February 26, 2016
The Sovereign Hand of God
By Skip Heitzig
There are only two books in Scripture that are named after women, and they're two of my favorites: Ruth and Esther. Ruth specifically is a great picture of how God used ordinary people as part of His plan to deliver a nation and the world from sin. It's a story of how God sovereignly takes events in our lives and weaves them together for His glory and for our good, according to the principle in Romans 8:28: "We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."
The book of Ruth opens with a man named Elimelech, who lived in Bethlehem with his two sons and wife, Naomi. Bethlehem is the breadbasket of Israel, but at this time there was a famine in the land. So Elimelech got up one day and decided, "Put everything in the trunk, honey; pack up the camel; let's move to Moab." Now, he and his family had no reason to go over to Moab. It was a cursed land, and the Moabites worshiped a god called Chemosh through infant sacrifice. But the grass literally looked greener on the other side. So they went, and their two sons married Moabite women—one of whom was Ruth.
While they were there, tragedy struck (see Ruth 1:3-5). In three short verses, Naomi became a widow and childless. If you were to go back ten years earlier to when they arrived in Moab, I bet they felt like they had made the right choice, don't you think? They saw how green it was, and they settled in—until the day that Elimelech died and Naomi's world fell apart. All of that to say that the worst that God has for you is better than the best the Enemy has for you. And the Enemy will make it look so green and lush and pretty: "Forget waiting on the Lord; it's about time you take control." But the worst that God has for you is still better than the best the Enemy has to offer.
Now, if the book of Ruth ended right after this, it would be a depressing read! But it was just the beginning of God's providence and how He rules and overrules human error. In Ruth 1:6, Naomi heard that the famine was over in Bethlehem, and she and her two daughters-in-law made plans to return. While they were on their way, "Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, 'Go, return each to her mother's house'…. So she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. And they said to her, 'Surely we will return with you to your people.' But Naomi said, 'Turn back, my daughters'" (Ruth 1:8-11).
It was at this moment that one of the most important, decisive moments in history was taking place. And I'll tell you how important it was: Where was Jesus born? Bethlehem. Why was Jesus born in Bethlehem? Because it was the city of David. Why was it the city of David? Because David was born there. And why was David born there? Because his grandpa Obed was born there, and Obed was born there because his parents, Boaz and Ruth, got married and settled there—this same Ruth. So much was resting on this tiny decision.
And Ruth told Naomi, "Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me" (vv. 16-17). And so Naomi returned to Bethlehem with her daughter-in-law Ruth. What a journey it was so far: choices that were made, the sad fallout of these choices, but the providential hand of God who brought a foreign woman, a Moabitess, to embrace the one true God as her God and to continue the line of the Messiah.
So I want to encourage you to trust the Lord right where you're at, wherever you're planted, wherever you find yourself today, and not move too hastily or run away, but to ask, "What is God saying? How is He moving?" And even though we don't necessarily understand, I pray we would live believing that not only does God rule in the affairs of mankind, but He can even overrule when we make mistakes.
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