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By: Larry Shaffer
The Power of Initiative
The Book of Ruth
I’m drawn to the initiative of Naomi and Ruth. It reminds me of a difficult time in my early 30’s when I made a challenging transition from church youth ministry into the business world. Despite hard work and diligence, my first couple of years in sales were very lean financially and overall, quite difficult, to say the least. But after a couple of years of failures, I was given a job opportunity by my old college roommate that helped turned our life around. I worked very hard and persevered through a lot of obstacles.
It was during this time in my life when I spent some considerable time setting long range goals and plans for my life. I remember the tension I felt between setting lofty goals in very specific terms and knowing in my heart that I should be willing to surrender to God whatever happened to me. I wanted to be successful very much. But I wanted it to be God’s way, not mine. So, I prayerfully took the initiative and set a very specific long-term plan for my life.
From that period of my life in 1994, I wrote and outlined detailed plans for my family life, my professional life and my life of service. From that plan, what emerged were detailed goals and governing values for my life. Additionally, I defined my Life Mission that has remained unchanged for over 25 years.
My Life Mission: To be a man of God. The passionate purpose of my life is to enjoy an intimate, personal relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Ruth was hopeful and prayerful for a new life beyond the difficulties of widowhood and the poverty that came with it. I believe it’s honorable to live as such; always looking for opportunities to improve my life, improve the lives of those I love and to always remember to give to those in need. With an eye toward heaven, pursue noble acts of initiative in work, service and family.
The key is to always be prayerful, examining your motives and walking humbly under the guidance of the Father. The initiative of Naomi and Ruth, I believe, was not self-initiated for selfish purposes but to improve their lives according to the promptings of the Lord. May you and I do the same!
The results of Ruth’s action
Boaz previously prayed over Ruth that she would have a life of prayerful initiative and blessing. When Boaz first met Ruth while she was gleaning in his fields, he blessed her and said,
May the Lord reward your work, and your wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.
Little did Boaz know that God would use him to fulfill this prayer toward Ruth.
According to the plan set forth by Naomi, Ruth goes to Boaz discreetly at night, uncovers his feet and asks him to spread his cover over her since he is a close relative. This correlates to Boaz’ blessing that Ruth has put her faith in God, under whose wings she has come to seek refuge. As mentioned, this was a near Eastern custom to indicate Ruth’s desire for her close relative (not a blood relative) to marry her and as a widow in a foreign land; to be her redeemer. In this manner, Boaz is a foreshadowing of our ultimate Redeemer, Jesus the Messiah.
How does Boaz respond?
Boaz was awakened in the middle of the night and was presented with a life changing proposal. God must have been preparing his heart for this moment as he responds immediately with the following: May you be blessed of the Lord, my daughter, (Ruth was much younger). You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich. Now my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence.
My observations on taking Prayerful Initiative in our personal lives includes:
Lord, you open doors; You present opportunities; You lead. Lord, may we also be prayerful and listening to your guidance as we engage in noble pursuits with initiative and courage. Amen.
Questions for reflection