Chapter Five: “Out Standing in Her Field” Ruth 2:1-7
Time for a new month, a new chapter, and a new season in the life of Naomi and Ruth as they arrive in Bethlehem at the start of the harvest. Can you feel that sense of hope stirring in the air?
Two men are introduced, the righteous Boaz and an observant foreman, while the God of Israel remains unseen but ever present. Let’s watch him work…
1. a. Elizabeth Ruth Obbard wrote, “Work is the way [Ruth] makes her love visible.” How might your own efforts as a working woman—paid or unpaid, in or out of your home—make your love visible to others?
Whether I’m at home quietly writing on my computer or on the road speaking to a large audience, my prayer is always the same: “Lord, may your love and grace fill the hearts of the sisters I serve.” That’s it.
I’m convinced God’s love is all we have to share, and really, all we need to share, in any workplace. I trust the Holy Spirit to handle the heavy lifting. My job is to love and not judge. To hug and not shrink back. To live out Colossians 3:23-24: ”Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
Making love visible is the trickier part. Ruth gleaned in the field—hot, sweaty, gritty work—then brought home armloads of grain. I type words on the screen and speak words into a microphone. Not only is it not hard labor; I also have nothing tangible to show for it. Even the books I write have value only if a woman invests her time and energy into reading them. Otherwise they are nothing more than paper and ink.
Oh dear. Kinda wish I hadn’t thought through all that! Maybe your work is similar—more mental and emotional than physical. Still, if we pour ourselves into our work with the kind of passion and commitment that can only come from God, if we don’t give up when the hour is late and the body is weary, if we care more about helping others than earning their applause, that invisible love might become visible after all.
Who is watching, and how have they specifically recognized your labors?
Actually, everybody watches us as we work: family and friends, coworkers and customers, sales clerks and strangers. Most of all, God sees our labors, even if we’re sitting alone in a cubicle. John Wooden is often credited as saying, ‘The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” Well, the One whose opinion truly matters is always watching, and for a good reason: to help us. “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9
1. b. Read Psalm 90:17 and Proverbs 31:17 as you picture Ruth gleaning in the field. What truth do you find in these verses that speaks to Ruth’s situation? And how might that truth address your current situation?
These verses really do describe our Ruth. She wanted to work for someone in whose eyes she would find favor. And God clearly established the work of her hands, giving her the strength and stamina to work all the long day. If he did so for Ruth, he can and will do the same for us. Why do I doubt instead of trust, when I’m staring at the screen as midnight draws near, fearing the words will never come? Seek God’s favor alone, Liz. Keep holding your hands over the keyboard. Keep praying. The words will come. Trust him.
I’m eager to hear how you make your love visible as you work. Hope you’ll post your comments on that at the end of the blog.
2. a. What does the word “providence” mean to you? Write out your own definition, shaped by the wisdom you find in these verses: Psalm 66:5; Psalm 147:5; Lamentations 3:37; Romans 11:36.
Hands up if you Googled the definition first. Me too. But the dictionary doesn’t really capture the meaning of providence like God’s Word does.
According to these verses, the Lord does awesome works on our behalf (Psalm 66:5), he is great, mighty, powerful, and knows everything (Psalm 147:5), he decides all that happens (Lamentations 3:37), and everything came into existence from him, through him, and to him (Romans 11:36). No wonder he alone deserves to be glorified! And no wonder the word “Providence” is often capitalized. It’s a God word.
2. b. God is often described as omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. Look up all three words in a dictionary, and jot down the meanings.
Okay, now we’re allowed to reach for our Merriam-Webster.
Omniscient means “having infinite awareness, understanding, and insight; possessed of universal or complete knowledge.” Right. See above verses.
Omnipotent means “almighty, having virtually unlimited authority or influence.” Yup. See above verses.
Omnipresent means “present in all places at all times.“ We only need to drop down a couple of verses in Psalm 66 to find “his eyes watch the nations” (Psalm 66:7). He really is everywhere at once.
Which word do you find the most comforting? If you find any of them discomforting, why might that be the case?
I cherish the thought of God being omnipresent, because that means he is with me when I need him most, and he is also with you when you need him most—which is, of course, all the time. I mean, when don’t we need God?
Discomforting? Our omniscient God knows what we’re going to do and why—has always known these things, even before we first opened our eyes to greet the world. So, he knew in advance when I would turn away from him in my late teens. Could an omnipotent God have stopped me? Oh, yes. But he knew that, in order for me to fully understand his love, I would need to sink into a murky world where love had been replaced with pain. Only there, in that darkness, could I finally see the light of his truth and his love, and know the difference.
2. c. Now read Psalm 139:1–18. Choose a verse in that beloved passage that exemplifies each omni-word, then note how God demonstrated those elements of his character in Ruth’s or in Naomi’s life.
It is perhaps the most beautiful of all the Psalms, stating in no uncertain terms the Sovereignty of the Lord. Choosing which verses fit each omni-word is the easy part. Fully grasping the power and majesty of our Almighty God could take a lifetime!
“You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.” (Psalm 139:2)
This reminds me of Naomi in far-off Moab. God still knew her every move, her every thought.
“You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.” (Psalm 139:5)
Now I’m picturing Ruth, cleaving to Naomi. Ruth was unwanted, when it came to going forward, yet she was unwilling to turn back. God’s gentle hand held Ruth in place—for her sake, for Naomi’s sake—until love broke through, and Ruth proclaimed a vow that changed everything.
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7)
Here’s Naomi again, realizing she might leave the Promised Land, but she cannot escape from the One who made such a promise to his people and kept it.
“When I awake, I am still with you.” (Psalm 139:18)
This brings to mind Ruth on that first morning when she rose to glean, aware of God’s leading as she sought a righteous landowner with loving-kindness in his eyes.
3. a. Jesus used a harvest analogy to teach his disciples. Read Matthew 9:35–38. What harvest is Jesus referring to?
He’s talking about the hearts, minds, and souls of those people who were ready for the Lord of the harvest to gather them to himself.
Whom does he have in mind to work the fields? And how will that be accomplished?
The workers may be few, but our omni-everything God surely deems the number sufficient. Those workers—soul-winners, we used to call them—must be sent by the Lord. They don’t go on their own steam or according to their own timing. They go when they are sent.
What ripe fields do you see around you? In keeping with Jesus’s teaching, what’s the next step you should take?
Oh, Father, I see nothing but fields that are ripe and ready to harvest! Our world has never needed your more desperately than it does now. Give me the courage to say with Isaiah, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” Gulp.
3. b. Then in 2 Corinthians 9:10–11 we find Paul using a harvest theme to encourage generosity and gratitude. According to the passage, who supplies not only the seed but also the harvest?
Already, Lord, you’ve provided that needed courage, because we know that you supply both the seed and the harvest. It’s your work, not mine, not ours. What a relief!
And what’s the point of being fed, of being blessed?
To bless others generously, “on every occasion,” and in doing so honor the Lord, so that he is the One people will praise, and not us.
What prompts you to be generous?
We’re right back to the first question about God’s love being our prime motivator. “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:11
And how can you be sure God gets the glory rather than you?
Hmm. When I finish speaking, I usually turn away from the audience and toward the Cross, wanting all the applause to go to the Lord. But last weekend in Ohio, when I turned around and lifted my hands in praise, the big screen above me said, “We love you, Liz!” Yikes! Instead of re-directing their applause, I appeared to be basking in it! I practically ran off the stage, though by this time, everyone was laughing, including me.
As we wind things up this week, this verse rings in my heart, especially in light of our omni-words: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” (Revelation 4:11). As I said, that truth is still sinking in. It’s just so BIG. Omni, omni, omni.
Now it’s your turn, my friend. What’s the most memorable truth you’ve learned from Ruth 2:1–7 this week? Take a moment to share it here. You’ll not only bless me and every woman who reads it: you’ll bless the Lord above all.
Your sister, Liz