“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God'” (Psalm 61:1). For those who believe in God, there is no such thing as “coincidence”; we don’t say, “As it happened…” We say, “God was at work all the time!”
Ruth, chapters 1-2; Psalms 56 & 61; 2 Corinthians, chapter 5
Ruth 2:1-12 (NLT):
Now there was a wealthy and influential man in Bethlehem named Boaz, who was a relative of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech. One day Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go out into the harvest fields to pick up the stalks of grain left behind by anyone who is kind enough to let me do it.” Naomi replied, “All right, my daughter, go ahead.” So Ruth went out to gather grain behind the harvesters. And as it happened, she found herself working in a field that belonged to Boaz, the relative of her father-in-law, Elimelech.
In the fields of Boaz
While she was there, Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters. “The Lord be with you!” he said. “The Lord bless you!” the harvesters replied. Then Boaz asked his foreman, “Who is that young woman over there? Who does she belong to?” And the foreman replied, “She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi. She asked me this morning if she could gather grain behind the harvesters. She has been hard at work ever since, except for a few minutes’ rest in the shelter.”
Boaz went over and said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields. Stay right behind the young women working in my field. See which part of the field they are harvesting, and then follow them. I have warned the young men not to treat you roughly. And when you are thirsty, help yourself to the water they have drawn from the well.”
Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly. “What have I done to deserve such kindness?” she asked. “I am only a foreigner.” “Yes, I know,” Boaz replied. “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.”
“As it happened”
As I read today’s passages, two connections between the chapters in Ruth and our two psalms for today caught my attention. First, in Ruth 2:3, it says, “As it happened, she found herself working in a field that belonged to Boaz.” “As it happened” sounds as though it was a coincidence. “How lucky! How fortunate that she happened to end up in Boaz’ field.” The connection is with Psalm 53:1: “Only fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’” That brings to mind one of my favorite sayings: “’Coincidence’ is a word for people who don’t believe in God.”
It didn’t just happen that Ruth found her way to Boaz’ field. At the same time, she didn’t go there intentionally; she didn’t know who Boaz was. But whether we attribute this to “providence” or “prevenient grace,” God clearly directed Ruth to that field. She probably didn’t realize that God was leading her – just as we don’t always recognize God’s leading. In hindsight, though, we clearly recognize the hand of God.
“The shelter of your wings”
Toward the end of our passage from Ruth, Boaz encourages Ruth to stay in his fields to harvest. He tells her that she will be both safe and treated well. When she asks why he would do that for her, he responds: “I know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law…May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.”
That phrase echoes Psalm 61:4, our other psalm for today: Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings!” Psalm 61 is attributed to David, and if you’re familiar with Ruth’s story, you realize that Boaz and Ruth were the great-grandparents of David. As it happened? No, because God’s hand was in it! Neither Boaz nor Ruth understood at the time what God had planned, but they were both intent on walking in God’s will.
“Only fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God’”
Ruth was no fool. When Naomi was ready to head back home to Bethlehem, Ruth insisted on staying with her. But she also committed her life to God: “Your people will be my people, and your God my God…” (1:16). Naomi recognized God’s hand in leading Ruth to Boaz’ field: “May the Lord bless him!” Naomi told her daughter-in-law. “He is showing his kindness to us as well as to your dead husband. That man is one of our closest relatives, one of our family redeemers” (2:20).
Boaz also was no fool. Everything about him points to a strong belief in God and a willingness to walk in God’s ways. His actions toward Ruth were consistent with God’s commands through Moses about showing kindness to the poor and to foreigners. Because he was committed to God’s ways, God was at work in his life. When people are committed to God’s ways, God has a way of working that often completely blows our minds!
In a world which increasingly rejects belief in the God of Scripture, God’s people need to stay committed to him. We need to know God’s Word and walk in his ways, and trust that he is at work in us. We’ll never have to say, “As it happened,” because we’ll know that it was God at work! And we can trust that he will keep us safe beneath the shelter of his wings.
Father, thank you for reminding us today of your great faithfulness to your people. You keep us safe from the attacks of the enemy when we keep our trust in you. Help us to walk in your ways, and to trust that you are at work. Then, instead of saying “As it happened,” we’ll be able to say, “The Lord was at work all the time!” Amen.