God truly does work out all things for good. The world won't do that for you, but God will. He turns tragedy into triumph. He turns our tears into laughter and our mourning into dancing. We will see this clearly in the second chapter of Ruth. The first chapter brought tragedy and sorrow. We read about a Jewess, Naomi, who lost her husband and only two sons. On the upside, her daughter-in-law, Ruth, returned to Bethlehem with her. Regardless, Naomi arrived home with sour grapes. But there is hope in the House of Bread. The Lord determines to turn things around for the better. In Ruth 2 we see light at the end of the tunnel. It gets brighter with every verse.
"There was a relative of Naomi's husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech. His name was Boaz." (Verse 1)
We finally meet Boaz, the love interest in our story. He will prove to be more than just a love interest to Ruth. He serves in the role of a redeemer. Ruth and Naomi come to the House of Bread with nothing. They have lost absolutely everything. And they have no one to care after them. Boaz will change all that. He will redeem what has been lost. He will give Ruth and Naomi a future and a hope.
We learn two things about Boaz in this first verse. Firstly, he is a close relative of Naomi's husband. Let me explain why this is so important. In Hebrew culture, if a man died before he could give his wife a son, it was up to his nearest (unwed) relative to marry the widow. This was done to keep the family name alive. The law stated that the oldest available brother would be first in line to take on this responsibility. If all the brothers were taken, then it was up to the closest blood relative of the deceased. Now, Ruth's husband only had one brother. He also died. Boaz may have been his father's brother, an uncle. Whatever the case, he meets the criteria. He qualifies as a kinsman redeemer.
The second thing we learn about Boaz is that he is very wealthy. This tells us that Boaz had the resources to redeem Ruth and Naomi. You see, if there were property debts involved, it was up to the redeemer to assume payment. This was the case here.
Naomi in our story represents Israel, as she is a Jewess. Ruth is the gentile who comes out of the world, Moab. She is a picture of you and me, the church. Remember, the church is the bride of Christ, according to scripture. The Jew is the near relative. Both hold a unique position in the family of God. And both must come to the House of Bread in order to be redeemed. Now, Boaz portrays Christ, who is our kinsmen redeemer. Not only is Christ available, He has the resources to redeem us. He has already paid our debt. Furthermore, He has claimed us as His bride. We will see this beautifully illustrated in the Book of Ruth.
"So Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, "Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favor." And she said to her, "Go, my daughter." (Verse 2)
Ruth is looking to find favor. That's what grace is, it is unmerited favor. Ruth must rely on the compassion and generosity of another. Grace is her only hope. Her future depends on it. So it is with us when we come to the House of Bread. Like Ruth, we come with nothing. Our only hope is grace. We must seek the favor of a Redeemer. Our future depends upon it.
"Then she left, and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers. And she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech." (Verse 3)
In ancient Hebrew culture there was no such thing as government assistance. God's law required that neighbors help out each other. This is what it says in the Book of Leviticus:
"When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God.'" (Lev 23:22)
So, if you were poor, you could find a field and stock up. Anything on the corner of the lot was fair game, or anything left on the ground. God set up a system for the rich to care for the poor without taxing the heck out of them.
Now, it says that Ruth happened to come to the field of Boaz. But in the economy of God, things don't happen by coincidence. They happen by design and they happen for a reason. There is a divine purpose for the happenings in your life. God has a wonderful plan for you. We will see very clearly that Ruth ended up in the field of Boaz by design. God is the One making things happen.
"Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said to the reapers, "The Lord be with you!" And they answered him, "The LORD bless you!" (Verse 4)
I already like Boaz. Notice how he treats his workers. He shows respect for them. And they respect Boaz. This is obviously a good man. That's the kind of reputation we should have at the workplace, especially as Christians.
"Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, "Whose young woman is this?" (Verse 5)
"Who's the babe?" Boaz asks
"So the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered and said, "It is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. And she said, 'Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.' So she came and has continued from morning until now, though she rested a little in the house." (Verse 6-7)
This is some welfare program. The rich didn't glean for the poor then drop the grain off on their doorstep. This was a program that discouraged laziness and promoted productivity. The poor also had to put in an honest day's work. They could have as much grain as they could carry, but they had to work for it. They couldn't sit on their duff. Ruth was anything but lazy. She worked long and hard, taking only one short rest break.
This illustrates the relationship between grace and works. God provides for us on the basis of grace, but we must be willing to do good works. Now, that's not what saves us, but God has not called us to be lazy either. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)
"Then Boaz said to Ruth, "You will listen, my daughter, will you not? Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women. Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Have I not commanded the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn." (Verse 8-9)
Boaz goes the extra mile to help Ruth. He wants to insure that she is well taken care of. He promises her provision and protection. No longer is Ruth restricted to the corner of the field. She is invited to join the other women and glean where they reap. When she is thirsty, she is welcome to the water vessels. She doesn't have to draw her own. Furthermore, Boaz insures Ruth that she will be protected from the vultures, otherwise known as hormonal young men. Only two things are asked of Ruth: that she listen to Boaz and that she not glean in another field.
Boaz offers a wonderful representation of our Lord. Likewise, Jesus promises us provision and protection. We're no longer restricted to the outside parameter of His field. He says, "enter in." When we are thirsty, the water has already been drawn for us. We drink from springs of living water. Finally, he protects us from falling into the hands of evil. All He asks is that we listen to Him and that we not glean in another field.
"So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, "Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?" (Verse 10)
Notice Ruth's humility; she is face down. She senses her unworthiness and is overwhelmed by the grace of Boaz. "Why me? I'm a foreigner!" So it is when we come to Jesus. We come from afar, foreign to Christ. He calls us out of the world and into His glorious kingdom. How is it that He could take notice of us? How is it that we find such favor in His sight? I remember feeling this way when I first came to the Lord. My knees gave out. I was quickly on my face. I couldn't believe He would receive someone so undeserving. His grace truly is amazing. It's humbling.
"And Boaz answered and said to her, "It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before." (Verse 11)
Boaz had heard all about Ruth. He heard about the loss of her husband, and how she left her homeland, family and friends to be with her mother-in-law in an unfamiliar place. Ruth became known for her devotion and faithfulness, her compassion and kindness. We don't know if Ruth was attractive or not. She may have been, but that's not what she was known for. People talked about the love in her heart. That's how we are to be known. We are not to be known for our looks or our physical attributes. Jesus said, "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35) Boaz goes on to tell Ruth...
"The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge." (Verse 12)
Ruth wasn't on a manhunt when she came to the House of Bread. She came with her Mother-in-law to seek refuge under the wings of God. What a beautiful image of our Lord. I'm mindful of when Jesus entered into Jerusalem saying:
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!" (Matthew 23:37)
That's the heart of God. He wants to gather us and smother us with his love. He desires to be our shelter, our refuge, our help in time of trouble. Do you see Him that way? Ruth did!
"Then she said, "Let me find favor in your sight, my lord; for you have comforted me, and have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants." (Verse 13)
Ruth is quite drawn to this man, Boaz. She is impressed by His grace and kindness. Though Ruth is not a maidservant of Boaz, he has accepted her as one of his own. He extends to her all the same privileges. In the Hebrew household, maidservants were embraced as family. Likewise, we are servants of the Lord. Yet He has accepted us as family. Because we are His own, Jesus comforts us and speaks kindly to us through His Word. It's His kindness that leads us to repentance.
Ruth has only one request. All she asks is, "Let me find favor in your sight." Moses made the same request when he had that infamous tent meeting with God. He prayed, "Show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight." (Exodus 33:13) What more can a person ask for? His grace is sufficient.
"Now Boaz said to her at mealtime, "Come here, and eat of the bread, and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar." So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed parched grain to her; and she ate and was satisfied, and kept some back." (Verse 14)
Here we see Boaz and Ruth breaking bread together, otherwise know as communion. In Hebrew culture, when you sit at the table with someone, and dip bread in the same bowl, you declare oneness with that person. Likewise, Jesus longs for oneness with us.
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." (Revelation 3:20)
Notice that Ruth ate and was satisfied. Actually, she was more than satisfied, she kept some bread back. She saved this portion for Naomi. That's how it is when we commune with Jesus. He leaves us satisfied. And there is always something left to share with others.
"And when she rose up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, "Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. Also let grain from the bundles fall purposely for her; leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her." (Verse 15-16)
The young men are instructed to let Ruth glean wherever she wants, whatever she wants, whenever she wants. "As a matter of a fact," Boaz tells the young men, "Make it easy for her. Let grain fall from your bundles 'accidentally on purpose.'" You and I are to be like those young men. We should make it easy for others to reap the Lord's blessings. Don't horde what God gives you. Let some drop. Be like Ruth who saved some for others. Be a distributor of God's bounty.
I appreciate the fact that Boaz instructed the young men to casually let the grain fall. They weren't to hand it to Ruth. That would have put the focus on them. However, that wasn't the case. They were instructed to distribute the grain without drawing attention to themselves. As we share the blessings of God we are to operate in like fashion.
"So she gleaned in the field until evening, and beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. Then she took it up and went into the city, and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. So she brought out and gave to her what she had kept back after she had been satisfied. And her mother-in-law said to her, "Where have you gleaned today? And where did you work? Blessed be the one who took notice of you." So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked, and said, "The man's name with whom I worked today is Boaz." (Verse 17-19)
After gleaning from sunrise to sunset, Ruth took home a half bushel, or 25 pounds of barley. Plus, she surprised Naomi with a nice chunk of tasty bread. "Where did you score all the goods?" Naomi asked. "The man's name is Boaz," Ruth told her.
"Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, "Blessed be he of the Lord, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!" And Naomi said to her, "This man is a relation of ours, one of our close relatives." (Verse 20)
Naomi seems to have gotten over her bitterness. Chapter 1 ended with her complaining against the Lord. She accused God of afflicting her and bringing her home empty. Fortunately, she has changed her tune. "Blessed be he of the Lord!" she declares. Evidently, Naomi knows Boaz to be a man of God. She credits his kindness to the Lord. What she is telling Ruth is, "This Boaz is a great catch! He knows God. He is kindhearted. Not only that, he is near of kin." That's code for, "He's just the man we need!"
In the original, the term "min-goel" was used where it says "close relative." Min-goel is Hebrew for "kinsman redeemer." This means that Boaz is a relative of Naomi's husband, and also of Ruth's husband, but not a blood relative to Ruth or Naomi. Boaz is related by marriage. So, if Boaz is unattached, he has a responsibility to Ruth. It's up to him to redeem her. The big question is: will he?
"Ruth the Moabitess said, "He also said to me, 'You shall stay close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.'" (Verse 21)
Ruth has more good news. She tells Naomi that she can clean up in Boaz's field as much as her little heart desires, until the end of the harvest. She gets to stay close to the reapers and rake in whatever they don't.
"And Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, "It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, and that people do not meet you in any other field." So she stayed close by the young women of Boaz, to glean until the end of barley harvest and wheat harvest; and she dwelt with her mother-in-law." (Verse 22-23)
Naomi tells Ruth, "It's good you're in a safe place where you can be protected and provided for. I'm glad you don't have to go anywhere else." That's how it is with our kinsman-redeemer, Jesus. We don't need to venture off into strange fields. We will be well provided for and well protected if we stick with Him and those who are His. Sisters, stay close to each other. Brothers, you also stay close. Let's glean together while harvest time is still upon us. Let's join as one and share in the blessings we reap. And let's not forget to break bread together. As often as we do, let us remember our Redeemer.
To be continued in part 4