It’s been a bit over a week since our last round of national elections and the results are finally sinking in for everyone. For some this means a sense of satisfaction, while for others disillusionment.
Regardless of which category you may be in, I want to offer comfort as an alternative to satisfaction or disillusionment. Specifically, comfort in the fact that God is still in control no matter who is going to be sitting in the White House come Jan. 20.
I want to do this by pointing you to the biblical book of Ruth in the Old Testament. And as an aside, it may be helpful to have a Holy Bible handy to check my work as you read this column.
The short book of Ruth is normally associated with teaching on godly obedience and love, and rightfully so. However, it also teaches much on the providence of God and how He works out His plan through history in the daily lives of His creatures. Specifically, this short book sets the stage for how God brings about the birth of His King, David, and by extension the Messiah who was initially promised in Genesis 3:15.
As the story opens, God’s hand is seen immediately, as Elimelech (his name means “My God is King”) has chosen to leave the land of Israel with his family, something not accounted for in the Law of Moses. Furthermore, he allows his sons to take wives from the daughters of Moab, a thing specifically forbidden by Yahweh (this is God’s covenant name revealed in Exodus 3:14).
Things do not bode well for Elimelech and his sons, for they all die while in the land of Moab, leaving behind three women who are now widows. One of these young women was Ruth, who became a believer in Yahweh as is evidenced in her refusal to abandon her mother-in-law, Naomi, as she departs to return to Bethlehem (Ruth 1:14-22).
An example of God’s providence in the book of Ruth is found in two parts of the same episode in chapter two. The first part of the episode comes in verse three when Ruth goes to glean in the fields after seeking Naomi’s permission. In Old Testament Israel this was a means that God had provided to ensure people such as Ruth, Naomi, and all widows could obtain their daily substance (Leviticus 19:10).
It just so happens that she comes to the field of a man named Boaz. The importance of this “happenstance” is revealed as the chapter comes to a close. Naomi informs her daughter-in-law that Boaz is a close relative who is able to act as a redeemer for them. What this means is, should Boaz choose to act as their kinsmen-redeemer, they will no longer be in a position to “fend for themselves.”
As the narrative progresses, Ruth continues to glean in the fields of Boaz and his fields alone, in compliance with both his and Naomi’s desires. Through this process the reader is able to draw the conclusion that Ruth’s uprightness is further observed by Boaz. At the end of the harvesting seasons, Ruth makes the bold move of presenting a somewhat unorthodox marriage proposal to Boaz (Ruth 3:9).
In response to Ruth’s proposal of marriage, Boaz goes into the city gate to make sure that he is indeed in a position to take Ruth as a wife. After some discussion with the city elders and another relative of Elimelech, it is determined that he should indeed take Ruth as his wife (Ruth 4:1-10).
As this short book of the Holy Bible comes to its end, Ruth is married to Boaz and has given birth to a son named Obed. This same Obed is the grandfather of the shepherd boy David who will be anointed king over Israel by God’s judge/prophet Samuel (Ruth 4:16-21; 1 Samuel 16:1-15).
What we are left with is really a story of how God is clearly evident working out His plan for installing His king over Israel in the lives of everyday, ordinary people. Though we should not conclude that our presidential election is somehow going to result in a king being produced for Israel — King Jesus already has that job — we should recognize that if God could arrange the marriage of a Moabite widow to a respected member of Bethlehem society, He is surely able to maintain control of His creation (Psalm 24:1) regardless of who is occupying the American presidency.
Andy Lynch is pastor of Stansbury Park Baptist Church (www.stansburyparkbc.org).