For wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. – Ruth 1:16
There are times in history when things get so dark it causes us to question whether or not God is involved in life. We see a proliferation of injustices and deception, fake news and outright false statements. We see a two tier “justice” system in which there is little to no penalty for those in privileged positions. We see that and we cry out in angst. We observe the various horrors perpetrated and even promoted by humanity such as war, abortion, persecution, poverty and hunger and we ask “Where is God in all of this?” We might question why and how can a “Sovereign Lord” permit such things. We might ponder, “What are you doing Lord?” We might come to a point where we despair and even question God’s very existence. A growing number of people today are turning from God to atheism. Even more people react to darkness by becoming angry, bitter, or resentful. Dark times tempt us to take on a skeptical and spiritually soured tone. When the darkness of this world, personal as well as planetary, pushes us to the point of despair and hopelessness, we question everything in life, even God. We question. But are there answers? I believe there are.
Is God involved in our lives? Even when the darkness closes in, is God involved? The design of the universe and its orderliness is evidence of a higher Being or Intellect of some sort. Let’s, for argument sake, say this is “God.” The Bible describes God as imminent, He is here, there, He is everywhere all the time. “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139:7-10). Our problem isn’t whether or not God is there. Our problem is recognizing that He is there.
If God is imminent, ever present, what are the signs of His presence? What are the marks of His fingerprints? What is the size of His footprint? What are the curves of His signature? In what way can we know God’s influence in our lives? How can we discern the presence of God in life? I’m teaching a series on Ruth in our Oasis midweek service. The title of the series is Principles of God’s Providence. I believe God does involve Himself in the life of His creation. I believe we can see His involvement from Genesis to Revelation. I believe God is involved in every epoch of history. That includes our particular personal epoch. That includes our life segment along His prophetic calendar. But what benefit does such “providence” have for us? That’s what we will consider in this teaching.
The book of Ruth is a wonderful book of the Bible. It is a love story, but it is so much more than that. The book of Ruth was written and shares a story that occurred during the low point in the history of Israel. It speaks of a time much like our day in which “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). It is a book that transitions from the time of the Judges to the time of the monarchy, from the time of a theocracy that depended on God, to a monarchy that depended on human kingship. Whenever we choose to trust in people instead of God, we can be sure that we are settling for less than God’s best. Psalm 118:8-9 states, “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confined in princes.”
But what really makes Ruth a blessing of a book, is that we see in it, the hand of God at work. The book of Ruth is a book that depicts the providence of God. In fact, when we look at its contents, we see Principles of God’s Providence. “Providence” refers to God’s hand at work in His creation; and in particular the lives of humanity.
When we consider the providence of God, we see certain principles of His working. Ruth will depict a number of these principles. These principles are important for us to consider because God has a plan for each of us. We have a part in the plans of God. That is what God said to the nation of Israel corporately. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (e.g. Jeremiah 29:11-14). That is what God says to each of us individually in the New Testament. “Fro we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Yes, God has a plan for us. Yes, God is providentially involved in our lives. And there are practical principles for life to be aware of regarding God’s providence. Let’s look at these principles.
Principle #1 – God’s Providential Plan can involve poverty, pain, and human weakness – 1:1-5.
1 Now it came to pass, in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land.
Ruth is a continuation of the time of the Judges. The last chapters of Judges describe the low point in the age of God’s people. The final verse of Judges summarizes this dark time with the words, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). There was a void in leadership and everyone was fending for themselves.
Yet in this low point, God was weaving a redemptive plan that we now see in Ruth.
There was a famine in the land. It was a time of need. Famine in the land is often used by God to depict or paint a picture of moral decline.
And a certain man of Bethlehem, Judah, went to dwell in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons.
Bethlehem means “house of bread.” Judah means “praise.” So, you have the house of bread and praise. Moab was the land of Lot’s incestual son (Genesis 19:37). Moab was always a land opposed to God’s people. When we move from the “house of bread” and “praise,” to a place of incest and immorality, we shouldn’t expect good things to happen.
2 The name of the man was Elimelech, the name of his wife was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion—
Elimelech means “my God is King.” Naomi means “pleasant.” These parents had a heritage of following the Lord. But somewhere along the way they got off track. They named their son Mahlon which means “sick.” Chilion means “tiny.” Sick and tiny are not great names but indicate an attribute of the child at birth. While Elimelech and Naomi appear to have been righteous (based on their names), their offspring were “Sick” and “Tiny.” When you get off of God’s providential track things get sick and tiny. But this also speaks to us about how God can even use the sick and tiny things in this world to accomplish His plans.
Ephrathites of Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to the country of Moab and remained there. 3 Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left, and her two sons. 4 Now they took wives of the women of Moab: the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth. And they dwelt there about ten years. 5 Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died; so the woman survived her two sons and her husband.
They went to Moab to escape famine and the result was death and more neediness. Naomi’s husband died and to compound her pain, her two sons died. There are few pains as painful as the death of a spouse. But a close second is the death of a child to a parent. Naomi experienced severe loss and heartache. Pain can be a part of God’s providential plan. Pain can be God providential way to bring “us out to rich fulfillment” (Psalm 66:10-12). Various trials and even pains can be part of God’s providential path for us in or to purify and prove the genuineness of our faith (1 Peter 1:3-9).
Principle #2 – God’s Providential Plan uses people of faith – 1:6-13
6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the Lord had visited His people by giving them bread.
Notice how God speaks to people who are involved in His providential plan. Naomi “heard” either from the LORD Himself or word of mouth of people, “that the LORD had visited His people by giving them bread.” The LORD is speaking either directly or indirectly. God speaks to us in various ways (e.g. Genesis 8:15; 9:8; 31:11; 46:2; Exodus 3-4; 6:2; Mark 12:36; John 9:29; Acts 7:6). Most clearly, God speaks to us through His word (e.g. 2 Peter 1:21). Are you listening?
Caution here though. Sometimes we become so acutely interested in hearing from the LORD that we hear Him when He is not speaking. Some “hear” their own heart instead of God (e.g. Jeremiah 23). Beware hearing God when it is nothing more than hearing what you want to hear so you can get what you want to get or do what you want to do.
7 Therefore she went out from the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. 8 And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each to her mother’s house. The Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 The Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.”
So she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. 10 And they said to her, “Surely we will return with you to your people.”
God uses people of faith in His providential plans This was an act of selfless faith in God on Naomi’s part. She lovingly sought for her two daughters’ in law to move on with their lives. They were still young. She had no other sons to offer them. Certainly, Naomi could have selfishly held on to them. She could have guilted them into staying with her to care and provide for her. But she did not do this. She released them from any responsibilities to her and this was an act of trust in the LORD to provide for her.
11 But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Are there still sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? 12 Turn back, my daughters, go—for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, if I should have a husband tonight and should also bear sons, 13 would you wait for them till they were grown? Would you restrain yourselves from having husbands? No, my daughters; for it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me!”
Naomi was trusting in God when she released Ruth and Orpah, but she was also a woman whose faith had been tested. She was aware of the brutal reality of her life at this point. She only had a glimmer of hope. She was on the doorstep of despair. But even though it was just a little, she did have hope. She was pressing on. Hope is faith for the future. She was on the brink of despair. But God had a plan and her faith in Him would help her link up with the next part of His providential plan. Jesus once told His followers, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20). Naomi was going to move a mountain of despair with just a little seed of faith.
Principle #3 – God’s Providential Plan does not negate or circumvent human free will – 1:14-18.
14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
Orpah initially was going to stay with Naomi but left. Ruth followed through on her word to remain with Naomi. This shows Ruth’s character and her faith.
15 And she said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.”
16 But Ruth said:
“Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
17 Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.”
18 When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her.
This was a beautiful picture of Ruth’s heart and loyalty to her mother in law. Ruth was not forced to stay with Naomi. Naomi had released her to leave if she wanted. But Ruth chose to stay with Naomi. And what we see here is actually Ruth’s statement of faith in the God of Naomi. She said, “and your God, my God.” Ruth freely decided to trust in the God of Naomi and whatever such a journey of faith led her to. Faith by nature involves decision. We step out in faith. We walk by faith (2 Cor. 5:7). We are saved from sin by faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9). We please God by faith (Hebrews 11:6). And faith is exerted by decision.
God is merciful to those who walk by faith no matter the tininess of the seed. When Naomi returns to Bethlehem, she will comment to those who welcome her back, “the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. . .. the LORD has brought me home again empty” (1:20-21). Naomi is feeling the pain. She has faith to believe God has allowed these trials to enter her life. She is hurting. But she still believes in God. She still has faith. And look at God’s mercy toward this woman hanging on by a thread of faith. Ruth’s decision to remain with Naomi must have seemed like the LORD putting His arms around her to comfort her. A wonderful relationship develops between Naomi and Ruth. The LORD in His providence sees our pain and brings people into our life to ease that pain and be with us to comfort us through. God provides comfort for the pain during His providential plans. God is merciful. “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I hope in Him!’” (Lamentations 3:22-23).
Principle #4 – God’s Providential Plan can get us where we need to be – 1:19-22.
19 Now the two of them went until they came to Bethlehem. And it happened, when they had come to Bethlehem, that all the city was excited because of them; and the women said, “Is this Naomi?”
20 But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?”
22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. Now they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.
Naomi and Ruth had experienced sorrow, deep hardship and loss. God would take their trials and use them to direct them to where they needed to be in His providential plan. At this point they weren’t even aware of what God had in store for them. But they proceeded in and through their pain by faith. And God brought them where they needed to be in the next step of His plan.
God is able to bring people back to their home. Sometimes people leave home. They journey to greener pastures. But they find the grass is not always greener on the other side. And so, God makes allowance for people to reap what they sow (e.g. Galatians 6:7-9). He allows people to go, and then to come back again. He makes room for prodigals (Luke 15:13). He lets them go and lets them sow their wild oats. And He lets them learn, even the hard way if need be. And then He welcomes them back home. I’m not necessarily saying that is what’s happening with Naomi here; that she has rebelled or sinned in some way. But what I am saying is that God has a way of getting people where they need to be; where they should be. We needn’t worry about the coming and going. We need only to trust the Lord.
The prophet Isaiah spoke of how God can provide beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3). Here we see the ashes. God is going to orchestrate beauty from the ashes. God brings Naomi and Ruth back to Bethlehem, the “house of bread” and plenty. He has brought them back to where they need to be so they can experience the blessing of His plans.
Principle #5 – God’s Providential Plan provides favor for those He is working through – 2:1-23
2 There was a relative of Naomi’s husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech. His name was Boaz.
Boaz means “fleetness.”
2 So Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.”
Ruth instinctively, in her new found faith, felt impelled to go to the field to glean heads of grain. She did this in hopes that she would find favor with the owner of the field who was a relative of Naomi. What follows is a beautiful love story. God is into love stories. But more importantly, we see here how God will give Ruth favor with Boaz who would eventually become her kinsman redeemer. In God’s providential plans, He has a way of giving us favor with those we need to have favor with. God has a way of opening doors of opportunity that lead us along His plan (e.g. Luke 11:9; Rev. 3:8).
But again, I must warn. The doors of opportunity and direction need to be from the LORD. We aren’t speaking of manipulation or conniving. We are speaking of scheming. Ruth and Naomi will simply go along with God’s signs fo favor. They will simply walk through the doors He opens before them. Beware the schemes of the heart. The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked and only God can know it (Jeremiah 17:9-10). Beware your heart of the flesh and follow the Lord (e.g. Galatians 5).
3 Then she left, and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers. And she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.
“And she happened”? This was no accident folks. This was God’s providential plan putting Ruth in the right place at the right time with the right person in God’s plans. Ever have that happen to you? You just “happen” to meet the right person, at the right time, who is instrumental in meeting the need of the moment. Be content to trust the Lord, not chaotically self-reliant (e.g. Philippians 4:10-13).
4 Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you!”
And they answered him, “The Lord bless you!”
5 Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?”
Why was it that Boaz just happened to take note of Ruth? It was the LORD in His providence bringing Ruth to his attention. God is at work here.
6 So the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered and said, “It is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. 7 And she said, ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’ So she came and has continued from morning until now, though she rested a little in the house.”
Don’t get the wrong impression of God’s providential plan. Ruth worked hard in this plan of God. She had “continued from morning until now, though she rested a little in the houses.” Ruth set a good example of being a hard worker. This further gave her favor with Boaz and those around her. We shouldn’t expect for God’s providential plan to pan out while we sit back and relax. God doesn’t use Christian couch potatoes! There’s truth in the words, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). The Lord leads as we work and serve. It’s the person who is actively serving Him (like a waiter in a restaurant who serves tables) that finds favor and proceeds in His plans.
8 Then Boaz said to Ruth, “You will listen, my daughter, will you not? Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women. 9 Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Have I not commanded the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.”
Ruth demonstrated a willingness to listen and obey. She trusted in God who gave her favor with Boaz. She trusted in God to provide through Boaz, the one whom God had given her favor with.
10 So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?”
Ruth had a thankful spirit about her. She thanks Boaz. Her appreciation and thankfulness further endeared her to Boaz. The Bible states, “in everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). And it states we should be, “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). Thankfulness is an expression and evidence of a mature faith. Do you have a thankful heart regardless of your life circumstances?
11 And Boaz answered and said to her, “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. 12 The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.”
“It has been fully reported to me,” Boaz said. In other words, Ruth’s reputation had preceded her. Ruth was a woman developing in godly character. D.L. Moody once said, “If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of itself.” Finding favor with people is not accidental. Ruth’s faithfulness was used by God to win her favor with Boaz. It’s so important to walk in integrity trusting the LORD. Ruth didn’t do the right thing to be seen by others. She did the right thing because it was the right thing to do. She was thankful and stayed close to Naomi and accepted the God of Naomi. God used all of this to give her favor with Boaz.
And notice, Boaz says, “The LORD repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.” Boaz is a man of God. And He is being used by God in His providential plan. When we are people of God, we will be used in God’s plans. God uses people who trust Him.
13 Then she said, “Let me find favor in your sight, my lord; for you have comforted me, and have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants.”
Ruth reciprocated Boaz’ kindness and expression of protection and provision. She was receptive to the favor God was providing through Boaz. Ruth wasn’t distracted by bitterness or self-pity related to her losses. She wasn’t entangled with the past. She was pressing on toward the future. Ruth was living in faith. Ruth was living a life liberated by faith in God. She might not have understood all of the reasons for the pain she had endured. But she trusted in God’s care and pressed on. We aren’t asked or required by God to understand everything in our lives. We are only asked to trust Him. Are you trusting the Lord?
14 Now Boaz said to her at mealtime, “Come here, and eat of the bread, and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed parched grain to her; and she ate and was satisfied, and kept some back. 15 And when she rose up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. 16 Also let grain from the bundles fall purposely for her; leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.”
17 So she gleaned in the field until evening, and beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. 18 Then she took it up and went into the city, and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. So she brought out and gave to her what she had kept back after she had been satisfied.
19 And her mother-in-law said to her, “Where have you gleaned today? And where did you work? Blessed be the one who took notice of you.”
So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked, and said, “The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz.”
20 Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “Blessed be he of the Lord, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!” And Naomi said to her, “This man is a relation of ours, one of our close relatives.”
21 Ruth the Moabitess said, “He also said to me, ‘You shall stay close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.’ ”
22 And Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, and that people do not meet you in any other field.” 23 So she stayed close by the young women of Boaz, to glean until the end of barley harvest and wheat harvest; and she dwelt with her mother-in-law.
When Ruth returned to report the favor God had given her with Boaz, it was encouraging to Naomi. When we experience the favor of God and testify of it to others, God uses it to encourage others. Don’t keep God’s favorable works in your life a secret. Share them. You just may be used by God to encourage someone enough that they can proceed further in God’s providential plans in their life. “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).
Principle #6 – God’s Providential Plan provides protection for those His plan is using – 3:1-11
3 Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you?
When we are in the center of God’s will proceeding within the parameters of God’s providential plans, God provides protection, or “security” for us. That’s what we see here with Ruth.
2 Now Boaz, whose young women you were with, is he not our relative? In fact, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor.
Of all the land owners Ruth could have stumbled upon, Boaz is a relative of Naomi. That isn’t an accident. That is further proof of God’s hand at work in the life of Ruth and Naomi and of His unfolding providential plan.
3 Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 Then it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you should do.”
5 And she said to her, “All that you say to me I will do.”
6 So she went down to the threshing floor and did according to all that her mother-in-law instructed her. 7 And after Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was cheerful, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came softly, uncovered his feet, and lay down.
This was not a carnal act or in any way immoral. This was Ruth obeying the instruction of her mother in law and acting in a way that symbolized her seeing Boaz as the instrument of God to be “under whose wings you have dome for refuge” (2:12). The Psalmist used similar imagery to illustrate God’s protection when he wrote, “He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler” (Psalm 91:4). When Jesus approached Jerusalem He commented, “How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34). Are you willing to trust Jesus and take cover from your circumstances under the shelter of His wings?
8 Now it happened at midnight that the man was startled, and turned himself; and there, a woman was lying at his feet. 9 And he said, “Who are you?”
So she answered, “I am Ruth, your maidservant. Take your maidservant under your wing, for you are a close relative.”
This is a beautiful picture of submission and surrender to the one with whom God has given Ruth favor. Yes, it’s a romantic gesture, but it is a wholesome and pure one.
10 Then he said, “Blessed are you of the Lord, my daughter! For you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning, in that you did not go after young men, whether poor or rich. 11 And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman.
When we are operating within the parameters of Gods providential plan, there is a holy receptivity and awareness of the rightness of what is going on. There is a warmth and settledness, a security in the center of God’s will. By faith we enter and continue in such security. Are you secure in Him?
And Ruth was referred to by Boaz as, “a virtuous woman.” God uses the virtuous in His plans. There is no unholy flirting or fleshly manipulating going on here. Ruth and Boaz are simply following through on what God is unfolding in their lives. That’s how we are to cooperate in the providential plans of God.
Principle #7 – God’s Providential Plans don’t need a push from people – 3:12-18
12 Now it is true that I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I. 13 Stay this night, and in the morning it shall be that if he will perform the duty of a close relative for you—good; let him do it. But if he does not want to perform the duty for you, then I will perform the duty for you, as the Lord lives! Lie down until morning.”
14 So she lay at his feet until morning, and she arose before one could recognize another. Then he said, “Do not let it be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.” 15 Also he said, “Bring the shawl that is on you and hold it.” And when she held it, he measured six ephahs of barley, and laid it on her. Then she went into the city.
16 When she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “Is that you, my daughter?”
Then she told her all that the man had done for her. 17 And she said, “These six ephahs of barley he gave me; for he said to me, ‘Do not go empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’ ”
18 Then she said, “Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out; for the man will not rest until he has concluded the matter this day.”
Naomi says to Ruth, “Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out.” We don’t have to push or pull or manipulate or connive or scheme to get God’s plans to work out. When we force things or resort to manipulation or schemes of our own making, it exposes our flesh and carnal sinful nature. The heart is a deceitful thing and it often connives to get what it sets its lustful eyes on (e.g. Jeremiah 17:7-10). But when the LORD is in something, it simply comes to pass. His timing is perfect. His plan is just right. We don’t have to give God help to fulfill His providential plan. We don’t have to give God a push to get His plan going or keep it going. When God is in something, it works out. And God’s timing is always perfect!
The only push we can give to the providential plans of God is the push of prayer. Pray Until Something Happens. You can rest assured, though it isn’t specifically mentioned, that Ruth and Naomi were not waiting lazily. They were waiting prayerfully as God’s plans unfolded.
Principle #8 – God’s Providential Plans involves a willingness to take responsibility – 4:1-10
There is a law of redemption involved in this story. When a brother died, and he had no offspring, the next of kin had the responsibility to raise up offspring to perpetuate his family name (Leviticus 25:25-34). This was referred to as The Levirate Law (Deuteronomy 25:5-10). The law pictures beautifully the redemptive act of Jesus. In the book of Ruth, Boaz becomes a type of Christ in that He is the kinsman redeemer who redeems Ruth. Jesus paid in full our redemption price, and He did that with His shed blood (Hebrews 2:14-15).
4 Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there; and behold, the close relative of whom Boaz had spoken came by. So Boaz said, “Come aside, friend, sit down here.” So he came aside and sat down. 2 And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down. 3 Then he said to the close relative, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, sold the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. 4 And I thought to inform you, saying, ‘Buy it back in the presence of the inhabitants and the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem it, and I am next after you.’ ”
And he said, “I will redeem it.”
5 Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also buy it from Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance.”
6 And the close relative said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I ruin my own inheritance. You redeem my right of redemption for yourself, for I cannot redeem it.”
The next of kin was ready to redeem the land until Boaz told him the land came with the added responsibility of caring for Ruth. Then he reneged. This opened the door for Boaz to step up as next in line to redeem and he did so, as well as taking the responsibility of making Ruth his wife.
7 Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging, to confirm anything: one man took off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was a confirmation in Israel.
8 Therefore the close relative said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself.” So he took off his sandal. 9 And Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, and all that was Chilion’s and Mahlon’s, from the hand of Naomi. 10 Moreover, Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, I have acquired as my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brethren and from his position at the gate. You are witnesses this day.”
Boaz followed the law and did all he was supposed to do, trusting the Lord to work out His plan. And God did so. God is faithful. God always comes through. You can trust the LORD! Boaz assumed the responsibility of caring for Ruth taking her as his wife. Neither of them had to force things or manipulate others. They trusted in the Lord and the Lord brought His plans to fruition.
Principle #9 – God’s Providential Plans bring blessing, fruitfulness and glory to God – 4:11-16
11 And all the people who were at the gate, and the elders, said, “We are witnesses. The Lord make the woman who is coming to your house like Rachel and Leah, the two who built the house of Israel; and may you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. 12 May your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring which the Lord will give you from this young woman.”
It was clear to all that it was the hand of the LORD working out His plans in the life of Ruth and Boaz. And so, the people pronounced blessing on the new couple.
13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and when he went in to her, the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. 14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! 15 And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.” 16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him.
Boaz and Ruth had a child, and when Naomi saw the child she said, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel!” She blessed and glorified the LORD. Naomi’s family was being restored by the Lord. Remember, God has a way of bring beauty out of the ashes. Naomi recognized the fruitfulness and blessing that accompanied the fulfilled plan of God.
Principle #10 – God’s Providential Plans are prophetic – 4:17-22.
17 Also the neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “There is a son born to Naomi.” And they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.
18 Now this is the genealogy of Perez: Perez begot Hezron; 19 Hezron begot Ram, and Ram begot Amminadab; 20 Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon; 21 Salmon begot Boaz, and Boaz begot Obed; 22 Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David.
David of course would become king of Israel. He would also be a part of the lineage of Messiah. God is not limited by time. God works the end from the beginning. We may not always see His plans clearly, but if we trust Him, we can rest assured His plans will be fulfilled. Ruth is in both messianic genealogies of the New Testament (Matthew 1:5; Luke 3:32 – implied). She was a big part of God’s plans. She started in an immoral land, but God brought her into His plans. All she had to do was trust Him along the way.
How do we persevere in God’s providential plans?
As we see in the book of Ruth, Naomi and Ruth suffered great loss. Just because a person is living in the providential plans of God doesn’t mean they will never have any difficulty in life. There can be very hard times and great difficulty in the outworking of the providential plans of God. The pain found in God’s providential plans can press us to our limits. How can we not only survive such pain, but have the power to persevere in those plans of God?
In Ruth 2:23 the barley harvest is mentioned. Because of this, traditionally, the book of Ruth is read during the Feast of Pentecost, a holiday commemorating the provision of God in harvest. Pentecost occurs fifty days after Passover.
The Feasts of God are prophetically linked to the plans of God. For instance, Jesus was crucified on Passover, buried on the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and raised from the dead-on Feast of Firstfruits. On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit (Greek pneuma) was poured out on the disciples and Peter and the Church was birthed. It shouldn’t be forgotten that Peter and the other disciples had just endured watching their Savior die on the cross. Yes, He had risen from the dead. But they still had endured severe emotional turmoil. But now, Peter was enabled to persevere and preach, in the power of the Holy Spirit, a message used mightily by God in His providential plans for this world.
Indeed, after the resurrection, Jesus instructed His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they received the empowerment of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). This He said, was the fulfillment of the Promise of the Father (Acts 1:4-5). How do we follow through and persevere in the providential plans of God? Look at Acts. We need the baptism with the Holy Spirit. We need to receive the promise of the Father, the indwelling presence and overflowing empowerment of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Only with the aid of the Holy Spirit can we persevere through the sometimes-painful providential plans of God.
We need the Holy Spirit to understand the providential plans of God. The Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit will open our eyes to see and ears to hear “the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (e.g. 1 Corinthians 2:9-14). And we need to be baptized, immersed in the Holy Spirit to have the power to help us to persevere in God’s plans. It’s not a question of having more of the Holy Spirit. It’s a question of the Holy Spirit have more, or all of us. This power is a promised part of God’s providential plans. Have you experienced a second birth, a spiritual birth? Have you been born again through faith in Jesus Christ? (cf. John 3). Have you been empowered by the Holy Spirit? You need the Holy Spirit to know God’s plans and have the power to see them fulfilled in your life.
How can we receive the power of the Holy Spirit in order to persevere in God’s providential plans?
When Jesus taught the disciples about praying, He said the following:
Luke 11:13 (NKJV) – If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
This tells us that the way we receive the Holy Spirit is, to ask the Father. The empowerment of the Spirit is also referred to a sanctifying work of God in the believer (e.g. Acts 15:8-9; 26:18). To be sanctified is to be set apart to God for His work. And this is something we receive by faith. We come to God in Jesus’ name and ask Him to provide this indwelling and empowerment of the Holy Spirit. We need the Holy Spirit to fulfill His providential plans.
Just as a person is physically born, they need to be spiritual reborn, or “born again” to be suited for eternal life with God. To experience this second birth, we need to turn from our sins to God (i.e. repentance) and ask Him to forgive our sins based solely on our trust that Jesus paid our depth penalty for sin on the cross. Forgiveness for our sins is not something we earn or work off. Jesus has done the redemptive saving work for us on the cross and God offers His forgiveness freely as a gift of His grace (cf. Ephesians 21-9). When we ask God’s forgiveness based on faith in Jesus, God’s promise is to forgive us and give us spiritual eternal life. He gives us spiritual life by indwelling us with the Holy Spirit (Romans 3-5; Titus 3:4-7). Once we are born again and indwelled by the Holy Spirit, we proceed and grow in our faith surrendering daily to the Lord in life. There is oftentimes a struggle between the Holy Spirit within us and our old selfish sinful nature ways (Romans 7). But if we want power to persevere and experience victory in God’s providential plans for us, we need to fully surrender in faith to His will and ways (Romans 8; Galatians 5). Look at the book of Acts. There you will find the pattern of the Spirit leading His people in God’s providential plans. Acts is God’s ultimate source of Hs principles for His providence.
Here is a two-part prayer to help you find God’s providential plan for you:
Father in Heaven, I come to You in Jesus’ name. I admit my sins to you. My sins have caused a separation between me and You. Please forgive me of my sins. I don’t ask Your forgiveness based on any work or effort of my own, but only trusting that Jesus has paid my sin-debt on the cross. I accept Your forgiveness as a free gift of Your grace according to Your word. Please fill me with Your Holy Spirit and give me spiritual life. Holy Spirit help me live in a way that is pleasing to You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Father in Heaven, I come to You in Jesus’ name. I ask You in faith to give me Your promise of the Holy Spirit to empower me so that I can have the power to persevere and be a part of Your providential plans; so that You can use me to bring glory to Your name. Please, baptize me in Your Holy Spirit. I surrender all to You. Help me to live forever surrendered fully to You. Help me to live in the spirit of Ruth, who said to Naomi, “For wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Please empower me to live in Your service, by Your grace, for Your glory, in Your plans. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Have you been born again and indwelled by the Holy Spirit? Have you been empowered by the Holy Spirit according to God’s promise? Why not make your prayer to Him right now. God truly does have a wonderful plan for your life. By His Spirit you will see it, and live it out, to the glory of God.