[u]God Is Weaving Your Story Into His Story[/u]
By Rich Carmicheal
Scripture Reading: The Book of Ruth
One of the reasons we can find such encouragement as we read a Bible story such as Ruth, is because the God who was at work then in that story is the same God who is at work now in your story and my story (all part of His story!). The story of Ruth is a reminder of how great our God is, and how eager and able He is to work through our circumstances (no matter how dire) to accomplish His glorious purposes. Consider, for example, the following truths about God embedded in the story of Ruth:
The Lord is able to bring us through adversity. Ruth and Naomi obviously faced much adversity. Naomi, for example, lost her husband and her two sons, and was left without them in the foreign land of Moab. She thought she would also lose her two daughters-in-law since she had no other sons for them to marry. Ruth, however, decided to return to Judah with Naomi despite the cost.
Imagine what this meant to Ruth. Not only had she lost her husband, but in pledging to return with Naomi, it seemed she would never marry and never have children. This would mean a loss of provision and security, and a life of poverty for her and Naomi. The Lord, however, was faithful to bring them through all their adversity and into His wonderful blessings for their lives.
If you find yourself in the midst of difficulties and hardships, you may take great comfort in the fact that stories with great endings, such as the story of Ruth, often, if not always, include seasons of great adversity. Though such times are certainly not pleasant, they nevertheless have the power to transform our lives and character (for example, see Hebrews 12:7-11 and James 1:2-3). As you look to the Lord, He will be faithful to bring you through adversity and to allow the hardships to work good in you.
The Lord honors commitment. The story of Ruth also illustrates how the Lord honors and responds to those who commit themselves to Him and His people. Consider the depth of Ruths commitment: "
Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord deal with me ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me" (1:16-17). Ruth was making a lifelong pledge to Naomi, to Gods people and to the true and living God. In doing so, she was leaving behind her family and forsaking the false gods of Moab.
Consider also Naomis commitment to the Lord. Even though she felt that the Lords hand was against her (1:13, 21) she nevertheless did not lose sight of Him as God. In the midst of her grief, she continued to acknowledge Him as Lord, and referred to Him as Shaddai, the "Almighty" (1:20), a title emphasizing His authority, sovereignty and omnipotence. The Lord honored her honesty and commitment, and in time brought her through the bitter season.
The dramatic change in Ruth and Naomis situation powerfully illustrates how God blesses those who are devoted and committed to Him. As we set our hearts on Him and commit ourselves fully to Him, even (or especially) in the difficult times, we can know with complete confidence that He will always be faithful as our God, and that He will in all things work for our good.
The Lord guides us. An interesting phrase is used in Ruth 2:3 to describe how Ruth made her way to Boazs field: "As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz
." The phrase "as it turned out" (KJV "and her hap was
") is not intended to mean this happened by coincidence, but is intended to draw attention to the fact that it was not by coincidence. In other words, it "turned out" this way because God was at work behind the scenes.
There is great security and comfort in knowing that the Lord prepares the way for us. As we entrust ourselves to Him, even as Ruth did, we can be confident that He will be faithful to direct our paths, even if we are not always fully aware of His providential working. In time, we will see how He has perfectly fit every piece of our lives into place to accomplish His glorious purposes. Our part is simply to trust Him and walk in His ways.
The Lord meets our needs. The Book of Ruth also illustrates how compassionate the Lord is toward the needy. He is the One who came to "the aid of His people by providing food for them
" (1:6). He is the One who had established the laws that enabled needy people, such as Ruth, to glean in harvest fields (Lev. 23:22; Deut. 24:19). He is the One who provided kinsman-redeemers (such as Boaz) to help relatives in need (Lev. 25:25, 47-49). God cares for the needy and meets their needs. You can trust Him to meet your needs as you look to Him. As the Apostle Paul shares, "
my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19).
The Lord covers us with His kindness. One of the key themes in the story of Ruth is the Lords kindness. Naomis initial prayer/blessing over Ruth was that the Lord would show kindness toward her, as she had shown kindness toward Naomi (1:8). The Lord did indeed show tremendous kindness toward Ruth, expressing much of it through the kindness of Boaz (2:20) who provided for her, protected her, and eventually took her to be his wife.
The Hebrew word translated "kindness" in Ruth 1:8 and 2:20 is hesed (chesed), a word rich in meaning and translated in a variety of ways in the Old Testament including "love," "kindness," "lovingkindness," "unfailing love," and "mercy." It is a word deeply rooted in loyalty to a covenant relationship, and is an expression of love and kindness based on that relationship. One definition of Gods hesed is "Gods consistent, reliable allegiance and willingness to do good on behalf of another." Another definition is "steadfast love and faithfulness born out of a sense of caring and commitment." Gods hesed surrounds us (Psa. 32:10), satisfies us (Psa. 90:14), supports us (Psa. 94:18), preserves us (Psa. 119:88), protects us (Psa. 40:11), comforts us (Psa. 119:76), abounds toward us (Psa. 86:5), fills the earth (Psa. 33:5), endures forever (Psa. 136:1) and follows us all the days of our lives (Psa. 23:6).
The story of Ruth is a beautiful picture of Gods hesed toward her. As she devoted herself wholeheartedly to Him (1:16) and took refuge under His wings (2:12), He, in His faithfulness, showered her (and Naomi) with His love and kindness. Likewise, as we take refuge in Him, we can know with absolute confidence that He will be faithful to pour out His love and kindness toward us. We can "trust in Gods unfailing love [hesed] for ever and ever" (Psa. 52:8).
The Lord honors and blesses godliness. The story of Ruth takes place during the time of the Judges (Ruth 1:1), a dark period in Israels history when the people embraced idolatry and did evil in the eyes of the Lord. In complete contrast to this, Boaz and Ruth lived godly lives. Ruth, for example, forsook false gods, made a wholehearted commitment to the Lord, and became known as "a woman of noble character" (3:11). Boazs outstanding character is evident in a number of ways including his relationship with his workers (2:4-5), his kindness and purity toward Ruth, and in his integrity in allowing the closest kinsman-redeemer the first opportunity to marry Ruth, though this meant that Boaz might lose the woman he very much wanted to marry. The Lord honored Boaz and Ruth for their godliness, and blessed them with marriage, a son, and a godly heritage that included their great grandson David who became king, a man after Gods own heart.
As you and I also live in a time of much spiritual darkness, the story of Ruth is a great reminder to press on in godliness. The Lord is watching, and He is faithful to bless your life, and also to bless others through your godly life.
The Lord is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. How could Ruth and Naomi have ever imagined the amazing ending to their story? Though Naomi had given up hope, she discovered that with the Lord there is always hope! He was able to provide food where there had been famine (1:6, 22); He was able to provide a kinsman-redeemer to help Naomi and Ruth (2:20) and become Ruths husband (4:13); He was able to help Ruth conceive and give birth to a son (4:13), providing for Naomi a family she did not think was possible. The Lord made a way for Naomi and Ruth where there seemed to be no way, and He can do the same for you and me! He is "able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us
" (Eph. 3:20).
The Lord includes our story in the story of Christ. One of the greatest truths about the Lord in the story of Ruth is connected with the genealogy that ends the book. That genealogy also appears, almost word for word, in the genealogy of Jesus Christ recorded in the first chapter of Matthew. One of the changes in the wording is that Matthew mentions that Obeds mother was Ruth. Just imagine, the Lord wove Ruths life, a Moabitess, into the story of Christ! What a powerful testimony to the grace of our Lord!
And equally amazing is the fact that our Lord is giving us the grace to be part of the story of Christ as well. As believers, we are now part of His family, and we have the opportunity to live for Him, serve Him, proclaim Him, exalt Him, reflect His character and minister in His Name. Whereas Boaz and Ruths lives pointed forward to Christ, our lives point backward to His death and resurrection, forward to His coming again, and also to the present as the day of salvation in Christ (our Redeemer!). What a glorious privilege and responsibility! Lets renew our devotion and commitment to the One who is graciously weaving our story into the story of the ages!