Ruth

Chapter 2

Under the Wings of God
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us"
Ephesians 3:20

Choir practice at the West Side Baptist Church in Beatrice, Nebraska, always began on Wednesday evenings at 7:20. At 7:25 p.m. on Wednesday, March 1, 1950, an explosion demolished the church. The blast was so strong that it forced a nearby radio station off the air and shattered windows in surrounding homes. Amazingly, not one choir member was harmed. How is that possible? All fifteen were late for practice! Car trouble delayed two women. The pastor, his wife and daughter were delayed by a dress that needed ironing at the last minute. Others were late because they paused to complete homework, finish a letter, or hear the end of a favorite radio show. One awoke late from a nap. Some could think of no special reason; they were just late. Coincidence? The right place at the right time. Coincidence? Happenstance? Good fortune? The wrong place at the wrong time. Bad luck? Fate? Accidental? When an amazing and wonderful thing happens in our life we're quick to say that the hand of God was certainly with us….what do we say when something bad happens - that the hand of God is not with us? Last week in chapter one of the book of Ruth we saw Naomi lose her livelihood and loose her homeland. We saw Naomi bury her husband and then her two sons. She is discouraged and outright bitter about life - and who can blame her? She is so pessimistic about the future, that she packs her bags and heads home to die. When she arrives home in Bethlehem, she is so downtrodden her friends don’t even recognize her. In the eyes of Naomi, she is a cursed woman. Now we come to Chapter 2. In the last chapter, we asked, "Where was God in all of this?" Let's watch and see what God will do!

Boaz: A Man of Worth, Ruth A Woman of Character
It's interesting that right off the bat, we're introduced to Boaz. We're told: "Now Naomi had a relative of her husband's, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz." (ESV) And as quick as he's mentioned, he's dropped for a couple of verses while the scene returns to Naomi and Ruth. It's as if we're let in on a secret that Ruth and Naomi aren't privy to. The author is giving us a hint of something to watch for. "Here's this guy, Boaz. Keep your eye on him. He just may be important to the plotline." For the first time, we start to get the idea that things are about turn for the better. We also learn a few things that we're going to need to know as the story progresses. Boaz is a relative to Elimelech (a very important detail, as we shall see) and we're also told that Boaz is "a worthy man" (ESV), "a mighty man of wealth"(KJV), "a rich and important man." (CEV) "a man of standing." (NIV) The Hebrew word can be a bit hard to pin down. It can denote strength, military power, wealth, or virtue. It seems, here that the author has material and moral worth in mind. A man of worth in view of his wealth as well as godliness. Naomi and Ruth are back in Bethlehem and it's time to resume the task of living. The first priority is to find something to eat. How will they find food? What can two desperate widows do to feed themselves? Well, God has it covered. He has shown concern for the poor. Generations before, He made a provision for situations just like this. He instituted a custom known as gleaning. When farmers harvested their crops, they were to leave the edges of he field and they were not to go over he field for the second time to gather up what was left behind the first time. Poor people were then to be allowed to come into the field to pick up what remains. So, Ruth says "Let me go out and find someone who will allow me to glean in their field." We get a little glimpse into Ruth's character. She's going to take the initiative and take it upon herself to provide food for both she and Naomi. She's going out to glean. But, keep in mind, that doesn't mean all is well. Gleaning is certainly no "get rich quick proposition." It's a difficult task. She'll work sun up to sundown, gathering up the scraps that the harvesters miss. And let's give the harvesters credit. If you're hired to gather up the crop, let's assume that you're good at your job. I doubt there is a great deal of grain lying around that the workers missed. The best Ruth can hope for is a few handfuls of barley for her efforts. Just enough to keep them alive for a couple of days. It's a hard existence, to be sure. It's time for action and Ruth is ready to act. Humbly, she asks Naomi's permission to carry out her plan. Notice too that she plans to go to "him in whose sight I shall find favor." She really doesn't have to seek permission.
God has commanded landowners to allow it. If a landowner has an issue with Ruth gleaning in his fields, his issue is with God, not Ruth. But, Ruth wasn't the type to demand her rights. She determined that she would only glean in the fields where she was welcome. With Naomi's blessing, she headed off to the fields. Let's stop right here for a moment and ask where is God in all this? In the last chapter, this woman has made

one of the most powerful statements of faith in all of Scripture. She declared that she would follow God no matter what. She would follow God if things didn’t ever get better she would follow God even to death. Surely, God would honor such a faith. No doubt Ruth is asking the question that we often ask when things look bleak, when we reach a point of desperation. Where is God in all this? Will He show up?

Happenstance Happens!
Ruth goes off to glean and we're told she "just happens" to end up in Boaz's field. Here's another instance where we can imagine a sly smile on the story teller's face when he tells us "it just so happened." Literally, it goes something like "The happenstance that happened was..." The land around Bethlehem was a patchwork of small fields with no fences to separate them. Ruth would have no idea whose field she was in. But, of all the possible fields she could choose, we find that she's gleaning in the field of Boaz, a man of worth, her kinsman. What do you think... just a random occurrence? Of course not! God was at work. He IS beginning to show up. Think of the events in your life. How different would it have been if certain thinks hadn't happened as they did. Was it blind luck? It's just a matter of perspective. From our point of view, we see no reason to think that ordinary events are anymore than that... ordinary events. But, from Heaven's viewpoint, ordinary events are often significant, life changing, in fact. All Ruth expected was to find a field where she could scrounge up a couple of pounds of barley. Little did she know that God had much bigger plans. When we talk about providence, what do we mean? God is actively working to bring about His purposes within human affairs. He's in control and if He is, in fact, sovereign, He's in control of everything. Jesus said that not even a sparrow falls from the sky without God knowing and WILLING it. How does that relate to our lives? Well, Jesus also said that you are worth more to God that a whole flock of sparrows. So, it stands to reason that He is in absolute control of even the most seemingly insignificant details of our lives. The bigger things: 1180 23rd St. Moline, Fidlar Printing Co., Bethany Baptist - all pre-decided by God. But, even things that may seem insignificant are under His control. Sometime details or events that seem trivial can turn out to have great consequences. Ruth could have ended up in virtually any nearby field and found enough grain to get by for another day. But, God had bigger things in mind. We're in no position to determine which details of our lives are insignificant. Proverbs 16:9 says "In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps." We make our plans and work toward our goals, but it's God who is in complete control of each individual step. Praise God for that! Ruth made her plans that morning but as we're beginning to see, things work out quite differently than she had planned. Not only did Ruth "just happen" to choose Boaz's field, another "coincidence” occurs. It "just so happened" that while she was there, Boaz showed up. The NIV says "Just then, Boaz arrived." Another important detail to our story. If Boaz hadn't shown up that day, the story would have been very different. It's assumed that Boaz, being a man of wealth had other fields to oversee. He could have visited any one of them on that particular day. But, it's God's story and God's plan. So Boaz makes his entrance and greets his workers. "The Lord be with you" Now, that certainly tells us something. When was the last time that your boss walked in and greeted you like that? It's never happened to me. But, it’s a little preview of Boaz’s character. Not every field owner was so kind and considerate of their hired hands and I doubt many were so quick to seek God’s blessings on their workers.

Mr. Boaz, Meet Ms. Ruth
Something about Ruth caught his attention right away. Boaz asked his foreman “Whose young woman is this?” It sounds like there might be two questions there. “Who is she?” and “Is she ‘taken?” The foreman replies that she’s the Moabite woman that came back with Naomi. She’s been here since early morning, working hard, only stopping for a short rest. I guess she made an impression on the foreman as well. Boaz then addresses Ruth directly. He tells her to stay in his field to glean. As long as she’s there, he’ll make sure that she’s safe and treated well. In fact, treated better than she could ever expect. He says whenever you get thirsty, just ask my field hands and they’ll give you a drink. Now, Boaz didn’t owe a gleaner anything beyond letting them in to glean. He didn’t have to provide water and, in fact, it was socially unheard of for a man to draw water for a woman... a moabite woman at that. It was the women who were to serve the men. She was surprised enough that she had to ask “Why is it that you’re showing such favor to me. I’m nobody, just a poor widow, an outsider in fact. Boaz's answer was that he's heard all about her. In fact, the whole town knew about her. The gossip wasn't about the pagan idol-worshipper that had come to town. The word on the street was about the kindness that Ruth has shown to her mother-in-law. It's been reported how Ruth left everything behind to cling to Naomi and also her amazing conversion to the God of Israel. Because of that loyalty that Ruth has shown, Boaz offers what amounts to a prayer: May God reward you for all that you've done because you have come under His wings of protection. The rest of the book is really the account of this prayer being answered. I'm sure that Boaz doesn't have a clue of the role he'll be playing in answering his own prayer. Mark that phrase "under who's wings you've taken refuge" will also turn out to be an important factor later on.

Welcoming Ruth to the Table
Ruth is floored by the kindness that Boaz is showing her. But, his graciousness didn’t stop there. When lunchtime came, he invited her to eat with them. That may not sound like a big deal to us, but it really says a lot. In that culture, inviting someone to eat with you means much more than just sharing your food. Let's spend a little more time here to flesh this out. I think this section really sets the scene, helping us understand even more about Boaz's character and his attitude toward Ruth. Generosity Boaz was under no obligation to feed Ruth. She was just a gleaner, not even one of his hired hands. He wasn't responsible for her. Yet, he generously shared his food with her along with the work crew. Acceptance By inviting Ruth to his table, Boaz clearly shows that he is accepting her (as well as the workers) as social equals. He wasn't the kind of man who sees others as being below himself. Identification
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them." Luke 15:1-2

What was the Pharisee's complaint? Jesus was eating with sinners. By sitting down with them, he was seen as identifying with them... something that a good law-observing Jew would never do.

Boaz was, in essence, saying "I'm with you. i don't see you as a low-life Moabite. We are on the same level, serving the same God. Protection This idea may take just a little fleshing out, but in that culture, protection is a big element of Middle Eastern hospitality. "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies" Psalms 23:5a" According to the Bedouin law of hospitality, once a traveler is received into the shepherd’s tent, and especially once his host has spread food before him, he is guaranteed immunity from enemies who may be attempting to overtake him. In pastoral circles no human protection is greater than that afforded by the hospitality of a Bedouin chief." -Psalm 23: A Psalm That Calms the Soul, Dr. Bob Deffenbaugh Boaz's hospitality to Ruth expresses the desire for her protection. Ruth ate her fill and even had a doggy bag to take home to Naomi.

More Than All We Ask or Imagine
After lunch, Ruth went right back to gleaning and Boaz got with his workers. He gave some new instructions: Don't limit her to the leftovers. Let her glean from the sheaves as well... and make sure you drop a bundle here and there for her to pick up. That's certainly beyond what was required. It goes well beyond the bounds of compassion for the poor. That's more than law... That's Grace! Ruth gleaned the rest of the day until evening and beat it out to separate out the grain. She headed home with an ephah of barley, somewhere around one bushel, or about 50 lbs. When she left home that morning, what was she expecting? A few handfuls of barley, enough grain to stave off starvation. What did she bring home? Enough barley for 70-80 loaves of bread! Talk about God's provision!

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch
Ruth carried her hard-earned bounty back home where the scene went something like this: Naomi greets her and asks Ruth what she brought home. Ruth plops the huge basket of grain onto the table... and oh yeah, here's dinner for you, too. Naomi's eyes got wide. So much more than she would ever have imagined! Where in the world did you glean? Who's field were you working in? Whoever it was, may God bless him. Ruth said it was the field of a man named Boaz. A smile came to Naomi's face, possibly the first one in months. Boaz! I've forgotten about him. He is a relative, he could be the answer to our prayers. Ruth mentioned that Boaz had suggested that she continue to glean in his fields rather than try her luck elsewhere. Naomi agrees that that's a good plan. You never know the dangers of working in a stranger's field. It's not really safe for a young woman. So Ruth stayed in Boaz fields. Not only through the barley harvest, but also throughout the wheat harvest that will begin in a few weeks. God IS beginning to work, or I guess, more to the point, His work is beginning to show. He's been working all along. We're starting to see how the distressing circumstances of these two desperate widows might be turned around.

What if. What if God had answered only Ruth’s expectation? What if Ruth had just gone out to any old field and picked up two handfuls of grain? What if God had given the obvious solution and Ruth was hired on as an employee? So… God’s timing in your life is terrible. There sits the obvious solution to your dilemma right in front of you. And God is silent. Your working hard, and you know, there is no way you can get ahead. And God is silent. Makes you wonder... What is God planning in your life?

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful