Now Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. 2 And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor. And she said to her, Go, my daughter. 3 So she set out 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 clan of Elimelech. 4 And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, The Lord be with you! And they answered, The Lord bless you. 5 Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, Whose young woman is this? 6 And the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, She is the young Moabite woman, who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. 7 She said, Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers. So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest. ESV
Once in a while, you might see a movie or read a novel that presents both sides of a story. The main characters function as both protagonists and antagonists. An example would be the movie Gettysburg, which attempts to tell the story of the battle for Gettysburg from both the perspective of the Union and the Confederates.
In this section, we something similar occurring. As we see Ruth take center stage, we see two sides of the story. On one side we find Ruth, her significant choices, and random or chance events. But on the side the story is about the invisible but true God, directing her life so that it moves beyond coincidences.
I. Ruth’s bold initiative
A. Ruth decides to act. She knows that having a house and a table is insufficient. They need bread on the table, if they are going to survive, and she is not afraid to work for that goal. We pray for God to supply our food (Mt 6:11) and actively fulfill our responsibility to work for it (2 Th 3:10).
1. Ruth overcomes the temptation to laziness and the apparent depression of her mother-in-law. When Naomi agrees to Ruth’s action, she gives a two word answer in Hebrew. So then Naomi is not in a good emotional or spiritual condition.
Apply: If you are in a depressed condition, you need to return to active service for Jesus. To do this, look to his cross and see a better covenant made with you by his blood. The Lord is on your side and he is committed to help you, regardless of your present circumstances.
2. Ruth uses a provision in God’s law for her good (Lev 19:9-10; 23:22; Deut 24:19-22). To glean means to gather or collect. God allowed those who were in need in the specified circumstances to provide food for themselves from the property of others, since the land belonged to God anyway. We should see more than the law; we should see the kindness of the Lord who gave the law to his people. God’s commands flow out of his nature, all revealing his glory as God in some way.
Apply: We need to see all that we have as coming from the kindness of our Father in heaven. Whatever we give is his anyway, and by giving we reflect God’s kindness.
Apply: Observe carefully that Ruth is not guided to glean by some nighttime vision or dream, by hearing voices from heaven, or by an angelic escort. She is simply walking according to the word of truth, the Bible.
B. Ruth is taking a risk.
1. Because of her ethnicity – People have many prejudices in regard to people of other ethnic groups. Many of these arise from differences in skin color, language, customs, and religion. Though the Lord had given the law of gleaning to provide for the aliens in Israel, not everyone would be willing to obey God’s law. The law of God reflects God’s character and will, but it does not achieve it. Grace comes through the gospel, not the law.
2. Because of her gender – The time of the judges (cf. 1:1) was marked by open sexual immorality, like our time. (Sexual immorality is always a human problem in this world, cf. Mk 7:21; Rm 1:24-27.) Without a strong central government committed to God’s law covenant, outward expression of the heart’s sexual immorality was not hindered as it should have been. It could be risky for a woman to go out to the fields alone. We will notice more about this in the next section. Israel became more like the nations that she was to be separate from. Having forsaken God and the good news of Jesus, our nation will become increasingly sexually immoral.
3. Because of her limited knowledge – All people face this in various ways and degrees. Ruth is not sure about who will show favor to her. Who will treat her as a needy person and not as an unwelcome, troublesome foreigner? She simply doesn’t know. But she is willing to take the risk.
Apply: God expects us to live by faith according to the Scriptures. In his providence, she is a widow, an alien, and poor. In his covenant law, he has provided for her provision in the law about gleaning. By faith she must act on God’s revealed will and trust God to provide.
C. Ruth’s risk is rewarded by God (2:3). Here we see the hand of the invisible God silently at work.
1. From the human perspective, Ruth is making her choices. “Let’s see; that looks like a nice field and the workers seem happy. That might mean that the owner is generous. So, I’ll try my luck there.” But Ruth might not have even thought that much. The Hebrew text literally reads, “Her chance chanced upon.” She might have simply wandered into the field with a sigh and a shrug of her shoulders and started to glean.
2. However, what people call chance or luck is not simple random occurrence. Instead, this is God’s sovereign providence. God is guiding her steps to her destiny that he appointed for her (Prov 16:9). God directs her steps, so that she walks seemingly “by chance” into the fields of Boaz.
Illustration: My whole life has been shaped by various chance happenings, like a computer picking my college roommates for my freshman year, randomly sitting next to someone in my first class at a new college, and a man suddenly recalling at just the right moment that he had my phone number on a scrap of paper in his Bible. That is a brief selection from what I do know, and God alone knows in how many other ways he has guided my life through “chance” happenings.
Apply: The life of faith is an adventure. It’s exciting to think of what God might do; that is, if you’re trusting him!
II. Boaz’s active oversight (2:4-5) – Surprise!
Who should arrive to inspect his fields except the “man of standing”, Boaz! And when does he reach his fields? He comes after Ruth has been gleaning for a while. This is perfect timing; it is beyond coincidence.
A. He greets his workers in a godly manner.
1. Boaz is a man of influence and wealth (2:1). He is in a position to help the poor. This is the view that we should take of our lives. God gives to us generously, so that we might help others, and in this way show his kindness and compassion.
2. Boaz is also a godly man, as the whole book makes clear. He speaks in conformity with his world and life view. God is in his thoughts, and there can be no better greeting than to wish them God’s presence of blessing. Many times in the OTS, this is emphasized by saying that “God was with” someone.
B. He notices who is working in his fields.
1. This shows that Boaz knew what was going on in his world. He wasn’t oblivious. He paid attention to his workers. He knew that people were a very important part of his business. Other things being equal, the business that cares for its employees will prosper more than others that do not. More importantly, God cares very much about people!
Apply: Part of your responsibility as a member of First Baptist Church is to know everyone who attends here. This gathering is your spiritual family, and it is unthinkable that you should fail to pay attention to people that God the Father brings into our assembly. Engage everyone in kind and godly conversation.
2. Boaz notices Ruth. Hmm, this shows that he is a real man. Men do notice women—in about three-tenths of a second or less. What made him notice her? Was it her good looks? Was it her foreign appearance? Was it her youthfulness? (Yes ladies, men do look at younger women first. Don’t get upset at your man; he noticed you when you were a younger woman.) Whatever the reason, he did notice her and decided he ought to have more personal information about her.
Point: So then, God has Ruth and Boaz in the same place at the same time, and Boaz has some level of interest in her. This is beyond coincidence.
III. A foreman’s plain observations
A. He told Boaz what he knew about Ruth’s identity.
1. That she was a Moabite woman – The foreman does not hesitate to point this out twice. We must remember that the law covenant separated Israel from the nations, though there is one human race. (The Bible recognizes absolutely nothing about different races among people. Racial prejudice and hatred come from non-Christian ideas.) God separated Israel from the nations out of love for Israel (Deut 7:6-8) and to send Christ to all people groups (Rm 9:4-5; 15:7-13). Whatever thoughts the foreman may have had about a Moabite gleaning in the fields, clearly Boaz was not troubled at all.
Apply: Christ’s new people the church is made up of those saved by grace from all people groups. Through Christ we all have access to the Father by one Spirit (Eph 2:18). Therefore, we are reaching out to people from all ethnic groups, in order to show God’s glory in saving people from all nations in the Lord Jesus. Are you involved in this part of the mission?
2. That she came back (same word as returned in 1:22) with Naomi – When we connect this with the information about Boaz in verse one, the story gets interesting! The God who is in control of everything has his hand on both their lives to bring them together.
B. He informed Boaz about Ruth’s conduct and request.
1. Ruth was diligent in her work. She worked steadily from the moment she arrived. She was intent on her purpose. If she wanted food to eat, she had to glean.
2. Ruth was bold in her request—to gather among the harvesters. Why would she ask this? In Bible times a reaper grasped the stalk with his left hand and cut the grain with the sickle in his right. As he did this, he would accumulate an armload of stalks, which he would lay in rows for women to tie in bundles. If the workers were skilled, little would be left in the field, except at the corners of the field. If the workers left too much drop, they might be looking for work the next day in someone else’s field. So Ruth wanted to increase her probability of harvesting a good amount of grain. She is going beyond the law; she is asking for kindness.
Apply: How do you need to exercise bold faith where Christ has placed you? Your life is probably less than perfect; don’t be depressed or discouraged. Life was not easy for Ruth on this day. But she lived by faith on God’s word. You and I must life by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, too, regardless of our circumstances. Instead of viewing you life as filled with problems, look at things differently. The Lord is giving you opportunities to rely on him, because when you are weak, he still is strong (2 Cor 12:10).
Pastor Dave Frampton
When push comes to shove there is usually nothing more satisfying than for a saint of God to have at his or her disposal a source of biblically sound instruction in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are here at CMC to be a blessing. Bible teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.