During those times of faltering faith, those night seasons in the lives of the children of God, we are often presented with a choice: to rely on God’s provision or seek help elsewhere. Poor judgment at this stage often leads to dire consequences. Lot ended up in the land of Sodom and Gomorrah because he chose the provision of the land over that of God. Elijah found himself under the juniper tree by allowing Jezebel’s voice to take priority over the voice of God. More than one king in the Old Testament lost his kingdom because he set his eyes on the things around him rather than on the laws and statutes of the Almighty. A great illustration of the troubles of making wrong choices and the redemptive process that often follows is in the Old Testament story of Ruth.
Famine struck the children of God during the time of the judges. Elimelech, the patriarch of this account, chose to sojourn in Moab with his wife and his two sons. Elimelech left God’s promised land and returned to the country from which God had brought them. In the first lines of the story, we see the options set before Elimelech, and the results of his decision were disastrous. Elimelech and his sons died in Moab, leaving their wives destitute.
Here we can see the picture of so many modern families where the father has made the wrong choices, following anything but God. The family, like the widows, is left to salvage what remained. It is important to note that the devastation here could have continued. When we persist in a place in our lives where God has no desire for us to be, we are open to attacks from the enemy and often find that our situation continually worsens.
When we continue in a place in our lives where God has no desire for us to be, we are open to attacks from the enemy and often find that our situation continually worsens.
With the choices of Elimelech and Naomi finalized, Ruth and Orpah face decisions of their own. Do they remain in Moab or return with Naomi to the land promised by God to her people? Orpah returns to Moab and disappears from scripture, while Ruth, in a declaration of love and faith, says:
“Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” (Rth 1:16-17)
The choices of Elimelech could have condemned the family, but the choices of Naomi and Ruth saved them. When we step out on faith and say to God, “where you go, I’ll go, and where you stay, I’ll stay,” we give Him permission to work in our lives and on our behalf. Ruth, by exercising her faith, opened the floodgates of heaven and allowed God to make her paths straight — straight, but not without difficulty.
A common misconception is that faith makes a believer’s life easy. Ask any true Believer who has walked in the way for any length of time, and they will attest there are still battles to fight and struggles to overcome. Ruth, without anything to recommend her, found herself in a land of strangers. Rather than sulk and beg, Ruth faithfully began to work in the corners of the fields, where tares in the wheat abound, relying on the kindness of those who obeyed God’s instructions (Lev 23:22). It was this attitude of faith followed by work that allowed God to lead her to the field of Boaz.
Boaz immediately recognizes something different about this woman, this foreigner who insisted on helping to provide for what remained of her family. Her work is such that the master of the field in which she is working singles her out for praise and lays his favor around her like a blanket, giving her the easiest tasks and allowing her to drink water that she had not drawn.
This, then, becomes the shining example of favor in the lives of the believer; when we step out on faith and begin to work, not only where God wants us to, but in the way that he desires us to, we step into a realm of favor that we may have never known. Too many people miss their blessing because they believe that the task God has set for them is demeaning, beneath them, or not in the area where they hoped to work. It is not for us to question the directions of God, but to confirm that it is His direction, and then to advance the gospel in that direction with all our heart. Paul says,
“Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way” (1Co 12:29-31).
The goal is not to chase the flashiest gifts and callings but to work on the parcel of ground that God has given each of us until we see that plot of land, small though it may be, begin to bear fruit.
The goal is not to chase the flashiest gifts and callings but to work on the parcel of ground that God has given each of us until we see that plot of land, small though it may be, begin to bear fruit. But we must also have within us that streak of boldness that allows us to advance when others would become complacent.
Until Ruth made it home that evening, she knew only that she had found favor in the eyes of the landowner for whom she had worked. God, however, rarely works so simply. She came home that evening with an ephah of barley and told her mother-in-law of the favor that she had found. Naomi was ecstatic. She immediately understood the true gift that God had given them. Boaz is a near kinsman, one who can bring them out of their poverty-stricken situation. He is one of a few who has the legal authority to lay claim to the property that once belonged to the men of the family and restore it to these two widows and any sons they might produce. Rather than idle around, Naomi, true to form, begins to act by providing Ruth with a set of instructions that would afford them the greatest chance of true redemption. In one of the most beautiful and touching scenes in the Bible, Ruth, unfamiliar with the customs of the land but recognizing the need in her life for a redeemer, rises, washes, and anoints herself, then proceeds to fall at the feet of Boaz, begging for redemption.
It is in this act of faith that we see the place where every sinner must arrive before salvation. We must recognize our desperate need of a savior, of a kinsmen redeemer to pull us from our situation, and then, with dignity and pride abandoned, we must fall at his feet, begging for mercy and grace to cover us completely. Here, then, is the work of Christ laid out in simplistic detail. For though we were enemies of God, He recognized our need of a kinsman redeemer, one who could lay claim by right of blood to the inheritance from which we had walked away, and one who would willingly walk up Calvary’s hill to present himself as a sacrifice to redeem the debt between fallen man and loving God.