hope

A Reversal of Fortune or God's Providence?

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Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May the Lord bless him. The Lord hasn’t stopped being kind to people—living or dead.” Then Naomi told her, “That man is a relative of ours. He is a close relative, one of those responsible for taking care of us.” Ruth 2:20 GW [see full devo text in NIV below]

When we’ve lost hope—the darkness and isolation seem overwhelming. When faced with failure—it can bring a sense of hopelessness. But when hope returns and blessing is in our grasp—the foreboding sense of hopelessness becomes a distant memory.

This segment of the story of Ruth brings a reversal of attitude on the part of Naomi. She sees it as a reversal of fortune but at God’s hand. But it’s far more than that for two reasons.

God’s providence

First off, fortune or luck and God’s providence are not the same. Naomi and her family left their home to escape a great famine but things didn’t go well. She returns to her homeland “empty” but blames God for her troubles (Ruth 1:21)—even though she returned at a time of harvest and provision in Bethlehem.

God’s providence is simply God’s provision with His guidance and care. It is neither destiny or fate nor is it luck. The Lord—as a shepherd—leads and provides for those who trust in Him.

A second reason for Naomi’s change of heart is her realization of who owns the field Ruth gleans in and how much favor is shown to her.

On her return from Moab to Bethlehem, Naomi tells her friends the Lord afflicted her and brought her misfortune. In other words—her bad luck was God’s fault.

But now she says—”He [The Lord] has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” (Ruth 2:20–see text below). Notice she says—to the living and the dead. This is in reference to her husband and two sons who passed away.

Gleanings from Ruth’s gleaning

What prompts Naomi’s new found hope in the Lord? A quick review of this segment of the story will help us see why.

At the end of the day—a long day from sunup to sundown—Ruth threshes the barley she gleaned and brings it home to Naomi, along with her leftovers from lunch. When she shows it all to Naomi, her mother-in-law realizes someone has shown her great favor.

When asked where she gleaned, Ruth tells Naomi the man she worked with was named Boaz. Ruth is unaware of who this man is but not Naomi!

“That man is our close relative; he is one of our guardian-redeemers [kinsman-redeemers].” (Ruth 2:20)

Ruth has no understanding of why this is significant but this renews Naomi’s faith in God and her hope for the future.

The idea of a kinsman-redeemer is foreign to Ruth and perhaps for many of us. It’s a provision in the Law of Moses to protect a family’s legacy in property. We’ll look at this more closely in chapter 3. If you want a reference point of understanding, read Leviticus 25:25.

Naomi affirms Boaz’ encouragement and invitation to Ruth to continue working with his young women harvesters. Not just for her safety and the provision of food but for the potential of a much greater blessing. This greater blessing will be revealed in the final two chapters.

So, Ruth continues to glean in Boaz's field with the other young women through the barley and wheat harvests. This would include at least two months of time, approximately our April and May, possibly into early June.

Redemptive review

The end of chapter two is an important milestone in the story of Ruth. Consider how things have turned around for Naomi from the beginning of the story.

  • Naomi leaves her home because of a famine but returns after ten years as the barley harvest is beginning (chapter 1).

  • She goes out “full” (in her words) and comes back “empty” until Ruth begins to glean in the field of her kinsman-redeemer, Boaz, which renews her hope for the future and seems to restore her trust in God.

  • She loses her husband and two sons but gains a loyal and industrious daugher-in-law who becomes a catalyst for a much greater provision to come.

There are several redemptive points in the first two chapters of Ruth but even more are to be revealed in the final two chapters. The author of Ruth uses a telescoping timeframe to help us focus on the most important point of redemption in the book.

Chapter one covers about ten years from the family going out from Bethlehem to Naomi’s return with Ruth the Moabitess. Chapter two covers one harvest time—a period of about two or more months towards the beginning of the Jewish calendar year. Stay tuned for the next episode in the redemptive stories of Ruth.

How have you seen God’s providence at work in your life?

Reflection—

God’s providence is simply God’s provision with His guidance and care. It is neither destiny or fate nor is it luck. The Lord—as a shepherd—leads and provides for those who trust in Him—especially those who genuinely rely on Him as a first option.

Prayer Focus—

As you begin each day, lay it before the Lord—whatever you might have planned or are concerned about. Ask God for His guidance throughout the day. Ask Him for discernment and wisdom and trust Him for His provision. And thank Him through it all!


Devo Scripture Text

So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah. She carried it back to town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered. Ruth also brought out and gave her what she had left over after she had eaten enough.

Her mother-in-law asked her, “Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!” Then Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one at whose place she had been working. “The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz,” she said. “The Lord bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers.”

Then Ruth the Moabite said, “He even said to me, ‘Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain.’ ” Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with the women who work for him, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed.” So Ruth stayed close to the women of Boaz to glean until the barley and wheat harvests were finished. And she lived with her mother-in-law. (Ruth 2:17-23 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

A Cure for the Heartsick

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Delayed hope makes one sick at heart,

but a fulfilled longing is a tree of life.

Whoever despises ⌊God’s⌋ words will pay the penalty,

but the one who fears ⌊God’s⌋ commands will be rewarded. (Proverbs 13:12-13 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 13:1-13 GW)


The heart of a person can't be expressed with an emoji and it's far more complex than the outline of a heart made with two fingers and thumbs.

When we talk about a person's heart, we speak of a person's inner being. It's deeper than our emotions but certainly affects us emotionally in ways that are good, bad, or indifferent.

Indifferent is worse than bad. Indifference to emotions indicates an emotional blankness—what psychologists call a flat affect—having no response to external stimulus or situations. It can indicate shock, numbness, or even clinical depression for example.

An indifferent nature is far worse. When a person is indifferent to others, it often indicates anti-social behavioral tendencies. Being sick at heart indicates a profound sadness and a sense of hopelessness—a human spirit that's crushed.

What causes someone to be sick at heart? According to this verse in Proverbs—a delayed hope. A hope that is set aside by circumstances beyond a person's control. It's more than unfilled expectations. It goes deeper.

This type of delayed hope comes in many ways. A refugee in a worn-torn area longs for peace and safety. When someone longs for a marriage partner or having a child, they also can become heartsick.

Obviously, some life situations are more dire and pressing than others but a person who is sick at heart focuses on whatever hope seems most important to them.

This proverb goes on to say, but a fulfilled longing is a tree of life. This isn't the longing of a selfish desire, it's much deeper.

When refugees find peace and safety, it's certainly more fulfilling than a good meal or gaining any possession. When we witnessed adoptive parents uniting with the child or children they were adopting through our ministry, it was a sweet and emotionally fulfilling time.

The key or cure for those who are heartsick is a change in what they're focused on. This is indicated in the following verse—

but the one who fears ⌊God’s⌋ commands will be rewarded. (Prov 13:13b GW)

The fear of God isn't a state of anxious fear but trust—a personal trust in God. I heard an interview of a journalist who was kidnapped by Muslim pirates and held several years for ransom. He hated his captors and longed for freedom.

When he heard a religious leader speak of mercy and forgiveness, he began to change his view of his captors by forgiving them.

He said it began to change his attitude towards his captors and seemingly hopeless situation. His heart and outlook lightened up. He acknowledged it required discipline. He had to work at forgiving them each day. Eventually, the day came for him to be freed—a longing fulfilled.

Are you sick at heart because of a longing in your heart or a hope that seems to get pushed back over and over again? The cure is a change of focus.

This is similar to what King David and the Lord Jesus said—

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:33-34)

Set the eyes of your heart on the One to whom nothing is impossible. Not just once but daily, even many times within a day, till it becomes a personal discipline—a commitment of your heart.

Reflection—

Set your heart on the Lord as your primary focus—not on what you are heartsick for or about. Do this so it becomes a personal discipline—a commitment of your heart—and trust whatever you are longing for to God.

Prayer Focus—

Learning to trust God in a deep way requires commitment and discipline in prayer. Prayer is the lifeline for communication with God—to share what's on our hearts and to spend time to wait and listen for Him.

©Word-Strong_2018


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A More Sure Hope

A quick look at current events around the world reveals how many disasters and turmoils exist. In one sense, it's nothing new. But our awareness of it all at one time is new because of the internet and social media.

Natural and man-made disasters have occurred throughout history. Conflict over immigration and oppression aren't just American or European issues—they're worldwide and have continued for centuries and centuries.

A Contented Soul

People have sought peace of mind and contentment of soul since the beginning of humanity. Various religions, philosophies, and psychologies claim to offer ways of finding contentment and peace, yet the pursuit continues.

This pursuit intensifies during times of personal crises and in the midst of external conflicts and tension. But there's no prescription anyone can offer that measures up to what God offers.

An Antidote for Terror

As a new year begins, many anticipate great change and have much hope for what the coming year will bring. Others are concerned about various threats from global warming to terrorism.

But, as Solomon said so many years ago and Shakespeare echoed, "there is nothing new under the sun" (Eccl 1:9 NIV). It's not that changes won't come or that there's no hope, but life is cyclical and the worries of today are like the worries of yesterday.