The God of Last Straws

Once upon a time, in the land of Israel, during the days of the Judges, there came a famine upon Bethlehem. A woman and her husband looked at their barren field and bleak options and decided to risk a move, praying for a chance to begin again. They would take their two sons to the land of Moab in order to sojourn for a season until bread returned to Bethlehem.

The woman, named Naomi, had no idea what the God who allowed famine would claim from her in her sojourn. Tragedy began with the loss of her husband, leaving Naomi to raise her sons alone. Both boys grew to adulthood and took wives, and Naomi’s world expanded once again with the joy of daughters and the hope of grandchildren.

But those grandchildren would never come. After ten years, the God of the Famine claimed both of Naomi’s sons as well. This was when Naomi’s world shattered. The death of her children was Naomi’s very last straw.

In grief, Naomi turned her heart to her homeland, determined to return to Bethlehem and close her story near her remaining family. She released her daughters-in-law to go and find love again. They were young; surely the God of the Famine would not curse them with the same loss and bitterness He had allowed to steal Naomi’s joy.

One, Orpah, took Naomi’s words and her own broken heart and returned to her family to heal and hope again. But the other, Ruth, was stubborn in her grief. She would return to Naomi’s homeland and bind herself to Naomi’s people and her God: the God of the Famine. Naomi could not convince her to do otherwise.

They made their way back to Bethlehem and found upon their return that God had replaced famine with abundant harvest. Bread had returned to Bethlehem. With few options for income or food, Ruth decided to glean wheat from a local field, as was customary for widows.

With the other widows, Ruth would spend her days gathering each and every last straw of wheat, bundling the scattered leftovers, fighting for the chance to begin again.

When Ruth took her place that first morning among the harvesters, she had no idea what the God of the Field had waiting for her.

As Ruth worked, the owner of the field, a man named Boaz, came to check on the harvesters. He couldn’t help but notice Ruth. A quick inquiry revealed she was the Moabitess who had joined Naomi in her return home. Ruth’s story struck Boaz for its courage and kindness. He left special instructions that assured Ruth would find protection, provision, and more than enough wheat to glean in his field.

But the God of the Field had more kindness for Boaz to offer, something Naomi would reveal to Ruth that night when she returned home.

Boaz, Naomi explained, was her kin: one of the relatives who could act as a redeemer in their story if he so chose. According to custom, Boaz could marry Ruth to produce an heir and carry on Naomi’s family line. Naomi, eager to secure joy for the daughter-in-law she loved, instructed Ruth to present herself to Boaz. Not just anyone would choose to redeem her, but it was possible.

And the God of the Field knew what Boaz would choose.

After celebrating the harvest with an evening of winnowing barley, food, and drink, Boaz fell asleep. There, in the darkness of the threshing floor, Ruth approached, already swept up in the story the God of the Field had prepared for her. Her heart hammered in her chest as she drew near to Boaz, hair down, body perfumed, skin tingling with possibility. The moment felt like it might break the final straw of hope swaying within her as she reached out to touch him. She was placing her whole self before the man who would change the course of her life, in one way or another.

And the God of the Field saw, sending His spirit to bless the longing rippling through Ruth’s being.

Boaz stirred awake, unable to imagine who this woman was. Ruth identified herself, and she confessed that she knew Boaz could serve as her redeemer.

But would he?

Boaz’s words seemed to tumble right on top of Ruth’s. You see, he also knew Ruth, and he had already pieced together their connection. He had already realized there was another first in line, right around the time that he realized how deeply he wanted Ruth.

Lost in her unique magic, Boaz invited her to stay for the night, first promising as a man of honor to approach her first redeemer the next day. If that redeemer passed, Boaz promised he would marry Ruth. Boaz, both clever and caught in the wonder of Ruth, had no intention of giving her to another man. They shared that night together.

The next day, through a bit of playful trickery, Boaz secured his place as first in line to romance Ruth, and romance her he did. They married and found joy deeper than Ruth had ever anticipated. Together they had a son; together they delivered Naomi the dream of her heart that she was sure was forever lost. And, together Ruth and Boaz began the line from which one day would come the Savior for all the broken, wounded, and weary clinging to their very last straw. 

Do you know what it is that separates famine from harvest? It is the last straw, teetering between heartbreak and hope. Ruth and Naomi remind us that this is both where we live and die. This is the place where we meet our mysterious God.

Blessings, friend, as you walk with the God of Famine and Field.

(This post is a creative retelling of the story of Ruth. To explore the original text, see Ruth 1-4.)

Katy Johnson lives, dreams, writes, and edits in a messy, watercolored world. She’s a 32 year old, discovering her hope, her longings, and the wild spaces in her own heart. Her favorite creative project right now is called Will I Break?, and someday, that manuscript may see the light of day. For now, she shares her thoughts here.