In the previous chapter, Naomi left Bethlehem and went to Moab because of the famine. A decade later her husband and two sons had died, and she returned to Bethlehem with Ruth her faithful daughter in law at the beginning of the Barley Harvest.
We are now immediately introduced to the other central character, Boaz. His name means ‘in him is strength’. He is a relative and able to perform the duty of the kinsman redeemer. But Boaz exceeds the requirements of the law and shows grace. He is a type or forerunner of Messiah.
Boaz is described as a man of great wealth or man of standing though this is difficult to translate precisely. Nonetheless, Jesus the Messiah took on flesh, dwelt among us and He is our Elder Brother and our Kinsman Redeemer. He has purchased His people from Israel and from every nation through His blood shed to make atonement for sin. Our Lord has provided the means of salvation to Jewish and Gentile peoples. Our strength is in Him and He turns our mourning into joy and the joy of the Lord is our strength.
At the beginning of Barley Harvest Ruth asked Naomi if she could glean from the field. Ruth is a tremendous example for the young. She used her initiative to help Naomi. Ruth is industrious and willingly volunteers. Collecting grain is neither glamourous nor fashionable and it is back breaking work. It is good for young people to look for ways to serve and inevitably they will please the lord in so doing and be a blessing to others. A wise pastor can always find an area for a willing worker to serve in.
It appears that Ruth was also a Bible student who applied what she knew in a practical sense. If we even applied a small section of our knowledge and directed that towards godly labour, we would make ourselves useful to many. Notice that Ruth did not know exactly where she was going, but she knew what her duty was since she read the Scriptures.
Sometimes, we want the Lord to give us a sat nav, GPS system, postcode and google earth though the direction we are given is more akin to a compass and we have a degree of choice as long as we are acting in according to His Word and are obedient to Him. There are times when it is necessary to read God’s Word, pray and go about our business without endless deliberation concerning minor details.
How did Ruth know about gleaning? It is unlikely that she read Farmers Weekly since that was not in publication then. Or did she read ‘Ancient Gleaners Weekly’? Ruth would probably be familiar with Leviticus 19:9-10 and Leviticus 23:22 concerning the provision of grain for the poor and the stranger. This occurred during the feast of weeks (Shavuot).
This was God’s means of providing for the poor, strangers, widows and the fatherless. Scripture constantly affirms the godly requirement to care for the poor and this is still of vital importance today. Gleaning gave people dignity since they would labour and obtain provisions. It was an effective system and this principle could also be applied today in a variety of contexts.
There is also an eschatological aspect since this pictured salvation in the end times. Ruth’s sterling character is that of the Israelite remnant of the last days seeking the Lord and in so doing searching the Scriptures and finding His grace. Unger wrote that when the Jewish remnant returns, they will turn their back on the wealth of the world and choose the land to find ultimate blessing. In other words it takes time to discover who Boaz really is!
Can you relate to Ruth, her circumstances, or a time in your life when a change was needed? Wiersbe notes that before God changes our circumstances, He wants to change our hearts. If our circumstances change, but we remain the same, we will become worse. So often we want to have the change before we change but ultimately God is the potter.
Ruth washed, anointed herself and put on her best garment before going to the threshing floor as Naomi advised. What would it have been like to have been in Ruth’s sandals? It is a case of being in unfamiliar territory and trying to ascertain where to go next. It reminds me of my experience of orienteering. The running was no problem, but the checkpoints were hard to find even with a map. There would be boundary marks, but no family name, or signs or map. This was where she would meet her future husband. Their great-grandson of Bethlehem was David and His greater Son is our Lord. Though Yeshua was David’s Son, David called Him Lord (Psalm 110:1; c.f. Matthew 22:41-46).
It just so ‘happened’ that Ruth came to the part of the field belonging to Boaz. This clearly did not occur by a fluke occurrence and we must remember that our lives are not a series of unconnected random events that have little meaning. But do you ever feel that is the case, that everyone is dealt a hand of cards and you just have to make the best of it?
From the divine perspective it was vital that Ruth met Boaz and the Lord was acting providentially in their lives. Charles Spurgeon said that God’s sovereignty was one of His most comforting attributes. Sometimes we may feel lost, but God knows where we are and where we need to get to. If we trust, obey, and follow Him, read His Word, and pray to Him, He will guide us exactly to where we need to be since His timing is perfect. The question is whether we are like Ruth and seeking His favour and grace?