. . . she heard that the LORD had taken note of His people and given them food. Ruth 1:6 JPS
Had taken note – Once or twice in life it’s nice to hear something from the Lord. Two times is the extent of direct mention of God in the story of Ruth. Yes, the Lord is active in the lives of these people, but it is quite unusual that there is so little direct mention of Him. For the most part, life in and around Bethlehem goes on just as usual. People deal with one form of crisis or another. Circumstances change. Things happen. There is no spiritualized awareness of the consequences of God’s hand. Life just happens.
That’s the way it is for almost all of us. And perhaps that’s the way God prefers it. He moves invisibly among the lives of men to accomplish His purposes. Try to imagine what it would be like if He didn’t disguise what He is doing. Would Naomi have gone to Moab if she knew that her husband and sons would die there? Would she have elicited a paradigm case of hesed from Ruth if she knew it would take the death of a son to bring about these circumstances? Would Ruth have gone to Bethlehem if she knew in advance what life would be like as an outsider at risk? Go even further back. Would Lot and Abraham have separated if they both knew all the ins and outs of God’s purposes over the course of generations to bring about the story of Ruth and the eventual birth of David? No, my guess is that no human being would sign up for the plan if he or she knew all the details in advance (with perhaps one exception). Maybe there’s a very good reason why we feel we are left in the dark so many times. Maybe it’s because if we knew, we would choose not to cooperate.
This verse doesn’t really say that God noticed the plight of His people. The verb is paqad. It means “to visit, to exercise oversight or to attend to.” It isn’t that God somehow forgot about the record book for Bethlehem and then one day suddenly noticed what was happening. God had oversight responsibility all along. But God’s oversight doesn’t always line up with the way men would like things to happen. The people of Bethlehem didn’t want to experience a famine, but that doesn’t mean the famine wasn’t part of God’s oversight. The famine created the circumstances that led Elimelech and Naomi to Moab – and to Ruth. That’s oversight. The death of her two sons lead Naomi and Ruth back to Bethlehem. That’s oversight. But before you object, “How can God’s oversight include the death of these three men?” let me remind you that in Hebrew thought whatever God does is good. We don’t set the standard. He does. And what He does is the definition of good. So God’s oversight, no matter what that might entail, is good.
Naomi doesn’t think so. She is bitter. She is discouraged. She is disconsolate. But there is this tiny ray of hope in her words. God has oversight. He has visited His people. Maybe all isn’t lost yet. Maybe.
I suspect that most of the time we are like Naomi. We can’t see beyond our own pain. We don’t think tomorrow will be better. We only imagine what we know now will continue forever. But we have this tiny ray of hope. Maybe somehow God will visit us. It’s not a life-altering rock-solid statement of faith. It’s just a miniscule desire to have a peek at what He is really doing. But most of the time, what He is really doing is invisible – and for good reason. We are left with this. What God does is good. Period.
How’s Naomi doing in your life today?
Topical Index: Ruth 1:6, take note, visit, oversight, paqad, good