HOPE IN HARDSHIP
Then she [Naomi] arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the Lord had visited his people and given them food. So she set out from the place where she was with her two daughters-in-law, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. Ruth 1:6-7
Have you ever hit rock bottom? Have you ever lost someone you dearly loved? Have you ever felt like your whole world came crashing down, that there was no one to turn to and God seemed far away? That’s what these wounded widows felt as they wept together at the funerals for their husbands. But then, there’s a hint of hope from God that lit up the night sky of their darkest days. Ruth 1:6 provides a very important underlying theological revelation of God in Ruth for two reasons. First, while God is mentioned 23 times in the book, this is only one of two occasions where the unknown author directly mentions God (1:6 and 4:13). These bookends at the beginning and end of the story show God blessing with food and a child, while the other 21 occasions when God is spoken of are on the lips of the various characters in the book explaining how He is working in their lives. This shows us that a lot of what we learn about God is from other people who speak His truth into our lives.
The second reason this verse provides an important underlying theological revelation of God in Ruth is because here, the providence of God is revealed and stands as the theme of the entire book and thread, which weaves all the lives therein together. Much like a song needs a beat to hold together, so a story needs a theme to hold together. And here the theme of God’s providence is revealed.
In speaking of God’s providence, Christians have always held that God works through His visible hand of miracle (e.g., a burning bush, parted sea, visible angel, etc.) and invisible hand of providence, which is only seen by those with faith that gives them eyes to see it at work in their lives.
In Ruth, God’s visible hand of miracle is never revealed, but God’s invisible hand of providence is continually revealed in the lives of ordinary people and ordinary events such as food, marriage, and children. An angel never arrives, God never speaks, and a miracle never happens in Ruth. But God was quietly, subtly, and certainly at work. This gives us hope that He is also at work in our lives, even if we don’t see it at first.
When we speak of God’s providence, we confess that God is BOTH sovereign and good to us personally. This means God not only created us and our world, but He also sustains and rules over all creation in general, including the details of our lives. This doesn’t mean that everything that happens is God’s will, as God is repeatedly grieved and does mean that God is free to do as He pleases and ultimately works out all things for His glory and our good (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28).
Furthermore, speaking of God’s providence also means that He can and does bring us both blessing (like bread) and what the Puritan John Flavel called “a sanctified affliction.” There’s a difference between hurt and harm, since hurt can at times be helpful and not harmful. For example, the pain of a surgeon cutting cancer out of our body does hurt, but is helpful rather than harmful. Like a surgeon, God at times does allow, or even cause, some things that are painful in the short term but helpful in the long term. In this mention of God’s providence, the book of Ruth finds its first ray of hope in an otherwise dark day, setting the stage for the remainder of the story. Yes, the women are hurting, but healing is coming to move them from harm’s way.
- FOR MEN: Think about your children (or future children) starting their own families. Does your leadership in the home lead your family toward flourishing, both practically and spiritually? What changes should you make now to get your family on the right path?
This question is meant to help men take a step back and think about how their current leadership and family situation could have lasting impact, either toward God and provision or toward harm and rebellion.