A Threefold Cord

On Sunday morning, Nick Brandt walked us through the second chapter of Ruth. He showed us that even in times of hardship, God faithfully gives us glimmers of hope to keep us going.
In the book of Ruth, an Israelite called Naomi finds herself childless, widowed, and an alien in the land of Moab. She decides to return to Israel, and she expects to go alone. She tells her daughters-in-law to return to their families, but Ruth decides to accompany Naomi, to become a worshipper of the Lord, and to risk becoming an alien herself. In a sense, Ruth decides to trade places with Naomi - Naomi is returning to Israel to find some comfort in her own land, with her own people, and Ruth is following her there to become a childless, widowed, alien.
Ruth takes initiative to go find food for the two of them, and she finds herself in the fields of a generous man named Boaz. Boaz has heard of Ruth and the sacrifices she's made for Naomi, and he looks after the women. 
Nick pointed out something interesting about Boaz - he was the son of a former prostitute, Rahab, who had herself made sacrifices to protect a group of Israelites, and who had become a foreigner in the land of Israel. Knowing his mother's experiences uniquely prepared Boaz to be the hope Ruth and Naomi needed.
A big point of Sunday's sermon was this: God uses the circumstances in our lives to shape us for the future, to be used by Him, providentially, in the lives of others. When Pastor Brandt pointed that out, something really profound clicked for me. We often hear that hardship builds character, or that it's God's way of preparing us for our own futures. I think those things are true, to some extent, but what stands out in the book of Ruth is that God uses hardship to prepare people for others' futures.
Right now, I think a lot of us are looking at our circumstances and thinking, "This is unlike anything I've ever encountered," or just, "How did we get here?" Some are thinking, "God, where are You in all this? Why was I not prepared for this?" In our culture of independence, we're looking back within our own lives and trying to draw on our own experiences to find the hope or strength to move forward. But here in the book of Ruth, we see that that's not necessarily how God works.
The story of Ruth is a profound illustration of the threefold cord that Solomon describes in Ecclesiastes:
Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. 
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NIV)
On her own, Naomi was weak and bitter. With Ruth, she was less lonely and safer. But when a third person - Boaz - came into the picture, Naomi was strong. Nick used this story to show how God uses people to provide hope for one another. The virtue that drives us to become a threefold cord, though, is love:
And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:14, ESV)
When we focus on ourselves and our own circumstances, we can become like Naomi was in the beginning of the story - lonely, hopeless, bitter, hungry, and bereaved. Naomi didn't come out of her circumstances alone; she had help. Ruth took on Naomi's circumstances and thereby found provision (providence) for both herself and Naomi. 
Even though we're socially distant right now, take a few moments to think about how you can be other-focused today. In your life, who needs hope right now? If you love the Lord, I can promise you that He has placed someone in your life who could draw on your experiences to give them hope in their circumstances.

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