1 Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, from the clan of Elimelech, a man of standing, whose name was Boaz.
2 And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favour.” Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.” 3 So she went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech.
4 Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The Lord be with you!” “The Lord bless you!” they called back.
5 Boaz asked the foreman of his harvesters, “Whose young woman is that?”
6 The foreman replied, “She is the Moabitess who came back from Moab with Naomi. 7 She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.’ She went into the field and has worked steadily from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.”
8 So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with my servant girls. 9 Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the girls. I have told the men not to touch you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.”
10 At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed, “Why have I found such favour in your eyes that you notice me - a foreigner?”
11 Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband - how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. 12 May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”
13 “May I continue to find favour in your eyes, my lord,” she said. “You have given me comfort and have spoken kindly to your servant - though I do not have the standing of one of your servant girls.”
14 At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar.” When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over. 15 As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, "Even if she gathers among the sheaves, don’t embarrass her. 16 Rather, pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.”
17 So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah. 18 She carried it back to town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered. Ruth also brought out and gave her what she had left over after she had eaten enough.
19 Her mother-in-law asked her, “Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!” Then Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one at whose place she had been working. "The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz,” she said.
20 “The Lord bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers.”
21 Then Ruth the Moabitess said, “He even said to me, ‘Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain.’”
22 Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with his girls, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed.”
23 So Ruth stayed close to the servant girls of Boaz to glean until the barley and wheat harvests were finished. And she lived with her mother-in-law.
Last Sunday we saw how God had brought Naomi and Ruth through some very trying times. They had lost their husbands and were on a perilous journey from Moab to Bethlehem. A point made last week was that it often takes reaching the end of our tether in order to find the beginning of God. Sinful human beings don’t naturally look for God. In fact, sinners reject the idea that we need God in our lives, so He often uses the difficulties in our lives to open our eyes to the need we have of Him.
For Ruth and Naomi, it took great tragedy, but they couldn’t have imagined at the time what kind of blessings God had in store for them once they did indeed come to the end of themselves and cast their lives wholeheartedly into His caring hands.
So they arrive in Naomi’s hometown of Bethlehem and must now find a way to survive. This is where our story picks up in Ruth 2.
Since they had arrived back in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest, and food was their most basic and pressing need, Ruth began gleaning behind the reapers in a field.
Gleaning was the custom of allowing the poor to follow the reapers in the field and to quite literally help themselves to the leftovers. It was actually one of the early agricultural laws of the Hebrews. “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:9-10)
God has a heart for the poor and needy, and as believers in Jesus Christ, we should have the same sense of compassion and concern for those who have less than we do.
By gleaning the leftovers, Ruth was now able to support herself and Naomi.
Verse 3 says, “As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech.” “What a coincidence,” many would say, but the longer we walk with God, the more we begin to realise that nothing happens by chance. The providential hand of God continued to work behind the scenes in the life of Boaz and Ruth, and He continues to guide our steps – often in the most mysterious of ways, but there is no doubt that He is there.
Boaz was a relative of Elimelech, Naomi’s late husband. He was a landowner, so he was wealthy, and as we read the rest of the book of Ruth we also learn that he was a man of integrity. He had a good standing in the community.
He was also a man of God who looked after his staff very well. And we also know that the moment he met Ruth, there was a spark of romance – it was love at first sight, if you like.
We need to remember that Ruth was a foreigner, and she had no husband to protect her, so she was particularly vulnerable, but Boaz made certain that she was provided for and protected from harm. She was welcome to stay in his field for as long as she needed.
Her life had taken a remarkable turn, and she shares this good news with Naomi that evening when she returns home.
And as it turns out, Boaz is a close relative – a kinsman-redeemer to them. We’ll get into more detail on this next week.
Naomi was still responsible for Ruth, and she gives Ruth her blessing to stay close to Boaz.
And so we have quite a turn of events from the first chapter of Ruth’s story. Chapter one seemed very sad and discouraging. But chapter two unfolds with tremendous promise. One of the highlights of course, is the beginning of a human love interest between Boaz and Ruth. But behind the scenes of this developing love story, it is God who is romancing Ruth into a relationship with Him.
God is demonstrating through the person of Boaz His own love for her, and the love He has for all people with hopeful hearts.
Boaz was certainly interested in this young woman, so he asked around about her. Today we would call it Facebook stalking, but he simply had to find out more about her. Verses 11 and 12: “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband - how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”
Remember that Ruth had taken a tremendous risk in choosing to leave her homeland of Moab, and so Boaz blessed her for taking care of her mother-in-law. It was a kind and considerate thing to do. She was working hard to provide the two of them. Boaz prayed a blessing on her hard work because he recognised Ruth’s sacrifice as a godly sacrifice.
Boaz uses a wonderful metaphor to describe how she now came under the protection of God: “Under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”
It’s an image used often in Scripture, especially in the Psalms. “How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.” (Psalm 36:7)
“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” (Psalm 57:1)
“Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” (Psalm 63:7-8)
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ Surely He will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” (Psalm 91:1-4)
What is it like under the wings of God?
The answer to this question can be found in the gentle care of Boaz for Ruth. His blossoming love for her gives us a wonderful model of the gentle love of God.
Just as Boaz took particular interest in Ruth, so God takes special notice of you.
Ruth was poor, she was a foreigner, and she was extremely vulnerable. So are we.
“For God so loved the world…” Yes, He does, but He also loves you as an individual, unique person, created in His image. God is not some remote, disinterested deity. He’s not watching you from a distance, as Bette Midler famously sang. He is a loving Father who is intimately aware and interested in even the small things in your life. Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Boaz said something very interesting to Ruth in verse 8: “Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here.” He knew where she would be safe, just as God knows what is best for us.
The sinful human heart rejects God. It rejects the mere thought of staying close to Him, but once we have seen and experienced His love, He changes our hearts desires, and wants us to stay under His protection.
Just as Boaz asked Ruth to stay in his field, God does the same with us.
Our human relationships require effort and sacrifice, and so does our relationship with God. He will give us the tools we need to stay close to Him, but we have to ask Him to give us the inner desire to spend time with Him on a personal level through prayer and through His Word.
The Church has a vital role to play here as well. We are the Church. We’re a family, and this is a principle we need to nurture. This is not a place we come to for an hour a week. The Body of Christ is a place we can call home. God has placed you in this time and this place for a specific purpose. If you don’t know what role you should be playing in the life and witness of the Church, you need to find out what it is. There’s an old saying that God does not call the equipped. He equips the called, but there’s a caveat to that. He will only equip us if we respond to His call. Until such time as we understand the role He has called us to in the Church, we will remain nothing more than spectators, rather than participants in the unfolding story of salvation.
Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Remember that Church is not somewhere we go. It is something we are, and it is something we do.
Boaz protected Ruth from harm by encouraging her to stay with his female workers and ordered the male workers to leave her alone.
God takes care of us. He preserves Christians from ultimate and final destruction, because we are now protected by the saving power of the blood of Christ.
We know that Christians are not exempt from troubles in this life. We see and experience hardships all the time, but we have the promise in Jesus that these things will pass.
As we saw last week, there are times when God allows hardship for a greater purpose of our good, for the good of the Christian cause, and for His glory.
We sang the words of Isaiah 43 earlier: “This is what the Lord says - He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.”
In verse 9 Boaz says to Ruth, “whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.” Those words point us directly to the promise Jesus makes in Revelation 21:6-7. “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”
And Revelation 22:17, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.”
God quenches the thirst of every weary soul who comes to Him, and He feeds us with the eternal bread of life.
Verse 18 tells us that after Ruth and Naomi had eaten, they had barley to spare. God pours blessings into our lives, and just as David wrote in Psalm 23, our cups overflow with His blessings.
A child of God who depends on Him to provide our spiritual needs will not go hungry. I think it’s really only in eternity that we will finally understand that truth, but for now we hold onto the promise that He does provide for us.
He gave the Israelites manna every day as they wandered in the desert for 40 years, and now He has given us Jesus Christ, the bread of life.
When we stay under His protection and seek His will for us in the life and witness of the Church, we find that He strengthens and blesses the work that we do. If you were at our Ascension Day service on Thursday, you’ll remember I said that nothing the Christian does is secular. It’s all holy. It’s all sacred, because it’s for Him that we work.
And just as Boaz instructed his men to leave extra stalks of barley for Ruth to pick up, so God blesses the work of our hands. He doesn’t to do all the work for us, because we are called to work with Him, but when we honour Him in our daily lives (our so-called ‘secular’ lives), He rewards us with extra gleanings and blessings. He makes all things sacred when we do even the seemingly menial things for His glory.
The apostle Paul understood this principle very well. In 1 Corinthians 15:58 he wrote, “Stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.”
In the story of Boaz we see a physical picture of the way God sometimes moves in our lives as He woos us and draws us into this love relationship He created us for.
Is there a Boaz in your life today who is demonstrating to you in very tangible ways the love of God? People who love us and reflect the love of God are precious gifts to us, and we need to treasure those people.
And perhaps more importantly, are you being a Boaz to others? Does the way you interact with others, especially those closest to you reflect the love of Jesus?
What we say and do is a reflection of who we are and what our values are. If we have been changed by the grace of God, that should show. There should be evidence of a changed heart.
And if it does show, it will be noticed by others.
As the Church, as Christians we have been given the responsibility and awesome privilege of taking the message of hope in Jesus into our world. 2 Corinthians 5:20 says, “We are Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
The thing is that we are all like Ruth. Hungry, afraid, lost and vulnerable in a foreign land. We need Jesus to protect and guide us. But once we have recognised our great need and have turned to Him for grace and mercy, we are also to be like Boaz. God wants to use every Christian as a Boaz to a wandering Ruth out there. You have a role to play in the life and witness of the Church.
Who are the Ruths in your life, and how are you to bring the truth of Jesus Christ into their lives?
Homegroup Study Notes
Read Ruth chapter 2.
With the benefit of knowing the end of the story, we know it was no coincidence that Ruth found herself gleaning in Boaz’s field.
How have you experienced the provision of God without being aware of His guidance at the time?
The story of Boaz and Ruth goes much deeper than a human love story.
Using Boaz as an example, discuss the way that God romances each of us into the love relationship He created us for.
Read Boaz’s words again in verses 8-9, 11-12 and 14.
How do these statements speak about the promises God has made to us?
How is Boaz’s field and his instructions to his workers a picture of the modern-day Church?
How can the Church involve more of its members in the various ministries God has called us to?
In which ways are we like Ruth? And Boaz?
Who are the Ruth’s and Boaz’s that God has brought into your life?