I have a confession: I am a workaholic. Don’t believe me? Ask my wife. Well, actually you can’t ask her right now because she has been in bed for two hours, and I am up writing a blog. Now being a hard worker is a good trait, but the reason why I drift into being a workaholic isn’t a virtue. It is because, in my own mind, if I work hard enough, pull enough hours, push a little harder I can provide for myself and my family. In reality I should be trusting that God will provide for me, because he’s my Dad and he said he would. My hard work should be to glorify him, rather than a nervous obsession of asking if I did enough.
I think many of us struggle with similar anxieties. We would rather have control of the situation thinking we could solve any problem that arises. What we don’t realize is trying to control everything is as futile as grasping at the wind. The Bible provides so many great stories that will help comfort and encourage us to trust God to provide for us. We are going to look at one today in Ruth 2.
Last week we talked about how God was working even in the bad situations as shown in Ruth 1. In Ruth chapter 2 we see how God provides for us in the day to day. He doesn't immediately come in and fix everything, but he is constantly moving and working so hundreds of moving pieces come together at the perfect time to make our messy lives into his beautiful masterpiece.
We can pull out three ways in which God provides for us in Ruth 2:
1.God provides when we don’t expect it.
Ruth 2:3“and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz,”
What I love about verse 3 is that leading up to this, we find Ruth leaving her and Naomi’s home (if they even had a home), and searching for food. She was going to a random field and picking up scraps of barely the reapers missed. The Bible makes it sound like it was an accident that she landed on Boaz’ field. “She happened” sounds like she could have chosen Boaz’s field or a different field, and if she would have chosen a different field then everything would have been ruined. God’s plan for her would have been crushed.
Often times that is how God’s plan seems to us. Random chance. What Ruth did not see is what we do not see in our lives either. That God was working a plan. What might seem random, even bad, might just be God working on making things better!
2. God provides through his people and his laws.
Ruth 2:12 “The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”
God already had set up a system to care for the poor and needy. In the Old Testament he made laws that required landowners to leave the corners of their fields and anything that fell on the ground to the poor. (Lev 19:9-10). He was looking out for Ruth and other widows for thousands of years. Even though there were laws, there also needed to be Godly men who followed God’s laws to provide for her. That’s where Boaz comes into the story. He was a Godly, rich, relative of her husband that genuinely cared for Ruth’s well-being.
For us today, if we are in a place of hardship rest assured that God is preparing a godly person to come alongside of you to motivate, challenge, or encourage you for whatever you might be facing. The challenge for most of us today is to become a “Boaz” to somebody else! Boaz saw himself as a tool which God was using to bless others. How can God use you to bless others this week?
3. God provides what we need...and then some!
Ruth 2:17 “So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. “
Ruth left the house that morning in hopes of finding just a little to eat for her and Naomi. She came back with an ephah of barley (over 5 gallons of barley!!!!). She likely could not have carried anymore!
In chapter 1 we found out that Ruth and Naomi originally traveled back to Bethlehem in hopes of finding food. They had heard there was a good crop so they came back. God provided them with what they were looking for, and what they needed: food. As we continue reading Ruth, we will learn God then provided more: a redeemer and provider. If you remember from Ruth chapter 1, Naomi believed there was no one for Ruth to marry in Bethlehem. Naomi essentially told Ruth if you move back to Bethlehem you will live alone and in poverty. So she told Ruth to leave and go home to be with her family instead. Fortunately God knew better. He knew that Naomi could not provide a husband and provider, but that he could provide that for Ruth.
SO WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR YOU?
You might be in a bad spot today. You don’t know how God is going to provide for a circumstance in your life. That’s okay, because often times God’s will for your life will look like happenstance to us, just like it did when Ruth walked into Boaz’s field. But you can be confident that God is working and providing for you in way that's greater than you can’t imagine.
So what do we do in the meantime? Ruth had no idea how God was going to provide. So she volunteered to go out the fields and do extremely hard physical labor. She did what she had already committed to, helping provide and take care of Naomi. Just like Ruth, when you are waiting for God to come through, keep doing what you are called to do. Christians can become so concerned with finding out the “hidden” part of God’s will, and how he will provide each step, we forget to follow what he already told us to do in his Word. So as you are waiting for God to provide, be a good parent, or spouse. Honor God in your workplace, be a good church member. Commit to growing more in Love with God, and trust that he moving and working to take your messy life and make it something beautiful.
If you ever want to find out how dusty your house is you should go adopt a puppy. This is coming from a guy whose mom cleaned a house every week without fail and who was forced to learn how to make a bed better than an army recruit before age 12 (not exaggerating). Despite this elite training however, our puppy still manages to find every bug, every speck of dust, every crumb, and every chew-able decoration in our house. We can vacuum in the morning and by evening our living room looks like an old western as dust tumble-weeds roll across the floor!
The truth behind this story besides it allowing me to vent a little is that our puppy's ability to find dust makes for a great example for our lives. Just like we want clean houses, God wants our house (that's our souls) to be clean. By clean I mean holy. To be clean we can straighten up the shelves of our lives, we can vacuum the floors, and we can even wipe down the baseboards every couple of months, but there is still more that can be done.
For those of you running to force your spouses to read this post right now, I have to apologize in advance. I don't think you really can ever get rid of all of the dust in your homes. I know you can get rid of it in your lives though, and it isn't by becoming an elite cleaning expert. It comes down to realizing that in our souls, our temples (1 Cor. 3:16), and in our lives we aren't the cleaning lady (or fellow). We aren't even the ones holding the dust pan. We are the puppy. God does the cleaning in our lives, and our job is to continue to root out the dust, the decay, and the bugs so that he can cleanse us. This week, let's allow God to clean our lives through his holiness.
-Devin & Sarah Q.
Have you ever made plans only to see them falter? I have many times. If I were to be honest according to my plans I should have been rich and famous by now… I don’t have to tell you that did not work out too well. I often make plans that fall short. I make financial goals, fitness goals, career goals only to see them constantly fail.
All of us have personal experience in plans failing. Sometimes its because we give up, other times it's situations that are out of our control. Maybe the broken plans are for heartbreaking reasons. Relationships fail, people die. So how are we to respond when life takes a downward turn? The Bible is filled with these types of occurrences, reminding us that God allows hardships, but He is continually working for us and through us. In our Lifegroups for the next month or so we are going to look at the book of Ruth to see how God is moving even when our plans don’t work out.
"So how are we to respond when life takes a downward turn? "
In Ruth 1 we find three ladies whose lives did not turn out like they wanted or hoped for. In fact, when we find them, they were in an awful spot. Because of a famine in Israel, Naomi, her husband and her two sons moved to Moab, an enemy land to the east of Israel. While there Naomi’s sons married two local girls Ruth and Orpah. Very quickly after they moved there Naomi's husband died. Within 10 years, Naomi’s two sons died as well. Naomi and her two daughters were widowed and alone in Moab.
Now this would be heartbreaking under any circumstances. But in that day it was especially bad because women did not have the same privileges as today. Widowed=destitute. Women did not work outside the home. They had no way to support themselves or their family. If a woman’s husband died she would either have to remarry or beg for a living.
When bad things happen it is natural to wonder and ask God why. In Ruth 1, Naomi was still grieving. She went from being married and having two sons to losing everything. Alone in a foreign land. In the first chapter of Ruth we are given insight into a heart wrenching situation. These 3 women are moving from Moab back to Bethlehem in hopes of finding a better life and enough food to feed themselves. Although these two daughters were all that Naomi had in the world, she encourages them to go back to their homeland so they could find a new husband. A new husband was all the hope that a widow had of escaping poverty and begging.
Orpah took Naomi up on the offer and decided to go home, but Ruth would not leave. When a woman in that day married a man she married into the family. The husband's family was her family. So much so that if her husband died and there was a living brother, that brother in law would have to marry her. The problem was both brothers had died and there was no one left to take care of them. But Ruth was still loyal to her commitment. She loved Naomi more than herself and was not going to leave her. This was a huge sacrifice because logically speaking, Ruth was a Moabite. Jews looked down on Moabites, interracial marriage was viewed in that day similar to what it was a hundred years ago in our own county. A Jewish man would not marry a non-Jew if he cared about what others thought about it or social expectations. So when Ruth declared that she would move back to Bethlehem with Naomi she understood that meant she would likely be a widow in a foreign land the rest of her life, even after Naomi was not around. (But thank God he had other plans!)
"You must remember that just because you can’t see how God is working doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have a plan for you!"
We have the privilege to see the whole story. Something that Naomi and Ruth couldn’t when they were living the story. God was working both in Ruth’s personal story and for his redemptive story. In the chapters that follow we are going to see how God not only provides food and resources for these two widows, he also uses this moabite widow in a mighty way to effect the world.
How was God working on his story? Read the last word of the book of Ruth: “David”. Ruth ended up being the great great grandmother to King David. Which also means that Ruth was a great grandmother to Jesus himself. Could God have used someone else? Yes, his story was not dependant on Ruth, but Ruth had an amazing opportunity to be a part of God’s story in carrying on the line to Jesus and to beautifully show God's redemptive love.
In the moment when Naomi and Ruth could only see their hardships and troubles. What they do not see is there future victory. You might be in a situation similar to them today. You might be on a figurative road paved with hardship and suffering just like a Naomi and Ruth were on a literal road that was. You must remember that just because you can’t see how God is working doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have a plan for you! Romans 8:28 says “ And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”An amazing thing about when God moves it simultaneously benefits us as his children and brings himself glory. God made Ruth and Naomi lives better while also allowing a family line for Jesus to come through and save the world.
This week what is an area that you need to trust that God is working in? Are there hardships or trials that you don’t have a solution to? I encourage you to start reading through the book of Ruth and pray that God would show you how to trust him in the good days and the bad. The secret to knowing what to do when your plans fail is to trust that God is working.
(Over the next few weeks I'll be discussing this idea more)