Summary: Faith is a combinatin of waiting for God and using initiative to bring about God’s will.
It was Sunday morning and Harry was off. He pulled out of his driveway in his 2-seater convertible, with the roof closed because of typical Melbourne driving rain, and headed for church. But as he turned into the main road he saw ahead of him three bedraggled figures huddled under a single umbrella at the next bus stop. One was old Mrs Fletcher. She still insisted on getting to church by herself, despite her arthritis which was always worse in wet weather. There was Dr Jones, the local GP. A year earlier Dr Jones had diagnosed a rare and dangerous disease that Harry had contracted on an overseas holiday, so Harry virtually owed him his life. And the third person was Judith. Harry had had a crush on Judith for the past 6 months since she joined their church but had never had the courage or the opportunity to ask her out.
Harry had about 3 seconds to decide what to do. There was only one spare seat. Who should he offer a lift to? But 3 seconds was enough. He pulled to a halt, jumped out, passed the keys to Dr Jones, helped Mrs Fletcher into the passenger seat, then modestly waved them good-bye as he huddled close to Judith under the umbrella.
As we’ll see as we move on in our story of Ruth and Naomi, in matters of romance, chance and good sense often go together to bring about a happy ending. In fact in so many areas of life God’s will is brought about by a combination of divine providence and human responsibility.
Last week we saw how Naomi and Ruth returned from Moab after a series of disasters, widowed and without any visible means of support; destitute, bitter and seemingly without hope. For Ruth it was worse because she was a foreigner, a member of a cursed people. What’s more she was without a dowry, she was apparently unable to have children, having been married for 10 years without bearing a child, and therefore her marriage prospects were poor. All told, their future was grim, a future of loneliness and poverty.
Yet as we know, the story of Ruth has a happy ending. Ruth will find a husband. Naomi will become a grandmother. Ruth and Boaz will begin a family that will become a Royal dynasty, that will include David and ultimately, God’s own Son, Jesus Christ. But first, our main actor, Ruth has to do something about it. God puts her into the right place. She just happens to begin to glean in a field owned by her kinsman, Boaz, but divine providence isn’t all that’s required. She has to do her bit. Human responsibility is there as well. If you like, God buts Boaz by the bus stop, but Ruth has to find a way to get herself under the umbrella.
There’s no doubt as you read through this narrative, that the author wants us to understand that in everything that happens, God is at work. Naomi sees this clearly from the start. God has provided food for his people again. She calls herself Mara, bitter, because of what the Lord has done to her. She went away full but the Lord has brought her back empty. She knows how the world works. Even if her conclusion is a little premature, she knows that God is sovereign in all that happens in this world. But what she doesn’t see at this stage is that there’s nothing arbitrary about the disasters she’s experienced. Nor are they God punishing her for leaving Judah. Rather, they’ve happened in order to bring Ruth into this situation so God’s plan for the salvation of the world can be progressed. The scale of this plan, you see, is enormous. What started off as a plan involving a small group of descendants of Abraham, who were blessed of God, is about to be shown to extend even to those who are under God’s curse. Ruth, the pagan Moabite is about to be brought into God’s plan in the most significant of ways, by becoming the great grandmother of David and the ancestor of Jesus Christ. ’God moves in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform.’
By the way, there’s a lesson here about the way God brings about his will that would be helpful for us to learn. It would appear at first glance that Elimelech’s decision to take his family to Moab was a big mistake. That was certainly Naomi’s conclusion. Yet if he hadn’t made that mistake, none of the rest of the story would have happened. Yet how many times have you heard Christians expressing the thought that they’ve missed out on God’s best because they made some wrong decision in the past. How often have you heard preachers teaching that sort of idea. As though God was bound by circumstances or by our poor judgement. As though if you don’t get every decision right in your life, or at least the major ones, you’ll have to settle for God’s second best! I’ve heard those exact words used. But what sort of God are we talking about here? Where in the Bible have human mistakes of judgement ever stopped God from doing what he planned? So if you’ve made mistakes in your life, don’t let them bind you. Confess them and get on with your life. Thank God that he can use even your wrong decisions to bring about his purposes. And of course, learn from your mistakes so you don’t make them next time.