JEHOVAH EL – HAPPENSTANCE (Case Study – Ruth)

This morning, I was reading the story of Ruth and Boaz and it struck me how God exploits the ordinary occurrences in our everyday lives to bring to pass His good intentions and to take us where He wants us. 

God is sovereign, He is a master strategist, the CEO of the entire world and of our lives – the Master of the Universe. 

I mean, if you imagine this world to be an organization, then God is definitely sitting on the Board, making policies and rolling out strategic plans, programs and projects that would all coordinate to achieve the business value of His kingdom. This is without doubt a very powerful position – top management and all. Normally we should be concerned about one single Being having such enormous influence under His wing but guess what? We aren’t! We are not concerned or worried about God’s greatness. On the contrary, we are thrilled by it because we know that God is absolutely loving and is working for our good at ALL times.

And every now and then, He utilizes the situations of our lives, the people we meet and the even our mundane routines to accomplish the most amazing things.

Check out what happened with Ruth.

She had just migrated to a new country in search of greener pastures with only a single family member (who was a dependent!) and a baggage of bereavement, personal loss and uncertainties. She must have been plagued with the concerns that every single/widowed, immigrant woman would have, even in the best of circumstances: 

  • Will life in Bethlehem be significantly different from my country of origin Moab?
  • Will I experience the much-spoken-of culture shock?
  • If I do, how long would it take me to overcome it?
  • Would my skills be relevant in the foreign land?
  • Will I be able to make a livelihood and care for my mother-in-law who is now advancing in age and very much depends on me?
  • Will I get a second chance at love and marriage?
  • How much would it matter that I had once been married?
  • Will I have the opportunity to mother a child?
  • How different will I be? Will my difference matter?
  • How receptive will the Israelites be of a formerly heathen woman?
  • Nothing seems to be working right now. What if I ‘fail’ at life again?

To be clear, these are very legitimate concerns that anyone in Ruth’s shoes could have. In fact, these considerations may be helpful for preparing one’s self for what lies ahead. For instance, if an immigrant woman notices that her skills are inadequate, she might consider acquiring skills that are suitable for her new location. 

But very often, the unknowns in our lives fast become worry- or depression- traps. 

Last year, I was doing a research for work on the various personality traits and I found IBM’s (now deprecated but enlightening) description  of someone who has a high range of depression as a person who “thinks quite often about the things they are unhappy about;” and someone who is prone to worry is described as a person who “often feels like something unpleasant, threatening, or dangerous is about to happen.”

Needless to say, depression and worry are two emotions we definitely should not cultivate or aid in any way. And guess what breeds them: dwelling on unhappy circumstances or unpleasant happenstances.

So, what did Ruth do in her case?

She refused to succumb to the appeal of depression or worry. She would not throw in the towel. She braved the unfortunate situations of her life and faced the uncertainties with her back as straight as a ramrod and her eyes in the future. I imagine that she woke up one morning a week after their move, had the talk with herself, took a bath, threw on some clean cloths, made breakfast for herself and Mamma Naomi, and set out! You know the talk I mean. That frank conversation we often have with ourselves when we need to come to terms with some hard realities in our lives and then proceed to take definite decisions or steps. I have had the talk countless times in my own life and I am sure that you also have. 

I can picture Ruth having that conversation in her head maybe in front of a mirror,

“Girl, let’s face it, life's been tough! These past few years have been dry and unpleasant with the famine and hardship in my home country, the demise of hubby  and Papa Elimelech, and Mamma breaking down in despair, now merely a shadow of herself. And now, you both live in this unfamiliar land. Honestly, you are all  you’ve got, gurl. Yes, everyone has been warm and supportive so far but very importantly, you’ve got to be strong for yourself and for Mamma, and if the God  of Israel is anything like Mamma Naomi says, then I think that things will get  better. The future that now looks bleak would become bright! But first, I need  to get up and get out!” 
Ruth gleaning. Photo credit: https://images.app.goo.gl/AJtSmAWMGQbD98dn8

We read in Ruth 2 that she said to her mother-in-law, “Mamma, I’m going to work; I’m going out to glean among the sheaves, following after some harvester who will treat me kindly.” (MSG translation paraphrased) and Naomi gave her thumbs up.

Now, see Jehovah El-happenstance at work! See how the Lord ordered Ruth’s steps in a most spectacular way on this day that anything – good or bad – could have happened.

Ruth 2: 3-4, “And so she set out. She went and started gleaning in a field, following in the wake of the harvesters. Eventually she ended up in the part of the field owned by Boaz, her father-in-law Elimelech’s relative. A little later Boaz came out from Bethlehem, greeting his harvesters, “God be with you!” They replied, “And God bless you!”

Wow! What coincidence? In an unexplainable turn of events, Ruth just happened to walk into the area of the field owned by Boaz who also happened to be her late husband’s relative. Bear in mind that it was normal practice in those days in Israel for the less privileged to glean after the owner of the land had harvested. This was part of the policies that God had given his people to ensure that the poor or foreigners were fed; you do not get to harvest ALL your crops – you leave some behind for anyone who might need them! (Leviticus 23:22) Therefore, as a matter of fact, Ruth could have been in any other person’s farmland at the time because everyone left gleanings behind. But I am persuaded that God in His infinite wisdom and power controlled Ruth’s steps to somehow come into Boaz’s portion at when she did!

And yet in another baffling coincidence, Boaz happened to come out to greet his workers at the same time when Ruth was still in his farmland! And as every responsible business owner would do, he noticed an unfamiliar face, asked to know who it was and when he heard that Ruth was that Moabite woman who had shown kindness to Naomi his relative and when he heard about Ruth’s stellar work ethic, he instantly gave her an open cheque and open arms. I imagine him saying to her, “From now on, please do not bother to go to any other farmland, stay with my people, work with my young women, harvest, harvest, harvest all you want. Take breaks with us and eat whatever we are eating! I’ve got you, and in all humility, I am a prosperous man. Frankly, this is the least that I could do because my dear woman, you will be immensely blessed by God for all the help you give Naomi!”

No way! Ruth couldn’t believe her eyes. Just yesterday, it looked like her and Naomi’s morning would never break. But today, the God of Israel has changed their story! She was beyond excited! She took the goodies home and told Naomi everything. The latter was shocked! She said, “Why, God bless that man! God hasn’t quite walked out on us after all! He still loves us, in bad times as well as good!” This was the same Naomi who not in the distant past had lost all hope and even legit changed her name to Bitter-lyn because she just couldn’t!

But from that day, their good fortune did not end. Things got better and better. 

  • Ruth very much enjoyed her new and significantly different life in Judah
  • Her skills and values were relevant and even commended in the foreign land
  • She made a living and secured a good life for Naomi and herself!
  • God gifted her a second chance at love because in yet another wonderful chance occurrence, albeit aided by an idea given to her by her beloved Mama Naomi, Ruth eventually got married to Boaz her benefactor and guess what, they had a son together! Apparently, it didn’t matter to Boaz that she was a widow. If anything, that may have been a catalyst itself!
  • Ruth served the God of Naomi, the God of Israel, the God whom she realized loves them very much!
  • She was accepted and became a part of the community. The towns-women literarily threw a dance party for Naomi after her delivery.
  • Ruth’s life was a huge success, so much so that she, a once bereaved, seemingly-forsaken and once foreign/heathen woman became a part of the direct lineage of Jesus the Messiah. Her name is one of the few five female names listed in this prestigious family tree of Jesus! That is like modern day Guinness book of records, but in a class of its own. She was an all-round success.

Personally, I have had countless ‘coincidences’ that in retrospect could only have been God’s hand at work, pulling through His good plans. Many of the people who made significant impact in my life seem like I met them by chance, which makes me wonder, “Was it a coincidence after all? Or was it as a result of a master plan from a Master Strategist?

Anyone who feels like they have had it with life, that everything seems so wrong; or anyone who has been expecting a particular thing for such a long time that they are on the verge of giving up hope must remember this passage;

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

There is a God who created the heavens and the earth, who has a good purpose, and who will work out all the many details of your life if you love Him. Just picture a master chess player and the way they maneuver the pawns till they win. God is a way better strategist and He always wins. And every time He wins, you win also!

To wrap this up, there are 3 considerations I would like you my dear reader to mind:

  1. Notice the condition for the Romans 8:28 promise where God works out the details of life for our good: We have to love God. What does it mean to love God? It means to obey Him; to treasure His words and do what He asks us to in the Bible. It means saying, “I will no longer be in charge, I want the God who created all things to be my master. I accept forgiveness for my past wrongs because Jesus – God’s son died for my total pardon and redemption. From now on, I am free to serve God!
  2. I have learned that sometimes, in the course of life, we have to wait! In those seasons, God is working behind the scenes and all we have to do is wait. I mean, no matter how thrilled an expecting mother is at the prospect of receiving her baby, she still has to wait some 9 months for the baby to be fully formed.
  3. While waiting, by all means, we must do what we can. Do whatever the present situation allows you that is fair and right. 

There is a Jehovah El-coincidence – a God who would maximize our situations and efforts to give us a story as beautiful as Ruth’s.

3 thoughts on “JEHOVAH EL – HAPPENSTANCE (Case Study – Ruth)

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