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  • Writer's pictureAdam Smith

The Hiddenness of God

God does extraordinary things through ordinary means.


In many ways, the Book of Ruth in the Bible is a heartwarming masterpiece. It has everything we tend to enjoy within literature, being all at once a drama, a romance, and a story of redemption. Ruth, the title character, proves to be an ideal heroine, showing great courage, cleverness, and a commitment to doing the right thing. It’s also a book that has a happy ending, as Ruth and Boaz celebrate their marriage and the birth of their child; a child from whose line, we are told, King David (and, thus, Jesus himself) would eventually come (Ruth 4:22).


Despite such apparent idealism in Ruth, it is a book that is also profoundly human. Indeed, in many ways, it is quite ordinary. If you were to compare Ruth to other books of the Bible, you would find that there are no miracles that take place nor does God directly intervene in Ruth’s life in any way, like he does in other places in the Bible. Nothing obviously extraordinary happens throughout the entire book.


But in Ruth, we see that God is at work, only He is hidden behind the scenes. It is from Ruth—a Moabite refugee no less—that God will bring new leadership to Israel. It is from Ruth’s line, eventually, that the Messiah will be born. Yet, all of this redemptive history happened simply because of the way Ruth and Boaz chose to live their lives as faithful followers of the LORD.


When we read the story, we see Ruth being daringly compassionate and courageous. She lovingly devotes herself to Naomi, risking everything to be with her and to care for her (Ruth 1:16-17). Commentators tell us that Ruth was the most vulnerable of all people, being a woman, a widow, and a refugee. At one place, we even find that Naomi was worried that Ruth would be assaulted while working in the barley fields (Ruth 2:22). Yet, Ruth willingly risks all of this because of her great sacrificial love for Naomi.


We also see Boaz being a faithful man of godly character. When he observes Ruth working in his fields, Boaz works to ensure her safety and that she receives plenty of food (Ruth 2:5-18). When Ruth asks him to redeem her, Boaz does not hesitate but follows God's law perfectly (Ruth 3:10-13; 4:1-10). At every turn in the story, Ruth and Boaz seek to do the right thing, even when it costs them [1].


The story of Ruth reminds us of three powerful Christian truths about ordinary human experiences:


First, Ruth reminds us that God can do extraordinary things through the faithfulness of ordinary people. Ruth and Boaz lived “in the days when the judges ruled” (Ruth 1:1), which was a time when “everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Yet, God used the faithfulness of just one godly man and one godly woman who were living in ungodly times to bring about goodness; not just to them and to Naomi, but eventually to all of Israel and the whole world. Ruth shows us that God can use our ordinary actions towards extraordinary ends.


Second, Ruth reminds us that God is working in ways that we don’t always see. There are times when we may look at our lives and feel empty or that God has dealt an unkind hand to us in life, like Naomi did in the story (Ruth 1:20-21). But this story encourages us to believe that God is working for our good even when we can’t see a way forward for ourselves. Ruth and Naomi could never have anticipated where their story was headed any more than you or I can see our own future. Yet, Ruth invites us to trust that God is at work in our lives, even in ways we can’t fully see yet.


Finally, Ruth reminds us that God sees us. In one of the more moving exchanges in the story, Ruth says to Boaz “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” Here we see Ruth perplexed by Boaz’s kindness. Why should this great man care about her, someone so lowly? But Boaz replies, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me…The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”


We all face times in life, like Ruth, when we may feel that nobody notices or cares for us. But just as Ruth’s redeemer, Boaz, saw her actions from afar, so the Bible tells us that Jesus—our Redeemer—looked down from his Father’s throne above and saw us, despite our lowliness, and came to earth to redeem us. Hebrews 7:25 tells us that Jesus “lives to make intercession for us,” which means that we do not walk through this world alone or unseen. Rather, we live life before our Redeemer’s compassionate and loving graze.


Another way of putting this is to say that we live our lives “Coram Deo,” a latin phrase that means “before the face of God.” It is a phrase that Christians throughout history have used to remind themselves that all of life is lived before the presence of God. Just as Ruth’s righteous acts were eventually recognized by Boaz, so the way we live our lives is seen by God and by others. Psalm 8:4 asks of God, “who is man that you are mindful of him?” Yet, this is the God that we have, a God who sees us and who is mindful of us. Let us then take refuge in him, living with an awareness of God’s mindfulness of us, and a recognition that He is at work through our everyday, ordinary experiences.




Adam Smith is a Ministry Associate in Washington, D.C.

 

[1] For more background information on the Jewish practice of kinship-redemption, please read more here: https://tabletalkmagazine.com/article/2022/08/kinsman-redeemer/

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