Friday, August 18, 2017

The Sale Tops and the Power of Leftover Grain


The picture (above) might not be the actual field in which Ruth gathered the leftover wheat, but I think it is. It looked different thousands of years ago, of course, but it was just a plain field in which cut wheat lay on the ground. 

If we'd been there, we wouldn't have realized it was a miracle-birthing-ground, but it was. 

I'm still studying Ruth, and the image of that field is strong in my mind. When Ruth left their little home one morning, Naomi was an angry, bitter woman. That would not have inspired me to pick up a lot of barley nor to save my lunch for Mrs. Grumpy, but Ruth was a better woman than I.

She went into the field and asked for the privilege of poverty to gather the leftover grain. Ruth spent the day gathering barley. She was dressed in typical Middle Eastern attire, which covers pretty much everything, no matter what your religion. Talk about hot! When lunch came, even though she was surely tired and hungry, she ate part of her meal and saved the rest for Mrs. Grumpy. 

At the end of the day, she returned to their home. I'd have dreaded the trip every step of the way, but Ruth was cheerful when she arrived back to Naomi. "Look at what I gleaned today!" She was full of joy and praise. 

Naomi looked at the leftover lunch and the leftover barley (because it was the grain the hired gleaners had left behind) and something changed in her. She took heart again and began speaking blessings on Boaz instead of cursing God. 

The remarkable change in Naomi's attitude, born of leftover barley, surprised me so, when I read Ruth not long ago, I whispered a little prayer. "Lord, help me understand the power of leftover grain."

I quickly forgot my prayer, but God did not.

A few weeks later a friend of mine was selling some clothes on social media for $5 apiece. I needed a few tops with sleeves below the elbow and high necklines to wear on my upcoming trip to the Middle East. I'd discussed the matter with the Lord and stressed that I couldn't afford the price of new clothes. These were the exact style I needed and the perfect price, so I mailed my check and made my order.

When I pulled the tops out of the mailer, I was shocked. They were just like new. I'd ordered them because of the sleeves and the neckline, but I didn't consider the fabric. Soft. Stretchy.

Those "leftover" tops were as comfortable as anything in my closet, so I decided not to wait until my trip to wear them. I slipped on my new top and marveled at how comfy it was. 

"Leftover grain," the Still Small Voice whispered. I couldn't help but laugh. 

It wasn't the price, the neckline, nor the comfort that encouraged me. It was the clear answer to my prayer that exceeded what I'd asked. Those three tops have quickly become my favorite because they're my "gleaned barley," sent straight from God.

Naomi was filled with hope when she saw the grain in Ruth's bundle because it was an unmistakable answer to her prayers for provision and a reminder that she was not forgotten. She was not alone. Her God knew and cared. 

That's what those $5 tops said to me. My God can, and will, provide. He knows my need, and He cares.

I was filled with joy over God's provision, but I could have easily missed that joy if I'd demanded a different kind of provision. What if I'd demanded new clothes or name-brand clothes? What if I'd accepted only a certain color? 

An unwillingness to accept anything other than one specific type of blessing (or price) can rob us of the joy in God's gifts, and that's a terrible shame.

Today, let's ask our Lord to teach us the power of leftover grain. Ask Him to give us a willingness to accept whatever He sends our way and the joyfulness of heart to rejoice with His provision. 

"God can do anything, you know - far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. Glory to God in the church! Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! Glory down all the generations! Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!" Ephesians 3:20 The Message
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