We're going to be moving into part two of our four-part series on the book of Ruth. And so, next Sabbath we will be in Ruth 3, and the next week we'll be in Ruth 4. It's a little book with only four chapters. It's only one of two books of the Bible named after a woman. I hope you can be here for the whole series.
I want you to imagine yourself as poor, about as poor as Job's dog. And you have just immigrated into a new land with basically the clothes on your back. You are young and impoverished and you are hungry. To make things worse, you are a woman, and even worse, a widow. Death has robbed you of your husband. In Bible days it was hard for a woman to get a job. To make matters even worse you must somehow also provide for your elderly mother-in-law. So, you've got a problem. The odds are against you. You are a gentile in a land filled with Jews. It's not easy for Ruth. You put yourself in her position. She had a tough row to hoe.
Ruth woke up one morning with these problems on her heart and She decided to go out and do something about it. Now, I admire that about Ruth. You don't want to lie in bed and say, "Oh it's bad." You want to get up and do something about your problem. That's what we should do. If we are going to succeed we must stop bemoaning our troubles and get out and do something about the problem.
Come over to Ruth 2:2. 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 favor." Naomi said to her, "Go ahead, my daughter." There was a younger difference here. Naomi was older. Ruth was younger.
Now, if you were heading out that morning, where would you head? Would you head to the dumpster behind Bethlehem? Would you head To the welfare office? Would you head to the Priest at the church for a handout? She headed off to the farm fields to work! I admire Ruth for that. A good work ethic will almost always lead to prosperity. In fact, the Bible says in Proverbs 12:11, Hard work means prosperity - New Living Translation. You how me the person who works hard, unless there's been some very unfortunate law-suit or some adverse circumstance, most of the time hard work pays off. The Bible says that it does. The church today needs more Ruths. Ruth was a good person. She walked in, she said, "I'm going to roll up my sleeves and I'm going to do something about this." We need people in the church like Ruth: people who come to church and who don't sit back and say,"Well, I wish they would use me for something around here." Attend the funerals. Attend the functions of the church. Look around and see if there aren't some needs that you could begin to do. Maybe you could cook for a meal. Maybe you could help in the children's department. There are plenty of opportunities for you. Just be like Ruth, and get out there find those opportunities. Seek involvement. Find your field. God has an answer to your problem. Get out and seek it.
The lowest position of the labor workers in that day was that of the gleaner. They were poor and outcast. The reapers were the king, then you go down and you get to the harvester, and then you get to the gleaner. They were usually the poor and the outcasts. They had to be humble. They were migrants, many of them. Ruth was humble! A migrant gleaner had to stoop down all day picking up small bits of grain heads that fell from the sickle of the reapers, and putting them in their apron or their basket. They were very impoverished. I've had able folk who were not in a very good circumstance come and ask for a handout. Now, what do you do when a person is able to work, they don't have any pain, their back isn't hurting, they're just as able as you are, they don't have any unforseen circumstances, and they come and say, "I'll work for food, but I'm wanting some money." What do you generally do in a circumstance like that? It's kind of hard. We at the church here help a lot of people. We're thrilled to help people who are really in need.
But what about if a person comes and they're behind on their bills a couple months? Often times I say, "Well, do you have work?" "Well, no, I've applied for a job over here at a big company, but I haven't been hired yet. I know I will be hired some day. I'm kind of looking for that good job."
Do you know what I would like to say to them? You are not going to like this. Probably I shouldn't mention this. But I would like to say to them, "Sir, you know you could work one 30 hour job at Taco Bell and another 30 hour job at the car wash. You could work 60 hours a week. A lot of us put in 60 hours a week and think nothing of it. You could work two jobs, and you could make over $1,200 a month. That would keep the wolf away from the door until your big job comes through." I don't say that to them, but I think we should do what we can do.
Now, if you are disabled or something is wrong, and you can't get a job, then I feel different about that. If you're able and you're just as healthy as I am, get out and get a job. There's nothing wrong with that.
In Bible times welfare and hand outs and bread lines were for those who were absolutely unable to work. All work is honorable. Don't you think work is really a good thing? Work is great. It's fun to work. I admire industrious Ruth. She was a great example to us today. She was willing roll up her sleeves and to start at the bottom. Look at Proverbs 10:4. Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth. There's a lot said in that verse isn't there. If you get out and you work, and you're not afraid to work, you are going to be rewarded for your labor. Ruth was one of those who was not afraid to work.
No wonder nearly two million girls are named Ruth today. It's a very popular name because they're name after this Ruth in the Bible. She fully met the criteria for gleaners: She was poor, a widow and a stranger, Leviticus 19:9-10 and Deuteronomy 24:19. Is there something in life you can glean and take home to share with one in need? I think there is lot of example here. I think this starving world needs more Ruths. We need more people who are willing to glean. Just make sure you glean in the right place.
She lived near the town of Bethlehem. The word, Bethlehem means, Beth = house, lehem = bread. It was the house of Bread. Here she was in the house of bread and was starving to death. She was hungry and decided to get out and get some food. Bethlehem was a rich area surrounded by fertile grainfields. Still to this day they have a lot of good land around Bethlehem. This was undoubtedly the Barley harvest in April. She was in the right place at the right time.
Notice what happened. You can read the story here. She was going to glean. In ancient times the rule of gleaning was this: if one or two stalks fell to the ground the reapers would leave them there. The binders would leave them there. And the gleaners would always get those one or two stalks. However if a triplet fell to the ground, and there were tree of them, then the reapers were required to pick them up to put them in the sheaves. That was the rule of gleaning. Three stalks untouchable by the gleaner.
Being a stranger, she did not know where to go or who to ask, but Ruth was not a slacker. The King James says in verse 3 that she "happed" onto the farm of Boaz. It was just happenstance. Do you believe that? Actually, I don't think it was an accident. I think the angels led her to Boaz's farm, right to his field. When she went out the door that day, I doubt if Ruth thought much about it. She probably thought, "It won't make much difference if I go to the left or I go to the right. It doesn't make any difference. I'll just head out here." It made a great difference, didn't it. Her choice made a tremendous difference in her life. I don't think so often we need a road map for god to provide every chart for our future. I think we just need to trust Him for one day at a time. I don't think we can face ten or twenty years in advance and know all that was going to happen to us. I just don't believe we could handle that.
So, Ruth headed out. She didn't know where she was going, but she knew that she was in God's hands. It's amazing how many stand at that fork and are sure that the correct road is the easiest road. Ruth was not lazy. She chose the one with hard work. *That morning as she walked out the door it probably didn't seem like it would make much difference if she went to the left or the right. Your future might depend on an chance act.
How important that we are led by God. Her "Hap" - her happenstance determined her fortune. It determined her husband, didn't it? I think God is a matchmaker. He led them together. It determined her happiness. It determined her position as a fore-mother of Jesus. By happenstance she came to the field of the most eligible Bachelor in Bethlehem. I imagine many mothers introduce their daughters to Boaz. And Ruth found him.
The times were bad. The book of Ruth is between Judges and Samuel and Kings. Israel had no king and everybody did whatever they wanted. Evil abounded. Nobody was in charge. But Boaz was refreshingly different. He was as clean as the blue sky. Boaz was special, refreshingly different, a Godly man, upright, a man of integrity and a man of great wealth. He was an accomplished farmer. He was single but did not despair in his singleness. He was waiting His time and developing his character so that when he met the wife of God's choosing he would be ready. God was his God. He was a good God- fearing man.
Ruth 2:4. Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, "The Lord be with you!" "The Lord bless you!" they called back. Can't you just picture Boaz walking into his field. You folks that have hired employees, when you first meet them in the morning, you say, "God be with you." And they ring back, "God be with you, too." Isn't that neat? That's just special.
I imagine Boaz as a stately gentleman with a happy countenance and a friendly warm heart. And people appreciated him. Jesus greeted His disciples with "Peace be with you." We all ought to be more polite and cheerful. When you meet people, give them a compliment and help them out. We never know when someone might need a word of appreciation or cheer. We get back what we sow. So, sow a good word when you meet somebody.
Boaz gave a blessing and got one back. I think the harp answers to the hand that sweeps it. -PC 35. Frown and you will soon see a frown. Smile and the world smiles with you. In Palestine from April until the end of June the fields are dotted with harvesting parties. Men reaping, women and children gleaning and gathering the grain into bundles with the flocks of sheep following closely behind. Often these harvesting parties were fill with singing and laughing. -PC There is still singing in Palestine today. I think all has changed in America with Cyrus H. McCormick and the invention of the reaper. We don't have harvesting parties anymore. We don't do things as families. And the gleaners today had better get in there fast because as soon as the crop is picked the farmer begins plowing the fields for the next crop.
Boaz represented management and his workers represented labor. When you get capital and labor together like that, you have the answer to the labor union problems in America today. The answer is to be like Boaz. Be cheerful and happy. Your workers appreciate you and you appreciate them.
Boaz didn't just notice his worker that day, he also noticed Ruth. He looked over there and here she was, zealously picking up the grain. She is a hard worker, but she is leaving the triplets where they lay. She is honest. He noticed. I picture this little Moabitish maiden as an attractive and humble lady. I think Boaz was an older fatherly. I think there was a great difference in their ages. He notice the graceful moves. He noticed the cheerful attitude that Ruth had. And interest welled up in his heart. Come over here to verse 5. Boaz asked, "Whose young woman is that?" I think he's in love, right there. He fell for her. The word "Ruth" means "beauty" or "one worth seeing." She must have been attractive. He puts it all together and he can see that this is a great lady here. Verse 6 comes the foreman's report: ..."She is the Moabitess who came back from Moab with Naomi." The foreman said, "She came here early this morning and she requested permission to glean."
Now, why did she need to do that? You don't have to request permission to glean, do you? The law was on her side because she was a widow, she was in poverty, she was an alien, and so the laws said she could glean in any field she chose. She did not have to ask. She had that full right to glean. There were laws about that. So, why did she ask? Well, she was polite. But, remember the bad famine in chapter 1? The famine was terrible. That's why they left the country. I think these farmers were keeping most of their grain because they were fearful of another famine.
The foreman continued: "She came from Moab with Naomi. She has worked with hardly a break ever since. One time she rested in the shelter."
Ruth 2:8. 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." Three times he says "don't leave." "Stay right here. I don't want to miss you." He's in love! It was love at first sight. Is there such a thing? I think there was with her. He'd never seen her in his life.
Ruth expected to glean that one day only, but she was invited to glean right there through the whole harvest. "Don't you go to some other field. You just stay here the whole time." This tells me something about God. God's grace is always more than we expect. She expected maybe to glean a day or two. She got to glean there the whole harvest. God's grace even provided a place at the table for Ruth. She didn't even have any food to eat. Maybe she was going to munch on some grains of wheat. She had a table. Boaz shared his meal and his personal dish of roasted grain with her. You don't get roasted grain right out of the field.
Does this sound like a disinterested man? I think he is very attracted to her. But he's got a problem because Ruth is a Moabite. The law of Moses excluded all Moabites from entering the temple. Deuteronomy 23:3 say that Moabites were barred from the assembly of the Lord for ten generations. Now, I looked all through the Bible and could not find any place that said an Israelite could not marry a Moabite. So, he falls in love with Ruth. So Boaz begins to associate with her. The book of Ruth is neat because here we see that there are no racial barriers. She's a Moabite woman. He's Israelite Benjaminite, a pre-Jew. Even then the Jews hated the Moabites and other people. Ruth 2:9. " 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." He provides for Ruth. He is involved in her security, her welfare, satisfying her hunger, satisfying her thirst.
By the way, he talked, I think it was love at the first sight. Ruth 2:10. At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed, "Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me--a foreigner?"
Now, keep in mind, Boaz was older she was younger. He was wealthy and she was poor. He was a Jew, she a heathen. That's what they called them. They were opposites, weren't they. Opposites attract. Don't ever come to somebody and say, "I need a divorce because my wife and I are so different." Look at Boaz and Ruth. They were different, vastly different. They grew up in different lands. They had different cultures. I think opposites do attract. Ruth and Boaz accepted each other. Boaz treated her as an equal.
Look at Ruth 2:11, 12. 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. He is saying, "You have been doing a favor here." He's not looking down on her. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge." "God is going to repay you for what you've done."
That's neat. God does repay His children. Many of you volunteer out in the Sabbath School departments, you volunteer with the Adventures and the Pathfinders (youth groups like Scouts). Whatever you do in the church, you're folding bulletins or sweeping the sidewalk, God will repay you for your time. God will repay you for your tithe, your offerings, your devotion to Him, your prayers, the time you spend reading the Bible. You will be rewarded. Do you believe that? God spreads His strong wings over us. Inside His wings we bask in the downy softness. How warm and secure we are under His wings. Ruth 2:13 . "May I continue to find favor 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." She was very humble.
Then, Ruth 2:14. You can read verse 14. See what happened there in verse 14? Boaz is very aggressive! He just met Ruth two hours ago and already he's invited out to eat. Now, don't tell me they didn't go out to eat. They were in the field that's out.
Verse 16 reveals that Boaz ordered his reapers to purposefully leave behind extra stalks for Ruth. That's taking care of somebody. I know Ruth worked hard that day. In fact, the Bible says she worked until sundown. She worked until evening. His favor was expanding. He added to her take and yet made it look like the reward of her hard labor.
It was not easy bending down all day, picking up grain in the hot sun. She was not used to doing that. I'm sure she must have been exhausted by the end of that day. She must have had a keen desire to go home. She might have felt, "Let me out of this field. This work is not for me. I'm not cut out to do this." But, Ruth is not a quitter. She could have said, "My back is killing me and my hands are raw and I am shot." She might have said, "I'll take the stalks home and Naomi can thresh them out tomorrow." The Bible says Ruth stayed and threshed out the biggest part of an epha (about 22 liters) of barley. . That's not quite a bushel, but that's heavy to haul all the way back home in the dark. And yet, that's what she does. God doesn't just take care of her hunger that day, He has abundantly provide for Ruth. And God will always abundantly provide for you.
All this drudgery, all this hard work is erased when she goes home because when she gets home, Naomi greets her at the door. Naomi looks at this huge bag of grain and said, "Where have you been today? You've done a fantastic job. How did you get all that grain? This is wonderful! You did well." Can you just picture that happening? Naomi smiling at Ruth. I could picture it. And do you know what? Every hard working bread winner who toils during the long hard day deserves a warm reception when he or she comes home after work: a kiss, a hug and a smile. Ruth gave all the food to her mother- in-law including the left over parched grain.
Ruth 2:19. 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.
Boaz honored both Ruth and Naomi by allowing the gleaning to go on. and the deceased Elimelech and his two sons. He was a "Kinsman." He had a right to claim the dead man's property that now belonged to Naomi and Ruth. You know, We must keep track of our relatives and help them. Ruth 2:22-23. 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." 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.
This is an interesting chapter, isn't it. I would submit to you that the hero of this story is Boaz. I'll tell you why. The word, "Boaz" means strength. And Boaz also means God to me. Boaz represents God. Ruth represents us. With that in mind, I want you to think now. Let's just think about this chapter and what we have read. Boaz represents God. Ruth represents each of us. That being the case, we are poor, we are miserable, we are naked, we are blind, we are worthless, we're dressed in rags, we're desperate, we're hungry, and we come as sinful foreigners, alienated from God, but He lovingly treats us as family. Romans tells us that. Romans 5:8, But God demonstrates His love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us.
That's what God is like. And that's what you gt from reading this beautiful story. And, there's a point I don't want you to miss. Near the middle of this chapter Ruth asked Boaz a question. She said: "Why have I found such favor in your eyes?" Remember that Boaz represents God and we are Ruth and we could ask, "Why have we found grace in thine eyes?" Do you know what the answer is? We are hungry, poor, and dressed in spiritual rags. We are foreigners. We humans are aliens, alienated from spiritual things. We have nothing to offer. Our very nature is not of His heavenly kingdom. Yet we are given grace. God's grace is undeserved. So Why do we get grace? Because He is a very good God. God is love. We can't explain grace. We, like Ruth, can only accept it.
Sources: Pulpit Commentary (PC), by James Morison, Wm. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 1984. Thru the Bible Commentary Series, RUTH, by J. Vernon McGee, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN, 1991. Hymn of Praise: #228, A Hymn of Glory Let Us Sing Scripture: Ruth 2:1-3 Hymn of Response: #572, Give of Your Best to the Master 031018#542
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