Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, said to her, “My daughter, shouldn’t I try to look for a home that would be good for you? Ruth 3:1 GW [see full devo text in NIV below]
“God loves you and people have a wonderful plan for your life!” This is what a good friend of mine would say when people made suggestions to the pastor or other people. It was a rephrasing of one of the Four Spiritual Laws by Bill Bright of Cru and had a ring of truth to it.
My friend and I, along with countless other pastors, have heard well-intentioned suggestions from people in the church many, many times. It goes something like this—”Pastor, I think you should…” or “Pastor, it would be good if you….” You get the idea.
It is human nature to do this. We all have thoughts about what others should or should not do, or how we might do something better or differently. Even if we don’t verbalize these thoughts out loud to others, we still have them.
This is the byproduct of our self-centered nature. It’s our attempt at helping God or even acting like Him in other people’s lives. It’s something we inherited from our ancestors Adam and Eve.
Our plans or God’s way?
In chapter three of Ruth, the story takes an important turn. It zeroes in on one relationship within one day. Although God has His plan and His way for bringing Boaz and Ruth together, Naomi sees the need to step in to help. She spots a way to secure a better future for herself and her daughter in law.
When we view things from Naomi’s point of view, as best we can, we get an idea of why she sets this plan in motion for Ruth to encounter Boaz in a closer way. Here’s a glimpse into what motivates Naomi—
Bethlehem is Naomi’s homeland not Ruth’s
Naomi feels responsible for Ruth the Moabitess whom she brought to Bethlehem
Naomi understands the customs and traditions of her people in a way Ruth would not
Naomi sees an opportunity to help Boaz and Ruth come together in marriage
Naomi understands the role of a kinsman-redeemer (Lev 25:25) and how it benefits her
Naomi knows Ruth will submit to her and whatever advances Boaz makes toward Ruth
This is putting the best construction on things as far as Naomi’s motives. But the reality is this—Naomi is trying to manipulate a situation—as well as Boaz and Ruth—for her own purposes.
Naomi sees an opportunity and sets her plan in motion (see text below). She explains the timing and describes how Ruth should make herself available to Boaz. Naomi also instructs Ruth how to look and smell her best for the occasion. Naomi adds her final advice to let Boaz take the lead when the time comes.
This is manipulation, nothing less. When we try to do similar things in the lives of others, we’re being manipulative. When we do such things, we are interfering with God and His ways. In a sense, we see ourselves—like Naomi—helping God in some way.
Some things to consider
Was Naomi just trying to help move things along with the relationship between Boaz and Ruth? Yes!
Do you think Naomi expected Boaz to take advantage of Ruth in this situation to force something to happen between the two of them? I’ll let you decide but it should be obvious.
What isn’t obvious, or perhaps expected, is how both Ruth and Boaz handle themselves in this manipulated situation. We’ll see this in the next episode of our stories of redemption in the Book of Ruth.
Are there ways you have or are currently trying to help God in some way?
When we try to do similar things in the lives of others as we see Naomi do, we’re being manipulative. When we do such things, we interfere with God and His ways. As has been said before—we don’t need to be the Holy Spirit in other people’s lives.
When you find yourself trying to suggest how others ought to be or what they ought to do, stop and repent. Ask the Lord to help you see how you might be doing this with others, and ask Him for the grace to let go and for His forgiveness.
Devo Scripture Text
One day Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi said to her, “My daughter, I must find a home for you, where you will be well provided for. Now Boaz, with whose women you have worked, is a relative of ours. Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor.
Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking.
When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.”
“I will do whatever you say,” Ruth answered. (Ruth 3:1-5 NIV)