“So she [Ruth] set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech.” Ruth 2:3
This sentence is one of the greatest understatements in the Bible. After 10 years in Moab and the loss of all the men in her family, Naomi, burdened and grieving, journeyed back to Bethlehem with her daughter-in-law, Ruth. Naomi was bitter at God and did not understand the loss of her husband and two sons. After returning to Bethlehem, Ruth took it upon herself to provide for Naomi. The women did not have two pennies to rub together, so Ruth’s only option was to glean. In the Old Testament, gleaning was commanded by the Lord to provide for the poor, widows, fatherless, and sojourner in the land. Gleaning entailed the land owners purposefully leaving some scraps of food while harvesting their fields. The poor in the land could then scour the fields and collect grain for their food. It wasn’t a lucrative or safe option, but it was the only one Ruth had.
Until this point, it looks like a dire scene. Two lone women, man-less and grieving, eating whatever they can gather from the ground. But then we come to Ruth 2:3, “she happened to come to a part of the field belonging to Boaz.” With all the farmers in Bethlehem, what are the odds that she would stumble upon Boaz’ crop? Ruth, at the mercy of the landowners while gleaning, comes upon the field belonging to Boaz. Throughout the book of Ruth we learn that not only is Boaz a godly man of worthy character, but that he is also Ruth’s kinsman redeemer. He was the chosen man who would redeem Ruth from her grief, her poverty, her emptiness, and her childlessness. Boaz is an archetype of Christ to these two downtrodden women and the text, in a type of literary reverse psychology, simply says “she happened to come upon a field.” It is safe to say that such wording simplifies the deep wisdom and orchestration of God in the lives of his beloved in this scenario. An understanding of God’s providence and sovereignty allows us to know that Ruth did not come to Boaz’ field by chance, or happenstance, or luck, but by the will of God. And the beautiful thing is that the same providence and sovereignty is at work in the lives of all those who love Jesus and trust in his will for their lives. As I have recently finished classes, graduated, and prepare to take the next steps in this journey called life, it may look to me as if I “just happen to come upon” my future endeavors. But I can know that there is a deeper and bolder power at work which guides my steps. My job is to be an active gleaner and wait to be guided to the field God has for me.
Where have you “happened upon” in life? Do you view your current situations and associations as coincidental or the providential hand of God? How are you “actively gleaning” in obedience and waiting to see the will of God in your life?
Whether your life is joyous or seemingly monotonous, remember the words of Charles Spurgeon: “If there were any place better for you than the one in which you find yourself, Divine Love would have placed you there.”
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After all these years I have come to the conclusion that there are no coincidences, no “happened upons”. I just can’t always see them when they are happening, but God does!