Last-minute God {Ruth 1 part 2}

Let's break some bread
With all the action in the first chapter of Ruth – the deaths and disasters and beautiful friendship of Ruth and Naomi – this is a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ verse:
“The Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them.” (Ruth 1:6)

 

I stare at that one sentence, “the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them” and a series of Biblical scenes flash through my mind.

 

  • In the beginning, the nothingness and the void, and then God spoke colourful fruit onto every tree in Eden.
  • In the desert, the dust intermingled with the bitterness of the Israelites’ complaints and God gave them ‘wotsits’ that were just enough to live on for each day.
  • The widow at Zarephath was preparing to die when a prophet asked her for something to eat. Her flour and oil just went on lasting and lasting.
  • Jesus stood on green grass with a restless and grumpy crowd and multiplied a picnic lunch until everyone was stuffed full.

 

God is the same throughout the ages – the one who looks with compassion at his hungry people and provides food for them. God is Jehovah Jireh: the Lord who provides.

 

But it feels so often that God is just a little late. God provided for his people and for Naomi and Ruth, sure – but look how long they had to wait! The widow at Zarephath was about to die. The crowd listening to Jesus were tired and hungry at the end of the day.

 

Why couldn’t God do things just that little bit sooner? Why is his provision always so last-minute? In short, why couldn’t God be a little better organised, like I am?

 

In March 2011, our nanny was leaving and we didn’t have a replacement. We didn’t want just anyone, and we were so tired. “God – why can’t you just DO something? Help us, please?” It wasn’t like we weren’t doing ‘our bit’. We were looking and making enquiries – but it was so hard to find someone trustworthy. And then, at the last minute, we found a friend of a friend who could do it for a month. We breathed a sigh of relief.

 

“God has answered your prayers!” a friend exclaimed, and I wanted to explain that no, God hadn’t answered them. Instead, we’d worried ourselves sick until I had been able to use my connections in various churches to find someone good. Naturally, I didn’t say that, because it’s not the Christian thing to do. I smiled but I muttered under my breath to God:
“I gave you the credit for that one – you owe me.”

 
****

 
God provides food for his people – this is an unchanging truth.

 

But that doesn’t mean that his followers are immune from ever feeling hungry.

 

For most disciples in the world today this is literally true. Saying grace before meals is never so meaningful as when you are living in a poor country with a poor family, your tummy is rumbling and you genuinely have no idea if there’s going to be enough food for the next meal.

 

These things aren’t simple. God is not a slot machine, a system to be worked out. People die of hunger every day in our world. Naomi and Elimelech were in Moab long enough for their sons to be married and then die. The famine lasted a long time in Israel – had Israelites been dying of hunger in that time?

 

I wish that this book dealt with those issues. But it doesn’t. It simply wants to point us to the character of God, Jehovah Jireh.

 

I remembered this six months ago when – again – we were looking for a new nanny. I was reflecting on the girls we had got to know – Lili, Sophie, Lizzie, Marie, Alyssa, Laura. As each one came into our house, our friends would wonder how we managed to get such a great calibre of nannies, who were all reliable and loved our boy. We didn’t know either.

 

Even when we had lots of notice and could start looking and interviewing in good time, we never found anyone until right at the last minute. Each time as I looked into the next week where there was no childcare cover, Jon’s diary full of important meetings, my body refusing to do more than stay in bed, I would say again in panic to God, “help us! Can you not hear our prayers? Are you not getting this?”

 

But then, each time, we would have a nanny, just as we needed them, just at the last minute. And not just any nanny, we would have amazing, better-than-Mary-Poppins-type nannies. It was almost as though there was a pattern.

 

I don’t want to sound like I’m being super-spiritual here, and I always hesitate to give a supernatural reason when a natural one will do. But the fingerprints of God are all over Ruth’s story when you stop to look and maybe His fingerprints are over mine too.

 

Maybe it was a coincidence of timing each time, but maybe it’s that God was whispering to me that He is the God who provides for His people. (At the last minute.) Maybe he would provide for me again, as he did before.

 

I did as I had before: recruited, phoned, interviewed, asked friends – but this time I decided to trust that God would turn up. And he did. (At the last minute).

 

Sometimes it is good to be like Ruth, to look at the complexities of the situation, to feel the ambiguities, and then just to trust in God’s character anyway. He did it before, He’ll do it again – it’s in His nature.

 

So I say it aloud to the world with the shy-boldness of a child who is still learning to trust: God provides for his people.
And I dare to believe that whisper: God provides for me.

 

Over to you:

  • How easy do you find it to believe that God is Jehovah Jireh, the one who provides? What has been your experience of this?
  •  
    I am itching to dig a little into the Bible. I want to hear the whisper of God in the words and lives of Bible characters. Over these next few weeks I will be doing a series on the book of Ruth, to look again at the story breathed out by God and let it write me.

     
    Do read the relevant passage and join in with your responses to (and questions of) the passage in the comments.

    • Thurs 21 Feb – Ruth 1
    • Thurs 7 Mar – Ruth 1, part 2
    • Thurs 14 Mar – Ruth 2
    • Thurs 21 Mar – Ruth 3
    • Thurs 28 Mar – Ruth 4 and overview

     

    Liked this post? Do stay in touch – subscribe by email or like my Facebook page.

     

    , , , , ,

    26 Responses to Last-minute God {Ruth 1 part 2}

    1. Liz Eph 11th March, 2013 at 9:51 am #

      Thank you for being honest ! Yes God provides. But our testimony might not be as glossy as we would want, as we think other people’s experience is. We think a miracle should just drop out of the sky without any visible source when in fact often it’s the result of someone’s generosity and hard work. We lived strapped for cash for many years but we never went hungry, but we ate some pretty odd things right from the back of the cupboard sometimes and I could make quite a lot of spaghetti sauce with just 2 burgers. We usually had a car, but once we drove past the scrap heap and saw not one, not two but three of our old cars on the tops of heaps. We have any number of car miracle stories, don’t get me started ! We were living like most of the world lives, near the edge. God provided, but I couldn’t waste one halfpenny. We did car sharing, house sharing, hand me on clothes, free entertainment. I’m so grateful for so much generosity shown to us. The children don’t remember it as unhappy at all. I remember it as wearing, like it is for everyone else who is struggling to make ends meet, living like most of the world lives, near the edge. The problem is we get distorted views of what is the norm.

      A rather nice little twist to our story is that after getting to rock bottom a few years ago when our health went too, the church we were helping fell apart, we got into debt – then God gave one of those quiet faith words and we knew without worrying that he was going to provide work. He did. Then various things. Since that point despite now being housebound invalids we actually have savings !

      I think the key is involving God in the equation. We asked God to provide for us and were very grateful for what he gives. But we also had to include him when we have, not just when we lack. It might be that someone is not seeing God’s provision because some of us are not including God’s priorities in the budget when we have got the money.
      Liz Eph recently posted…Concretewords : The BottleMy Profile

      • Tanya 11th March, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

        Thanks so much for sharing this testimony!

        I do like that you emphasise how wearing and stressful it can be to be in that situation of being so close to the edge and having God coming through. I think we can glamorise it all too often – we hear the stories of God’s miraculous provision for missionary workers, but I have seen first-hand the strain that comes from waiting for those cheques to come in, and I think just as we need to thank God even while we have stuff, sometimes we also need to plan to give and not just wait for divine promptings!

        “We also had to include him when we have, not just when we lack” – YES, and this is a real challenge too. Good to be reminded of it.

    2. Diana Trautwein 11th March, 2013 at 4:24 am #

      Well, I guess I want to argue for a ‘both and’ approach to this complex topic. Yes, surely God is sovereign. But in that sovereignty, we are invited into the mix. And we are given free will. And sin is often the result of that freedom. So. . . I guess I have to say that the OT picture of causation needs tempering with that scriptural thread. . . the one that clearly tells us we are given some limited spheres of choice, even of control. Some call it nitpicking, but I do see a difference between God causing and God allowing – a very big and important difference. To ascribe all suffering to the hand of God is very hard for me, very hard. Therefore, I am cautious about that language. To go too far down the road of everything-coming-from-the-hand-of-God takes us right smack into fatalism, determinism and puppetry. There has to be room for human agency, for the deep love and respect that God has for us, for the gift of free will, for the invitation to partnership. This is too small a box to get into this much more, but the discussion here is fascinating. And I’m loving this series on Ruth.
      Diana Trautwein recently posted…A Trip to the Dentist — A Deeper FamilyMy Profile

      • Tanya 11th March, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

        Thanks for this, Diana – yes, this is a very important part of this topic, and I would give a hearty amen to all you have written here.

        It is always hard to ‘tie up’ God’s sovereignty too neatly, when as you say there is sin and our free will to complicate the mix (and Satan and the forces of darkness too.) Did God will/cause Judas to betray Jesus? Luke’s gospel emphasises that it was Satan’s agency at work, not God’s – and yet God allowed it, and planned for Jesus’ death and meant it for good etc. Somehow these seemingly contradictory things are all held together and we can’t work them out too exactly. I also prefer the term ‘allow’ rather than cause – I think it makes things clearer.

        Thanks for this.

    3. Tim Carlisle 7th March, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

      A certain St Andrew’s curate once said to me – ‘Remember, when you need God it will be in his timing, which for you will almost always be when he’s nearly late’.

      I remember when you’ve been looking for nannies, praying about them, but also thinking that He WAS going to pull through – but that it would almost certainly be at the last moment. Why – because I’m sure that is how he shows its HIM in control. If he did it before, and it seemed to have more earthly ways we could write it off as being our own brilliance (I know I would) BUT when all else has failed, we’re staring into the abyss – and it works out – we know that the creator is showing us who is in control.

      I do wonder that if I got this more, and submitted to it better whether he’d always leave it to the last minute – but I’m sure he would – and what is more I think I should be grateful and thankful that he does – because he’s teaching me and building me. So not only does he intervene and show he cares, he does it in a way that helps me be more like Christ, and more mature in faith – what a GREAT God that is…..

      When I worked for a Christian Charity we employed people believing God was leading us to do it, but without the funds to do so. 6 months in we were staring down the barrel of a bunch of redundancies – the final decision had been made, the line managers informed and ready to spend the day travelling the country talking to those affected. That evening, well after work had finished a check was placed through the Managing Director’s door from someone who had money to give, but didn’t know where to give it to. Up until that evening he was intending to give it elsewhere – until he felt the Lord was telling him to give it to us. He didn’t know our state of play. That single gift covered all the salaries for 12 months.

      God was almost too late – and yet the temptation is to say thanks God but [NAME] helped us instead…..

      • Tanya 11th March, 2013 at 7:36 pm #

        There’s nothing like fundraising for ministry to underline the point that God provides, yet so often in a last-minute fashion!

        I think this comment has reminded me what a discipline it is to thank God for things – thank Him for the miraculous things and needs met at the last minute, but also for the non-last-minute things which he also provides, the food in our tables, that kind of thing.

        And thanks for having faith on my behalf that God would provide for us – sometimes I think that it helps to have people praying and believing even when we can’t so much.

        • Tim Carlisle 11th March, 2013 at 11:25 pm #

          I think it’s easier to believe and have faith when it isn’t you…..

    4. Alice 7th March, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

      Oh Tanya this is just so wonderful and so exciting!
      When I read the story of the feeding of the 5000 recently, I wondered why Jesus didn’t just get rid of their hunger instead of creating food. He could have done either just as easily couldn’t he? I think God wants us hungry.

      I’m going to be mulling this post over for a long time. Thank you.
      Alice recently posted…Listening to the better voiceMy Profile

      • Tanya 7th March, 2013 at 8:45 pm #

        I love the way you put it – I feel like you pulled something out that I hadn’t fully identified.

        I wouldn’t go for every unanswered prayer or every suffering as being God making us hunger – because he’s not a slot machine. (Not that I think this is what you’re saying, you understand, but just clarifying what I mean!)

        But there do seem to be times where God causes his people to hunger, so that they can see it is Him who is feeding them. Isn’t it Deuteronomy (deut 8, maybe? Somewhere around there?) where it talks about the Israelites in the desert – ‘God caused you to hunger, feeding you with manna’ so that they would know that He was God. That wasn’t particularly in my mind when I wrote it – but it is now!

        I love the way you stretch my thinking. I like this way of applying it, even though it feels a little scary to say it…

    5. Mark Allman 7th March, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

      I think we lose in the chaos of being pushed to the brink those things we did not have to wait on; those things we were provided with ahead of time or in a time as such we did not wonder why they had not shown up. The myriad of things not even prayed about or asked for that God had provided. We let the one that He appears to have forgotten garner all of our attention; our worry; or obsession. We often think we deserve that which we prayed for(otherwise we would not have prayed for it) and if we think we are deserving of it and not one who should do without we question and fret. I do not know that we look at the options that we may have if God chooses to deny our request; that we consider how best to go about being without.

      “I always hesitate to give a supernatural reason when a natural one will do. But the fingerprints of God are all over Ruth’s story when you stop to look and maybe His fingerprints are over mine too.” I struggle with this as I think if we are professed children of God all of our living is in the supernatural. He does have his fingerprints on everything we do even if those fingerprints are left when he has taken a hands off approach to something we think warrants hands on. What do you think about this Tanya?

      • Tanya 7th March, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

        Thanks so much for sharing, Mark – I think you’re right, that often we only notice God’s intervention when it’s last minute!

        As for your question, oh flip! Tricky! I think what you are asking is this: surely God is in control of everything, particularly as Christians, so surely nothing is outside of his grasp?

        To which I’d want to say, yes, as a short answer. It gets a bit complicated when we throw spiritual warfare and what is God’s will for us, and how that differentiates from his sovereignty all into the mix, and the purpose of prayer and the free will of other sinners and the role of Satan and…. i have all these various questions swirling round my head as I try to answer this. And I can’t answer them all!

        So – what do I mean by the fingerprints of God? I chose that image because often you have to look closely, to look and reflect to see God’s intervention in your life. (Re intervention – I hold God’s sovereignty over everything together with the fact that he seems to respond extra-ordinarily in certain circumstances, and often in response to prayer.) A miraculous healing is an obvious example of a dramatic intervention by God, that is out of the ordinary. But sometimes there are subtler interventions of God, and it leaves fingerprints that you don’t immediately notice. Don’t know if that helps clarify or if these questions are just too big or whether we’re just on a slightly different page about God’s sovereignty…?! Think I will stop rambling now – hope that makes sense!

        • Mark Allman 7th March, 2013 at 9:14 pm #

          Tanya,
          I do think we are on the same page on God’s sovereignty. We may be saying the same thing just differently as well.

    6. Melinda Viergever Inman 7th March, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

      I think our idea of time and God’s idea of time are very different. I want advance warning, planning time, slots to be filled several weeks in advance. But God provides just in time, or at the last minute, or not at all. Yes, I said that.

      My experience is mostly like yours. I’m begging, asking, waiting. It’s not happening. And when it does, I’m so traumatized by the begging and waiting that I lecture him for his tardiness. In my obsession with how I thought it should have gone, I miss the blessing, the miracle of the just in time, and the provision. I’m blind. In this, I’m an ingrate and a person who still struggles with control issues.

      I’m still wrestling with God over the time he let us go under. The house was flooded, it couldn’t be repaired, we lost it, and we went bankrupt. Why? When it happened, I was incensed with God. I quit talking to him. From the perspective of eighteen years, though, I now see it was the best thing for humbling us and knocking the hypocrisy and concern for the good opinion of others right out of us. I wouldn’t have picked it. But he did, and he had a reason that was for our good.

      Now when I reach those moments, I feel like Esther, “If we perish, we perish.” Or Habakkuk, “Though the fig tree may not blossom, or there be no cattle in the stall, yet I will rejoice in the Lord.” We do ministry in India. Our friends there live on a couple of dollars a day. They often have little food. Yet God loves them anyway. They are amazing people.

      I think we have to learn God-time. It’s difficult, being westerners. We’re handicapped with our overflowing provisions and our clocks. Thanks for sharing so transparently. You always do, and it is a blessing.

      • Tanya 7th March, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

        Thank you so much for sharing this. It’s so interesting and helpful to have a more global perspective. It’s one of those weird things that often those who have less seem to be able to thank God for what they have. That embarrasses me, that I am often so unwilling to thank God for all I do.

        That situation you went through becoming bankrupt sounds HORRIBLE. So painful, so scary. I am so respectful that you are out the other side and able to see gold in there.

        And yes – I love the spiritual maturity in being able to say, ‘if we perish, we perish’ / ‘yet will I rejoice in God my saviour.’ This is exactly right, and always a challenge to me. Thank you.

    7. Joy Lenton 7th March, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

      It is certainly true in experience that though God is seldom early – in His timing – He is never late either. By our reckoning 11th hour answers are a bit too fraught and sweat-inducing, a skin-of-the-teeth result we can barely be grateful for at times as we sink wearily back with an “At last!” gasp. This very issue has been on my mind a lot this year and was in the ‘Jesus Calling’ reading this morning that focussed on ‘considering it all joy whenever you are enveloped in various trials’. Oh Yes? Who can do that? A reaction reserved for the super-spiritual ones? Well, no, actually.
      It is grace to be able to have our faith stretched, to witness the blessing arriving at all, to see the good that can come out of our pain as we share and encourage one another. All this is gift, all this is grace of the Highest Order, whether it feels like it or not.
      Loving this series on Ruth and loving the insights you are sharing with us, dear Tanya. We are all learning and growing together in the taking and breaking of this bread, the sighs and groans and the wonder of Mystery beyond our comprehension. Thank you. Love and blessings :) xx
      Joy Lenton recently posted…Wounded WarriorsMy Profile

      • Tanya 7th March, 2013 at 8:26 pm #

        Joy – I just love the godliness and faith that pours out of you in these words. I know these are not cheap, they are hard-won, and I thank God for you.

    8. Sipech 7th March, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

      I have long faced difficulty when someone declares “God has done this for me” or “God has provided this for me” knowing full well that there are times that people have waited expectantly, only for time to run out. The food ran out. The money ran out. The heartbeats stopped.

      If God was the one who provided, who was it that let someone go? Did God withold his provision? If so, why?

      Who benefits when a newborn child dies?

      Last year, after I was made redundant, I lived on my redundancy pay, getting a new job just before my money ran out. I stood up in declared God’s faithfulness in church at how I got just what I needed when I needed it. 6 weeks later I was unemployed again. Fired. I went through the rigmarole again, getting another job just as the money was about to run out again. But I dare not rejoice. There may be a time for that, but now seems to be the time to weep with those who weep.
      Sipech recently posted…Peering into hell?My Profile

      • Tanya 7th March, 2013 at 8:21 pm #

        Yup.
        Yup.

        Those questions? Yup. I have them too. I wish that the book of Ruth addressed them. I felt the pain and frustration in your comment as I read it – the heartbeats, the death of a newborn child – even reading these words makes my stomach screw up.

        I know that you are as capable as I am at unravelling those questions and attempting the difficult answers (and flinging more on top of those questions) so I’m not going to attempt to answer them.

        I will say this: when I was writing this post I almost chickened out. The thread I was going down of ‘what about the people who died in Israel…why save the few?’ was leading into a bit of a chasm, and i wasn’t sure if it would swallow me up in it. We say thanks to God every day for providing our food – does this make it okay that millions of people are starving while we tuck in?

        And even closer to home – why am I thanking God for his provision of a nanny when really he should be healing me so we don’t even need a nanny? He can do that – why won’t he? As you say – who benefits, exactly?

        And I don’t have the answers to these questions. I could make some up, but I’m not sure they fit everyone.

        But I didn’t give up writing the post, because I think it is right for me to take a step and acknowledge God’s provision where I see it. There’s a humility (and a slight foolishness – I can totally relate to that feeling of ‘why did you get me fired, God? I just thanked you in CHURCH and everything!’) that comes from doing this kinda thing. But it’s good for me to acknowledge this provision of God in my life, because I do feel like this particular thing has the fingerprints of God on it.

        I don’t want to make hard and fast rules about other people’s situations. Like you, I also get twitchy when people say, ‘God provided x for me’ but at the same time I need to hear those stories and cheer them in faith, just as I need to hear the stories of those who are lost in their grief and have no idea what God is doing. The flipside of weeping with those who weep is that we rejoice with those who rejoice – and sometimes it is important to rejoice in God’s provision for us, even while we weep at loss in others’ lives. (I think).

        I dunno about you rejoicing, but I certainly rejoice in God’s provision for you, because I was really feeling for you being unemployed for so long, for no good reason. I don’t know why things work out the way they do and I certainly wouldn’t claim to know what lesson, if any, God may or may not have been teaching you through it. But I still want to rejoice with you even while not understanding why your friends suffered their tragic loss. (Does this make sense? – I’m heading into rambling territory now…)

        • Jo 9th March, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

          Love both these comments. Think I’m trying to hold these things in tension… I think we should thank/praise God for our blessings with an acknowledgement that others are not blessed in these ways, and we have no explanation for that. This is very close to home for me at the moment actually.
          I guess ultimately I think we’re all on our own journey, and that involves very different blessings, pain and lessons for each of us… So other people’s experiences can be very helpful and encouraging, but if we expect our own lives to work in exactly the same way as theirs, or to any kind of predictable formula – which I frequently do! – it adds frustration and confusion (and often judgment) to situations that are already painful enough.

          • Tanya 11th March, 2013 at 7:32 pm #

            Yes! – especially to the danger of expecting our lives to work out like others’. I think this is one of the reasons I love the God and Suffering stories – they not only show the different ways that people suffer and the different degrees of severity, but they also show the different responses and ways of dealing with God.

            Thanks, Jo.

    9. Alison Whale 7th March, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

      It is as if by leaving it until the last minute each time He stretches our faith and trust just a little bit further. Doesn’t seem to get any easier though. I have the same thing repeatedly with where I am going to live and, despite the fact that He has always provided somewhere affordable and with nice people in the past (at the last minute!), I find it so hard to really believe (ie not worry about it at all) that He will again. I hope I am learning to trust him more and worry less but it doesn’t always feel like it!

      • Tanya 7th March, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

        Yes – it ought to get easier somehow, but it doesn’t, does it? I think it’s hard as well, because it’s not like trusting in God means you don’t do anything in the meanwhile – but so much of the doing can seem so futile… I’m being v articulate here, but suffice it to say, I am praying for you. Hope God will come up trumps again.

    10. Stephen Bazely 7th March, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

      Thanks Tanya, a really good reminder of a Father who knows better than we do, and who lovingly reminds us that we can trust Him. Even though He has already told us that He is totally trustworthy and faithful, and that ought to be enough.

      • Tanya 7th March, 2013 at 8:06 pm #

        Thanks so much for stopping by, Stephen! I really appreciate it. Nice to ‘see’ you – hope you and the misses are well :-)

    Trackbacks/Pingbacks

    1. A few good men: Integrity and Ruth 3 | Thorns and Gold - 28th March, 2013

      […] 7 Mar – Last-minute God – Ruth 1, part […]

    2. A life stitched with prayer {Ruth 4 and overview} | Thorns and Gold - 28th March, 2013

      […] 7 Mar – Last-minute God – Ruth 1, part […]

    Leave a Reply

    CommentLuv badge