Act 2: The Hidden Hand of God
God rewards those who take refuge in Him
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In the Old Testament book of Ruth, we see two people - Naomi and Ruth - confronting a problem that challenges us to this day: Trusting God through the smoke-filled seasons of life.
The tension of relinquishing control and giving a crisis to God was an issue then and it's an issue now. When we're suffocating in pain and disappointment, it's hard to see God's character and His capability. It's hard to trust that He is really working for our good and His glory.
In the first chapter of Ruth, we saw Naomi stumble over this point. She simply could not see God's good hand in her situation. She had relocated to a pagan land only to have her husband and both her sons die, leaving her destitute and vulnerable. When she returned home to Bethlehem with Ruth, one of her daughters-in-law, she was a bitter and disillusioned woman, convinced she had been abandoned by God.
But in the second chapter, we see what happens when Ruth seizes the opportunity to trust God. It becomes clear that though God's hand is hidden, He is hard at work in ways Naomi and Ruth can't possibly recognize in their current situation.
Until this point in the story, Ruth and Naomi have been the two main characters and Boaz, an amazing man of God, is about to be introduced. But the real hero of the second chapter is God.
Though His presence, plan, and power aren't always explicit, here are three things we can see that God's hidden hand was accomplishing in this story and in our lives today:
1. The hand of God is always LEADING. (v. 1-7)
God leads Ruth to take action. She and Naomi are widows, with no food and no source of income. Ruth takes the only option available to her: She goes to a field during the harvest where she asks the foreman for permission to glean from what's left behind by the reapers.
Though Ruth didn't know it then, the field she chose "happened" to be a particularly fertile one that belonged to Boaz, a wealthy and honorable relative of Naomi's late husband. God had already begun to put His plan into action.
Ruth showed herself to be helpful, humble, and hardworking. She acknowledged her dependence on God and on those around her and was neither passive, demanding, nor lazy.
She could not have known what God was doing but she trusted Him. For Ruth (and for Christians today) there were (and are) no coincidences, only providence. God is always in control.
2. The hand of God is always PROVIDING. (v. 8-16)
God provided for Ruth by leading her intentionally to Boaz's field. Boaz was a man of character, wealth, position, and strength and like Ruth, he was aware of his dependence on God for all that he had.
Boaz was exactly the right person to protect and provide for Ruth at that time. Not only does he tell his reapers to allow Ruth to follow them through the field as they glean, he tells them to intentionally drop extra grain for her, and then he invites her to share a meal with him and his servants. He was Godly, good, and generous.
When Ruth asks him why he has shown such kindness to her, he points to her compassion toward her mother-in-law and pronounces a blessing over her: "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."
Little does Boaz know that he is the means God is using to answer this prayer; God provided for Ruth and Naomi through the generosity of Boaz.
Similarly, God always provides for us, even in the smoke-filled seasons of life. He promises:
- Grace (2 Corinthians 12:9 - My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.)
- Forgiveness (1 John 1:9 - If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.)
- Wisdom (James 1:5 - If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.)
- Strength (Isaiah 40:31 - Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength...)
- Comfort (Psalm 34:18 - The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.)
God's provision is never the problem, the problem is our inability to see it.
3. The hand of God is always REDEEMING (v. 17-23)
The redemptive opportunity in what had seemed a lost and hopeless situation begins to dawn on Naomi. She acknowledges that "the Lord's kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!"
Naomi finally gets it: God is going to redeem this situation; He is going to use this for His glory and their good. God has a plan!
The same is true for us. If like Ruth, we take refuge in God, He will work in our hopeless situation as well. Even when we can't see it, His hand is always leading us, providing for us, and redeeming us, even in the most painful of circumstances.
Where do I currently need to trust God is leading, providing, and redeeming my crisis?
(Adapted by Diane Rivers from sermon entitled, "The Hidden Hand of God".)