Tag Archives: Ruth

Broad and strong, warm and sheltering…wings

May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.

(Ruth 2.12)

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

(Ps 91.1-4)

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms…so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ…..Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

(1 Pet 4.10&11, 5.6&7)

While there are no perfect people in the bible – apart from our Lord Jesus – there are many whose lives are recorded so that we might catch glimpses of how God works through fallibility and frailty to achieve his sovereign purposes and to bless his children. This week I returned to one of the loveliest of these tales, known as the book of Ruth but which might justifiably also be called the story of Boaz, or of Naomi! It is a small-scale drama, and yet in God’s providence these three lives are woven into the great narrative which will in due time arrive at the Messiah. It speaks powerfully to me of the way that our wonderful God knows each of his children, working our own good into his own over-arching will, encouraging me that I do well to focus on obeying him and humbly handing over my own cares for him to handle.

Ruth has embraced the faith of her mother-in-law, and lives this out by returning with her to a land where she is a vulnerable widow with no prospects, except as the God who she now worships may provide. Ruth is loyal to her relative, and puts her own strength at Naomi’s service, labouring hard to provide for them both – and it is God who leads her into the fields of a godly man, Boaz. She demonstrates exactly what Peter is talking about in his letter – humbly trust God, and then work hard with the gifts and opportunities you have been given.

Through Boaz, God will work to provide not only for the immediate but also the long-term future of this young woman and her relative – but Boaz himself will find great blessing through the connection, as he puts his social position, wealth and authority at Ruth’s disposal as her husband and the guardian-redeemer of the family. In this sense, we might say that Boaz became the answer to his own prayer for Ruth (the opening quote of this blog), that she might be richly rewarded by the God to whom she entrusted herself!

I rejoice to know that the Almighty Sovereign and Holy God, whose power in creation is revealed to be so far beyond my imagination, is also the tender and strong one who calls me to take shelter – like Ruth – under his protection. His eye is on an incredible eternal plan for glory, but amazingly, is also upon me. Not one detail of my life as his beloved child is beneath his notice – and he is able to weave together the tiny details of my circumstances into the majestic work of redemption and new creation.

Not only this, but he also gifts me the opportunity to be an active part of this dual narrative – I am privileged to use the gifts and opportunities he gives in order to further his work in the lives of others. I am also one whose needs may be met by others as God directs and provides for me – if I will be humble and honest enough to allow them to care for me.

A friend recently shared a song which included these lines, and I share them here as a beautiful expression of the way that God often shelters and cares for his children as they obey him in putting their gifts at the disposal of their fellow believers – as we are his wings…

Brother, sister, let me serve you; let me be as Christ to you; pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too.

We are pilgrims on a journey and companions on the road; we are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.

[R.A.M. Gillard: 1953-]

A state of readiness…

 

Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side….. whose name was Boaz.. “The Lord bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.”….Then Boaz announced to the the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech..I have also acquired Ruth the Moabitess, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property…” Then the elders and all those at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming in to your home like Rachel.. Ruth gave birth to a son..and they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

(Ruth 2.1&20, 4.9-11,13&17)

I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven. As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he shows us his mercy.

(Ps 123.1&2)

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come…you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him…Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns…

(Matt 24.42-46)

Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near..The Judge is standing at the door!

(Jas 5.7&8)

The book of Ruth focuses on an obscure family, at a time of national neglect of the things of God. The period of the Judges was passing, there was no king in Israel and everyone did ‘as he saw fit’ (Judges 21.25). It would have been easy for personal godliness and faithfulness to the law to slip away, as each looked out for their own interests and had little hope or expectation of change..

And in this situation, we meet Boaz, a man who lived day to day in the light of the law, even though there was no ruler – priest or king – to enforce it, and who stood ready to act rightly, to do justice, and have mercy on the widows and aliens in the land. The readiness of Boaz to respond to the opportunities which God opened, extending mercy and kindness where he could have chosen either to be cruel, or to exploit Ruth’s vulnerable situation, is a beautiful example of how we are called to live in these days between the first and second coming of Christ.

We are a chosen people, we have all we need for godly obedience, and we are called to live each day in expectation of the return of our Lord and Master – the one whose sacrifice on our behalf wins our loyalty and obedience in his service. He has tasked us with witnessing to him, faithfully proclaiming the gospel, serving one another, and labouring to model the life of the new kingdom in this old creation.

Like Boaz, we do not know what each day will bring, but we can choose to live on the godly principles, and to respond to the opportunities God gives. We may be surrounded by people and situations which are daunting, mocking the sovereignty and goodness of God. But we also have the truth of the gospel in our hearts, and the promise that in his good time, God will return looking to find his servants at their appointed tasks, patiently awaiting him.

Like Boaz, we have the privilege of serving a living God who works all things together and calls us into his purposes. The readiness of this godly man to fulfill his responsibilities as kinsman-redeemer not only blessed him with a wife and family, but also furthered God’s plan and in due course, Boaz’s great-grandson David would be born – and ultimately, Mary would give birth to Jesus in Bethlehem, as Ruth did to Obed.

Am I ready for what God may have in store for me? Ready to serve; ready to forgive; ready to love; ready to learn and to praise? I cannot tell how my prompt response in obedience might be used by God, but I can choose daily to be ready. I may not know this side of glory what purposes will be served by my small part in his great plan, but I can choose not to be preoccupied with what may be and instead discipline my heart to deal with what is in a way that glorifies him.

A blank sheet..

For we are God’s masterpiece. 

He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

(Eph 2.10)

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

(1 Peter 2.9&10)

God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ – everything in heaven and on earth.

(Eph 1.9&10) 

As I contemplate the next few months, with a change of home; church and lifestyle – moving after 16 years in one house, 22 in the same church, and a lifetime in the city – I am deeply conscious that God is asking every day, “do you trust me?”

Do I? I am tempted to barter with God, to ask to see in advance how he will provide for me – for friends, rewarding activities, replacements for all the things that make my life here so rich. That is not trust. Indeed it speaks of a deep suspicion, an unwillingness to believe that God is going to be faithful to his promises, and I am ashamed to recognise it in my heart.

The whole of scripture reveals an active God, one who has a plan – both a great overall strategy and an intimate personal plan for the lives of the individuals caught up in it. Think of the wonderful story of Ruth, called out of her native land to become a mother and grandmother within the people of Israel, and part of the blood-line not only of King David, but also our great King Jesus himself. She needed to be cherished and provided for as a woman in her society, and God brought Boaz to be her husband, meeting both the intimate personal needs and the larger plan he was steadily working out. Or consider Hannah, a faithful but barren wife – mocked and demeaned by her neighbours and suffering deeply for her lack of children. God heard her prayer for a son, and filled her arms and her heart with joy; but he also brought into the nation the boy who would become one of the greatest prophet leaders, Samuel, who would anoint first Saul and then David as king.

I need to remind myself of these promises, these stories, of God active to meet personal needs within his great plan, as our family faces upheaval and I wonder what I am to do in our new place of ministry. God’s great plan remains – to call a people to himself, to make disciples of all nations and to see all things gathered together under the lordship of Jesus Christ. It is astonishing to think that I have a part to play in that adventure, but it is for this that I was created new in Christ, and God has planned good works which he will enable me to do for him!

But on a personal level too, I will have things to do, new relationships to establish, people to encourage and serve, new ways to serve and glorify the God who has called me out of darkness into his glorious light! Will I not trust him to reveal those to me in his own good time? I want to close with words which I first heard through Elisabeth Elliott – a woman who learnt to trust God through great suffering – and which although archaic to our ears yet convey that sense of waiting in trust that God will direct my steps in his own, good, time.

From an old English parsonage, down by the sea

there came in the twilight a message to me;

Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,

Hath, as it seems to me, teaching from Heaven.

And on through the hours the quiet words ring like a low inspiration –

“Do the next thing.”

Many a questioning, many a fear,

Many a doubt hath its quieting here.

Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,

Time, opportunity, guidance, are given.

Fear not tomorrows, child of the King, trust them with Jesus,

“Do the next thing.”

Do it immediately; do it with prayer;

do it reliantly, casting all care;

do it with reverence, tracing His Hand

who placed it before thee with earnest command.

Stayed on Omnipotence, safe’neath his wing, leave all resultings,

“Do the next thing.”

Looking to Jesus, ever serener

(Working or suffering) be thy demeanour,

In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,

The light of His countenance be thy psalm,

Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing, then as He beckons thee

“Do the next thing.”

(author unknown)