We continue the story of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz. Last week we began at the first chapter. Elimelech and Naomi, with their two male children, leave parched Bethlehem because of the famine. They travel to Moab. The father dies, the two sons take Moab women for wives, but relatively soon, both young husbands also die. Now there are three dead husbands, three living widows. Word comes that the famine in Israel is over and Naomi departs for Israel. She pleads with her daughters-in-law Moabitesses Ruth and Orpah to leave her, return to Moab, and remarry. Orpah, after Naomi's repeated pleas, complies and returns to Moab. Ruth clings to Naomi, accepting Naomi's God as her God. She joins Israel! But the chapter ended on a bitter note. Naomi says call her name "Bitter' instead of "Pleasant." God has aligned Himself against her and is treating her unfairly. But Naomi has forgotten the blessing standing right beside her: Ruth.
Onward into Chapter Two
We continue the story in Ruth chapter two. Please follow along.
Now Naomi had a relative of her husband's, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. 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.' 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. And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, 'The Lord be with you!' And they answered, 'The Lord bless you.' Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, 'Whose young woman is this?' 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. 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' (Ruth 2:1-7).
Naomi, for all her feeling of aloneness and emptiness, is no independent atom. She is still connected to relatives who worship the God of heaven and earth. God has arranged it so that we are all connected to each other; we are all part of the vast web of humanity. Naomi felt very alone, but she had friends in Bethlehem and even relatives. One was Boaz.
God had established laws for the people of Israel, including laws providing for the poor. He made provision. This was handled according to the simple dignity of responsibility. As people of Yahweh the Hebrews were to live according to His precepts. Consider:
- When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands (Deuteronomy 24:19).
- When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest (Leviticus 19:9).
- And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God (Leviticus 23:22).
So Ruth goes out to glean. She is a widow. She was a foreigner but has embraced Yahweh. Out she goes. And where does she happen to land? She happens to come to that part of the field belonging to Boaz.
The Christian worldview is not that of the evolutionist or the deist, of no god or of an impersonal, uncaring one. Nor is it the worldview of a god who predetermines all and predestines all so that humans are merely players, robots, going through motions, all unawares that they are mere marionettes, puppets in a boring cosmic play.
Part of the image of God in man (then in Naomi, Ruth, Orpah, and Boaz) is free will, the ability to think and do. This God has given to man; it is part of our heritage. We are semi-autonomous at the very least. God allows us to make choices. The choices may be right or wrong, wise or foolish, morally approved or not morally approved. He does not often intervene directly. We very often experience the consequences of our poor choices, just as we sometimes benefit from our wiser choices.
Beside this, God works for us. In His providences, His fore-seeing of our future and of the potentialities that flow out in a million directions from what we do, He is also personally involved. He works in our working, He moves through our moving. In ways mysterious and unknown to us, He is involved in blessing our lives. And, when we are working in opposition to Him, He is working still for us, sending His rain on the evil and the just, His sunshine on the evil and the just, and He is working behind the scenes that human eyes can see, so that our lives will be confronted with Himself as the infinite and loving God. He means that the sacrifice of Jesus shall make a difference in our lives and that we shall have opportunity to choose--with Ruth--that He will be our God.
Notice here: the Existence of Boaz is introduced to you and I in the story; none of this is yet known to Ruth. She simply goes out, trusting that the Hebrew people will be following the principles laid down in Deuteronomy and Leviticus and that she will be permitted to glean. And among the various sections of land, she just so happens to arrive at the plot of land owned by Boaz, Naomi's and thus her (Ruth's) relative.
Small world. But it's not enough say, "small world." I prefer the phrase, "big God."
Boaz comes just then. His arrival shows him to be a spiritual man, for he immediately ask the Lord's blessing upon them. He notices among the workers in his field a new face. Ruth. He asks his manager who she is. She has identified herself to him, too. So it is reported to Boaz that she is Ruth the Moabitess.
Boaz Speaks with Ruth
We move onward now to another scene. Boaz speaks with Ruth. Listen:
Then Boaz said to Ruth, 'Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.' Then she fell on her face, bowing 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?' But Boaz answered her, 'All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!' Then she said, 'I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.' And at mealtime Boaz said to her, 'Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.' So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over (Ruth 2:8-14).
Here is a godly man providing protection and sustenance. "Work in my field," says Boaz, "And I will provide protection." How it is to be lamented today that so many men have lost their sense of being protectors for their wives and children. If we go to state (public) schools, we learn that the state is our protector. If there is a problem, call 911, the sheriff or the police. If there is a problem at the border because of maurading Canadians, the state can call out the National Guard. If we become unemployed or run out of food, we can call the appropriate government department and we anticipate that the food stamps will soon be in the mail.
We are glad that all these safety nets are in place although they do not always work as anticipated. But one thing that has happened is that males, who in ages past had seen themselves as having a protective and providing responsibility role toward others, usually don't feel that anymore. So men sit on the coach eating potato chips and watching rented movies. Protecting and providing are tasks for others. But Boaz did not see his world that way. We pretend to be men; or, against all odds, God guides us so that in spite of the influences that surround us, we begin to become men.
Boaz was a man.
Ruth is surprised. She sees herself very modestly. She sees herself as a foreigner here. Why are you showing such kindness to a foreigner? she asks Boaz.
There are two reasons here although one is unspoken. One reason is simply that Boaz, like Naomi, is a follower of God. He has KHESED, mercy, in his heart and because that he is who and what he is. He exercises the trait automatically; it is a matter of character.
The reason he gives though is more particular. Ruth's actions have gone before her. "All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before." Boaz has heard of Ruth's kindness in remaining with Naomi. He has heard of how she married an Israelite, how he died and she was widowed, how she left Moab and came to be an Israelite. He has heard that she has chosen to follow Yahweh.
Our good actions--or we should say, those actions which God influences us to do and which we actually follow through and accomplish--go before us. We may or may not benefit from them in this life. We do not do them in order to be benefited by them. But even in this life we will see the benefits that simply flow automatically from doing good; we will see these impacting our own life, good returning in good. This is the way an unselfish world works, and as followers of the God of heaven, you and I are locations of intervention.
Satan has a selfish world functioning all around us, but we are part of a different kingdom, a different world. We are all rebellion-points in the Great contreoversy War. The battle front between the selfish and the unselfish is seen right at our lives. Our lives are the front edge, the point of the spear. We are God's advance special forces here to live by the Creator's design. God has not and will not forget us. Boaz' prayer is that Ruth shall have a full reward.
When Ruth goes out to glean, Boaz instructs some of his workers to make things easier for her.
When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, 'Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.' So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. And she took it up and went into the city (Ruth 2:15-18a).
The workers are instructed to leave more grain for Ruth to glean. And she is a hard worker. She gathers it up, all of it, and returns home for the day.
One of Our Redeemers
We catch up with Ruth now in this final scene in this chapter. Just as the chapter began with Naomi and Ruth, so now it ends with Naomi and Ruth. Listen:
Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also brought out and gave her what food she had left over after being satisfied. And her mother-in-law said to her, 'Where did you glean today? And where have you worked? Blessed be the man 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.' And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, 'May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!' Naomi also said to her, 'The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.' And Ruth the Moabite said, 'Besides, he said to me, "You shall keep close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest." And Naomi said to Ruth, her daughter-in-law, 'It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, lest in another field you be assaulted.' So she kept close to the young women of Boaz, gleaning until the end of the barley and wheat harvests. And she lived with her mother-in-law (Ruth 2:18b-23).
Here comes Ruth, tired but with quite the load (somewhere between 29 and 52 pounds). "Where did you glean?" a surprised Naomi asks. Ruth answers that it was at the field of Boaz. Immediately Naomi can see providence operating. She calls out to God asking a blessing for Boaz for what he has done. God's kindness, says Naomi, has not forsaken the living or the dead. Who are the living? Naomi and Ruth! Who are the dead? Elimelech, Chilion, and Mahlon. Neither Naomi nor Ruth presently have husbands, but God is God the Father; He is providing for them through His agent, Boaz.
We are all God's agents aren't we? But in particular, Boaz is an agent called a "GOEL." This is the status of being a "kinsman redeemer." Boaz is Ruth's redeemer, in potential, at least. But what does this mean. Deuteronomy 25:5, 6:
If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead man shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband's brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her. And the first son whom she bears shall succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel (Deuteronomy 25:5, 6).
Here was the case exactly of the son of Naomi. Ruth had married her son, but there had been no children. Once Ruth had married into the family, she was plugged into the divine plan for assuring a perpetuation of the family. She could remarry only among a restricted set of persons. We are not told to which brother she was married; recall that both brothers died. But the responsibility did not just go away; it descended through the family line. Close in along this line was Boaz, one of the few persons who could, potentially, serve as kinsman redeemer for Ruth and her deceased husband.
The kinsman redeemer is a most interesting position. In the case of a murder, the closest relative, the kinsman redeemer, also had responsibility to seek out the perpetrator and bring him to justice. The obtaining of justice was a family responsibility. God had given His people laws that would work whether there was a patriarchal, tribal, judges, or monarchial system. The state as we know it today was not the only system by which to organize society.
Think now how God set out to protect not only the name of the husband and father, but to provide for the care and protection of the widow. God is all-seeing, all-knowing; He always has a plan. But how rarely do we turn to Him and His plans. By reflex, even Christians more often than not turn to our own ideas or the common ideas in use around us. Too often we think only of trying God's plan after our other plans have failed.
No one is suggesting that we return today to Levirite marriage. But it would be well if we looked to God sooner--like first--rather than later. We will often find His plans and principles to be exactly what is needed in our current extremity.
The wheels are now turning in Naomi's mind. Maybe there will even be some dreaming in Ruth and Boaz' heads. For now, Naomi urges Ruth to finish out the season gleaning in the field of Boaz. The story shall continue in a giant way, but in our third installment.
Lessons for us today? When we follow the plans of Jesus we find that Jesus has provided for us. He has not forgotten anyone. Not the father, not the husband, not the bride not the widow, not the child, not to foreigner. He has made provision. He has called all His followers to go forward together as agents in His plan. In our age today we are continually sluffing our our responsibilities. In the age of Ruth there were men who stood up and in the nobility of true manhood stood in the gap and protected those in need. Boaz, as we shall see coming up, shares much in similarity to Christ. And all of us should be ready to be near of kin, not only by blood but even more especially to those who like Ruth might think themselves alone in Israel. Sometimes the person that God provides to help, to live-out Christianity, is you.
Bonners Ferry ID SDA 2013-07-13