We began to study the book of Ruth last week when we spent our time on chapter 1. Do you remember the story so far? There was this man from Bethlehem called Elimelech, who took his wife and their two sons and moved from Bethlehem in the land of Judah to live in Moab for a time, because there was a famine in Judah. However, while they were living in Moab, Elimelech died, leaving his wife, Naomi, a widow. Her two sons eventually married two Moabite women called Orphah and Ruth. But then Naomi’s two sons died. So Naomi was left with only her two daughters-in-law and no-one to support them. She decided to return to Bethlehem with her daughters-in-law, because she heard the famine was over. However, on the way, she turned to her daughters-in-law and told them they should return to Moab, because there was no way she could ever provide them with husbands to support them; and their best chance for marriage was in Moab. One of the women, Orpah, turned back. But the other woman, Ruth, made clear that she would remain with Ruth. She said: ‘Where you go I will go. Where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God. Where you die I will die and there I will be buried.’ So, Ruth went with Naomi, whereas Orpah went back.
And we thought about how Orpah chose the way of death, because she chose to return to Moab where her husband and father-in-law and brother-in-law had died. And since Moab was a pagan nation, it was also the place of dead idols who can do nothing. However, Ruth chose the way of life. She chose to live with Naomi and she chose to live before Naomi’s God, who is the true and living God, who made all things and who sustains all things and who promises eternal life to his people. And just as those two women had a choice to make, so we have a choice to make every day. Will we choose to return to an unbelieving world and live as if the true God was not real? Or will we choose to worship the true and living God and live our life for him? One way leads to death, but the other way leads to life.
And we also thought about God’s mysterious ways. Naomi said God had afflicted her, because she had gone away full and had come back empty. She said: Don’t called me Naomi which means Pleasant, but called me Mara which means Bitter. And no doubt she wondered why God had afflicted her. But we have an advantage over Naomi, because we know how the story ends. We know that the Lord was at work in the circumstances of her life to bring about good, because he had ordained that Ruth the Moabitess would meet Boaz the Bethlehemite and they would have a son; and from their son the Saviour of the world would eventually come, because the Lord Jesus Christ was descended from Ruth and Boaz. And when our lives are bitter, we need to remember and believe that nothing happens by chance, but it happens according to God’s perfect plan which is always good, because he is good.
Chapter 1 ended with Naomi and Ruth returning to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest. And so, today we come to chapter 2, which is the second act of this little story and it’s about how Ruth gleans in Boaz’s field.
Verses 1 to 7
In verse 1 the author of the book tells us that Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side who was called Boaz. And according to verse 1, this man Boaz was a man of standing. In other words he was an important and wealthy man in the community. This is the kind of relative we might all like to have, because if ever we’re in trouble, wouldn’t it be good to have a wealthy uncle or an influential aunt to call on when we’re in trouble? Well, that’s Boaz. And what the author of the story is doing in verse 1 is giving us a heads up. The author is saying to us: I want to mention this person to you now, because this person is going to become very important to this story. So, get ready to hear lots more about him.
And having given us this heads up, the author goes back to telling us about Ruth and Naomi. So, in verse 2 we read that Ruth said to Naomi that she was going to go out to the fields to pick up the leftover grain behind anyone ‘in whose eyes I find favour’. And we’re told that Naomi told her to go ahead. And Ruth went out and began to glean in the fields. And as it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz.
Before going any further, perhaps I need to explain a little of the background. When God gave his laws to his people in the days of Moses, it was clear that God was concerned for the poor and he wanted to look after them. Most people owned land and could grow crops. But what about those people who, for whatever reason, had no land of their own? How could the poor survive? How could they get food for themselves? Well, in his law, God said that when the people reap the harvest, they were not to reap to the very edge of their field or gather the gleanings of their harvest. The gleanings are the bits of the crop that fall to the ground when the crop is being harvested. So, don’t gather the gleanings, but leave them for the poor, God said. Don’t collect everthing you grow, but leave some for the poor. Let them go into the fields and collect the leftovers. So, that’s what Ruth was doing. She was a poor woman. She didn’t own any land of her own. But she was allowed to go into the fields and walk behind the harvesters and pick up anything they dropped.
Of course, some farmers were kinder than others. So, while the law allowed someone like Ruth to gather the leftovers, she still had to depend on the kindness and goodwill of the landowners. One landowner might be willing to let someone like Ruth gather the leftovers in his field, but another might be less willing. And so, as Ruth says in verse 2, she’ll gather behind anyone ‘in whose eyes I find favour’. She’s hoping that someone will be kind to her and let her gather in his field.
And the last thing to say before moving on is that fields in those days were not separated from the next one by hedges. The land was open and the only thing separating one man’s field from another man’s field was a path. And so, that meant it was possible for someone like Ruth to roam easily from one field to another. But ‘as it turned out’, the author tells us, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz. That is, she happened to find herself there. By chance she found herself there. One of the commentators evens suggests the translation: ‘As luck would have it….’ The words the author uses suggests this happened entirely by chance. But, of course, the author of the story doesn’t believe in luck or chance. The author doesn’t believe things happen randomly. The author of the story knows that everything happens according to God’s holy and perfect will. Things don’t just happen by chance; they happen by design. And so, if he were writing this story today, the author might have put the words ‘As it turned out’ in quotation marks or in italics just to make clear to us that while it might have seemed like a chance occurrence, it was not at all a chance occurrence, but it was something God has planned. Without her knowing it, God guided Ruth to the right field.
And just then, at just the right time, Boaz arrived and greeted his workers. And Boaz noticed Ruth and asked his foreman about her. And the foreman explained who she is and how she asked permission to gather in the field. And according to the foreman, Ruth had worked steadily in the field from morning until now.
Verses 8 to 14
And from verse 8 to verse 14, Boaz and Ruth are in a conversation with one another. Boaz speaks first. He calls Ruth ‘My daughter’ which was a term of affection. So, already, in his very first words to her, he’s displaying kindness to her. And he tells her not to glean in any other field, but to remain in his field and to stay with his servant girls who are working in the field. Instead of driving her away, he’s inviting her to stay. And he says to her that he’s told his men not to touch her. That is, he’s told them not to bother Ruth. And then, if you’re thirsty, go and drink from my water jars. So, he’s being very kind to Ruth, isn’t he?
And she then bowed down before him, which was the custom in those days. And she’s so surprised by his kindness. She asks, ‘Why have I found such favour in your eyes that you notice me — a foreigner.’ She was hoping that someone would show her kindness, but she didn’t expect this much kindness. It’s remarkable, especially since she’s aware that she’s a foreigner. Someone else might have been willing to show kindness to a fellow Israelite, but Boaz was willing to show kindness to a foreigner.
And Boaz replies in verse 10 to say that he’s heard what she has done for Naomi, and how she was willing to remain with Naomi even though it meant Ruth had to leave her parents and her homeland and come to a strange place. And he pronounces a kind of blessing on her, asking the Lord to repay her for what she has done for Naomi. And he says to her: May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge. We’re to imagine a young bird nestling under the wings of its mother and finding security there. The young bird is safe when it’s covered by its mother’s wings. And Ruth has come under the protection of the Lord. She’s entrusted herself to him and the Lord is able to keep all who trust in him.
And then Ruth speaks again in verse 13 to express how she hopes she’ll continue to find favour in Boaz’s sight. And she once again mentions his kindness to her, which is more than she ever expected.
And presumably she went back to work and Boaz went on with his business. But then it’s time for a meal. And perhaps Boaz and his workers were sitting around in a circle, eating the food that had been prepared for them. And Ruth is sitting apart from them, because she doesn’t belong to that group. She’s not one of Boaz’s workers. But he sees her and calls her over and offers her food to eat. And we’re told that she ate all she wanted and she even had some left over. And so, once again this displays Boaz’s kindness and his generosity towards Ruth.
Verses 15 to 23
And Boaz’s kindness to her is not over yet. In verse 15 he gave orders to his men not to embarrass her even if she gathers among the sheaves. So, the sheaves were bundles of barley which had been gathered and tied together. And those who were picking up the leftovers weren’t meant to get too close to the sheaves. But Boaz was saying to his men that even if Ruth gets too close, don’t rebuke her. In fact, pull out some of the stalks and leave them for her. In other words, Boaz wanted his men to drop some barley deliberately for Ruth to pick up.
And so, at the end of the day, when Ruth had finished gathering the barley and had threshed it, she had managed to collect an ephah of barley grain. The commentators say this would have weighed around 30lbs. So, she managed to gather a sack-load of barley. And we’re told she carried it back to town. How was she able to carry a 30lb sack? It must have been hard work. But she got it home and showed it to Ruth. And I’m sure we can imagine Naomi’s eyes bulging at the sight of so much grain after only one day in the field. And then, from out of a pocket perhaps, Ruth produced the leftover lunch. And it’s all so amazing, isn’t it? ‘Where did you glean today?’ Naomi asks. ‘Where did you work?’ ‘Blessed is the man who took notice of you!’ And there was a man who took notice of her and his name, Ruth revealed to Naomi, is Boaz.
And Naomi knows what we know. She knows who Boaz is and how he’s a close relative. There’s no indication that Ruth knew who Boaz was, but Naomi knows. And she explains that he’s their kinsman-redeemer. What’s a kinsman-redeemer? Well, a kinsman is a relative and a redeemer is a deliverer or a rescuer. And so, a kinsman-redeemer was someone who was a relative who was responsible for delivering the members of the family from trouble or from poverty or from other difficult situations. And so, presumably Naomi is thinking that perhaps Boaz is the answer to all their troubles. They’ve come back to Bethlehem. They have no land of their own. They have no means of support. They don’t have husbands to support them. How will they survive? Well, perhaps Boaz will help them?
And Ruth tells her mother-in-law that Boaz had said she may stay with his workers until the harvest is over. And that’s what she did. And that’s how the second act of this little story ends. In chapter 1, Naomi said she went away full and had returned empty. But now, her house was full of food which Ruth had gathered in the fields of Boaz, who was willing to show her kindness even though she was a foreigner.
What can we learn from this chapter? Once again, we need to remember the providence of God. Ruth went out to glean in the fields. And it just so happened that she ended up in Boaz’s field. But, as I’ve already said, things don’t just happen by chance. but by design. And the Lord our God is the great designer. He’s the one who made all things and he sustains all things and he directs all things according to his holy and perfect will. As I said last week, he ordained the famine; and he ordained that Elimelech and his family would travel to Moab; and he ordained that Elimelech would die; and that his sons would marry Orphah and Ruth; and that his sons would die; and that Ruth would decide to return to Bethlehem. And he ordained that Ruth would go out to glean and end up in Boaz’s field. And he ordained that Boaz would come out to the field at just the right time to see Ruth. The Lord ordained it all. He planned it all. He directed it.
We, of course, make our plans; and we do what we want, don’t we? So, when Ruth went out to the field, she wasn’t forced to go there against her will. She decided to go; and she went willingly. And when Boaz went to the field, he wasn’t forced to go there against his will. He decided to go; and he went willingly. And Boaz wasn’t forced against his will to help Ruth. He did it willingly. And so, we do things willingly. We do what we want to do. No one forces us. Nevertheless God is shaping us and directing us and moving us so that by the things we do freely and willingly his will is done here on earth.
Nothing happens by chance, but everything happens because of God who rules over all things and who directs all things. And for those who are trusting in Jesus Christ the Saviour, the God who rules over all things and who directs all things and who has planned all things is our Heavenly Father. He’s our Heavenly Father, because whoever trusts in Jesus Christ the Saviour is adopted into God’s family, so that God is no longer the judge who condemns us, but he has become our Heavenly Father who loves us and who cares for us and who works all things together for the good of his children.
And knowing this helps us to be patient when we’re afflicted, because we know that our Heavenly Father must have a good reason for afflicting us. We may not understand what it is, but we can rest in the knowledge that our Father knows what he’s doing and his purposes are always good.
And knowing that nothing happens by chance, but by his Fatherly hand, helps us to be grateful in the midst of prosperity, because we know that whatever good we’ve received has come to us from him; and if it weren’t for him, we would have nothing. In fact, Naomi testifies to this in verse 20. After seeing all the grain that Ruth has brought home, and the leftover food, she says about the Lord: ‘He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.’ She’s acknowledging that what they have received as a result of Boaz’s kindness has ultimately come to them from the Lord, who has not stopped showing his kindness to them. So, Naomi was grateful to the Lord for his goodness to them. And whatever good we have received has come to us from him. And so, we should give thanks to him.
And then, knowing that nothing happens by chance, but by his Fatherly hand helps us to face the future, because we know that whatever we face in life, we know that the Lord is hovering over us with his protective wings. And just as a mother bird watches over her little ones, so the Lord watches over his people. And look how he helped Naomi and Ruth, because didn’t he send them Boaz to speak kindly to Ruth and to let her glean in his fields? Didn’t he send Boaz to order his men to drop barley for her? Didn’t he send Boaz to share his meal with Ruth? Didn’t he send Boaz to invite Ruth to stay in his fields until the harvest was over? When Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem, they must have wondered how they would survive. But there was no need to worry, because the Lord their God, their Heavenly Father, was hovering over them with his protective wings. And if you’re trusting in Christ the Saviour, then God is hovering over you with his protective wings. And he’s watching over you to help you and to keep you. And even when he sends trouble into your life, and even when he afflicts you, it’s not because he’s angry with you, but it’s because he loves you and he has some good reason for it.
And so, knowing this means we can be patient in adversity; and grateful in prosperity; and we can trust our Father for the future.
And then let’s think about Boaz’s role as their kinsmen-redeemer. The kinsmen-redeemer was a relative who was responsible for delivering his family from trouble. And Boaz helped Ruth and Naomi by giving them all this grain. And the grain he gave them was really only a foretaste of what he would do for them later, because later in the story he took Ruth as his wife; and brought Ruth and Naomi into his home; and he therefore delivered them from a life of poverty and filled their lives with good.
And in his role as kinsman-redeemer Boaz foreshadows our Kinsman-Redeemer, who is Jesus Christ the Lord. Jesus Christ is the Eternal Son of God. As we’ve been learning from Hebrews on Sunday evenings, he’s the radiance of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s being. The Son is the repetition of God the Father. But the Son was made lower than the angels when he came to earth as one of us. So, he is God, but he took to himself our human nature. He became flesh and blood like us. He became one of us. He became our kinsman, our relative. And he became our kinsman to deliver us from the condemnation we deserve for a lifetime of sin and disobedience. All of us have sinned; and therefore all us deserve to be condemned by God. But God the Son became our kinsman so that he could take the blame for us on the cross and deliver us from the condemnation and punishment we deserve for all that we have done wrong. And through faith in him, we are pardoned and accepted by God. Our guilt is taken away and we receive peace with God forever. And not only are we pardoned and accepted by God, but the Lord Jesus Christ also gives us the hope of everlasting life in the presence of God where there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. The forgiveness of our sins is only the beginning of what Christ gives to us; and we can look forward to even more blessings from him in the life to come.
And we don’t deserve any of this, just as Ruth did not deserve anything from Boaz. But the Lord Jesus graciously and freely gives it to us. We come to him empty, but he sends us away full. We come to him with nothing, but he graciously and freely fills us with the assurance of sins forgiven and with the hope of everlasting life. The Lord Jesus Christ is our Kinsman-Redeemer. He became one of us, our kinsman, so that he could deliver us from condemnation and give us everlasting salvation. And he says to us: Don’t go looking for help and salvation from anyone else. Don’t go away from me. Stay with me. Remain with me. There is no other Saviour but me. So, trust in me and in no one else.