Ruth Part 2
Reid A Ferguson
Ruth 2; Romans 4:1–13; Galatians 3:7–9
Last time we began our look at the book of Ruth with this idea in mind: It serves as a pageant communicating the incredible wonder of how it is Gentile Believers get grafted into, and become heirs of, the promises of Abraham.
The Apostle Paul unpacks this idea various places like what we just had read for us out of Romans – or this, from Galatians 3:7-9
Galatians 3:7–9 ESV / Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
And a great deal of that foreseen blessing of the nations through Abraham – is opened up to us in this little book of Ruth.
Now in Ch. 2, Ruth in the narrative becomes a type of the Gentile Believer in receiving salvation. And Boaz, who we get introduced to, takes on the cast of the Messiah. We’ll see how this unfolds much more in Chapters 3 & 4.
As we saw in chapter 1, this wonderful Jewish woman Naomi with her husband and 2 sons had migrated about 50 miles away from their home in Bethlehem to Moab due to a famine.
In the Gentile land of Moab, Naomi’s husband and 2 sons died, leaving her with her 2 widowed daughters-in-law. And of these 2, Ruth, decides to go back with Naomi to her homeland, town, people and God – and make them her own.
We saw this as a paradigm for conversion. But it’s only the beginning. There is much more to come.
Chapter 2 then continues the narrative.
Ruth 2:1–3 ESV / 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.
Having arrived back at home, the next order of business was of course to find a means of sustenance.
As the text says, Naomi had a relative, an in-law on her husband’s side, named Boaz.
The ESV says Boaz was a “worthy” man. The idea being he was noble, respected, a man of integrity. Interestingly the word translated “worthy” here (used 159 times in the OT) is almost always translated as “warrior”, “hero” or “mighty.”
One commentator said that it conjures up ideas of a noble knight like one of King Arthur’s knights. Accordingly, one Jewish tradition holds that Boaz was in fact Ibzan, one of the Judges of Israel mentioned in Judges 12.
Judge? And perhaps a word of explanation about these “Judges” is in order.
You will recall the 1st vs. of Ruth begins telling us the events of Ruth took place “In the days when the judges ruled.”
Well just who were these “judges” and what did they do? They were not what we think of when we think of those who sit on a bench as part of our judicial system handing down legal decisions. The function of these Judges is given to us in Judges 2:16-19
These were valiant men God raised up to lead the nation both in repentance and to break the oppression from other people groups the Israelites suffered when they backslid from their fidelity to God. The book of Judges names 13 of these – some of whose names would be familiar like Samson, Gideon, Deborah and – Ibzan of Bethlehem.
Whether or not Boaz and Ibzan are one and the same, the language used here of Boaz indicates that same kind of heroic character and reputation in his community. And it is in his fields that Ruth gleaned in (vs. 3).
Gleaning? A word about gleaning here is in order as well.
God had instituted a most wonderful sort of welfare system in Israel. It worked like this: As a chiefly agricultural society, farmers were required by God’s law not harvest every little bit that they could from their crops. See: Leviticus 19:9-10.
The idea was this: Society needed to make conscious provision for the poor and unfortunate. But! that provision also had to preserve the dignity of those in need.
By making sure there was food for them to gather – and then letting them gather it.
We all know that one who subsists on mere handouts soon loses respect both in their own eyes and in the eyes of others. But if they could work for it in some fashion, they had something to show for their labor. They could go home that night knowing they had worked, and with the self-respect that comes with having provided for their families honestly. It was an exceedingly compassionate system which prevented anyone from merely becoming idle: You had to go glean for yourself. And, it kept the wealthier from failing to show compassion or being too greedy while providing for the necessary food and the dignity of those in need.
So Ruth went to glean for Naomi and herself. Ruth 2:4-9
Ruth 2:4–9 ESV / 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.”
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.”
Boaz comes to check on his workers, and notices a new face among the crowd.
When he asks about who she is, the head of the reaper squad fills him in that this is Naomi’s Moabite daughter-in-law, and that she’s been knocking herself out all day out in the fields.
At this point, Boaz approaches Ruth and tells her to be sure to do all her gleaning in his fields only. That he’ll make sure no one treats her poorly because she’s a foreigner – and that she can get water like anyone else. That she’s to consider herself no less a part of the rest who are out there.
Ruth responds: Ruth 2:10 ESV / 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?”
Why have you taken such careful notice of one who really doesn’t belong?
Boaz replies: Ruth 2:11–12 ESV / 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!”
And Ruth says: Ruth 2:13 ESV / 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.”
She is more than gratified at his kindness. And she calls it for what it is. She does not think herself in any way deserving of such care and attention. She has no sense of entitlement. Not even on account of her connection to Naomi.
In fact she uses an unusual word here for servant – it is a diminutive meaning she is the very lowest of servants.
But Boaz isn’t done yet. Ruth 2:14–17 ESV / 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. 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.
Boaz hasn’t just taken notice of Ruth, he now goes out of his way to bless her:
He invites her to eat with him…
He invites her to dip her morsel in the wine – so she is not just taking a break, she is joining the meal like one of the closest associates…
She doesn’t just eat, she eats until she is satisfied with leftovers…
And then she went back to work. She didn’t consider her new found favor as any kind of exemption from labor…
And Boaz makes even more provision for her – not just to glean from what isn’t reaped, but to have unfettered access to the crop.
Ruth 2:17–23 ESV / 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. 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 returns to Naomi with more than 30 pounds of barely which would not only be a huge provision for them – but left them with an amount to sell and produce some income.
Naomi is pretty savvy. She knows full well that Ruth has come home with an inordinate haul for the day. And so she probes.
Once it’s revealed that Boaz is behind it all, Naomi finally catches a glimpse of God’s hand at work after all. Then she recollects that Boaz is one of those in her husband’s family who would have first rights to purchase the land and give them some real relief.
So she tells Ruth to continue to take advantage of Boaz’s good graces.
As last time, let’s just reflect on these events by making some pertinent observations – but especially in light of what I mentioned earlier – how this book becomes a pageant of sorts explicating the grace of God in extending salvation to Gentile believers.
It was a saying by among the Puritans that the OT was the illustration book for the doctrines of the NT and Ruth is a spectacular example of that very concept.
But for today I want us to consider just 2 outstanding things opened up for us in this chapter: The Providence of God, and the Provision of God.
And we need to see each of these in two respects: God’s providence in both natural and spiritual things, as well as God’s provision in both natural and spiritual things.
Observation 1: God’s Providence.
Much like the book of Esther, God is not front and center in Ruth. But His pervasive behind-the-scenes activity is. And this is such an important reality for Christians to grasp in every generation and in all of our circumstances.
We may not SEE God at work overtly, but He is there and behind all things concerning us. This is what is known theologically as God’s “Providence.”
Providence is normally defined in Christian theology as the unceasing activity of the Creator whereby, in overflowing bounty and goodwill (Ps. 145:9 cf. Mt. 5:45–48), he upholds his creatures in ordered existence (Acts 17:28; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3), guides and governs all events, circumstances and free acts of angels and men (cf. Ps. 107; Jb. 1:12; 2:6; Gn. 45:5–8), and directs everything to its appointed goal, for his own glory (cf. Eph. 1:9–12). J. I. Packer, “Providence,” ed. D. R. W. Wood et al., New Bible Dictionary (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 979.
So it is we can see first how God’s providences Ruth led to producing King David from the mixed Jewish/Gentile bloodline.
We can only go back a tiny bit here but just look at some of the key events.
The famine in Bethlehem.
The decision of Elimelech to move to Moab.
Elimelech’s death and his sons marrying Moabite women.
The sickliness and weakness of the sons leading to their early deaths.
The bond between Ruth and Naomi.
The end of the famine in Bethlehem.
Ruth’s insistence to return with Naomi.
Ruth’s just “happening” to glean in Boaz’s field.
Boaz just happening to show up when Ruth is there.
Boaz being single and wanting to marry Ruth.
The other possible redeemer unwilling to take up the duty.
Ruth’s giving birth to Obed.
All of these events must be woven together to bring about God’s plan – and it is astounding.
How much had to be orchestrated to bring these specific results to fruition.
For the Believer, nothing in all of life is merely accidental or happenstance. The hand of God is behind everything.
That doesn’t mean everything is automatically good in and of itself. But it DOES mean nothing is random and that God is using every detail of our lives as part and parcel of bringing about His plan.
We get a peek at this in the time, way and place of the very crucifixion of Jesus in Acts 4 – Listen to how the early Church prayed in that regard and applied it to how God was governing even their persecution and suffering: Acts 4:24–28 ESV / And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “ ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’— for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.
The political scene had to be just so.
The religious scene as well.
The specific time in history to accommodate the events needed, and what led up to them.
The individual players each disposed to act as they did – and this by their own free will!
And all of this fulfilling the prophecies God had made over hundreds, thousands of years – and then all coming together in these connected moments.
But it is no less astounding when each of us looks back over the events which conspired to bring each of us to Christ.
Think of the massive string of genetic mixtures that ended up producing the unique you.
And then the experiences and events in life that led you to being ready to hear and receive the Gospel when and where you did.
The circumstances which all had to be arranged to have the right persons, the right environment, the right time in your life, the right state of mind, and the moving of the Spirit to open your eyes to your sin and the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross – that you might be saved.
No one comes to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ by accident.
Think of Zacchaeus coming to salvation – How Jesus happened to be in Jericho on a certain day and Zacchaeus just happened to hear that the Jesus he had heard about was coming near, and how being a short man he climbed up into a particular tree to see Jesus who just happened to be passing under that tree and then noticed him and called him down: It is in that framework Jesus says “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
And so He sought and saved everyone of you here who know Him by faith. And so He is seeking and ready to save those of you here today who do not yet believe.
It is no accident you are here. It is no happenstance that you were invited, or drawn or prompted or simply decided to come.
No bit of luck that events in your life, your present state of mind and needs brought you to hear that Jesus died for your sins and promises to cleanse you from all of your guilt and shame and give you everlasting life as you trust Him as your sin-bearer – having accomplished all that is needed for you to be reconciled to the Father.
No chance thing that this Church has been here since the 1940’s preaching the Gospel. That I am here today by God’s commission to announce to you the good news of God’s saving grace in the cross of Jesus Christ.
Just as we can trace God’s providence, His personal superintendence over those things and experiences which impacted Ruth’s and Naomi’s lives from the beginning – so we can for ourselves as well.
I love how Scripture highlights it in Ruth 2:3 ESV / 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.
She just “happened” to end up in Boaz’s field.
Just “happened”. Yeah, right!
Christians learn to trust in the all pervasive, wondrous providence of God in their lives. Knowing how Ephesians 1:11 is the absolute truth:
Ephesians 1:11 ESV / In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,
Oh the glorious providences of God! It is one of the reasons why we know that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” Rom. 8:28-29a
But we also need to issue a warning here – because this doctrine can be both misunderstood and abused.
How? It is: The danger of interpreting God’s providences apart from the revelation of His character and will contained in Scripture.
This is where Naomi erred so painfully at the beginning.
She read the events of the famine, and the deaths of her husband and sons as God’s hand being AGAINST her personally. That God was either punishing her for something, or that He had taken an arbitrary stance against her.
We can so easily do the same. Christians sometimes will try to read events in their lives as though they are omens to be interpreted on their own.
So the sudden appearance of and re-connection to – an old flame on Facebook becomes an indication that God has brought a new relationship into life to fill present void.
This week, I had hoped to fly to Texas for one day to attend the funeral of someone who held a very special place in my heart and life.
Plane tickets bought, rental car and hotel arrangements made – and without recounting the litany of events – after nearly 6 hours in the Rochester airport, unable to go.
Now how should I interpret that?
God didn’t want me to fly that day? Nothing in Scripture prohibits it.
God didn’t want me flying through Chicago?
God didn’t want me connecting thru Dallas?
God didn’t want me flying American?
God didn’t want me using E-Z Rent-a-Car, or staying the San Antonio Howard-Johnsons?
God didn’t want me at that funeral?
I don’t know. I don’t need to know. Endless speculation like that is fruitless and can drive you crazy.
THIS is what I know: The God who loves me and intends to conform me to the image of His Son decided to block every effort to get there. And trying to discern any “why?” behind it is an utterly foolish way to try and live life.
HE knows why. HE knows best. And that is sufficient.
We are not to be superstitious interpreters of Providences like secret omens. We live according the revelation He has given us in His Word.
Observation 2: God’s Provision.
Once again we are looking at 2 aspects here – the natural and the spiritual.
Naturally, look how God had provided food in Moab when the famine struck Bethlehem.
How God provided wives for Naomi’s 2 sons after Elimelech’s death – and how those wives loved her. Especially the extraordinary Ruth.
How God provided bounty in Bethlehem after the famine.
How God gave Naomi such an extraordinary companion in Ruth.
How God provided gleaning laws hundreds of years earlier so that Naomi and Ruth could find sustenance though all alone.
The provision of a sympathetic community to come back to.
Boaz’s field to glean in.
Water and protection for Ruth as she gleaned.
Inordinate bounty in her gleaning.
A kinsman redeemer in Boaz who will take these 2 under his wing and marry Ruth.
And a grandson who will bless Naomi in her old age, as well as lead to the greatest King Israel would ever know.
No, there is no doubt Naomi and probably Ruth would have worked things out a different way if they had had their druthers at the time – but wasn’t God faithful to provide every step of the way?
And who here today cannot say the very same?
Maybe you didn’t have a Dad, or had a creep or a schnook of one .
Maybe your Mom was more like Joan Crawford in “Mommie Dearest.”
Maybe you didn’t have the opportunities you had wished or the schooling, jobs or relationships you could have wanted.
But you are here today in this house of worship to hear the Word of God along with God’s people because God saw to it you were somehow clothed, fed, protected in life to live this long, and given sight, hearing, breath and life.
And above all He has provided you with the Gospel of Jesus Christ which is able to save your soul, grant you eternal life and holds the promise of a day not only of full provision but of abundance your wildest imagination is incapable of conceiving.
But even more, and especially in connection with the immediate text of Ruth: I might even argue as the centerpiece of this chapter – Is the provision for salvation in the Messiah, being the very same provision for both Jew and Gentile.
Each of us are dependent upon His grace. Salvation comes no other way.
Naomi is just as dependent upon grace here as is Ruth – and Ruth’s provision is tied absolutely together with Naomi’s.
The picture being painted for us in this book and so exquisitely teased out in the mutual provision of both Ruth and Naomi is: That the Gospel is God’s singular provision for salvation for both Jew AND Gentile alike!
There are not different means of salvation for different people groups – but one and only one provision – and that, sufficient and applicable to all.
So Romans 1:16–17 ESV / For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
And 1 Corinthians 1:22–24 ESV / For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
And Romans 3:29–30 ESV / Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.
God makes His gracious, amazing provision for our salvation through the Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ, and yet does so through the provision that He also makes through this Gentile Moabitess, Ruth. Astounding!
And so here, in this little book, more than 1000 years before the Messiah is born, God’s mutual provision for the salvation of Jews and Gentiles together, Scripture expounds itself: Ephesians 2:11-20
Ephesians 2:11–20 ESV / Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,
Since He, Jesus Christ then is God’s only provision for salvation and reconciliation to Himself – the question is: Have you taken Him as YOUR provision – by faith in His atoning work on the Cross alone?