“Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (I Peter 2:10).”
Want to see a microcosm of the world community? Take a plane trip overseas.
As I write this, I am sitting in a foreign airport. It’s the middle of the night.
Some people in this terminal are sleeping. Others, like me, are up reading, snacking or whacking on their computers.
I have been traveling for over 30 hours now, and I have seen and heard people from all over the world. As I sat in a major European airport earlier today during a long layover, the races, languages and cultures of most of the major groups of mankind were represented.
In this globalized age, people’s jobs take them to far flung nations. I listened on my first leg as the man and woman behind me talked of their employment in the Middle East.
They also talked of their personal lives. Both were engaged to be married, and both had fiancees that lived on different continents than they did.
As I sat in with a mass of humanity in the terminal during my long layover, a man with a South Asian accent told the young Canadian woman he was talking to that he was an electrical engineer from Philadelphia. She was a white videographer on her way to Africa to record the work of a charity.
This woman explained to her fellow conversationalist that she just loved her work. She told him that she had wanted to be a doctor until in high school she was editing some video and under pressure found that she would rather complete that task than the chemistry and biology assignments she had due.
This woman’s job included working with celebrities who do charity work. The man from Philly told her the obvious: “you have an interesting job!”
It may seem like it, but globalization isn’t new. One of the ancestors of Jesus Christ, a woman named Ruth, also found herself working abroad, except her job wasn’t as glamorous as some of the people I heard today.
Ruth was basically a social welfare recipient in her new land of Israel and participated in their version of a welfare-to-work program. She went out to glean leftover grain in fields. This was a provision made by the Israelites for poor people.
In those circumstances, a lot of things could have gone wrong for Ruth. In Chapter Two of the biblical book named after her, it is made clear that as a poor foreign woman, she was subject to abuse.
God took care of Ruth in her new country, though. He led her to the fields of a righteous man named Boaz who just happened to be one of her and her mother-in-law’s guardian-redeemers.
A guardian-redeemer was a person in Israel who by law was responsible for caring for needy relatives. Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi, both poverty-stricken widows, surely qualified for receiving the help from a person of this ilk.
Boaz did more than the bare minimum under the law for Ruth and Naomi. He not only let Ruth glean in his fields, but he also insisted upon it for her protection.
Boaz also gave her instructions how to be efficient in her work, and provided water for her (Ruth 2:8,9). However, he didn’t stop there.
Boaz personally invited Ruth to sup with him, she just a poor worker and he the owner of the operation! In addition, he made it clear to the other workers that they were to take care of her abundantly as well (Ruth 2:14-16).
While Boaz may have been a kindly older gentleman who took pity on a young poor woman, there was something else at work here. Boaz had heard of the godly reputation of Ruth and her treatment of Naomi and wanted to reward her(Ruth 2:11-12).
God use Boaz to recompense Ruth for her integrity. He saw to it that when the chips were down that she and Naomi would be taken care of.
In my present circumstances I can garner a lot of personal application from the story of Ruth and her guardian-redeemer Boaz. Like Ruth, I am a person who has hit on hard times and has had to move overseas to make a living, leaving my people and my own family behind.
Anytime you do something like this kind of move on a shoestring budget, it is a gamble. Things could go very well, or they could go very wrong.
I am encouraged that God cares for His people in such circumstances. As I proceed by train to my final destination in a few hours, I will take this encouragement with me. It is clear that God is willing and able to take care of me in my dire straits.
However, I can also learn from Ruth’s actions as well. If anyone deserved such treatment, it is her.
Indeed, Ruth could have stayed back in her home country, but she loved Naomi so that she moved with her. Love prompted her packing her bags.
Ruth not only loved Naomi, but she loved her God, too. She sought to run to God for refuge in her own circumstances instead of to some other empty source of help. (Ruth 1:15-18; 2:12b). She was not a member of the Israelite community, but she wanted their God and believed His power.
One other aspects of Ruth’s conduct in her circumstances stands out,also. As she received the care of Boaz, she carried herself with a humble and grateful attitude and gracious words(Ruth 2:13).
Ruth communicated to Boaz that she knew he was doing her a favor and hoped his disposition toward her would remain! She also let Boaz know that he had given her emotional rest through his kindness and understood how wonderful this was since she was not exactly a paragon of success in Israelite society.
I hope and pray to God that I behave as well as Ruth did under such circumstances. I know I have little else to give the Lord and those assisting me but my thanks, but if that is all I have, then it should be offered!
I also pray my actions would be holy in this new environment. God deserves to be glorified for his goodness to me in providing this post for me and my family.
The people God leads to help me deserve a loving disposition from me, too. They don’t need the attitudes and actions of a curmudgeon and a grouch in response to their own goodness.
Just as Boaz was an ambassador of the people of God to Ruth, I am one here, also (II Corinthians 5:20). As God shows me mercy in this new land, even through some of them, it is my task to reflect it back.