Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands.
Ruth 1-2, Romans 1
The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge! – Ruth 2:12 ESV
The sovereignty of God is a difficult concept for most of us to get our hearts and minds around. The idea that He is completely in control of all things can be a comfort at times and a confusing contradiction at others. When things are going well in our lives, it seems to make sense that God is in control. But when difficulty shows up in our lives, we can either begin to wonder where God has gone or why He is doing what He is doing to us. In the story of Ruth, we find a fascinating snap shot of God’s sovereignty over the lives of men. The book chronicles the life of an obscure Moabite woman, who becomes the great-grandmother of King David, and one of the few women whose names appear in the family tree of Jesus Christ found in the gospels. But along with the sovereignty of God, the book of Ruth provides a wonderful illustration of how God uses men to accomplish His divine will. As the title of Paul David Tripp’s book so aptly describes them, men and women can become Instruments In the Redeemer’s Hands. Even in the book of Romans we see Paul writing to the believers in Rome, expressing his sincere longing to visit them. He reveals that he has repeatedly asked God to allow him the privilege of traveling to Rome in order to spread the gospel among the Gentiles there. And little did Paul know that his prayer would be answered in the form of his arrest in Caesarea and a long and arduous boat trip to Rome under Roman guard. He would eventually get his wish and arrive in Rome, but as a prisoner. In God’s sovereignty, He would arrange for Paul to get free passage to Rome as a “guest” of Caesar, with all expenses paid by the Roman government. And once there, Paul would have the opportunity to act as God’s instrument in the lives of the people of Rome.
What does this passage reveal about God?
God is in control. We can’t always see it and we may only be able to recognize it long after the fact. In other words, it is oftentimes in hindsight that we best see God’s sovereign hand in our lives. The story of Ruth provides us with a perfect example of that fact. It gives us a 36,000-foot view of the events surrounding the lives of Elimelech, Naomi, Ruth and Boaz, allowing us to see what they could not see at the time. For Naomi, none of what was happening in her life made sense. In fact, she wrestled with God’s actions, wrongly assuming that God was against her. “…the hand of the Lord has gone out against me” (Ruth 1:13 ESV). And who could blame her? She and her husband had been forced to flee from their hometown of Bethlehem because of a famine. They ended up in Moab, where she had to watch her husband and two adult sons die prematurely and unexpectedly. She was left a widow in a foreign land with no source of income and responsibility for two widowed daughters-in-law. Her conclusion, based on all that had happened to her was, “the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away very full, and the Lord has brought me back empty” (Ruth 1:20-21 ESV). Noami’s take was that, “the Almighty has brought calamity upon me” (Ruth 1:21 ESV). But while her life had been difficult, her conclusion could not have been more wrong. The sovereign God of the universe was orchestrating events in such a way that what Naomi thought was a curse from God would prove to be a blessing.
Paul’s desire to visit Rome and to “reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles” (Romans 1:13 ESV) was obviously from God. And yet, it would be easy to wonder where God was when Paul ended up sailing on a boat to Rome in the custody of Roman guards. He could have easily questioned God’s sovereignty when faced with a perilous storm and the likelihood of shipwreck and even possible death as they made their way to Rome. But all of this was part of God’s plan. And instead of questioning God, Paul determined to see himself as an instrument in the hands of the Redeemer, ministering to the men on the boat with him. And when he eventually made it safe and sound to Rome, he would continue to operate as an instrument in the Redeemer’s hands, bringing help, hope and healing to all those with whom he came into contact.
What does this passage reveal about man?
One of the most encouraging and inspiring characters in the book of Ruth is that of Boaz. While Ruth is the main character and exhibits some remarkable character qualities, it is Boaz who holds the story together and best illustrates someone who sees himself as God’s instrument. When he finds out about Ruth and her relationship with Naomi, he steps in. After hearing about all that had happened to Naomi and how Ruth ministered to her even in the midst of her own pain and loss, Boaz tells her, “The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” (Ruth 2:12 ESV). Boaz believed in the sovereignty of God and he also believed in the mercy, grace, and compassion of God. But he also knew that God sometimes expresses Himself through the lives of men. He understood that God had placed this woman in his field and in his life so that he might minister to her needs and becomes God’s instrument to repay her, reward her, and provide refuge for her. He immediately began the process of providing for her needs and arranging for her protection. God used Boaz to bless Ruth and Naomi, just as He used Paul to bless the people of Rome. They were both conduits of God’s blessing to others, willingly allowing themselves to be used by Him to redeem and restore those who were in desperate need.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
I don’t always understand how God works. At times I even question His actions, wondering what in the world He thinks He is doing. But these two passages remind me that God is always in control, regardless of what I may see or think. And they also encourage me to see myself as an instrument in His hands, providing help, hope and healing to those around me. God places people in my life at key times to whom He expects me to minister. And He places people in my life from whom I unexpectedly receive His love, mercy and comfort. The moments of pain and sorrow in our lives are difficult to bear, but we must always remember that God has an overarching purpose and plan for our lives and can and does use “all things” to work together for our own good (Romans 8:28). We may not be able to see it or appreciate in the heat of the moment, but given time and perspective, we will always be able to see that God was there, ministering to us and providing for us. And the most amazing thing is that He will typically, if not always, use one of His children as an instrument of His redeeming love in our lives. Our heart’s desire should be to live like Boaz and Paul, willing to be used by God and confident that He is ultimately in charge of the affairs of our life, so that we rightly conclude that there are no unexpected and unintentional moments that ever happen that He has not ordained or intends to redeem for our good and His glory.
Father, make me a Boaz for my day. Let me live like Paul, with a desire to be used by You and the perspective to see Your hand in all that happens in my life. May I live with a attitude of expectancy, willing to be used as an instrument in Your loving, redemptive hands. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men