One of the great lines in the book of Ruth is “as it turned out” (2:3). It’s a funny insert from the writer while at the same time a profound reflection on the providence of God. “Providence,” which comes from the root “provide,” is the theological truth that God oversees all of history and every human life for his good and glory. Theologian Stanley Grenz writes, “According to the Bible, God does not set the wheels of the universe in motion and then abandon it to run on its own. Instead, he enters into relationship with what he makes…providence focuses on God’s activity in guiding the historical process with the goal of bringing to pass his intention for the world he creates.” Providence affirms that God is not absent, God is not distantly related to our world, but is actively engaged in the details of our lives to carry his good purposes froward.
Providence is a big theme of the book of Ruth. Unlike many other Old Testament books, Ruth contains no extraordinary events, no supernatural occurrences, no miracles, no angelic appearances. In other words, the lives of the characters in this story are a lot like our lives: work, rest, tragedy, loss, drudgery, eating, sleeping, relating. And yet, though the narrator never mentions God, there are many signals that God is powerfully at work in the ordinary turns of events in this story. God is at work even in orchestrating the seemingly “accidental” way Ruth shows up in the field of Naomi’s generous relative, Boaz.
What does believing in providence do for our every day lives. At least two things: it brings comfort, knowing that God is ordering our steps no matter how silent God may appear to be at times. It brings great comfort knowing that you cannot mess up God’s will for your life. Second, it brings courage to take bold risks for the sake of love. If you know you are held by the strong hands of God’s providence, it frees you up to be courageous in your generosity, hospitality and kindness, knowing that even if you mess up or lose out, God is ordering all things for good. We see a lot of courage in the story of Ruth from all the characters, and one reason for that is because they all believed so deeply in the active providence of God.
In preparation for worship, think about your own life and the ways you have seen God’s “fingerprints” acting through ordinary circumstances to bring about his good purposes for you. Also think about current trials where you are struggling to see any goodness in his ways. Thank God for his good provision and ask God for faith to trust his silent activity in your life. He loves you and he is carrying out his good purposes for you even now.
Our weekly worship guide can be found here.
RUTH 2:1–3, 15–23
And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband's, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz.
2 And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter.
3 And she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers: and her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech.
15 And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not:
16 And let fall also some of the handfuls of purpose for her, and leave them, that she may glean them, and rebuke her not.
17 So she gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned: and it was about an ephah of barley.
18 And she took it up, and went into the city: and her mother in law saw what she had gleaned: and she brought forth, and gave to her that she had reserved after she was sufficed.
19 And her mother in law said unto her, Where hast thou gleaned to day? and where wroughtest thou? blessed be he that did take knowledge of thee. And she shewed her mother in law with whom she had wrought, and said, The man's name with whom I wrought to day is Boaz.
20 And Naomi said unto her daughter in law, Blessed be he of the Lord, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead. And Naomi said unto her, The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen.
21 And Ruth the Moabitess said, He said unto me also, Thou shalt keep fast by my young men, until they have ended all my harvest.
22 And Naomi said unto Ruth her daughter in law, It is good, my daughter, that thou go out with his maidens, that they meet thee not in any other field.
23 So she kept fast by the maidens of Boaz to glean unto the end of barley harvest and of wheat harvest; and dwelt with her mother in law.