyes of the one in whose field she gleaned- her prayer has been answered. A prayer that God loves to answer of every sinner- hungry for salvation.
Ruth response was one of humility and gratitude. She knew she had done nothing to deserve this grace, this unmerited favor. I had done nothing to deserve the Lord Jesus’s love. I was certainly not worthy of His sacrifice. But He did it anyway. “ Were it not for grace, I can tell you where I’d be- wandering down some pointless road to nowhere my salvation up to me.” WERE IT NOT FOR GRACE.
“ I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband- how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” The Lord knew everything about me and He still loved me and died for me, sacrificed from me- amazing love – how can this be – a savior, a king would die for me?
Boaz’s grace is in response to Ruth’s faith. ( For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is a gift of God, not works, lest any man should boast. Eph. 2:8,9) Boaz recognizes Ruth has taken shelter under the wings of God. God is the source of blessing- but Boaz is the one through whom God delivers its. Ruth is now looking at her kinsman redeemer as the one who will provide her with all she needs for life. We are told in Hebrews 12 to fix our eyes on Jesus- the author and finisher of our faith. The enemies of your soul- the world, the flesh and devil want you to fix your eyes on your circumstances instead. The enemy wants you to look to the world for the solutions to your problems – not God and His promises.
“ Look at self and be distressed; Look at others and be depressed. Look at Jesus and you’ll be blessed.” And we are blessed- so that we might bless others.
Ruth then replies to Boaz: “ May I continue to find favor in your eyes my lord. You have given me comfort and have spoken kindly to your servant- though I do not have the standing of one of your servant girls.” At mealtime Boaz invites her to eat with him and shares his bread with her. After she leaves, Boaz tells his men- to leave some extra bundles of grain for her to pick up and not rebuke her.
Question: Do you pray each day that you will continue to do the things that find favor in the eyes of the Lord?
Ruth gleaned in the field the rest of the day until evening. She had accumulated an ephah of barley. A substantial amount that would feed her and Naomi for weeks.
At dinner as she and Naomi talk about the events of the day, as Naomi would be eager to know what had occurred. Where did you glean today? Whose field was it?
When Ruth tells her it is Boaz. Hope happens in the heart of this bitter woman. Boaz is a close relative –he is our kinsman redeemer! The Lord has not stopped showing His kindness to us .
So Ruth stayed close to the servant girls of Boaz and did just as he had instructed her.
Should we not rejoice in Jesus Christ our Kinsman Redeemer? Follow His instructions and do what He has told us to do. There is no reason to be hopeless for He has promised to take care of us and never place more on us that we can bear. He will never leave us or forsake us. Follow his instructions. For He has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him. Do you know Him? He is the God of all hope.
What we are reading about in the story of Ruth is a story of hope that does not disappoint us. It is not a story of unfounded optimism, but a story of hope based on the blessed assurance of God’s love and His promises to us. Ruth’s hope is not unfounded is it? It is based on the promises of Boaz that invokes confidence and trust in a man of standing.
Our source of hope is in Almighty God who has promised to work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
Paul quotes from Isaiah 64 in I Cor. 2:
“ No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him, but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.”
“ Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is in us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations for ever and ever. Amen.” ( Ephesians 3: 20.21)
Question: Do you believe God is able to do immeasurable more than all you can ask or imagine according to His power that is in you as a believer? Maybe a better question is not do you believe He can- but do you believe He will?
Ruth and Naomi are going to find relief from their suffering- redemption from their kinsman redeemer. They are going to find hope that will not disappoint.
Like Ruth- we do not need to look in any other fields that what our Kinsman Redeemer has provided. The grass always looks greener on the other side- but things are not what they seem. The Lord Jesus our Kinsman Redeemer can supply all our needs. And He knows we need hope that does not disappoint.
So I trust Him to supply me and mine with hope- for He is the God of All Hope.
Boaz is committed to protecting Ruth and Naomi. He has given them hope that will not disappoint.
Do you realize God’s love protects you? It is like a garment He spreads over you.
Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. ( I Cor.