harvest

When Happenstance Is No Accident

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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.

Reflection—

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.

Prayer Focus—

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)


Click this link if you’d like more background on the Book of RuthRuth Background

Here are some Study Questions for a more in-depth study of RuthRuth Study Q’s

It's All a Matter of Perspective

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They happened to enter Bethlehem just when the barley harvest began. Ruth 1:22 GW [see full devo text in NIV below]

Basically, there are three ways to see things in life—our own outlook, the viewpoint of others, and the way things are in an objective sense. Only one person sees all three perspectives—the Lord.

When we or others view people, life events, or whatever else, we see things subjectively. Each of us have our own biases. How we see the world and all that’s in it—including ourselves and others—is viewed through our beliefs, emotions, experiences, and values.

We can claim a sense of objectivity but that’s all it is—a sense. Only the Lord sees things in the truest objective way because He is eternal. When God reveals His perspective, as in the Scriptures, we still tend to see it through our own biased lens.

3 Perspectives

This final vignette of this first chapter of Ruth gives us a glimpse of all three perspectives—Naomi’s, the viewpoint of other people, and the actual situation.

The arrival

After Ruth’s declaration of commitment to stay with Naomi, they traveled from Moab to Bethlehem in Judah—a journey of at least 2-3 days by foot.

As they enter Naomi’s hometown, everyone is excited to see her and the women wonder at Naomi’s presence with a young Moabite widow and no husband—Can this be Naomi?

Naomi’s response is telling. It reveals how she sees her situation and why it happened. Not only is it subjective, it’s somewhat typical for most of us.

Naomi’s outlook

Let’s consider each of Naomi’s three statements.

  1. Don’t call me Naomi…Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.— Naomi’s name can mean both pleasant or sweet and Mara means bitter. It’s a play on words to describe both her inner state and her outlook on life. And she holds the God responsible for her situation.

  2. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty.— Do you see how she puts the blame for her situation on the Lord? Naomi sees her life’s misfortunes as God’s hand against her and uses a play on words to make her point. Her statement about going out full but coming back empty is her view now but it will change by the end of the whole story of Ruth.

  3. The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.— It’s pretty clear Naomi is playing on the sympathy of others as a victim of circumstances though it was her husband and her choice to leave Judah ten years before. She only returns because things have reversed—they left because of a famine and she returns because of God’s provision for Israel. Her answer may be posed as a question but it’s rhetorical—the answer is clear—the Lord is the cause of her problems.

When things go wrong, most if not all of us are quick to find some reason it happened and someone else to blame. Many people blame God for all the problems in the world. Somehow He’s responsible for everyone’s choices and all the bad and evil things that happen.

Here’s our conundrum—we want God to intervene when and where we think He should but don’t want Him to interfere with our own choices and pursuits. It’s as if we want to be in control of God. This is one of the many consequences of eating the fruit of the forbidden tree.

A full circle

Ancient writings followed the common literary structures of their time. Some of the literary devices are more obvious than others. The use of contrasting words and concepts is one of the most common.

Chapter one of Ruth begins with a famine but ends …as the barley harvest was beginning. The scope of the book starts out with a timeframe of ten years but telescopes down to one day and a pivotal meeting in the last chapter.

The heart of the story begins in the next chapter where Ruth becomes the main character in this story of redemption. Even this first chapter ends with a redemptive focus—going from famine to harvest and coming from a far country to home.

Naomi can’t see this for now but she will in the end.

It’s all a matter of perspective.

Reflection—

When things go wrong, we tend to blame something or someone else rather than ourselves. We’ll even blame God because of our own expectations in life. We don’t see things from a clear and objective perspective.

Prayer Focus—

When you find yourself shifting blame to someone other than yourself and not facing your own responsibilities, ask the Lord to show you His perspective of your situation. Ask Him to help you learn a better way to handle things.


devo Scripture Text

So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”

So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning. (Ruth 1:19-22 NIV)


Click this link if you’d like more background on the Book of RuthRuth Background

Here are some Study Questions for a more in-depth study of RuthRuth Study Q’s

Songs of Joy

Many words are connected to the idea of restoration but joy is what stands out to me. It isn't an emotion but a state of being.

Joy is far more than happiness. It's deeper than any pleasant emotion. It fills the mind and heart of a person who may even sense it in a physical way. The joy of restoration is almost indescribable except by song.

Investment, Risk and Time

A bit of confusion exists for many about the idea of karma. It's primarily Hindu in origin and is loosely related to the cause and effect of deeds or work.

But it is not equivalent to the biblical law of sowing and reaping. They are different concepts. Sowing and reaping is an agricultural term that illustrates the idea of sowing seeds to produce a crop or harvest. It's an investment that brings a return.

A Right Time for Everything

Photo credit: lightstock.com
Photo credit: lightstock.com

In ancient days, people thought the world was flat. It was imagined that ships on the ocean would fall off the edge of the world, if they went too far from land. Many explorers in the 15th and 16th centuries proved this wrong.

But now, once again, we say the world is flat because of technology. Now we have a global outlook that impacts world markets and culture. We live in 24/7 real-time and expect things to be instant—the internet, communication, even food.

But the world isn't flat. The four seasons and twenty-four time zones remind us the earth continues to rotate on its axis, as it revolves around the sun. The earth has definition and variety—mountains, deserts, plains, and valleys. Vast stretches of land are separated by rivers and oceans.

Life is full of variety and continuing cycles and seasons.

Scripture

There is a right time for everything, and everything on earth will happen at the right time.There is a time to be born and a time to die. There is a time to plant and a time to pull up plants. [vss 1-2]

There is a time to kill and a time to heal. There is a time to destroy and a time to build. There is a time to cry and a time to laugh. There is a time to be sad and a time to dance with joy. There is a time to throw weapons down and a time to pick them up. There is a time to hug someone and a time to stop holding so tightly. [vss 3-5]

There is a time to look for something and a time to consider it lost. There is a time to keep things and a time to throw things away. There is a time to tear cloth and a time to sew it. There is a time to be silent and a time to speak. There is a time to love and a time to hate. There is a time for war and a time for peace. [vss 6-8]

(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 ERV) [Context– Ecclesiastes 3]

Key phrase— There is a right time for everything

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Digging Deeper...

What are the first and obvious reminders of the cycles of life on earth?

What are the seasons of life that have a more emotional impact on our lives?

How are strife and resolve seen as seasons within life?

How do each of these seasons and cycles help us to have a better perspective on life?

Reflection...

The folk-rock band, the Byrds, made these verses in Ecclesiastes popular in 1965 with a song written by Pete Seeger. It was written as a protest song against the war in Vietnam. Sadly, this misses the point of these wise words.

King Solomon observed the ongoing rhythms of life on earth. Life is not random. It has a cyclical order. We may struggle to see the purpose of these seasons of life, because we're in the midst of them. Even over the course of a lifetime, we can find it difficult to understand why some things take place, or if they have any value or purpose.

When we look at things from God's perspective—an eternal view of things—we begin to understand. How can we do this? This is why the written Scriptures are valuable, as are godly and wise relationships.

A child has no concept of history or the future, but both of these should come into better focus as we grow older. There is a purpose, a reason, for every season and cycle in life.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

Are there seasons in your life that are hard to accept or understand?

What is the season of your life right now? Do you see its value and purpose?

Are there situations in your life that need resolving? How will you pursue this?

Are you willing to trust God with what you don't understand, and seek godly wisdom?