Ordinary Obedience

Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you? Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do.” And she replied, “All that you say I will do.” (Ruth 3:1-5 ESV)

Most books on following God are written about the crossroads in life–the major decisions we make that determine the direction of our lives. Few books deal with everyday decisions–ordinary responsibilities that accumulate to result in extraordinary outcomes. Yet almost always it is the accumulation of ordinary obedient acts that results in the moments of “extraordinary” glory. We see that in Ruth’s story.

Naomi’s instructions to her appear to be trite: bathe, put on perfume and put on your coat. This is what we tell our 7-year-olds. “Take a bath!” “Use soap!” “Don’t go out in the cold without your coat!” Why such apparently unnecessary details? Who cares about cleanings and coats? Why make such a big deal about perfume? They are an example of ordinary obedience. Ruth isn’t the only one who exercised ordinary obedience. Joseph did too.

Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit. And when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh. (Genesis 41:14 ESV)

I find it surprising that the same Scripture that unfolds the glorious truths of the salvation of sinners also recounts Ruth bathing and Joseph shaving! Joseph had supernatural wisdom to interpret dreams–and he still shaved. Ruth exhibited unbelievable fidelity to Naomi–and she still bathed. Joseph and Ruth practiced ordinary obedience.

For the stay at home mom, changing another diaper seems trite. The school teacher grades yet another paper and wonders if they are really getting it. The manager walks out of his office after a day of paperwork and asks: did I do anything today that made a difference? How can you know?

Here’s the simple test:

…rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. (Ephesians 6:7-8 ESV)

Here Paul addressed bondservants and freedmen and he instructed both to do what they do “as to the Lord.”

Ordinary obedience with an “as to the Lord” attitude gets God’s attention.