The last verse in the book of Judges ended on a negative note: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit,” which was apparently meant to be contrasted with Saul, David, and the monarchy which would follow the Judges. In fact, the last five chapters of Judges don’t actually talk about a judge/leader at all. It tells the sad story of a Sodom-like travesty of justice which led to tribalism, civil war, and an almost-complete wiping out of one of the twelve tribes. The point that the last verse seemed to be making was that there was no central government in Israel; instead, there were twelve tribes with twelve local governments which would unite in cases of dire emergency but who had no fundamental loyalty to the notion of a “nation” as we conceive of it. Our own country went through this as well, and our experience with the Articles of Confederation gave way to the Constitution (for some very good reasons).
The book of Ruth has been described as a romance novel (or short story), and I can’t dispute that there are elements of romance in it. However, that is NOT God’s main purpose in inspiring the writer to record this. If anyone doubts this, then check out the genealogy in the last few verses of the book. Boaz’s and Ruth’s happiness together was a wonderful thing, but they're not the point to this story. The point to this story--like the rest of the O.T.--is how God started on the next step towards bringing his Son into the world.
One of the reasons why I like this book (and yes, I like the romantic aspects as well) is because it provides a very important lesson for us in our daily lives. The days of the Judges were exciting at times, with grand miracles and supernaturally endowed leaders stepping forward in times of crisis. However, it was also a time of spiritual deterioration and a downward spiral of idolatry, sexual immorality, and oppression by their enemies. By stark contrast, the book of Ruth is almost mundane in its “normalcy.” There are no miracles in this book, no grand leaders, and very little “excitement.” There’s a famine, some men dying (seemingly of natural causes), an old woman’s decision to return to her homeland, and a young woman’s decision to live and die by her mother-in-law's side, no matter what.
The point I’m making is this: This is how God normally operates. The theological term is providence, which means the way that he uses ordinary people and circumstances to accomplish his plans. If you measure the time that the Bible covers during human history, the times of miracles are actually few and far between. 99% of the time, he works his plan “behind the scenes” and we don’t even see him doing anything at all—unless we’re looking for it.
Maybe you’re at a low in your walk with the Lord, and you really don’t see him operating in your life much at all. You really could use a miracle right now, both in picking up your faith and in relieving your bad situation. I assure you, I promise you, he is working for your good and his glory—right this minute. Just ask for the eyes of faith to see it, and you’ll be surprised by what you notice.
Father, your hand is at work everywhere around me. Please let me see you at work. I really could use it right now.
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