Time to play catch up, friends: if you missed last week’s post, we’ve been looking through the book of Ruth. Ruth is one of my favourite books in the Bible: four chapters that are more beautiful than the majority of chic-flicks that I would pick out on a Friday night in. Ruth is this kick-butt, incredible faithful woman, and we follow the story of the loss of her husband, and her choice to stick with her mother-in-law in faithfulness.
So in chapter two, we read of Ruth and Naomi arriving in Bethlehem, where they decide to settle; and Ruth, being the younger of the pair, deciding to go out into the fields to work and earn her keep. Like any good rom-com, she ends up in the field of a man called Boaz (no spoilers, but remember his name – he’s going to be important later!).
The first thing to note in this chapter is how some of the characters are almost too good to be true: Ruth does not simply sit and wait for things to happen to her, or fade into hopelessness and the death of her husband; but she moves forward, one step at a time, and serves faithfully, doing what is right by her mother-in-law. Proud people would rather starve than stoop to the jobs of the workers in the fields; but not Ruth – she rolls up her sleeves and gets on with it. She’s a fantastic example that no labour is beneath us – we’re all on an even playing field. And Boaz – Boaz seems like the dream boss. When he arrives in the field to check on the days’ work, we see something of the love that his workers have for him:
“Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters: “The Lord be with you!” “The Lord bless you!,” they answered. (Ruth 2:4)
This is when he notices Ruth for the first time:
“Boaz asked the overseer of his harvesters, “Who does that young woman belong to?” The overseer replied, “She is the Moabite who came back from Moab with Naomi”. 2:5-6
I love the godliness that we see, both in Ruth and in Boaz: Boaz speaks to his staff with kindness, and they respond to him the same, and Ruth was faithful – she stayed with Naomi when she could have left to find a new life, and she did not think of herself as more highly than she ought to, but went out to work in the fields. Because of their faithfulness, God blessed Boaz with a good business and a good life; and Ruth with a good field, and a good boss.
Boaz saw Ruth, and he cared for her, and he made sure that she had a home:
“I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother in law since the death of your husband – how you have left your Father and your Mother and your homeland, and came to live with people you did not know before. May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge”. (2:11)
God has a purpose for everything, and a view that is different from our own. Therefore, work and life is the act of standing in the position that God has put us in on the earth – this is the position that we are in, that God might work through us. Matthew Henry puts it like this: “God wisely orders what seems to us small events; and those that appear altogether uncertain, still are directed to serve his own glory, and the good of his people”.
Ruth was so covered by the protection and the hand of God – she was able to live with Naomi and spend time with the other women in the field under Boaz’s care. When we are faithful, God has everything else covered – we can just rest in his goodness.
So wisdom is being able to rest in the goodness of God, and to not carry on trying to strive our way forward in our own strength.
If we are the Ruth in this story, Jesus is the Boaz: he is the good man, who has all of our needs covered and who cares for us so deeply. And this is how he sees you: he looks at you and says well done – come and rest now.
I have heard what you have done for those that you have loved – he says – how you left your father and your mother, and came to be around the people that you did not know before. May you be richly rewarded!
God is faithful. He cares for us. He puts us in the places that we need to be, he gives us everything that we need, and he is watching over us. He sees you and he loves all that you are. He loves your heart. And today, friend, he’s saying well done.
The logical, totally understandable choice for Ruth would have been to leave Naomi, her mother in law, who she had no family connection to now since the death of her husband, and to go and find a new life; but this is not what Ruth did. She chose faithfulness, and she stuck with Naomi. Together, they went to find a new home together, and Ruth went to work in the fields to provide for her mother-in-law. And in this faithfulness, Ruth found a home; she found people who would protect her, and a place where she belonged.
In Matthew 19, Jesus makes this promise to those who follow him:
“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be life, and many who are first”. Matthew 19:29-30
Jesus promises that those that choose to step out and follow him will not lack, but will receive a hundred times as much. This is what God did for Ruth, and it’s what he does freely for us: it is not about those who can provide for themselves in their own strength, but those who are faithful and who know that it all relies on Jesus. Many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
So whatever this radical faithfulness has looked like for you, whether you’ve left mother and father, or brother or sister, or houses or simply the promise of a great life that you could have some other way, know this: God is saying “well done” over you; and he loves your good heart. Keep going.