So Ruth went. She entered a field and gathered the grain left behind by the reapers. Now it happened that she ended up in the part of the field that belonged to Boaz, who was from Elimelech’s family. Ruth 2:3 GW [see full devo text in NIV below]
Does anything just happen? When something unexpected happens it’s often seen as chance or happenstance. This is more or less the oversimplified view of evolution.
But many people throughout the world are convinced everything takes place according to a grand choreographed cosmic plan. Whatever happens was meant to be or destiny or fate.
But I wonder, why do we have to categorize the events of life as either one or the other?
Could both be true without being in conflict? Yes, I believe so. God is sovereign but He created us with a free will. The history of Israel as recorded in Scripture confirms and reveals this. It’s a paradox but the one is not mutually exclusive of the other.
An agrarian life
The short story at the beginning of chapter two sets the stage for the central theme of redemption in Ruth. We’re told Naomi had a relative in Bethlehem named Boaz who was a man of integrity and status. As chapter two unfolds, he becomes a central character in this redemption story.
The ancient world was based on an agrarian economy. Their calendar revolved around planting and harvests, and of course, the weather. Laborers were needed to plant and reap and manage the fields. This was the world Ruth knew.
Built into the Mosaic Law was a provision for the poor as well as foreigners to gather or glean what was left behind by the paid harvesters (Lev 19:9-10). Ruth, knowing their economic plight as widows without a source of income, sought Naomi’s permission to glean in someone’s field. She hoped to find favor in the eyes of a landowner or foreman who might hire her as a laborer.
This was Ruth’s plan but God had a much greater plan.
Now it happened that [Ruth] ended up in the part of the field that belonged to Boaz, who was from Elimelech’s family.
Did Ruth just happen to find the field of Boaz or is there more to the story? Ruth chose to go out to glean and her choice led her to glean in the field of Boaz. But God had a greater plan and it included Ruth with her initiative and choices.
A pastoral scene
Ruth goes out to follow the paid harvesters and glean behind them. After their mid-morning break, Boaz—the owner of the field—came out to check on his workers and the harvest. And he notices Ruth.
The way Boaz greets his workers and takes note of Ruth’s presence begins to reveal the character of Boaz. He greets all of them with a blessing and they respond to him with a blessing. It shows how Boaz treated those reaping the harvest with respect and appreciation.
Boaz knows them and they know him, and he realizes there’s a new face among them he doesn’t know. When Boaz asks the foreman about her, he speaks well of her and identifies her as the young Moabite woman who came with Naomi from Moab.
The foreman testifies to Ruth’s hard work, as well as asking for permission to glean. Everyone seems to be aware of the goodness of Ruth’s character and her commitment to Naomi and the God of Israel. This is significant since she’s a foreigner, a Gentile by birth.
This short introduction of the story of Ruth and Boaz begins with further insight into Ruth’s character and some insight into the integrity of Boaz, which will continue to be revealed and later be tested.
We will also see how human free will is woven together with God’s sovereign will in the tapestry of God’s story of redemption.
This is how the story happens but it’s not an accident, nor by chance, and it isn’t fate.
We tend to categorize events in life as either chance or fate. God is sovereign but He created us with a free will. The history of Israel, and of humanity, confirms and reveals this. It’s a paradox but the one is not mutually exclusive of the other.
When faced with decisions and opportunities in life, choose to trust in the Lord. Ask Him for wisdom and guidance. Step out in faith. God honors our free will and guides us according to His will.
Devo Scripture Text
Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, a man of standing from the clan of Elimelek, whose name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.” Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.”
So she went out, entered a field and began to glean behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she was working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelek.
Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The Lord be with you!” “The Lord bless you!” they answered. 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. She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.’ She came into the field and has remained here from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.” (Ruth 2:1-7 NIV)