Dear Radio Friends,
Today we are going to look at the first seventeen verses of Ruth 2. It is a rather lengthy passage so, if you are able to open your Bibles, that will be helpful.
One of the most important themes in the book of Ruth is the truth of the providence of God. In His providence, God sovereignly sustains and directs all things to serve His purposes. The purpose of God in all things is the salvation of His elect people in Jesus Christ. So He uses everything in their lives also for their eternal good and salvation.
We have seen that truth at work in the lives of Naomi and Ruth. In His providence God brought Elimelech and Naomi and their children to Moab. By His providence, He brings Ruth into their family. In His providence, He takes Naomi’s husband and two sons from her in death and through this sorrow leads Naomi back to Bethlehem and to God’s people there. Providentially, Ruth goes with her and, as we will see in the rest of the book, Ruth becomes an important part of God’s purpose in the salvation great grandmother of David, from whom Christ is born.
Today we will see that God, in His providence, causes Ruth to cross paths with a man named Boaz, who will later become her husband. If you are married, you probably remember well the day that you and your spouse met, the first conversations that you had, and what your first impressions were. Well, those are the things that we have here in Ruth 2 in the first meeting of Boaz and Ruth.
What occasioned it was the Old Testament practice of gleaning. This was one of the civil laws of Israel in the Old Testament, a law that God put in place so that the poor would be cared for. Ruth and Naomi were poor. They had come back from Moab empty. So they have to glean after the harvesters for their food. If you were a landowner, then when it came to harvesting your fields, the law concerning gleaning said that you could only make one pass through fields. And you were not allowed to harvest all the way to the corners of your field but had to leave some grain standing there. And if, while you harvested, you dropped or spilled some of what you had harvested, you were not to go back and pick it up, but must leave it there for the gleaners.
Those who gleaned, then, were the poor: the widows, the orphans, and the strangers who could not own land. Gleaning involved walking in the fields behind the harvest workers and picking up what they did not take. It was hard work—from morning till evening—for just a little food.
Now, although we do not have the practice of gleaning today, there are some important principles here for Christian stewardship. The first is that God owns everything. That is why He could tell the people what to do with it. The second is that stewardship involves generosity. If God has given to you, you must not keep it all for yourself but you must set some aside, or even leave some, for the care of the poor. A third principle here is that the poor should not just receive handouts. But they, too, should work for their food. The New Testament tells us that if a man does not work, he has no right to eat. The Bible tells us that, apart from exceptional circumstances involving ill health, age, or disability, we must work in order to provide for our earthly needs. There is no time, in Scripture, for laziness.
This Bible passage introduces us to Boaz and Ruth. In verse 1 we are told that Naomi had a kinsman of her husband, a man of the family of Elimelech, and his name was Boaz. This is a very important detail in the book of Ruth. This gives Boaz the right to marry Ruth and thus to raise up a family in the name of Elimelech. If we think back to chapter 1, Naomi had forgotten about Boaz. She paints a very dark picture for Ruth and her prospects of marriage in Canaan. So now, when Ruth goes out to glean, she has no idea about Boaz being this kinsman.
Second, Boaz is introduced to us as a wealthy man. This gives him the ability to marry Ruth and to redeem the land that previously belonged to Elimelech. There were two parts to the duty of the kinsman: one was to marry the wife of the deceased, the other was to purchase back his land. Boaz is wealthy, so he will be able to do this.
Third, and most importantly, Boaz is introduced to us as a godly man. We read in verse 4 that when Boaz came in the morning to his fields, he greeted his workers by saying, “The Lord be with you.” And they would answer: “The Lord bless thee.” Why does the Holy Spirit tell us this? It is because, if you are really going to know a person, this is where you will get to know them: in their personal life, in the home and in the workplace. You cannot know a person’s character by simply watching what he does on Sunday in church, for example, or observing his public life. But how does a man talk to and deal with the people in his daily life, with the people he sees every day in his home or in the workplace? What does he want for others? What are his goals for himself? Boaz says: “The Lord be with thee.” What an example, an outstanding example, of godliness.
And Boaz’s godliness comes out also in the way he deals with Ruth, who is a poor stranger. Quite easily he could have dismissed her and chased her from his fields. Instead, because he has a high regard for the law of God, he obeys the law concerning gleaning and his role in it. And because he understands the grace of God toward him as an Israelite, he remembers the stranger and the poor in the land. He does this as a wealthy man—not proud because of his wealth, but humbled at the graciousness of God to him.
Notice several things that show the godliness of Boaz.
In verse 5 he takes notice of Ruth. He asks his servants: “Whose damsel is this?” He is looking out for the poor and the stranger. In verses 8 and 9 he protects Ruth. He says to her, “Don’t glean in another field, but stay by my servants. I have charged the young men not to touch you.” There was a certain danger for a young woman to go out alone into this environment. But Boaz offers to protect Ruth. Then also he provides for Ruth. In verse 9 he tells her that when she is thirsty, she should feel free to help herself to the drinks that he has provided for his workers. And in verse 14 he asks her to join him and his servants at mealtime, and he gives a generous portion of cornbread to Ruth—so much that she has leftovers to take home to Naomi.
Then notice his godliness especially in what he observes and admires in Ruth. He had never met her before. But he had heard about her. And there are two things that he recognizes in Ruth’s character. One, her kind heart. He says, “It hath fully been shown me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother-in-law since the death of thy husband.” And, two, he recognizes Ruth’s faith, that she had come to trust under the wings of the Lord God of Israel and that, to do this, she had forsaken her own people and land. Maybe he had heard about Ruth’s wonderful confession recorded in chapter 1: “Wither thou goest, I will go; where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people; thy God, my God; where thou diest will I die and there be buried.” If he had, this is what he admired in Ruth.
What a man of godliness Boaz was.
But this chapter also shows us some things about the godly character of Ruth. What stands out is that she is a believer. In verse 12 she has come to trust under the wings of the Almighty. There is only one place for refuge. And, by God’s grace, Ruth has come to that place. What a beautiful description this is of the believer: one who trusts under the wings of God. That is a picture of the child of God, distressed, weak, and vulnerable, finding protection and safety in the Lord. In Psalm 91:4, “He shall cover thee with his feathers; and under his wings shalt thou trust.” When it says that Ruth is come to trust under Jehovah’s wings, it means that, by faith, she believed in the protection of God, the protection in the provision of Christ. It implies that she believes in the coming atonement that will be made as a covering for her sins. By faith, she has come to depend entirely on Jehovah, the God of Israel, who has become her Father.
Do you find your refuge in God? Do you trust under His wings like Ruth did? It does not matter what your burden, what threatens you, what difficult questions or circumstances you face. There is refuge in the Lord from it. He is the protector and the provider. The Word of God calls us to trust in Him. In Psalm 62:8: “Trust in him at all times ye people; pour out your heart before him.” God is a refuge for us. So the first thing we note about Ruth is that she is a woman of faith.
Then, second, notice that she is a woman of activity. Her faith takes form in her life. In verse 2 she, and not Naomi, is the one who takes the initiative to go out and get food. She is the one who does it alone. What an amazingly hard worker. She continues from morning till evening, working in the fields. That is hard work. Then, at the end of the day, she still has to beat the grain from the stalks.
She is a hard worker. That is important. Her faith shows itself in her works, in her life. Too often when we speak of faith we think of it in terms of the intellect—what a person believes. That is an important foundation, but it must not stop there. Ruth’s faith is not just what she believes. It is active. Faith without works is dead. And notice that her work of faith is nothing spectacular by human standards, but a quiet godliness and submission to the way of God for her as a poor widow and stranger.
Then also, Ruth’s godliness comes out in her love, her kindliness, towards others. In her going out to glean she shows her love and care for Naomi. Then, when she is given a portion of food, she keeps some of it, wraps it up, and brings it home to give to Naomi at the end of the day. That is found in verses 14 and 18. This is a detail that the Holy Spirit records so that we can get a glimpse into the heart of Ruth. Here she is, a newcomer, a stranger. She had to leave her family and her loved ones. But she is not feeling sorry for herself. She is not asking others to feel sorry for her. No, she is putting others before herself.
And, again, this is part of faith. If you love the Lord, you will love His people, and you will prefer others before yourself. That will show itself not in spectacular works but in the little details of your life. As a mother, you will love your children; you will go about your work serving your family. As a husband, you go off to work for the day, much as Ruth does here, because you love your wife and you think about her, and maybe there is some small token of your love expressed to her during the day. It must start there, because if you do not love one another in the closest relationships, you cannot love and you will not love others in the church or your neighbors. If we are selfish, it is going to show itself in those closest relationships.
Ruth is a woman of faith, a woman of activity, and a woman of love.
Then also, Ruth is a woman of humility. She is humble before God. And that makes her humble before men. As one who is poor, she has the right to glean, but she is not de¬manding. In¬stead, in verse 7, she says, “I pray you, let me glean and gather after the reap¬ers.” In verse 10, responding to the kindness of Boaz, she fell on her face and bowed herself to the ground, and said, “Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger?” She is grateful, and she is humble. A true believer who knows his unworthiness before God will be humble, gracious, and grateful also to others.
So you have these two portraits: Boaz and Ruth—two believers. They meet, and each takes note of the godliness of the other.
These portraits are here in Scripture for us to emulate and follow. The grace and Spirit of God that worked in Boaz and Ruth still works today in Christians to make us like Boaz and Ruth. Let us pray that God will do that.
But also this shows how God, by His Spirit, prepares these two believers, a man and a woman, for each other, to bring them together in a godly marriage. If you, as a Christian, are looking for a husband or a wife, this is the kind of person to look for, the kind of person to be—a Boaz, who, in his personal and private life, is a man of God; a Ruth, who trusts under the wings of the Almighty, who is industrious, who is loving, who is humble.
This is the beginning of the relationship of Boaz and Ruth. It will develop into marriage. But what a foundation, what a beginning. If you are unmarried, pray that God may prepare you to be godly and to look for godliness in a spouse. Favor is deceitful and beauty is vain; but a woman that fears the Lord, she shall be praised. And that is true for the man, too. Winsomeness is deceitful, strength is vain; but a man that fears the Lord, he shall be praised.
As we conclude this message, let us look to God and see His hand in these events.
Certainly it was God’s grace that produces this godliness in Boaz and Ruth. Paul says in I Corinthians 15:10, “By the grace of God, I am what I am.” That is the confession of every humble believer. We have not made ourselves to differ from others. We have nothing to boast in against others. It was grace that opened the heart of Boaz to a Moabitish stranger. It was grace that caused Ruth to ask, “Why have I found grace in thine eyes, seeing that I am a stranger?”
That is the believer’s question to God. Why should I find grace in God’s eyes? Why should He look on me, seeing I am a sinner? It is a question that shows the sovereign grace of God in salvation. Why should God save you or me or anyone of us? When Ruth asked this question, that is what she means: Why should God’s people receive me?
What is the answer? The answer is: grace—the free, sovereign, undeserved favor of God. There is nothing in me. I once was a stranger to grace and to God. But it pleased Him to choose me and to change me to be one of His children. If we can see that, then we will be truly humble. Thus God’s hand of grace is here in this history.
But also God’s hand of providence is here. In verse 3 there is a statement that should make us smile. My King James Version of the Bible says that Ruth happed, or happened, upon the field of Boaz. As she went out to glean, she just happened to end up in the fields of Boaz. Was that by chance? From a human point of view, it seemed that way. Ruth did not know Boaz’s field from any other. Naomi had forgotten that Boaz was a kinsman. Boaz had heard of Ruth, but she was a distant foreign girl. So, was it by chance? No, God was working. The characters here were not thinking and planning. But God was. He is at work in this history to bring Boaz’s and Ruth’s paths together.
In conclusion, there are three things I want to say about that.
First, in connection with finding a godly spouse, the best you can do is to be godly and to wait on God. I do not mean, if this is you, that you do not look or pray. You do that. But sometimes it just is not God’s will. And you must not run ahead of the will of God and sacrifice your godliness and your principles for your own pleasure and satisfaction. In this passage, there is no indication that either Boaz or Ruth was seeking a relation with each other or anyone. It is God’s hand, as they are living in godliness and waiting on Him, that guides them to each other.
Second, let us see God’s greater purpose in what happens here. Ruth goes to the fields of Boaz, whom she does not know, early in the morning to pick up grain for food. How mundane, how ordinary. But, you see, God is working. His purpose is to bring the Savior, Jesus Christ. And this event is a part of that great purpose. God is remembering His covenant and showing His faithfulness in this history.
And that brings me to the last thing that I want to say: This, that God is always at work in the lives of His people. In all kinds of ways that we can never see, God is working. Your way may be difficult, as difficult and humiliating as Ruth’s was here. But God was working through it for her good in a way that she could never have imagined. So also for us. That is the God under whose wings we trust. This is how He works. And this is one of the marvelous truths that we should glean from the book of Ruth.
Let us pray.
Father, make us, by Thy Spirit, to resemble the godliness of Boaz and Ruth here. And help us, in whatever our circumstances, to wait on Thee, trusting under Thy wings. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.