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Grace Bestowed

When Ruth the Moabitess crossed the border of Israel at the side of her sorrowing m6ther-in-law one of the loveliest and most endearing characters of Old Testament times stepped into the light of divine purpose. By divine grace she found an honourable place in the royal line of which the Christ was to come.

In the days of the Judges, when every man did what was right in his own eyes, there was a famine in Israel, and Elimelech, taking with him his wife and two sons, made the mistake of leaving the land of Israel to sojourn in the country of Moab. Poverty in Israel can never be remedied by migrating to foreign pastures. This is exemplified by Abraham who in time of famine went down to Egypt. His sojourn in that land was bitter and distressing with consequences prolonged and painful, and but for divine intervention Isaac would have made the same mistake. In lean times many others down the ages have left the place of God's Name and gone elsewhere.

Any who may be contemplating leaving the place of God's choice for what appears to be richer plains should bear in mind that a famine in Israel is better than a feast in Egypt. Those who dwell in God's courts shall be satisfied with the goodness of His house (Psa. 65:4), satisfied even in the days of famine (Psa. 37:19).

Elimelech went out from Israel but never came back, for he and his sons died and were buried in the land of Moab. Only the sorrowing widow was to see Bethlehem again and to be greeted by the women of the city who said, "Is this Naomi?" to which she replied, "Call me not Naomi, call me Mara". By the comfort of God, Naomi was not alone but was closely accompanied by Ruth, her devoted daughter-in-law who was content to make her home with Naomi in Bethlehem. We cannot but think of the deep poverty of those two gracious women whose humble home possessed no bread-winner, but God was and still is the great Provider who "giveth food to all flesh" (Psa. 136:25), who preserveth the stranger and upholdeth the fatherless and the widow. Many widows and orphans can testify to the faithful providence of a heavenly Father who knoweth well the need of His children (Matt. 6:8). Some have enjoyed their finest and deepest experience with God in poverty's vale, they have, like the widow of Zarephath, in time of famine enjoyed divine supply.

Soon God brought to the scene a mighty man of wealth, a kinsman of Elimelech, in whose sight Ruth was to find grace. There could be no greater find for a Gentile maiden than grace or favour in the sight of Boaz (strength). Yet how inferior even this is compared with the "exceeding riches of His (God's) grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus". "For by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:7,8). To be saved and find grace in God's sight is something more valuable than all human wealth.

Not only is grace the means by which we are saved, but also the power employed by the Holy Spirit to fashion our lives to the praise of God's Name. The power which transformed the chief of sinners to be among the chief of apostles, Paul wholly attributed to the grace of God which had been bestowed upon him (1 Cor. 15:10). And according to the grace of God which had been given unto him, he not only had preached the gospel but as a wise master-builder he was instrumental in laying the foundation of a building for God in many cities including Corinth (1 Cor. 3:10). The church of God in Corinth to which Paul wrote two epistles was composed of living stones built together according to the divine pattern, on the same foundation and for the same purpose as the other churches of God which had been planted throughout Judaea and Samaria. These churches of God formed the temple of God, a habitation of God in the Spirit (Eph. 2:21,22).

Ruth said to Naomi, "Let me now go to the field and glean among the ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace". Boaz had a field of his own as distinct from the fields of other masters, where his servants were employed reaping and bringing in the sheaves of corn. Happy indeed are all they who find a work in our Master's field, even if it should only be "gleaning among the ears of corn". The apostle Paul found a place in his Master's field and there by the grace of God he "laboured more abundantly than they all, yet not I but the grace of God which was with me" (1 Car. 15:10).

As Ruth gleaned in the field until even, so Paul laboured till the time of his departure. "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith", was the confession of a man who had been faithful and diligent in the service of the Lord. May the heart-searching question which Naomi asked Ruth when she returned home, "Where hast thou gleaned today? and where wroughtest thou?" (Ruth 2:19) move our hearts to seek a place in the field of our Master, and having found it, to labour more diligently in view of the winnowing process to which our works will be subjected at the judgement seat of Christ.

Oh, to grace how great a debtor

Daily I'm constrained to be I

Let that grace, Lord, like a fetter

Bind my wandering heart to Thee.