Friday, August 20, 2021

Ruth 2                                                                                             210815

Our God always has a plan. Unlike us, Our Father does not wake up in the morning thinking, “I wonder what is going to happen today.” In fact he does not wake up because he does not sleep. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.  (Psalm 121:3-4)

The story of Ruth teaches us that God knows where we are and what we are doing every moment of our lives. God did not look around one day and say, “Where did Elimelech get off to now?” God did not discover that, to his surprise, Elimelech had died and was buried in Moab, or that he had left Naomi with two sons and two daughters-in-law.

From the beginning of the universe our God has a perfect plan. We can listen to (Isaiah 45:4-6) “I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me. I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, 6 that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other.”

Our God not only has a plan He has a process and a purpose. Ruth was chosen by God to be the only Gentile woman in the genealogy of Jesus, his son and our Saviour. If he can put Ruth in place so she can end up in the grain fields of Boaz and become the great-grandmother of David the King -- our God will meet all our needs.

A couple of weeks ago we looked at the first chapter of Ruth. Let’s review that first chapter. I believe it is a biographic account looking back during the early days of King David’s reign.

The writer, who is unknown to us (God is ultimately the author), wants us to understand the location and point in time when the story was set. The characters in the beginning of the story are limited to Elimelech, Naomi (his wife) and their two sons.

There is a famine in the region of Bethlehem and Elimelech took his small family and traveled about 10 days away where the food situation was better. Today, that distance would not be a problem because your family car would reduce the time traveled to about 2 or 3 hours.

The period of time was extremely hard. The record of Judges tells us, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25). Political chaos was the social atmosphere and may have contributed to the willingness to immigrate. The nation of Moab was made up of the descendants of incest between Abraham’s nephew, Lot, and his oldest daughter. That was after the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. The Moabites were enemies of the Israelites and tried to destroy them while they were travelling through the wilderness. During the time of the judges Moab were one of the nations who ruled over Israel. The situation must have been very bad for Elimelech to take his family to Moab. It must have been hard to allow their two sons to marry Moabite women. After the family settled in Moab Elimelech died. The two sons had married and also died leaving Naomi with two young widows. The three widows had little to look forward to. If they had been Israelites the Law of Moses would have required the nearest male relative to take the widow as a wife and protect her and raise up children in the name of the deceased. (Deuteronomy 25:5). Since the young widows were Moabites they were not required to follow the Law of Moses.

Naomi was in no mood to trust God in her situation. Ruth and Orpah had a very loving relationship with Naomi. At the same time, she urged them to return to their family because staying in Moab seemed to be the only way they would find new husbands. Orpah choose to go back to her family but Ruth would not. Instead Ruth gave an eloquent oration of loyalty to Naomi. “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” (Ruth 1:16-17). Generosity and loyalty are themes shown throughout this wonderful little story.

When the two women got to Bethlehem the women of the town were amazed. They were the talk of the town! In reply to the question, “Is this Naomi?” She answered, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?” (Ruth 1:21).

“Naomi” means “Pleasant” and “Mara” means “Bitter”. In Ruth’s confession of faith was a rejection of the Moabite god, Chemosh! Ruth surrendered her life to Naomi and the true God, “Yahweh”.

She was in so much pain that she could not imagine Ruth as an asset. We will see about that.

The writer gives us a hint of what to expect with the last sentence in chapter one, “And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.”

There were two things Naomi and Ruth had to have: food and family. I believe they had gleaned for food in the fields of Moab. I am sure it was hard work. Even dangerous work. When we look at the words of Boaz he refers to Ruth needing protection. So they knew how to “get by” but there was certainly no future in that.

Chapter two begins with, “Now Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. (Ruth 2:1) Ruth and Naomi may have discussed the closest relatives but we are not told that. This information may have been added by the person who wrote the account. Naomi’s comment, “I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty,” certainly indicates she had no assets. That should have included Ruth. In reality Ruth was her only asset. But Naomi did not give Ruth any consideration. So Ruth takes it upon herself. 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.”

It just so happens that she was looking for a man in whose sight she would find favor. Coincidence would have it, or, many would say, “As luck would have it.” I don’t believe in chance or luck. I believe in providence!

God had provided for gleaning in the Law of Moses. One of the laws of compassion allowed for the poor to glean after the harvesters. “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.

This is a practice still recognized in many countries where crops are harvested by hand.

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. (Ruth 2:3) Apparently, Ruth was not looking for Boaz’s field she was just looking for food for her and her beloved Naomi. She happened to come to a field belonging to Boaz. It just happened! I don’t think so. Neither do I think Ruth planned to arrive in Boaz’s field. I believe God guided her there.

At the same time, “And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you!” And they answered, “The Lord bless you.”

Not, it just happened that Boaz arrived while Ruth was gleaning in his field. Again I believe God’s unseen hand guided her.

Bill Gaither told it this way: “There is an unseen hand to me. That leads through ways I cannot see. While going through this world of woe this hand still leads me as I go.”

Note the greetings “The Lord be with you” and “The Lord bless you.”

What a great place to work! Owner and crew looking to God for direction. After the greetings Boaz and his foreman got to the important management issues. Instead, Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” 6 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. 7 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 2:5-7). Not, “Who is the young woman?” but “Whose young woman is this?” The difference is subtle. Boaz did not want to know who she was he wanted to know who she belonged to. 

Boaz checked with his crew and gave them instructions then he approached her. “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. 9 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.” 10 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?” (Ruth 2:8-10).

Boaz instructed his crew, male and female, to keep Ruth from harm and to make sure she had all she needed. She knew that this was not common practice. She was bold enough to ask, “Why”.

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. 12 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!” 13 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.” (Ruth 2:11-13). Ruth’s loyalty paid off in real dividends. She could see that she was being treated like one of his servants and not like a poor foreigner.

Boaz went a step further. 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. 15 When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. 16 And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.” (Ruth 2:14-16)

At the end of the day Boaz and his crew ate together. He invited Ruth to join in the meal. He even served her with his own hands. At the end of the day Ruth beat out the grain she had gathered. It came to about an ephah of barley. That would be about eleven 2 liter bottles full.

Naomi was excited about Ruth’s harvest. Obviously, someone had blessed her. Naomi 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.” 20 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.” 21 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.’ ” 22 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.” 23 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.

Barley harvest usually began about mid-April and wheat harvest extended to mid-June—a period of intense labor for about two months. This generally coincided with the seven weeks between Passover and Pentecost.

For seven weeks, or so, Ruth was working in the fields of Boaz alongside his young women. During that time her reputation was growing. Later Boaz would call her a worthy woman. That same phrase is used to describe the excellent wife of Proverbs 31. No doubt he was taken by her and did not know exactly what to do about it. This may have been one explanation of why he was not married already. Of course he was not married because God was holding him in reserve to become the great-grandfather of David the King.

Boaz pictures Jesus who, “had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:17), Jesus redeemed those who (1) were slaves to sin What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:15–18), (2) had lost all earthly privilege in the Fall, and (3) had been alienated by sin from God All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:18–21).

Boaz stands in the direct line of Christ. This turn of events marks the point where Naomi’s human emptiness (Ruth 1:21) begins to be refilled by the Lord. Her night of earthly doubt has been broken by the dawning of new hope.

Have you recognized your need for a redeemer? One who can buy you back from the fields of this age and allow you to work alongside those who are servants of the King of the Universe? See how a citizen of a foreign nation can become a member of the people of God? Have you trusted Jesus as your Lord?

All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2016. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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