The Book of Ruth: Faithfulness, Loyalty, and Humility
Earlier in the story of Ruth, a stage was set for this pictorial story of redemption. Naomi, Ruth's mother-in-law, is depicted as a covenant daughter of Abraham, reduced to nothing in a foreign pagan land attempting to get back home. She is joined by a faithful and loyal companion, namely, Ruth the Moabitess, who refuses to leave Naomi's side and is committed to following Naomi's God.
This lesson will introduce Boaz, the archetype of Christ, the wealthy landowner who comes to sweep Ruth off of her feet with His sacrificial love upon their return to Naomi's homeland. Ruth's qualities and character displayed in her speech and actions will play a critical role in the reception of this divine miracle of love.
Boaz the Strong Wealthy Landowner
Ruth chapter two begins with the introduction of Boaz, whose name means "in Him is strength." The text notes him as a "kinsman" or a close relative of Elimelech, Naomi's deceased husband. Boaz's role in the story will give us a forward glance of a strong "kinsman" redeemer that comes in the future, namely the Lord Jesus Christ. It is interesting that Ruth's first husband, Mahlon, died, and his name meant "weak." Our first husband and lord, the flesh, was weak.
The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
— Matthew 26:41
Paul describes in his letter to the Ephesians, both the inner strengthening and riches that can only found by being a close relative of Christ, our redeemer.
I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man.
— Ephesians 3:14-16
Boaz was also reported to be a mighty and powerful man of wealth. The Hebrew word used for wealth in this verse is "chayil" and is a military term that also denotes ability . . .
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.
— Ephesians 3:20
. . . as well as being virtuous, upright, and full of integrity.
. . . Jesus Christ the righteous.
— I John 2:1
Ruth went out to make provision for both her and Naomi. It was a law in God's land that field owners were required to leave some of their gleanings for the poor to gather. It just so happens that the field she chose to glean in was a field that belonged to Boaz, a strong, capable, and wealthy landowner. He is also a kinsman, but Ruth doesn't know it yet. Divine Providence, perhaps? Ruth's choice of where she gleaned may have appeared to be random, but God was clearly working behind the scenes and leading her as she humbly served God and her mother-in-law.
“How blessed would it be, if, in wandering in the field of meditation to-night, our hap should be to light upon the place where our next Kinsman will reveal himself to us! O Spirit of God, guide us to him. We would sooner glean in his field than bear away the whole harvest from any other.”
— Charles Spurgeon "Morning and Evening" devotional October 27
When we surrender all things to God and do what we know to do by faith in Him, we can expect that He will be behind the scenes orchestrating good things for us.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
— Jeremiah 29:11
God Has Taken Notice
In verse five of chapter two, Boaz notices Ruth.
Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?”
— Ruth 2:5
Her being noticed by the strong, wealthy landowner is analogous to God in heaven, who owns all things, seeing us.
Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the Lord your God, also the earth with all that is in it.
— Deuteronomy 10:14
Hagar gives us an example of this when she is treated harshly by Sarah and is sent away. She finds herself desperate and alone in the wilderness pregnant with Ishamael, Abraham's child. But she discovers that her plight did not go unnoticed.
Now the Angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur . . . Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees . . .
God, the strongest and wealthiest landowner in the universe, has taken notice of our lowly condition. We can, therefore, claim like Leah, the not so loved wife of Jacob.
The Lord has surely looked on my affliction.
— Genesis 29:32
Ruth's Character and Qualities
Ruth's qualities seem to take center stage in this chapter. They are relevant examples of how we can position ourselves to be recipients of the good graces of our God and King, the strongest, most wealthy landowner in the universe.
Ruth's observed qualities also show us that even though salvation is by God's grace alone, we play a critical participating role in the reception of it.
One of the things Boaz observes about Ruth was her diligence to work, as the servant of Boaz reports.
. . . she (Ruth) said (to Boaz's servant), ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’ So she came and has continued from morning until now, though she rested a little in the house.
— Ruth 2:7
Ruth doesn't just sit back and wait for circumstances to fall into place. She does what her hand finds to do.
Whatever your hand finds to do—do it with all your might . . .
— Ecclesiastes 9:10
Humility—Paving the Road to Redemption
Boaz issues instructions to Ruth for her provision.
. . . when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink.
— Ruth 2:9
. . . reflecting the provision of the Lord Jesus.
. . . whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.
— John 4:14
Ruth responds with deep humility by falling on her face and bowing. She understood her position. As a Moabite, Boaz was under no obligation to make such lavish protection and provision. A.B Simpson writes about Ruth being a Moabitess.
"Ruth well represents the sinful state of God's redeemed people under the curse of a fallen race."
. . . and is reflective of our state outside of union with Christ. Therefore
. . . be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”
— I Peter 5:5
It is, in the same way, most necessary for us to approach our relationship with the Lord with this understanding. It is tempting to think that we are owed, entitled to, or deserving of certain things. We tend to want to believe that God is obligated to love, provide for, and protect us. It is difficult to comprehend the richness and depth of His graces in these types of prideful entitlements.
Before destruction the heart of a person is proud, but humility comes before honor.
— Proverbs 18:12
With this promise of protection also comes the expectation that Ruth should only glean in Boaz's field. There are many fields in this world to glean in, but only one field where the Lord and Master of it so generously offer us His provision and protection. To glean in otherworldly fields is dangerous, and from a spiritual perspective, it is adulterous and idolatrous. Matthew Henry writes:
"Has the Lord dealt bountifully with us? Let us not be found in any other field, nor seek for happiness and satisfaction in the creature."
An Excerpt From Spurgeon
So she gleaned in the field until even."—Ruth 2:17.
LET me learn from Ruth, the gleaner. As she went out to gather the ears of corn, so must I go forth into the fields of prayer, meditation, the ordinances, and hearing the word to gather spiritual food.The gleaner gathers her portion ear by ear; her gains are little by little: so must I be content to search for single truths, if there be no greater plenty of them. Every ear helps to make a bundle, and every gospel lesson assists in making us wise unto salvation. The gleaner keeps her eyes open: if she stumbled among the stubble in a dream, she would have no load to carry home rejoicingly at eventide. I must be watchful in religious exercises lest they become unprofitable to me; I fear I have lost much already—O that I may rightly estimate my opportunities, and glean with greater diligence. The gleaner stoops for all she finds, and so must I. High spirits criticize and object, but lowly minds glean and receive benefit. A humble heart is a great help towards profitably hearing the gospel. The engrafted soul-saving word is not received except with meekness. A stiff back makes a bad gleaner; down, master pride, thou art a vile robber, not to be endured for a moment. What the gleaner gathers she holds: if she dropped one ear to find another, the result of her day's work would be but scant; she is as careful to retain as to obtain, and so at last her gains are great. How often do I forget all that I hear; the second truth pushes the first out of my head, and so my reading and hearing end in much ado about nothing! Do I feel duly the importance of storing up the truth? A hungry belly makes the gleaner wise; if there be no corn in her hand, there will be no bread on her table; she labours under the sense of necessity, and hence her tread is nimble and her grasp is firm; I have even a greater necessity, Lord, help me to feel it, that it may urge me onward to glean in fields which yield so plenteous a reward to diligence.
— Charles Spurgeon "Morning and Evening" devotional for August 2nd.
Grace is Not an Entitlement
In verse two of chapter two, Ruth tells Naomi that she is going to seek a field to glean in with whom she finds "grace" in the landowner's sight.
And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace.
— Ruth 2:2
Ruth understands that no one technically has to let her glean. We, like Ruth, were strangers to God.
. . . at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
— Ephesians 2:12
The Pictograph Meaning of Grace
The word "grace" ("Chen") in Hebrew means "favor" and "goodwill." It also includes the elements of compassion and mercy. This word is, additionally, used in association with the concepts of covenant-making.
"Chen" consists of two Hebrew letters "chet" and "noon."
"Chet," the first letter of "chen," is depicted by a fence. This letter communicates the concept of a protected provisionary relationship. This association illustrates what a covenant does. It protects and provides. A fence also carries with it the idea of exclusivity, as we see in Boaz's command to glean only in His field. We cannot expect protection and provision if we choose to set foot outside the fenced boundaries of loyalty to our Kinsman-Redeemer, Christ.
A quick survey of all the "in Christ" statements in the New Testament is revealing. All of them point to the boundless benefits and privileges of those who are "in Christ." Those who are in Christ are those who are inside the fence of a loving, loyal relationship with Him.
Noon—Fish or Seed
The second letter of the Hebrew word for grace is "noon." Its icon is a seed and illustrates the concept of continuity and eternal life. Our physical and spiritual existence is entirely based on the grace of God alone. It was this very life that Adam and Eve lost in their fall from grace.
If we look at these two concepts jointly, we can see that grace is eternal life restored through the protected relationship with the one and Only Lord Jesus Christ. He covenanted with the Father on our behalf to qualify us once again for the grace of eternal life.
Boaz responds with His next observation, which is Ruth's faithfulness.
It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before.
— Ruth 2:11
He then beautifully graces her to be rewarded and restored. He identifies the secret to why she was willing to work so hard and why she was willing to leave what was familiar and quite possibly, previously comfortable to her.
The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.
— Ruth 2:12
God is Our Secret Place
Ruth had come to God for refuge. She did not trust in her old gods, or in what was comfortable or familiar. Nor did she not trust in her traditions. It wasn't even Naomi that she entrusted herself to. It was the God that Naomi served that she had come to believe. She found refuge in the one, and only true God as Psalm 91 so beautifully depicts.
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust . . . He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge.
— Psalm 91:1-2,4
It is only in living under the covenantal covering wings of relationship with God and forsaking all that we indeed find our refuge in Him.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!
— Matthew 23:37
We see from the above verse that we are not automatically covered. We must submit and be willing.
The secret place where we are covered by, and hidden in Him is in the boundaries of a loyal relationship with Him. This type of commitment is not a feeling. It is a sacrificial commitment to live for Him.
In the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me . . .
— Psalm 27:5
. . . as declared by the Psalmist, who looks to God alone.
The Second Posture of Humility is Gratitude
Ruth's response to Boaz is revealing, once again, of her humility in understanding her position, which incites such sincere gratitude.
“My lord,” she said, “you have been so kind to me, for you have comforted and encouraged your slave, although I am not like one of your female servants.”
— Ruth 2:13 (HCSB translation)
The NET Bible makes the observation that Ruth uses a Hebrew word "slave," generically translated "hand-maid," in most translations, referring to herself in relationship to Boaz. The NET Bible notes describe this particular word to mean the lowest level of a female servant.
She says she is one of his female servants as in
"She considered his kindness to the others as understandable but his kindness to her was pure grace."
— Liberty Bible Commentary
Is our heart filled with gratitude for His salvation, provision, and kindness? Perhaps we have never truly understood our lowly position apart from Him.
We will never fully appreciate the grace of God until we fully understand the depth of our own human depravity.
— Jesse Gardner.
Mary's song of praise is reminiscent of this as it relates to her understanding of her position and the knowledge of the redeeming life she was carrying in her womb.
"My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant (female slave); For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty.
— Luke 1:46-53
There are two postures to humility one is bowing, symbolic of our lowly position, and the other is hands raised in thanksgiving, representing our understanding and gratitude for the only one who can rescue us from that state.
The Table of Acceptance
When Ruth fully acknowledges the goodness and kindness of this lord. Boaz promotes her, by invitation, to be a dinner guest at His table.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
— Psalm 23:5
Eating with someone was a sign of acceptance, which was what the religious rulers were so upset about when Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners. (Matthew 9:11)
. . . to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
— Ephesians 1:6
It is when we humble ourselves in recognition of our lowly state before Him and acknowledge His goodness and kindness that we are in a position to be promoted.
humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.
— I Peter 5:6
Fuchsia Pickett well observes Boaz's response to Ruth's inquiry as to why she had found such favor in his eyes in her book "The Prophetic Romance."
"When Ruth asked Boaz why she had found such grace in his eyes, he did not comment on her nationality, social status, or her poverty. Rather, his response showed that he was impressed with her character, her choices and the consistency of her life. He understood that her desire for the living God had caused her to put her trust in Him. Her devotion had won his admiration.
In that same way, Our heavenly Kinsman Redeemer values and responds to our desire for Him and our devotion to Him He does not condemn us because of our unworthiness as strangers to dwell with Him. He loves us for the choices we have made to follow Him. We find grace in His eyes as we continually come to "glean" truth and life from Him for ourselves and for others in need."
His Grace Provides
Boaz's response is to make sure that Ruth is well provided for and paints us a picture of what it is like to be "favored." Verse seventeen reports that Ruth gleaned about an ephah of barley because of Boaz's instructions to his young male employees to intentionally drop some of the grain they were harvesting. An ephah was considered a weeks worth, which was good plenty considering that according to the Liberty Bible Commentary.
"The receipt of a gleaner was only enough to support a family for one day."
God depicted in the life of Boaz has granted us much more than that.
You have granted me life and favor, And Your care has preserved my spirit.
— Job 10:12
Ruth then returns to her mother-in-law with her provisions, which provokes Naomi's curiosity as to where she had gleaned. When it is revealed that Boaz is the landowner who so generously provided the gleanings, Naomi recognizes who is orchestrating these events.
“Blessed be he of the Lord, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!” And Naomi said to her, “This man is a relation of ours, one of our close relatives (kinsman redeemer).”
— Ruth 2:20
Naomi realizes that this man could very well be their salvation in the earthly sense.
Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come.
— Revelation 12:10
She realizes, also, that he may very well be the only one who can save them
Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
— Acts 4:12
The end of this chapter concludes with Ruth dwelling with her mother-in-law and continuing her good work and faithfulness.
Therefore, We conclude this lesson with Pauls's exhortation to the Galatians.
. . . let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
— Galatians 6:9
For more about Ruth and a look at our "Kinsman Redeemer" who leads and guides those who put their trust in Him please visit The Book of Ruth: Boaz the Hero.
Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, The Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God, Who teaches you to profit, Who leads you by the way you should go.
— Isaiah 48:17
© 2013 Tamarajo