The “chance” events of life

Ruth 2:2-3 “And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, ‘Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.’ And she said to her, ‘Go, my daughter.’ So she 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.”

One of the things I’ve noticed about televangelists is how they so often emphasize signs and wonders in their ministries.  So much of what they speak about are “miracles,” and in particular miracles that have to do with money.  They are quick to promise miracles to those who listen to them, if they will just send their money to them.  So much of it is a sham and a lie, but it’s fascinating in a way – or at least many people must think so, for from where else do these preachers get the money for their multimillion-dollar lifestyles. 

Of course, the Bible is a book full of miracles, whether in the story of the Exodus, the lives of Elijah and Elisha, the miraculous victories of the judges such as Gideon and Samson, or in the lives of Christ and his apostles. These were all real miracles, not sleight of hand and lies like we see so much today.  However, what I think we so often miss in the realm of miracles is God’s work through the everyday contingencies of life.  As we see God at work in His sovereignty, it is an awesome miracle to behold. 

For example, in the verses above we see an excerpt from the lives of Ruth and Naomi.  Here were two widows that assumed they would face a life of poverty that was common to widows in that day.  As Naomi had confessed as she remarked about the calamities that had come into her life (the death of her husband and both sons), “the hand of the Lord has gone out against me” (Ruth 1:13). In a way, she had a correct view of God’s sovereignty, for God indeed was involved in the deaths of her family members, for the power of life and death are in His hands.  As we are told in Psalm 139:16, “in (God’s) book were written . . . the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”  But in her bitterness about this calamity, perhaps she missed God’s continued sovereignty and work in her life. 

As Naomi now sends Ruth into the harvested fields to glean the leftovers as was common for the poor in that day, it says that she “happened” to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Naomi’s husband Elimelech.  This happenstance, like the fact that Ruth and Naomi had returned from Moab to Bethlehem at the time of the barley harvest, was all in the sovereign control of the miracle-working God.  These events had God’s sovereignty written all over them, just as in the case of a lot thatis cast by men, “but its every decision is from the Lord (Proverbs 16:33).” In some wonderful way that only God understands, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).  It was that way in the lives of Naomi and Ruth.  While they set out to gather what little they could from the fields of others, God was at work directing their steps into a plan that would eventually culminate in their own personal blessings that were beyond anything they could have hoped for. But beyond that, their actions would lead to the birth of the Son of God. 

You see, what “happens” in our lives is not a matter of chance, luck, or fate, although so many seem to see things in this way.  As we move through our days doing this or that, God’s hand is at work in all of it.  When good things come our way, at least good in our own eyes, know that they didn’t happen by luck. It wasn’t a matter of the stars aligning in just the right way, for “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17).  And when things that are not so good affect us, when we are tempted to cry out, “Why is this happening to me?!” know that God is just as much at work in our lives in those things as in all other things that touch our lives. 

It’s a thrilling thing to realize that God is at work in the millions of contingencies that touch our lives, including the interactions of our lives with the lives of others.  May God help us to “trust in (Him) with all (our) heart, and . . . not lean on (our) own understanding. (May He help us) in all (our) ways (to) acknowledge Him, and He will make straight (our) paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

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