Surprised by grace

Ruth 2:10 “Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, ‘Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?’”

Have you ever heard the statement “Nobody likes surprises”?  It’s commonly used in the business world as an acknowledgement that people like things to be predictable in their planning efforts.  We don’t like things that “upset the apple cart” and cause us to scramble to address a problem.  By contrast, have you ever been “surprised by grace,” for it’s that type of surprise that is a very good thing?  Grace is the word we use to describe a favor that comes our way that is completely unmerited. In the verse above we have an example of this in the words of Ruth who is surprised by the blessings that the man Boaz had sent her way.  Ruth had found herself gleaning grain in Boaz’s fields.  Boaz was very wealthy, whereas Ruth was a poor widow.  Gleaning the leftovers after the harvesters were done was one of the ways God had ordained that the poor were to be provided for in Israel.  But Ruth wasn’t an Israelite. She was a foreigner whose birthplace was Moab, a place that had been cursed by God for its wicked idolatry.  It is because she had followed her Israelite mother-in-law Naomi back to Israel after both of their husbands had died that Ruth found herself in this new place.  She expected to get just enough to scrape by with a meager allotment of grain. Instead, she finds that Boaz has taken particular notice of her. He blesses her by assuring her that she’ll have all the grain and water she will need. He urges her to glean only in his fields because he would make sure to abundantly provide for her. He had commanded his servants not to harm her but to care for her and bless her.  Ruth is amazed at all this as she exclaims, “I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants” (Ruth 2:13).  In a word, Ruth is surprised by grace. 

In this we can see a type and shadow of what it is to serve the Lord.  Although perhaps every person who is now a Christian followed the Lord with trepidation and hesitancy at first, each and every one of them has now found themself surprised by grace.  Following the Lord is an act of faith.  Like with Ruth who followed Naomi to live among a people she did not know in a land with which she was totally unfamiliar, people who turn to Christ are turning away from what they know to that which is totally unknown.  People are naturally resistant to change.  We are usually much more comfortable with the familiar than we are with the unfamiliar.  Turning to Christ involves great risk in this way. 

The apostle Paul is a wonderful example of this. Paul had been a “Hebrew of the Hebrews” (Philippians 3:5). He was deeply rooted in his Jewish heritage. He had been educated by the great Jewish teacher Gamaliel. He had risen to a place of prominence in his religion as a Pharisee. But when he turned to Christ, he was turning his back on all this.  He was turning to what was completely foreign to him. In essence, he was becoming one who had to turn away from these things and count “whatever gain (he) had . . .  as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, (he had made the decision to) count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus (as his) Lord. (It was) for His sake (that he had) suffered the loss of all things and count(ed) them as rubbish, in order that (he might) gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7-8).

Surely what Paul did was no less intimidating than what Ruth had done.  And that’s the way it is for each and every person who would turn their back on what they know to follow the Lord of life.  But what do they find when they do this? They each find themself “surprised by grace.” Just as Ruth was overwhelmed by the wonderful grace she had found as the hand of Boaz, so everyone who turns to Christ will find themselves overwhelmed, but to an even greater extent, at the hand of Christ. Though each and every one of us was at one time no less an enemy of the people of God than the Moabites were enemies of the citizens of Israel, when we make the move to become citizens of the heavenly kingdom, we find ourselves to be blessed to the same extent as all those who have been blessed to be part of that kingdom for many years. 

Repeatedly in Paul’s letters he expresses his unabashed shock at the glory of being surprised by the grace of Jesus, the very One he had at one time lived to persecute.  He gives thanks to God “for His indescribable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15)!  He exults with the words, “Though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent . . . I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 1:13-14).  He lived and taught so that others would “(have) the eyes of (their) hearts enlightened, that (they) may know what is the hope to which He has called (them), what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe” (Ephesians 1:18-19). It’s the universal experience of those who turn away from what they once were and had to what God would have them to be and what He would have them to have in His infinite grace.

So, do you want to be surprised by grace, just as Ruth was, just as Paul was, and just as every other believer has found out for themself? It’s all there for you if you will only turn to Him and believe.  And for believers, may you be encouraged by the truth that you will be “surprised by grace” for all eternity, for God has promised us that “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).  Praise be to His glorious name!

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