Tucked into Israel's conquest of the Promised Land and the time of her judges is the story of Ruth, which is also the story of Naomi. Ruth was a foreigner in the land of Israel, having come with Naomi back to her home country after all the men to whom they were connected died. And the two women, having returned, wondered how it was that they would provide for themselves even among Naomi's own people.
Ruth, unwilling to die from lack of action, sets out to find a place to gather a little bit of grain for the two of them. If they haven't figured out anything else at this point, she at least has a plan by which they can eat. She'll go out, quiet as a mouse, and walk behind the workers in whatever field that she finds that is friendly to her, and she'll gather enough grain each day for the women to eat.
So she goes out and finds this field. And wouldn't you know it? The owner of that field is tender-hearted toward her. In fact, he tells his workers to even leave a little grain on purpose for her. Not only that, but pull it out a little bit and make it easier for her to grab it. In other words, he instructs his workers to help feed the woman.
It turns out, of course, that this man is also the family redeemer, and it will come to pass that he will end up marrying Ruth and keeping the name of his dead relatives alive, and oh, what a beautiful story it is. It makes it all the way into the lineage of Jesus. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Because there's something very important about the way that even this redeemer provides for Ruth that we cannot (and should not) overlook: his provision is for her labor, not for her needs.
See, most of us think that when God provides for us, He does so in such a way that magical blessings just fall from the sky, right into our laps. He rains down His mercy and grace and just makes our lives better because, hey, that's what God does. And then most of us are disappointed to live so much of our lives without this ever actually happening to us.
But the story of Ruth puts it in real perspective; this is overwhelmingly how God works in the world, and even in our own lives.
Boaz could have just given Ruth the grain. He was, after all, the family redeemer. He could have told her that he had compassion for her and that, if she would just come to his fields at the end of the day, he would give her enough grain for the week. And then she could go home and not worry about anything for seven whole days, then come back and do it all over again. That certainly sounds like good provision to us; it's what we want when we are in need.
Instead, however, he tells her to make herself at home among his workers. He tells her that she is welcome here, that he will let her come every day and gather as much as she wants/needs for her and her mother-in-law. He tells his workers to help her by leaving some grain behind, but he doesn't instruct them to just hand her the grain; she still has to gather it.
So often in our lives, this is what God is doing. His provision...is work. It's the opportunity to put our hands to something and go out and do it. Faithfully. A little bit at a time. Just enough for the day. It's not magical blessings fallen into our lap, but opportunities placed in our hands, and we have to be willing to show up, go out, and work for it. For work itself is holy; it always has been.
What is God asking you to do in your life? Are you doing it? Or are you waiting for Him to just...bless you anyway?