Naomi and Ruth – two widows with virtually no means of supporting themselves and no plan.
1 Now it came to pass, in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem, Judah, went to dwell in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons.
2 The name of the man was Elimelech, the name of his wife was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion—Ephrathites of Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to the country of Moab and remained there.
3 Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left, and her two sons.
~ Ruth 1:1-3
Ruth is the daughter-in-law to Naomi. Naomi and Ruth were each widowed in Moab when each of their husbands passed away. When left with nothing, they returned to Bethlehem in Israel where they are still destitute but at least near family. In Ruth chapter 2, we will see that “the LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) We will read of God’s glorious provision!
We will also see Boaz give us an incredible picture of the love of Christ for us, and we will see Ruth demonstrate the proper response of undeserved favor upon her life.
1 There was a relative of Naomi’s husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech. His name was Boaz.
2 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.”
3 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.
~ Ruth 2:1-3
Verse 1 tells us that Boaz is “a man of great wealth”. When Naomi and her husband and her sons had left Israel because of the famine, Boaz stayed behind. God took such good care of them that Boaz was now wealthy. When we studied the Book of Joshua, we learned that God says over and over in His Word that He will never leave us. This is an important lesson for each of us. But it is one that we can only learn in desperate and fearful times! Our human natural instinct is to rely on anything or anyone else other than God when the storms of life come. We can only learn to rely solely on God when there is none other to lean on.
Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you. ~ Deuteronomy 31:6
My guess is that Boaz had learned this lesson, and that would have only happened in a difficulty such as this famine that occurred. So often in the rocky and harsh conditions of life, we blame God for hat has happened. There were certainly some that blamed God for the famine. But in those times, God is simply trying to lead us and teach us through it.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day. ~ Psalm 25:5
Notice while the psalmist is asking God to teach him and lead him, he also calls the Lord the “God of my salvation”. He knows that the teaching and the difficulty can go hand-in-hand.
Let’s talk about “glean heads of grain” and “gleaned in the field after the reapers”. The reapers were the workers that were actually harvesting. They were often hired by the farmer to work in his fields because during the harvest you would need lots of workers. You had to get the grain in as fast as possible before it over-ripens.
“To glean” means to pick up off the ground whatever is leftover. Ruth would be following behind them literally picking up scraps of grain.
When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest.
And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the LORD your God.
~ Leviticus 19:9-10
“Leviticus 19:9-10 commanded farmers in Israel that they should not completely harvest their fields. They were commanded to “cut corners” in harvesting, and always leave some behind. Also, if they happened to drop a bundle of grain, they were commanded to leave it on the ground and to not pick it up.
This was one of the social assistance programs in Israel. Farmers were not to completely harvest their fields, so the poor and needy could come and glean the remains for themselves.
This is a wonderful way of helping the poor. It commanded the farmers to have a generous heart, and it commanded the poor to be active and work for their food – and a way for them to provide for their own needs with dignity.” ~ Guzik
4 Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said to the reapers, “The LORD be with you!” And they answered him, “The LORD bless you!”
5 Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?”
6 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.
7 “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.”
~ Ruth 2:4-7
Boaz obviously notices this young woman gleaning in his field, and it sounds as though he may not have noticed her before. Bethlehem was a small little farming community, and a stranger working in the field would have been easy to spot. The law in Israel told them that they were to allow Ruth to glean. So these servants were following the letter of the law in letting her follow them.
8 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.
9 “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.”
~ Ruth 2:8-9
Boaz recognizes Ruth’s obvious need. She may be malnourished, certainly she and Naomi had not been eating well. So she may have looked like she was poor and starving. Regardless, Boaz observes that she is in need.
As we look at Boaz and his actions and the way he treats Ruth, we see an incredible picture of the love of Christ for us and the love that He wants us to show to others!
Jesus instructs us to help the poor and those in need:
For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in.
~ Matthew 25:35
Ruth’s response to this favor is much like ours is when God shows favor to us.
10 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?”
~ Ruth 2:10
Ruth responds in humility exactly like Paul instructs us to respond when others are kind to us.
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.
~ Philippians 2:3
The Hebrew law says that Boaz and his servants are required to allow her to glean. Ruth doesn’t act as though she even knows this law exists, and she may not. But her response is not one of entitlement, as though the food was owed to her. She replies “in lowliness of mind”, or in absolute humility.
This is the response we have when we fully realize that Christ died for us even though we were sinners who don’t deserve His free sacrificial gift.
For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~ Romans 5:7-8
We don’t deserve the sacrifice that Jesus gave us in giving up His life for ours. Ruth realizes that she doesn’t deserve the kindness that Boaz is showing to her.
11 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.
12 “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.”
13 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.”
~ Ruth 2:11-13
Ruth is a picture here of us as we choose to follow Jesus. When we leave our old ways and our old life and follow Christ, it is a whole new beginning. And in seeing this same choice in Ruth, Boaz asks God to give her a blessing! This blessing is the same for us today as we choose Christ.
“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.”
In choosing Jesus as our Savior, like Ruth chose the God of Israel, God will give us “a full reward” which will be our eternity with Him. When we follow Jesus, like Ruth followed Naomi and chose the God of Israel, we come under His wings for refuge. What a wonderful picture of love and protection!
14 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.
15 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.
16 “Also let grain from the bundles fall purposely for her; leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.”
~ Ruth 2:14-16
Now in further extending his love and hospitality toward Ruth, Boaz goes the extra mile. He actually instructs his workers to leave some extra grain for her to pick up. This would make her job a little easier if she can find larger gleanings as she goes along. She picks up more grain with less effort.
The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
~ Leviticus 19:34
In the New Testament we find this same lesson taught to us by Jesus when He tells His disciples to “love your neighbor as yourself” in Mark 12:31 and also in the lesson of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10.
17 So she gleaned in the field until evening, and beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley.
18 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.
19 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.”
20 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.”
21 Ruth the Moabitess said, “He also said to me, ‘You shall stay close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.’ ”
22 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.”
~ Ruth 2:17-22
Finally, in this chapter we see Boaz begin to truly care for Ruth in a loving and Christ-like way.
In verse 8 and 9 he tells Ruth:
“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.”
In verse 14: “Come here, and eat of the bread, and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar.” Verses 15 and 16 show us he makes sure that Ruth stays to eat a really good meal and rest.
We see additional instructions from Boaz in verse 21: “You shall stay close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.”
Boaz provided for Ruth and Naomi, and in doing so he allows God to use him. The love and concern Boaz offers is an example of God’s own love for each of us. His love isn’t something we earn or we deserve. He gives it to us out of His own goodness.
I’m so thankful!