Sunday 18 October
Ruth 2 New International Version
Ruth Meets Boaz in the Grain Field
Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, a man of standing from the clan of Elimelek, whose name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabite 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.” So she went out, entered a field and began to glean behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she was working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelek. Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The Lord be with you!” “The Lord bless you!” they answered. Boaz asked the overseer of his harvesters, “Who does that young woman belong to?” The overseer replied, “She is the Moabite who came back from Moab with Naomi. She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.’ She came into the field and has remained here from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.” 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 the women who work for me. Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.” At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She asked him, “Why have I found such favour in your eyes that you notice me — a foreigner?” 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. 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.”
Message: - God’s provision never stops!
Last week we saw it was Ruth and Naomi providing for each other and God having his hand in that provision too. This week we continue with the same basic theme of God providing for them, and by extension for us too. Ruth goes to glean in the fields. The Jewish custom was to leave a strip of uncut harvest at the edges of the field. Whilst it was a generous act, it has to be borne in mind that within that strip there were likely to be a high number of weeds encroaching from the outside contaminating the grain and reducing its value. In hard times the ears of grain that fell from the stalks were also picked up by poor people like Ruth.
When Boaz arrives in the field, he notices Ruth, as we see in verse 5 “Who does that young woman belong to?”. Before we continue to look at the passage, can I take a little digression to point out that today is Anti-Slavery Sunday! You may think slavery was abolished generations ago but it is still happening in this country today and it is something we need to pray against with all of our hearts. In 2013 there were 99 identified cases of human trafficking into the UK, mostly children and young women either for cheap crop pickers or for the sex trade. By last year, that had increased to over 500 and that is only the people the authorities have found out about. So please remember to pray about this.
Turning back to our reading then. Boaz jumps to the conclusion that Ruth is someone’s slave or an indentured servant. When he is told who she is, he instantly knows about Ruth as she has earned a good reputation for herself. Boaz in turn provides for Ruth. He makes sure she is safe, brings her to eat with the harvesters and makes sure she has water to drink. This is because he knows that he is a kinsman of Naomi and is under obligation to provide for her. He therefore provides for Ruth, knowing that because of her reputation he will be providing for Naomi too. This is what I mentioned last week, Boaz is a Kinsman Redeemer, a close family member who takes the place of a husband when no son is there to care for their mum. There is a hierarchy to this, first the husband’s brothers should marry the widow, or the sons, beginning with the eldest have to take care of mum. Naomi has none of these options so it falls to cousins.
Seeing the kindness Boaz is showing towards herself, Ruth then asked him, why! She actually bows down and says “Why have I found such favour in your eyes that you notice me — a foreigner?”. Is this because she is so humble or, has she a low opinion of herself, or both I wonder? Boaz outlines her positive reputation earned by looking after Naomi. Then he prays a blessing on her. In verse 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".
Do you have a reputation I wonder? When we are confident in the love that God has for us and see the provision, that he lavishes on us, for what it really is, I have no doubt we will earn a much higher reputation too. Because then, we will be acting in our capacity as princes and princesses of Heaven and will be blessing those around us out of the blessing God gives us!
We will be doing that for no reason other than to honour God for his provision for us. Then we will come to know that we can’t out give a giver and we will see as an absolute truth that there can be no doubt that God is a giver. Did he not give us his one and only begotten son? I will leave you to tally up the things that God has blessed you with.
It is to Him we come in our worship and in our prayers. May we recognise the provision of God for us as we, like Ruth, come to take refuge under God’s wings. Amen