I admit it’s hard for me to sit still. I feel wired to get into motion. Do stuff. Make stuff happen. I like to see a problem, come up with a solution, and execute it. But often, in so doing, I merely add to the problem. Ultimately, it is God Almighty Who moves me forward in life, despite my propensity to move myself backward.
And Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “Should I not seek for you rest, so that it may go well with you? Is not Boaz our kinsman, with whose maidens you were? Behold: tonight he is winnowing barley at the threshing floor. Wash yourself; anoint yourself and put your mantle on you; and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he is finished eating and drinking. And it will come to pass, when he lies down, you will learn the place where he lie, and go and uncover the place of his feet, and lie down there. And he will tell you what you should do.” And she said to her, “All you have said I will do.” And she went down to the threshing floor and did all that her mother-in-law had commanded. And when Boaz had eaten and drank, and was merry in his heart, he came to lie down at the edge of the heap. And she came secretly and uncovered the place of his feet and lay down. And in the middle of the night, the man startled, and turned suddenly, and—behold! A woman was lying at his feet! And he said, “Who are you?” And she said, “I am Ruth, your handmaid; spread out your skirt over your handmaid, because you are a redeemer.” And he said, “Blessed are you to the Lord, my daughter! For this last kindness you have shown is better than your first—because you did not go out to the young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear: all that you have said I will do for you, because all my people in the city know that you are a woman of great excellence (virtue). And now, truly I am a redeemer; however, there is a redeemer nearer than I. Stay here tonight until morning. If he will redeem you, good: let him redeem you. If he does not want to redeem you, I will redeem you—as the Lord lives. Lie down until morning.” And she lay down at his feet until the morning, then rose and left before a man could recognize his fellow. For he had said, “do not let it be known that a woman came to the threshing floor.” And he said, “Take your cloak that is on you and grasp it.” And she grasped it, and he measured six measures of barley and put it on her and he came into the city. Now she came to her mother-in-law, and she said, “How are you, my daughter?” And she told her all that the man had done to her. And she said, “He gave me these six measures of barley, because he said, ‘Do not go empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’” And she said, “Sit, my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out, because the man will not rest until he is finished with the matter today.”
This powerful story is yet another consistent Old Testament example of the significance of trusting in God. This time, however, instead of the focus of the story being a Jewish descendant wrestling with trust in God, it is a foreigner. Ruth is a Moabitess, and after a series of tragedies in chapter 1 has decided to remain faithful to her mother-in-law. This act of fidelity and loyalty was worthy of commemoration, and when Naomi re-entered her homeland, bringing Ruth along, their fame had spread because of Ruth’s loyalty. In those days, Ruth and Naomi couldn’t exactly start a bakery under a 501(c)3 corporation charter; they had to operate within the boundaries of that culture and that time. Ruth went to work with the servants of a rich man, hoping to gather enough sheaves left over to provide for her and Naomi. By remaining with Naomi, she had come to rest “under the wings” (2.12) of God Almighty. In trusting God, she placed her future and destiny in His hands. Though Naomi engineered the nighttime meeting between Boaz and Ruth, it was God Who destined the results: the spreading of Boaz’s skirt over Ruth was a symbol of being the redeemer-kinsman who would assume financial responsibility for Ruth according to Law. We will see this imagery again in later Old Testament scriptures, most notably Ezekiel—where God has spread His skirt over Israel. Boaz, abiding by the Law, offers the right of redemption to a nearer kinsman, and when he refuses, willingly accepts it himself. Thus, Naomi’s and Ruth’s lives are saved and well-provided for, thanks to the Provider Who was watching them. Though low in culture and status, He had cared for them and provided for them. And Ruth turned out to be no average woman: her offspring was the very lineage of the Messiah Himself, since her great-grandson was King David himself.
This story becomes more powerful to me every time I read it. Maybe it’s because the older I get, the more dependent on God’s provision I become (as He designed it). The story resonates with me because I see myself in it. I see a foreigner, a cast-off, a nobody—forgotten by society, scraping through the best she can. How she must have battled depression and anger and a generally bad attitude! And yet God was watching her the whole time, subtly moving her destiny toward the beautiful moment of provision and protection that He had designed for her all along. She could never have done this on her own. She could never have even come up with the idea. She simply threw herself on the mercy of God, and God took care of the rest.
My natural tendency is to believe that my hard work and ingenuity will ultimately engineer my destiny. But that’s a lie: my future is entirely in God’s hands. All I can really do—despite my efforts—is to come to trust in the shadow of His wings. If I do that, He takes care of the rest. He leads me to where I need to go. He opens the right door and closes the wrong ones. He does this, and I am merely faithful to Him.
“The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under Whose wings thou art come to trust” (2.12). This passage says it all. The trust that this foreigner had for the Lord God’s provision and protection is a model for me and you. Let’s follow it today.