“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whoa] have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:27-29
Life can be so messy sometimes. No one is exempt, trials and struggles land across the shoulders of good and bad people. It can be easy to start believing that God is disconnected, removed, and distant.
But what if God is really the One who sees every detail of our lives from start to finish, and plans ahead, knowing just what we will need, right when we need it? What if God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth could step into your situation and redeem it beyond anything you dare to dream? What if He is doing that in your life right now?
We catch a glimpse of God doing exactly that in the story of Ruth. You can read the whole story in the Bible in the book of Ruth, but I’ll give you a sort of condensed summary below.
Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi was living in Moab with her husband Elimilek (say that 5 times fast) and two sons, Mahlon and Kilion, and their wives, Orpah and Ruth. Originally, Naomi hailed from Bethlehem, but famine in the land had prompted their move to Moab.
In just a short time, tragedy strikes and Naomi loses her husband and both of her sons, leaving Naomi to fend for herself along with her widowed daughters-in-law. Naomi hears that there is food back in her hometown of Bethlehem, and having nothing left, she decides to go there. Naomi loves Orpah and Ruth and is concerned for them, so she encourages them to go back home to their families, so they can remarry and have some hope of security. Eventually, Orpah agrees and tearily heads home, but Ruth doubles down and makes one of the most famous covenant promises in the Bible in verses 16 & 17:
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 I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”
The bereaved pair go on to Bethlehem and arrive at the beginning of the barley harvest. To Naomi’s surprise, she realizes she has a relative there on her late husband’s side. He was by reputation a “man of good standing”, whose name was Boaz. (You’ll want to remember his name.)
During that time, it was the practice of harvesters to allow strangers, widows, and impoverished people to come after the day’s work and glean grain that had been missed or fallen to the ground. So Ruth asks Naomi to let her go glean in the fields to bring them back some grain.
This is where Ruth’s story could be a Hallmark movie. The field Ruth just happens to go to winds up being one of Boaz’s fields! Boaz, of course, notices her working there and invites Ruth to stay and work alongside the other women in his household, giving her food, water, and safety.
Ruth is blown away by Boaz’s generosity and asks why he would show her such generosity, especially as a foreigner. Boaz, being all dreamy like he is, says her reputation has preceded her. He heard about what she did for Naomi and was, frankly, impressed. He blesses her saying “ May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”
Ruth is flooded with relief and Boaz invites her to eat with the harvesters and instructs them to let her glean and to even take some grain out of the bundles for her. She keeps working until evening and goes home with about 30 pounds of grain that day!
When Ruth tells Naomi what happened she’s shocked! She explains to Ruth that Boaz is a relative and a kinsman-redeemer. It was a tradition in their culture that when a man died and was childless, a close relative could marry his widow. Then, the first son born from that marriage would be given the name of the deceased husband and inherit his estate.
So under Naomi’s wise advice, Ruth continues to work every day in Boaz’s fields until the harvest is over. Then at the right time, Naomi prompts Ruth to go to Boaz and seek him as her kinsman-redeemer.
Following Naomi’s instructions, Ruth sees where Boaz was sleeping, sneaks up, pulls the blanket off his feet, and lays down at his feet. It’s a strange custom to us in this day and age, but it’s important to know that this was not an act of seduction, but one of submission. She took a service posture at his feet, not at his side. She was requesting that Boaz take her under his protection as his wife. Boaz understood the assignment and happily agreed.
Like every good Hallmark movie, there was one hiccup. Boaz knew there was another man besides him that was an even closer relative and had the right to be kinsman redeemer first. It was Boaz’s duty to ask him if he wanted to claim that right, knowing that he may not get to marry Ruth. After some suspense, the other relative does not claim his right, freeing Boaz to finally marry Ruth! Roll Credits!
It is incredible to see all of the “divine coincidences” that happen in Ruth’s story. Each step of the way, we see God’s loving provision and plan unfold, meeting Ruth & Naomi’s every need and then some.
Are you ready for the mind-blowing bit? After Ruth & Boaz were married, they had a son and that son would become grandfather to King David, and an ancestor of Jesus Christ. Let that sink in for a sec. God was actively working in every detail of Ruth’s story, redeeming her pain and laying the groundwork for the redemption of all humanity.
There was no way for Ruth to know that when she was at the crossroads, choosing whether to go home to her family or follow Naomi into unfamiliar territory, her decision would one day make her grandmother to a king, and an ancestor to the long-awaited Messiah.
But God in His infinite wisdom guided their steps. Ruth and Naomi focused on Him and stayed steadfast in their faith, even when life looked impossibly difficult and painful. They stepped out in faith and God provided for their every need and worked in every detail.
It might be tempting to think that God was just working things out for Ruth because of who would later be born in her line of ancestry. But Ruth’s story is there for us to get a clearer picture of how God works and see what faith in action looks like.
We all have our own story, with twists and turns, some good, some bad. God is actively working in our stories too. He is already present in the details of our lives and gives us the same love and attention He gave to Ruth and Naomi. He sees us, cares for us and provides for us in our present need, and plans ahead for our future ones.
Through the story of Ruth, we learn that God is not distant and disinterested, He is interested and invested. He plans ahead for us and puts plans in motion on our behalf that will come together at just the right time, and in just the right way.
I know there have been times that I’ve felt overwhelmed, knocked flat by life’s blows, not knowing what my next step should be. Without fail, when I focus on God, I begin to recognize all the ways He has already been working to meet me in the middle of the mess.
Shifting my focus from my turmoil to His provision allows me to zoom out, and instead of grieving my circumstances, I’m left feeling unbelievably loved that He would plan ahead for me with such love and care. God is faithful and unrelenting in His love for us. And there is not a single detail in our lives that is beneath His notice.
When Naomi and Ruth followed God faithfully in the circumstances that were right in front of them, God used them to help establish a lineage of the coming Messiah that would change the world forever. What if our being faithful in our own circumstances could have a kingdom effect in the world?
We are all invited to be a part of God’s greater story of unfailing love and redemption. He weaves our story into His, paying careful attention to every detail and guiding our every step, even the ones that seem mundane. All we need to do is keep our eyes fixed on Him. When we lean in and seek shelter and protection at His feet, he never fails to give it. When we give Him our whole hearts, we can have peace and wisdom in any situation, good or bad, knowing that He is there and will lead us through. The road may be rough at patches, but ultimately, He works all things for the good of those who love Him.
What area of your life do you see God planning ahead for you? How can you zoom out to an eternal perspective to see Him at work? I invite you to jot some things down and don’t leave out the little “coincidences”. Our God pays attention to detail and if you are looking for Him, you just might see His fingerprints on the details of your life too.