When God Doesn’t Send Fire From Heaven

Photo by Simon Holzman

I?ve been reading the book of Ruth recently in my devotions. It?s one of my favorite Old Testament books. In four short chapters, a broken, grieving woman and her widowed daughter-in-law go from bereavement to blessing, from widowhood to marriage and family. God reverses Naomi and Ruth?s fortunes ? and yet when you read through the book carefully, you realize that God never directly acts in the narrative. How different from 1 Kings 18, where God brings down fire in response to Elijah?s prayer; or Exodus 19 where God appears on Mount Sinai in smoke and fire.

In many other Old Testament books God?s activity is obvious, unmistakable, and direct ? in the book of Ruth, God is only talked about by the human characters. And yet God is no less present or active. In every single part of the story, the quiet sovereignty of God is at work behind the scenes to accomplish his purposes. Consider just one verse at the end of chapter one.

?And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest? (1:22).

The whole plot turns on Ruth meeting Boaz in his field during the barley harvest. Was it by chance that after a ten year absence that Naomi and Ruth happened to arrive in Bethlehem at the time of year when the barley was being harvested, so that Ruth could meet Boaz, so that Boaz could display the character of God by marrying a foreign woman, so that Ruth and Boaz could become part of the line of David, so that from David?s far-off descendants the Savior of the world could arrive? In this tiny detail, the quiet sovereignty of God is orchestrating the very salvation of the world.

So what do you expect God?s work in your life to look like: fire on the mountaintop, thunder and lightning and messages in the sky ? or the quiet sovereignty of a ?chance? occurrence? Our God often chooses to work out of our sight, but that does not mean He is any less active now, at this moment, in your life. Today, at this moment, the quiet sovereignty of God is accomplishing His purposes for your life. Are you convinced of that? If you?re struggling to believe that, here?s my suggestion: go read the book of Ruth, and learn the ways of our God through the story of a barley harvest and a broken woman.

My wife Anna, son Elliot, and I live in the little town of Franklin, WV. I'm a pastor. I have a degree in wildlife biology, which is useful for pastoring (actually, no). I like books, nature photography, working out, and being with my family. In a previous life I was William Wallace.