Squaring her shoulders to the road at dawn, Ruth set out with determination. Here she was, in a new country, with new people, a new culture. She must provide for her mother-in-law, Naomi, or Mara, meaning bitter, as she’d asked to be called.
Ruth glanced to the left, and to the right. She knew she was vulnerable. Not only was she a woman, but she was a foreign woman. She knew how Israelites generally felt about Moabites. They were, after all, not on good terms, for centuries. Did she pray to Naomi’s God, the God of Israel, to ask for his favor this day? For protection?
The sun was fully over the horizon now. She observed a field in the distance. How would she know who might let her glean, or who would chase her out? She would have to take a chance. Heart-pounding, she approached the field, and noticed a man on the far side. Would he take advantage of her? There were no others around yet this day. Would he look kindly on her?
Boaz made his way through his fields as he did every morning; scanning in the distance, he observed his healthy field and whispered gratitude to Yahweh for his provision yet again. Then his gaze settled on something, someone, who didn’t look like one of his hired workers, or one of the other women who regularly gleaned in his field. He walked over to his field manager, and inquired about this new woman in his fields.
Ah yes, Naomi’s daughter-in-law, he understood. He knew the women had made their way back from Moab, as the whole town was abuzz with their return and the new Moabitess. He had heard of their ill-fortune, of the deaths of Naomi’s husband and sons. He had heard of all that this young woman had done for her mother-in-law, how she left her native land and her father and mother. How lucky for her that she made her way to my fields, he thought as he approached her.
Naomi waited anxiously for Ruth to return. Should she have ventured out alone, a foreign woman, new to town? Maybe she should have urged Ruth to wait, rather than give her permission to go looking for a field to glean. Wait for what? Naomi thought. More hardship?
In the distance, Naomi spotted her, hunched over with a great weight, but with a spring in her step. Ruth approached, and dropped her huge bundle of gleaned wheat in front of Naomi’s feet. She handed her a parcel of food left from lunch, and wiped her brow. Naomi couldn’t believe her eyes – the provision of food, the clear favor Ruth had found in the eyes of someone. “May he be blessed by the LORD, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi exclaimed.
What a difference, from the woman who had asked to be called Mara, whom the Lord had “brought back empty” (Ruth 1:21). The Lord had not forgotten them, he had not left them. Quite the opposite, actually. How he had providentially cared for them! That Ruth would find the field of Boaz, a kinsman redeemer no less (more on that later)! That he would look kindly on her, that he would care for her, that he would provide for her and Naomi. That Ruth, having left everything in Moab to follow Naomi and her God to Bethlehem, had found refuge under the wings of the Lord (2:12).
The Lord’s lovingkindness had not forsaken them. Rather, it was providentially at work through the events of the lives of Ruth and Naomi, up to this point in our story. We have the benefit of knowing the life-changing impact of God’s providence that day, when Ruth and Boaz met, that God would eventually bring the salvation of the world through the family line of these ordinary people.
Providence is “God’s seeing to everything.”Piper
Have you considered that God’s kindness is providentially at work in your life? That the events of your life, the good and the bad, are ordained by the God who loves you with an unending hesed? Can you see it?
John Piper paraphrases the idea of God’s providence in this way: “it is God’s seeing to everything.” All the purposes that he has he will accomplish, from a kingdom perspective: “I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying ‘My counsel shall stand and I will accomplish my purpose’” (Is. 46:9-10), and also in our individual lives: “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).
When we see God’s providential hand at work, for our good and his glory, how do we respond? In praise, with gratitude, to the God who does not forsake us, but rather demonstrates his lovingkindness to us again and again.