Coincidence or Providence?

Our women’s Bible study group just finished up the book of Ruth. Despite its small size, Ruth is packed to the brim with themes worthy to be studied.
But for the purposes of this short post, I wanted to focus on the Providence of God seen in Ruth. Without mentioning God’s direct involvement in the narrative save for two times (Ruth 1:6; 4:13), the narrator weaves throughout the story a sense of coincidence and slim chances.

  • Naomi suddenly decides to return to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest. (Ruth 1:6)
  • Ruth just so happens to arrive in Boaz’s field to glean. (Ruth 2:3)
  • Shortly afterward, Boaz also just so happens to arrive at that field  and chances to have an abundantly favorable disposition towards her. (Ruth 2:4)
  • Against the odds, respectable Boaz is filled with tenderness and care for Ruth as she reveals herself to him at the threshing floor at midnight and promises to settle her situation in the morning. (Ruth 3:10-13)
  • When he goes to do so who should show up (as if on cue) but the nearer kinsmen-redeemer who has first rights to Naomi’s property and Ruth’s hand in marriage. (Ruth 4:1)

Why are all of these events so remarkable? I think it is because the narrator does not specifically mention the involvement of God within them. The events are presented as chance encounters or coincidental occurrences. This does not square with what we know to be true about the providence of God, which Jerry Bridges defines as: “His constant care for and His absolute rule over all His creation for His own glory and the good of His people.”

The narrator of Ruth forces the reader to grapple with the way he or she views the past, present, and future of their lives. So often we look at the circumstances we are in as mere chance, dumb luck or coincidental. The evolutionistic worldview in which we live declares that the universe came into being by a stroke of luck, and that human beings and the rest of creation are the results of a series of chance biological phenomenons bred into us over millions of years. Our existence and the course of our lives comes down to the roll of the dice.

But the book of Ruth declares a different worldview, one in which God is intimately and constantly concerned with the ordinary details of the lives of his children. Nothing escapes his notice and care. He is not only concerned but deeply involved: softening hearts, directing individuals to fields and giving life to the barren womb. He works within the actions of people to direct his good and glorious outcomes. We may roll the dice, but the numbers that appear and the circumstances they affect are from the Lord (Prov 16:33).

There are no coincidences within the Kingdom of God. Don’t be tempted to look upon something awful or something good and say that God has no good and lasting purpose for that event. When Ruth and Naomi arrived in Bethlehem, widowed, destitute, and vulnerable, they did not know how completely God would take them from emptiness to fullness. So also we do not know how God will work out the tragedies and triumphs of our lives. But we do know that we can trust the good hand of God, which works all things out for the good of those who believe in him and are called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28). We may not see the sweet fruit until heaven, but that is a reward worth waiting for!  

Alise Grant

Co-Women’s director at CCR

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