The Tapestry of God’s Providence
What often appears to us to be a mess of knots is just the back view of the tapestry God is weaving.
Naomi and Ruth had experienced their share of frayed threads in life. They arrived in Israel widowed and penniless—a perilous position for women in a lawless society (see Judges 21:25). In Old Testament Israelite society, the law allowed for the poor to enter the fields and pick up (glean) leftover grain as they followed the steps of the official harvesters. This law was established by God Himself and revealed His care and concern for the needy. But God’s law was not always—not often—observed in this period.
Yet when Ruth resolved to go into the fields, God worked through this law to tangibly provide for her and Naomi. Ruth’s seemingly mundane decision became an illustration of God’s providential plan for the two women—and for all of redemptive history!
Ruth ended up gleaning on the land of Boaz, a distant relative of Naomi’s deceased husband and a man of means and high standing. Ancient Israelites understood the family to be the basic unit of society, with members of the wider family having obligations to support and protect relatives who were struggling like Naomi. All of this hints at God’s hand in providing generously for Ruth and Naomi, even in ways that seem unremarkable at first glance.
In fact, as we read Ruth’s story, we notice that many of its details unfold as if by accident. Ruth happened to decide to glean that day. Naomi happened to encourage it. Boaz happened to pick that time to harvest his field. Ruth happened to pick his field. But when we look at the story as a whole, we see that all of these happenings were the instruments of God’s providential care in unfolding His purpose of redemption. After all, out of Boaz and Ruth’s lineage would come King David and, eventually, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself—a greater provider and protector who also “came from Bethlehem.”
As God wove these threads into His beautiful story of provision, Ruth and Naomi surely would have thought they looked knotted, disconnected, and frayed at times. Satan often wants us to stay focused on such seemingly jumbled and discouraging circumstances, doubting God and His good provision. We so easily forget that what appears to be a mess is just the back view of the tapestry God is weaving. One day, though, when we get the chance to see His handiwork from the front, all of those strange and dark threads will prove to have been part of His glorious pattern. Today, remember that “coincidences” are no such thing, that uncertainties and difficulties are opportunities to trust in God, and that behind all of them He is working out His plans to prosper His people in faith and godliness, and to bring them home.
Ruth Meets Boaz
1Now Naomi had a relative of her husband's, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. 2And 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.” 3So 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. 4And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you!” And they answered, “The Lord bless you.” 5Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” 6And 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. 7She 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.”1
8Then 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. 9Let 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.” 10Then 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?” 11But 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. 12The 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!” 13Then 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.”
14And 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. 15When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. 16And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.”
17So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah2 of barley. 18And 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. 19And 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.” 20And 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.” 21And Ruth the Moabite said, “Besides, he said to me, ‘You shall keep close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.’” 22And 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.” 23So 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.
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