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
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