Ruth, Part 2 - Providence in "Coincidences" - Ruth 2

Ruth  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  38:41
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Have you never been in a near vehicle accident? A close call that almost wrecked you, but you just narrowly escaped?
I remember one time driving home late on a Wednesday night from church. Do this day I don’t know entirely what happened, but I’m driving on the interstate and I see the car in front me suddenly veer to the left. I hear screeching tires, I see sparks fly. I quickly turned the steering wheel to rapidly change lanes and go half way into the shoulder. My mirror and side of my car scrape along the side of the other vehicle, but I make it through without any additional damage.
I pulled over and looked behind me and there were multiple vehicles involved in an accident that I narrowly escaped with the most minor of cosmetic damage imaginable.
Or another time.
This was another Wednesday night, except this time I was excessively tired. I fell asleep driving. I drifted into the rumble strip in the shoulder and it woke me up. When I opened my eyes and realized what was going on, I saw tail lights immediately in front of me, headlights immediately behind me in my rear view mirror, and with a quick glance to my left I discovered another vehicle immediately to my left. If I had drifted any other direction, I would have been in an accident. I pulled off at the next exit and got myself a large Dr Pepper to help keep me alive for the rest of the drive home.
Have you had experiences like that? Do you thank God for His protection in the moment? I hope you do! But why? Have you ever stopped to think about what you are thanking God for? The tiniest muscle movements saved me in the first scenario. The rumble strip and happening to drift to the right saved me in the second. I’m thanking God for his overall provision such that he orchestrated all the events of those days to preserve my life.
Providence. His care for his children.
Providence has been defined by one theologian this way: It is God’s purposeful and intentional sovereignty over the details of your life such that He accomplishes His good purposes through them.
This is what we see playing out in the Life of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz in the book of Ruth. God’s purposes being accomplished through his providence over their lives.
If you haven’t turned to Ruth, I invite you to turn there now.
If I may remind us where we’ve been prior to this. During the time of the Judges, there was a famine in the land that drove the family of Elimelech and Naomi into the land of Moab in search of food. Not only did they find food, but they found wives for their two sons. However, in the providence of God, all the men of the family die, leaving Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth all widows.
After some time Naomi hears a report that God has blessed Israel with good crops once again, and she determines that it is time to return home. She bids her daughters-in-law to remain in Moab and seek out spouses among their people. Orpah, through tears, agrees and returns. Ruth, however, refuses. She confesses Yahweh as the one true God and commits to remaining with her mother-in-law for the rest of her days.
And so the two of them return to the land of Israel together. When they arrive there are many who are amazed to see her. “Is this Naomi?” the people inquire. Hearing this, Naomi says don’t call me that. Naomi means pleasant. My life has been anything but. Call me Mara, for the Lord has death bitterly with me. I went away full and I returned empty.
We noted how Ruth sees God’s providence in these events…but she views it as being against her. She doesn’t have a vision for what God is going to do, and she seems to fail to see the good that Ruth is to her. Though she can’t see it yet, she will eventually begin to see how God’s providence works for the good of His children.
Last week time we talked about the concept of God’s providence being at work even though pain.
Today, let us consider how God’s providence is at work through the mundane.
Ruth 2 ESV
1 Now Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. 2 And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” 3 So she set out 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 clan of Elimelech. 4 And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you!” And they answered, “The Lord bless you.” 5 Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” 6 And the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, “She is the young Moabite woman, who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. 7 She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.’ So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest.” 8 Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. 9 Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.” 10 Then she fell on her face, bowing 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?” 11 But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. 12 The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” 13 Then she said, “I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.” 14 And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. 15 When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. 16 And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.” 17 So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. 18 And she took it up and went into the city. Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also brought out and gave her what food she had left over after being satisfied. 19 And her mother-in-law said to her, “Where did you glean today? And where have you worked? Blessed be the man 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 And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.” 21 And Ruth the Moabite said, “Besides, he said to me, ‘You shall keep 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, lest in another field you be assaulted.” 23 So she kept close to the young women of Boaz, gleaning until the end of the barley and wheat harvests. And she lived with her mother-in-law.
Our story continue to develop. Our chapter opens up with a statement about Boaz, indicating for us that this section is to highlight him and his character.
He is called a worthy man in the ESV. That word is an interesting word. In most places that it is used to speaks of a mighty man, often of a great warrior. Some translations translate it with the idea of wealth. A mighty man of wealth is what the KJV, NKJV, and NASB all translate this as a way to communicate that he had great wealth. The CSB and NIV seem to take the idea as communicating that he had influence in the community and say he was a prominent man, or a man of standing.
However we understand this word, the idea that is being communicated is that this was not just an ordinary man. There was some level of substance to him. He is mighty in deed, mighty in wealth, and, as we shall see, he is mighty in character.
With that editorial comment, the narrator resumes telling the story, and verse two explains that Ruth intends to go out into the fields to glean grain so that Naomi and Ruth would have food to eat. So what’s going on with that?
Ruth and Naomi are both widows. They don’t have husbands, and are thus considered among the most vulnerable of society. God created men to provide and protect, and these women are left without both of those things.
A common way that those who were destitute would get the food they needed to survive was to glean in the fields.
When the harvesters would go into the field to collect the fruit of their labors, it was common that some of the grain, would fall by the wayside, simply because it happens. 100% efficiency simply isn’t possible. When you cut the stalks of wheat and pick it up to bring it into the storehouse, some would fall by the wayside by accident.
Those who had no other means of supporting themselves would then go out into the harvested fields and collect the bits that had fallen. When I was in electrical work I would see this in a different way. The electricians would do the best they could to pick up the larger pieces of scrap wire, but some would always be left behind. It was not uncommon that scrappers would come in behind us and pick up all the smaller pieces that they could get their hands on to in order recycle it for cash. That’s kind of the idea.
Such as is common to human nature, there would be some farmers who would seek to pick up all the gleanings themselves in order to get closer to 100% efficiency. However, there were provisions in the Law of Moses that forbade farmers from picking up the gleaning themselves, but rather leave them for the poor. It was an intentional way that the people could farm and provide for their own families, but also look out for their destitute brothers and sisters. Not as a handout! but rather to give them an opportunity to work for their food. Thus no one was expected to go without, and no was expected to be lazy.
Nevertheless, if you are a gleaner, this reflects on your situation. Gleaners are poor. Gleaners don’t have a lot going for them.
Ruth and Naomi were in a situation where the only means of supporting themselves was through gleaning.
But it’s a start! So Ruth is sent out to glean.
God’s providence is immediately seen a she sets out to be a faithful and dutiful daughter-in-law to Naomi.
Look at verse 3:
Ruth 2:3 ESV
3 So she set out 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 clan of Elimelech.
Literally in the Hebrew the phrase is “she happened to happen”
Now, we all know that there really are no such thing as coincidences. Ruth didn’t just happen to arrive at Boaz’s field, out of all the fields of Israel, this is the one she just by dumb blind luck happened to enter. This was a divine orchestration and it seems the narrator is using this phrase with a wink and nod “she just happened to happen upon this field”
We all often use phrases to speak of what seem to be chance events. “Look I found a dollar bill on the ground, how lucky!” “I am fortunate enough to have the family I have” etc. I have a friend who always calls me on that kind of language. He’ll say things like “oh, I didn’t realize that you believed in fortune you pagan” “oh, I didn’t know we were being godless today”. So then I’ll rephrase it “how providential was it that I found this dollar”
Because the biblical reality is that God’s providence is over all and even the dice rolls are overseen by his providential eye.
Ruth didn’t merely happen across this field. She was providentially directed there by almighty God who would use these events to bring about not just the the godly King Israel needed historically, but the Messiah who will one day rule over all.
As we read on we find that Boaz is a godly man. In vs 4, he greets his workers with a blessing, in vs 9 we see that he tells Ruth that he instructs his men to not to touch her. He is providing safety for her in addition to food. When he hears about who Ruth is and what she has done, he pronounces a blessing upon her in vs 12 “May the Lord repay you for what you have done” and he has enough of a positive reputation of being a man of integrity that when Ruth reports to Naomi where she has been gleaning, Naomi is pleased and says she should always work in Boaz’s field because its a safe place where she can be confident she won’t be assaulted.
Remember. This is occuring during the time of the judges. Pious men of integrity who would be considered safe and also the right kind of dangerous are hard to come by.
This is a godly man, who loves the Lord and desires to act honorably and treat others how God instructs.
But for Ruth, he’s doing even more than that. God di not just provide for Ruth by sending her to Boaz’s field, but there was an over abundance or grace and favor shown to her. She doesn’t understand why she should be shown this favor, especially considering she is a foreigner. She isn’t an Israelite!
But look at how over the top he provides for her:
She is given protection from those who might mistreat her
She is given food by the fire
She is given refreshment as she works
He instructs his workers to throw down extra for her, but also to allow her to glean where no one else would be allowed to glean: among the sheaves themselves!
His provision for her is completely over the top.
I’m reminded of my time working for Pizza hut. Some times there were pizzas that would be cooked and never picked up. We would put them in the freezer for local homeless shelter who would come to collect them, reheat them, and feed them to the hungry. Boaz’s actions would be like the manager at Pizza hut cooking extra pizzas on purpose and then throwing in additional items. This is not normal. There is extra favor being dispensed here.
At the end Naomi sees all of this rightly as the blessing of God when she says
Ruth 2:20 ESV
20 And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.”
Naomi rightly sees God’s blessing and providence in these matters. God was showing kindness to Naomi and Ruth.
What do we learn from this episode in the saga of Ruth?

Providence is present in the mundane and “coincidences”

First, God’s providence is present, even in what seems like the mundane aspects of every day life. Ruth just happened to come to this field. I just happened to drift to the right in my vehicle and hit the rumble strip....these aren’t coincidences. These are God’s divine providences actively at work in our lives. From chapter one we had to wrestle with God’s providence in the midst of pain. Here its just in the every day details of life, God is doing things.
When we were walking through the book of Philippians I think we saw this reality as paul was showing us how God was using his trial in prison as an opportunity for the Gospel among the soldier. The greatest prison ministry there ever was!
Sometimes God allows us to see what he is doing behind the scenes. In the hard times. In the mundane. in the coincidences. Every now and again we get the glimpses behind the curtain where God reveals what he is doing. But most of the time, we don’t. We live out lives. We experience what feels like chance encounters. But each one is in reality a divine appointment. We don’t always get the peek behind the curtain.
And the reality is that if God were to show us all the things he is doing just in your life to show you his providence in each particular detail, it would likely fry your mind at the vastness of the details involved. We usually don’t get to see it in the moment, but sometimes as we look back we can see parts of what he was doing and can respond in praise to the one who works all things after the counsel of his will and works everything together for good for those who love him.

Providence moves us long in God’s Story

In many ways, Ruth was just living her life. She and Naomi were just trying to survive. They were blessed by the Lord through Boaz, but even so, they were likely clueless about their place in redemptive history. They didn’t know that through Ruth’s children King David would be born. They didn’t know that through David the Messiah would come. They were seeking to be faithful Israelites where they were, but God was accomplishing His purposes in and through their lives in order to write His story.
None of us know where we stand in God’s grand story. But his story is bigger than ours. We all have a part to play, and we may never know that part until glory, but God is doing amazing things all the time driving things along in order to accomplish his purposes in the world.
What an incredible thing! So often we can get so consumed with our own lives and how everything in our lives affect us that we are tempted to think that our lives are about us. It’s all about me. It’s all about what is happening in my life.
But if we zoom out just a little and consider that God is doing things that are so much bigger than us, but is using us to accomplish it…what joy and wonder are we missing by being so focused on ourselves?

Providence Here Brings Ultimate Provision Later

This ties in with the last point. This entire story is a story of God’s provision
God provided food for Elimilech and Naomi in Moab
He provided wives for their sons
He provided food for Israel
He provided Ruth for Naomi
He provided food and protection through Boaz
As we continue to see the story moved along we will see the provision of a redeemer, even when there is a nearer kinsman. God will provide a child. And through that child will come King David, which is the immediate interest of the author of the book, but we know that it extends so much further than that. Through that provision will come the long awaited Messiah, the one who is the ultimate provision for what humanity needs.
Jesus Christ is the ultimately provision as the atoning sacrifice for all those who will recognize their sinful condition and turn to Christ in faith. The Gospel is ultimately provided, salvation is ultimately provided.....because Ruth happened to happen upon the field of Boaz.
If that is a cause for wonder, amazement, and worship of our almighty God, I don’t know what is.
Let’s go to him in prayer and praise now.
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