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Publications: People who made history

from a section entitled: A Woman of Character

Harry was going to church. He pulled out of his drive in his two-seater sports car, grateful that he had repaired the leak in the hood. It had been raining heavily since dawn and showed no sign of relenting. As he turned the corner into the main road, he saw ahead of him three figures huddled forlornly under a single umbrella beside the bus stop. They were all familiar because they all attended Harry’s church.

The first was old Mrs. Fosdyke. She was well over seventy and suffered great pain from her rheumatism and arthritis, which he knew was always worse in damp weather. The second was Dr. Roberts, the local GP. Harry as good as owed this man his life; a year before, he had diagnosed a rare and dangerous illness that Harry had contracted on holiday in the tropics, and had successful treated it. The third in line was Julia. Harry had entertained a burning passion for Julia ever since she’d come to live in the area, though secretly, for as yet he’d found no opportunity to ask her out.

Harry glanced at the solitary passenger seat beside him. He had only a few seconds to make his decision, but it was enough. With an impressive screech of brakes he drew up at the bus stop. Magnanimously he presented the keys to Dr. Roberts; attentively he lowered Mrs. Fosdyke into the passenger seat. Then, with a modest wave, he bid them goodbye while he huddled close to Julia under the umbrella, praying earnestly that the number 8 bus would be even later than usual this Sunday.

The point of my story is this. In matters of romance, meeting the right person is almost invariably the result of a happy collusion between serendipity and science, good fortune and good sense; or, to use the vocabulary of a Christian theologian, it’s the result of mysterious interaction between divine providence and human responsibility. God put Julia by the bus stop, but Harry had to work out how to get under the umbrella. It will often be like that. Indeed it is this co-operation between God’s sovereign control of events and our personal initiative in exploiting opportunities that forms the necessary background, not just to a successful love life, but to the life of faith generally. And there are few more charming examples of that interplay that this story of Ruth.

Naomi has returned to Bethlehem in Judah in the wake of a disastrous domestic tragedy, and against her strong advice she is accompanied by Ruth. As we saw in the last chapter, Ruth’s decision to accompany her was, humanly speaking, a crazy one: Judah was a dangerous place and Naomi was poverty-stricken. The plot of land Elimelech owned in Bethlehem hadn’t been worked for at least ten years, and it would be six months at least before it would yield an income. In the meantime these women would have to survive by begging.

The toughest aspect of Ruth’s decision was that it was ruinous for her marriage prospects. She was a foreigner, had no dowry, and there was a question mark over her fertility, since in ten years of marriage she had born Naomi no grandchildren.

From every point of view, Ruth and Naomi, looked set to share their loneliness indefinitely. It was a bleak and insecure outlook, especially in the male-dominated and violent society in which they lived. Yet the story of Ruth, we know, has a happy ending. Against all the odds, Ruth will find a husband, and Naomi will become a grand-mother. More startling even than that, the family line thus begun will in due course bring forth a royal dynasty, the dynasty of David and of God’s Messiah, Jesus Christ.

So this is a classic rags-to-riches romance; the story of how Cinderella finds her prince and they live happily ever after. But notice in these central chapters how the inspired narrator quite deliberately draws our attention to the two concurrent influences that shape the outcome of his plot; divine providence and human responsibility. God puts Boaz by the bus stop, but Ruth must find a way to put herself under the umbrella.

from a section entitled: A Woman of Character

based on the story of Ruth

People who made History copyright Roy Clements 1998
Published by Inter-Varsity Press (UK)

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