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Ruth 2: The Provision of God Print E-mail
Ruth
Sunday, 27 November 2011

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The Thanksgiving Holiday began as a time to reflect upon and appreciate God’s provision. William Bradford, in preparation for what is now considered the first Thanksgiving, “Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest…Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house…there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.” 1  A hundred years later George Washington proclaimed: “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.” 2  Finally, when Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday, he stated: “I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” 3  It is noteworthy that all of these men recognized the providence of God and called for people to be thankful to Him for all of His provisions. The Holiday began as a day set aside to remember the provisions and blessings that had been given by the hand of God. 

One of the main themes in the book of Ruth is God’s provision for Ruth and Naomi.  As with every book in the Bible, although various events are transpiring, the main character of the book is God.  He is the One who is at work in everything that is happening.  God is behind every event in the book of Ruth.  Over and over again we see His ‘kindness,’ His ‘hesed,’ being evidenced through His provision.  This morning I want to simply highlight God’s provision in the book of Ruth.  We will focus on chapter 2 and the harvest season, but we need to consider the rest of the book as well.  So then, how do we see God’s provision in the book of Ruth?

God’s provision in Moab (ch.1):

The book begins with Elimelech’s family moving to Moab.  Then, as we have seen over the last few weeks, everything goes wrong.  Elimelech and his two sons die, leaving Naomi, his wife, a childless widow in a foreign land.  Yet, the Lord does not leave her there to suffer and die.  We read of how the situation changed in 1:6.  Look at that verse with me.  While in Moab, Naomi became aware of the fact that there was food in Bethlehem.  It is important that we do not miss how this came to be: the Lord had visited his people and given them food.  We have a tendency to forget the fact that it is the Lord who provides food.  One commentator notes: “Modern urbanites living far from farmers’ fields would do well to remember that ultimately God, not the grocer, stocks their shelves.” 4  The Lord provides the opportunity for Naomi to return to Bethlehem and find food, which she does. 

Another provision of God that is mentioned in chapter 1 is found in verses 8-9.  Look at those with me.  Naomi is encouraging Ruth and Orpah to return to Moab and she prays for them that the Lord would grant them husbands.  Although we are not told about the rest of Orpah’s days, we are told about the Lord providing a husband for Ruth.  Naomi looked to the Lord for such a provision, for she knew that only He could provide.

God’s provision in the harvest (ch. 2):

Chapter 1 ends with Ruth and Naomi in Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest (1:22).  The entirety of chapter 2 will focus on the harvest season (see 2:23).  Ruth and Naomi came back hungry and poor.  They did not know how they would acquire food, they only knew that the Lord was blessing Israel.  Thus, they still had to find food and provision.  So then, how does the Lord meet their needs during the harvest season?

First, the Lord again provides food.  How would Naomi and Ruth get food?  The answer begins with God’s provision in the Law for widows and orphans.  God had commanded His people to allow the poor and the widows to be able to glean from their fields at the time of harvest.  This meant that people could come and gather from the sides of the fields and anything that was left over to provide for their families.  Again, where did the idea of gleaning come from?  One commentator answers: “Behind these regulations stood the full authority of the legal landowner, Yahweh himself.  Israelite farmers might be the means of provision, but the great, compassionate landlord was the actual generous benefactor of the poor.”   Thus, God provided for them through the institution of gleaning.  But what if the farmers did not follow God’s Law?  How would Ruth find a field to glean in?  Look at 2:3.  What brought Ruth to the field of Boaz?  Luck?  Chance?  No, it is the Lord who brought Ruth to glean in this particular field.  Nothing is left to chance with the Lord.  The One who gave the command concerning care for the poor is also able to guide Ruth to just the right field to find food (and more).

Eventually Boaz shows up to see how the harvest is going.  He notices Ruth and inquires about her.  When he is told who she is, he goes and speaks with her.  Look at verses 8-9.  Boaz not only follows the Law of God but goes even further to care for Ruth.  He speaks to the young men on her behalf and even allows her to drink from their water, which is important to keep working during the hot weather.  Ruth is amazed at his kindness (‘hesed’) and asks why he has shown her such favor.  He responds in verses 11-12.  Look at those.  Boaz is aware of her loyalty to Naomi.  In his mind, he is simply repaying her for what she has done to his relative.  He will go on to even feed her at his table (v. 14).  Yet, we need to note the connection between the kindness of Boaz and God’s kindness toward Ruth.  As readers of the story, we know that it is the Lord who has brought her to Boaz.  Yet, the Lord provides for Ruth through Boaz.  God’s kindness to Ruth is expressed through the kindness of Boaz.  God often blesses His people through the kindness of His people.  We are the instruments that God uses to provide for others.  He gives us a heart to meet the needs of those around us and provides the resources necessary to meet those needs.

We also see this connection in Naomi’s prayer for Boaz.  After the long day of gleaning, Ruth reports back to Naomi all that has occurred.  Naomi is amazed when she hears the story and says to Ruth concerning Boaz: May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead (2:20).  Naomi sees God’s kindness behind Boaz’s provision.

Not only does the Lord provide food through Boaz, but He also provides protection.  Look at verses 21-23.  Apparently, the gleaners were open to abuse from the other workers.  It is hard to be certain as to what this entailed, but it was a big enough issue for Boaz to go out of his way to protect Ruth (see also v. 9, 15-16).  Through Boaz’s kindness, the Lord had provided food and protection for Ruth and Naomi throughout the harvest season.

God’s provision for their future (ch. 3-4):

Of course food was not the only need in the lives of these women.  Likewise, once the harvest was over, then what would happen to them?  But the story does not end at the close of the harvest.  The Lord knew that they not only needed food, but they also needed hope for the future.  In particular, Ruth needed a husband and Naomi needed a descendent.  The rest of the book will go on to tell us of God’s provision for both of these needs.  We are told of Naomi’s plan and Ruth’s execution of that plan in chapter 3.  Ruth proposes to Boaz who would gladly accept but knows that another is first in line for her hand in marriage.  Thus, in chapter 4 we are told of the resolution of that issue, which allows Boaz to marry Ruth.  Her need for a husband has been provided by the Lord, just as Naomi prayed in 1:8-9.

But what about Naomi’s need for a descendent?  How will that need be met?  Look at 4:13.  The author makes it abundantly clear that the Lord gives a child to Ruth and Boaz.  Again, we see clearly in this verse that it is the Lord who gives the gift of children.  The Lord gave Ruth and Boaz a child and the Lord gave Naomi a descendent.  The story began with what looked like the ending of a family line.  Yet, God works to make certain that the line continues.  He provides for the future of Ruth and Naomi.

Yet, lest we miss it, God is also providing for our future as well.  His work in the family of Elimelech is also part of His work to send us Christ.  He provides food to keep this family alive so that He can ultimately provide us with the Bread of Life.  He protects Ruth to send us One who will protect us from all of our enemies.  For, from Ruth and Boaz, whose life together began in the fields of Bethlehem, would come a Savior, Jesus Christ, our Lord.  He would come and die for our sins at the cross, providing for all of our needs, if we will turn from our sins and trust in Him.  This is what God is ultimately providing for in the book of Ruth.

So then, how should we respond to God’s kind provision in the book of Ruth?  First, as we just noted, we must turn from our sins and believe in God’s provision for our sins through the death and resurrection of His Son.  We must believe in Christ as our Savior.

Second, like Boaz, the kindness of God towards us must cause us to be kind towards others.  We must use our resources as blessings of God to be spent on the needs of others.  As we enter this Holiday season, may we be looking for ways to be a blessing to those in need.  Likewise, we must realize that the greatest need that everyone faces is the need for a Savior.  God has met this need by providing us Christ.  May we spend this season telling others of the great provision that is found through faith in Jesus.  May we speak often of the loving kindness of God.  In particular, may we speak of His loving-kindness in sending us His only Son to pay for our sins and make us a part of the glorious plan that He was working even in the lives of Ruth, Boaz, and Naomi so many years ago.  All praise to the One who so faithfully provides.  Amen.

1 This quote can be found here: http://holydays.tripod.com/brad.htm.
2 This quote can be found here:
http://holydays.tripod.com/wash.htm.
3 This quote can be found here:
http://holydays.tripod.com/linc.htm.
4 Robert L. Hubbard Jr., The Book of Ruth NICOT (Grand Rapids: Eerdman’s Publishing, 1988), p. 101.
5 Ibid., p.136.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Friday, 09 December 2011 )

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