Recently life has felt disorienting. I have learned that God takes me into these rather unpleasant seasons for his loving purposes. I still don’t like them.
The book of Ruth is a masterfully written story that informs me in these types of seasons. The backdrop to the book is the dark period of the judges. This was a time of social chaos and spiritual morass.
The book opens with the focus on Naomi. She, her husband, and two sons head off to Moab during a severe famine in their land. While in Moab her husband dies. Her two sons marry Moab women. In time her two sons die as well. We are not given the causes of these tragic deaths. The consequences are steep though, for without a male figure there is no provision, no income, no protection, no advocacy, no passing on of the family line, no future at all. This is the harsh reality that Naomi finds herself in. Eventually she learns that circumstances have improved in her home country and she returns, along with Ruth, her Moab daughter-in-law.
Chapter 2 picks up on a seemingly insignificant moment. Ruth steps to the fore of the story. We must remember that her plight is even worse than Naomi’s. At least Naomi is among her own people. But what future is there for a widowed, Gentile woman? It is important not to gloss over this circumstance. Ruth is destitute. She has no foreseeable future. Many of us might relate, feeling that we are trapped, uncertain of our own future.
Some of us may look at our circumstances and the primary impact they create is a vacuum of hope. It could be a bleak health report. It might be a wayward child or a non-responsive spouse. Some deal with organizations that cause them to feel isolated, insignificant, or useless. These realities can have a wearing effect on us. It’s as if our will to fight simply wanes away. Soon we find ourselves on emotional fumes, listless, hopeless, feeling stuck or trapped. Identifying the accumulative impact is key to moving forward.
Ruth’s action in the opening lines of chapter 2 are helpful here. What does she do? She said, “Let me go glean from the fields.” I do not want to make more out of this than what is presented in the text, yet the choice she makes is key.
The lesson is this: Whereas God is our ultimate provider, we are to do the simple things we are responsible for each day. Ruth had little she was in control of in her world, but she could go glean. At least they’d have some bread for dinner. It was not much. But it was something.
Her simple act of getting out of bed in the morning, putting one foot in front of the other, and doing the ordinary thing moved her life forward. The rest of the story is well known. In the author’s tongue-in-cheek fashion it is written that Ruth “just so happens” to find herself in the field of one of Naomi’s relatives. And it “just so happens” that this relative was a good, kind-hearted and generous man. His name was Boaz. We know that Ruth eventually married Boaz. As the story ends we are given a lineage that ends with the name David. Ruth, a destitute, widowed Gentile woman with no future that she could see would become the great grandmother of the greatest king in Israel’s history outside of the Messiah.
How did this all come about? Well, it started on a bleak day with not much else to be done than the simple thing that could be done. Simple, responsible faithfulness.
Of course, in the midst of Ruth’s circumstances and actions was a loving, life-giving, providing God. God was at work in the midst of their ordinary choices.
What simple acts of faith and trust and faithfulness are before you today? How about those you are tending to?