At one end of the truck terminal where H. H. Lee worked years ago was a coal company. Nearby was a railroad, and each day several freight trains passed by. Lee often noticed that the owner of the company, who was a Christian, threw chunks of coal over the fence at various places along the track. One day he asked the man why he did this.
The man replied, “An elderly woman lives across the street, and I know that her pension is inadequate to buy enough coal. After the trains go by, she walks along and picks up the pieces she thinks have fallen from the coal car behind the engine. She doesn’t realize that diesel engines have replaced steam locomotives and that the trains no longer use coal. I don’t want to disappoint her, so I just throw some pieces over the fence.”
That’s the book of Ruth. In it, God vividly portrays this principle of godly giving. When Boaz saw Ruth gathering grain behind the reapers in his field, he commanded them to intentionally leave some extra handfuls of grain for her. To her, she saw this as a blessing from the Lord, and it most certainly was.
Of all the Old Testament books, Ruth is the most clearly a Christian allegory. It was a true event that happened in history, yes. But it also presents the way of salvation in Christ in vivid detail.
In chapter one, we see Ruth deciding to follow Naomi and to adopt Naomi’s people as her people and Naomi’s God as her God. “Where You Shall Go, I Shall Go, Your God shall be my God”
In chapter two, we see Ruth working and serving. It’s a picture of our role as believers in Christ, and God’s providence to his believers though a savior.
In chapter three, we see Boaz marrying Ruth and saving her from her suffering, and it’s a beautiful picture of how Christ rescues His people from sin. Boaz, from Bethlehem, is often referred to as “the kinsman redeemer”.
In chapter four, we see Ruth enjoying a bountiful reward and inheritance that she didn’t earn. It was given to her by grace.
We are reading chapter two today. The first chapter, that we read a while back was full of famine and funerals and tests of faith, and no mention is made at all of Boaz, but things are about to change dramatically. We continue a beautiful love story between a man and a woman and between a God and His people.
Ruth Chapter 2 [From the NLT – New Living Translation]
1 Now there was a wealthy and influential man in Bethlehem named Boaz, who was a relative of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech.
2 One day Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go out into the harvest fields to pick up the stalks of grain left behind by anyone who is kind enough to let me do it.”
Naomi replied, “All right, my daughter, go ahead.” 3 So Ruth went out to gather grain behind the harvesters. And as it happened, she found herself working in a field that belonged to Boaz, the relative of her father-in-law, Elimelech.
4 While she was there, Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters. “The Lord be with you!” he said.
“The Lord bless you!” the harvesters replied.
5 Then Boaz asked his foreman, “Who is that young woman over there? Who does she belong to?”
6 And the foreman replied, “She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi. 7 She asked me this morning if she could gather grain behind the harvesters. She has been hard at work ever since, except for a few minutes’ rest in the shelter.”
8 Boaz went over and said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields. Stay right behind the young women working in my field. 9 See which part of the field they are harvesting, and then follow them. I have warned the young men not to treat you roughly. And when you are thirsty, help yourself to the water they have drawn from the well.”
10 Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly. “What have I done to deserve such kindness?” she asked. “I am only a foreigner.”
11 “Yes, I know,” Boaz replied. “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. 12 May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.”
13 “I hope I continue to please you, sir,” she replied. “You have comforted me by speaking so kindly to me, even though I am not one of your workers.”
14 At mealtime Boaz called to her, “Come over here, and help yourself to some food. You can dip your bread in the sour wine.” So she sat with his harvesters, and Boaz gave her some roasted grain to eat. She ate all she wanted and still had some left over.
15 When Ruth went back to work again, Boaz ordered his young men, “Let her gather grain right among the sheaves without stopping her. 16 And pull out some heads of barley from the bundles and drop them on purpose for her. Let her pick them up, and don’t give her a hard time!”
17 So Ruth gathered barley there all day, and when she beat out the grain that evening, it filled an entire basket. 18 She carried it back into town and showed it to her mother-in-law. Ruth also gave her the roasted grain that was left over from her meal.
19 “Where did you gather all this grain today?” Naomi asked. “Where did you work? May the Lord bless the one who helped you!”
So Ruth told her mother-in-law about the man in whose field she had worked. She said, “The man I worked with today is named Boaz.”
20 “May the Lord bless him!” Naomi told her daughter-in-law. “He is showing his kindness to us as well as to your dead husband. That man is one of our closest relatives, one of our family redeemers.”
21 Then Ruth said, “What’s more, Boaz even told me to come back and stay with his harvesters until the entire harvest is completed.”
22 “Good!” Naomi exclaimed. “Do as he said, my daughter. Stay with his young women right through the whole harvest. You might be harassed in other fields, but you’ll be safe with him.”
23 So Ruth worked alongside the women in Boaz’s fields and gathered grain with them until the end of the barley harvest. Then she continued working with them through the wheat harvest in early summer. And all the while she lived with her mother-in-law.
Today, in the story, enters Boaz. The Bible does not tell us how Elimelech and Boaz are related, but a good guess is that they are cousins. We think of immediate family as mother and father and kids, maybe even grandkids and grandparents but the Jews considered relatives as far out as second cousins to be immediate family.
We do know, however, quite a bit about other parts Boaz’s family tree, from all over scripture. We are told a bit in Ruth itself. We find out in Matthew that his father was Salmon, who was married to Rahab, the former prostitute. We learn more about Rahab in Joshua chapter 2. From the book of Numbers we learn about His grandfather, Nahshon who we learn is a prince of the tribe of Judah in 1 Chronicles. Boaz’s great-grand father is Amminadab whose chariots are mentioned in Song of Solomon.
So Boaz is well connected. He’s interwoven into the whole biblical story. He’s in the family tree of Jesus himself. So when he comes into our story here to save the day, his role as kinsman redeemer is evident.
So whom did he extend his grace to? A sinful Moabite; a foreigner; a gentile. For a Moabite, Ruth was apparently a virtuous woman. But just being a Moabite meant “hands off” to most Jews.
Yet, despite of all this Ruth trusts God, and the one sent by God to save her. She repents of her former life, her former sin, and even goes as far as severing all ties to all thing of Moab. She embraces a new life. She puts her hands out to God and he offers her handfuls of his grace.
And not just the extra grain, but so much more. Wherever she went God went with her. Fortunately for her, He just happened to be there. It was a happy coincidence. Pure serendipity. Do you believe that?
Reading of his text a certain way might lead you to believe that.
Verse 3, in the King James Version, uses these words… “her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech.”
To read that you might think she just happened to land there! She just happened to land, by accident and coincidence, in the field of the one who was ready to not only show her grace, but abundant grace!
She simply stumbled across Boaz who is ready to pour out a blessing into her life.
Of course, it was no accident. It was no coincidence. It was the purpose of God at work in her life.
Boaz and Ruth meet one another and verse 16 tells us the beautiful thing that happens next. But again it wasn’t happenstance at all. Boaz tells his reapers to drop “handfuls… on purpose!” Instead of scraping up little bits here and there, God provides for her over and over.
Ruth is a book filled with many of what some might call “accidents” that demonstrate how God works out His purpose, on purpose, with no accidents involved.
It’s a picture of God’s over-abundant love for His people. We don’t deserve to be His kids, much less to be receive an abundant outpouring of His blessing and grace.
He’s good to us because He is good, and because He loves us.
His love is more powerful than anything imaginable, if you remember from Romans 8 ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?’ Nothing in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
That is the love and protection he gives.
And from Matthew 10 ‘Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows.’
There are certain aspects of our faith that are unexplainable. One of those truly is the favor of God.
In reality, the only certainty we have about the favor of God is where it originates. The favor of God comes at different times, to different people, in different amounts but it is all the favor of God.
The bible us that God loves us, and favors us, but does not really tell us why? We don’t deserve it. We haven’t earned it. We have not appreciated it, and honored it. But he loves us anyway, and favors us anyway. It’s a mystery of the faith. A wonderful mystery, but a mystery nonetheless. We are his prized creation, his jewel, and that will never change.
In chapter two, we learn more of this favor.
Ruth received the favor of God because she was in the right field. Other people might have cast her away because of her background. However, Boaz welcomed her into his field. God’s love and favor placed her in the right place and the right time. He provided the opportunity, but she still had to do the work. She still had to ask the questions. She had to take advantage of the blessing that was placed before her.
God’s blessing is not always fair, at least when looking at it through human eyes. Sometimes people can upset because God is dropping handfuls toward some other person while they seemingly have nothing. Ruth did not deserve the handfuls. She received because it was in God’s will that she receive. It wasn’t a merit award. The others were not being punished. It was simply how God wanted to do it at any given time.
God is just. He is always just. However, the Bible does not say that He is fair, again by human standards. There are those who have been blessed with God gifted abilities. We may look at them and say, “That isn’t fair. I am trying my best and it seems that everything they do God blesses.”
We read from the New Living Translation today, but again in the King James verse states the handfuls were not “on” purpose, they were handfuls “of” purpose. There has been much debate about that change in grammar. But in either case, it is essential for us to realize that if we pick up the provision without the purpose, we will have missed the reason why God chooses to drop the handfuls.
He drops us handfuls of His grace because there is a purpose to it. You can count on that.
Ruth realized that she was gleaning in the fields that God wanted her to own. And God has so much available.
He wants us to feed on the grace he gives us.
So it is imperative that we feed on His word. The Lord alone will sustain you in the sad times. He will deliver you in the dry times. He will lift you in the lean times. His blessings are just one of the benefits of serving God.
Do you remember the song One Fine Day by the Chiffons?
“One fine day you’ll look at me,
and you will know our love was meant to be.
One fine day you’re gonna want me for your girl.”
What doe these song lyrics say about how a wonderful love relationship begins.
Some might say this indicates that good relationships happen by dumb luck, fate, or some arrangement of the stars. You just stumble into a relationship. We occasionally hear the phrase “lucky in love.”
If you’re in the right place at the right time lucky love will hit you. For example, if you catch the bouquet thrown by the bride, you’ll be the next to get married.
That’s the “one fine day” part.
The other part is the “you’ll look at me” part. The external attraction.
The checkout lines at grocery store are filled with tabloids that seek to teach us learn how to manipulate, seduce, persuade, and captivate somebody by wearing the right clothes and perfume, making the right moves and saying exactly the right words, looking exactly the right way.
We take surveys and test to determine how skilled we are at “winning the man or woman of our dreams”.
They are all about techniques, ways of manipulating someone special so that they will be enamored with you.
These are not the ways that God creates relationships. Ruth didn’t just happen into her handfuls of grace nor did she manipulate God into giving them to her. She wasn’t just “lucky”, nor was she so beautiful God could not resist her.
He loved her, She met him, a covenant was made. It’s a dual love story. We do see Ruth and Boaz, but it was really Ruth and God, and Boaz and God that made this happen.
If a person has a destiny, or a soul mate, it is not because of random chance. That destiny, or that love connection, was created by God.
It’s a vital question to ask when a man and a woman consider marriage. Is it by all indication a God ordained union, and if so, do you both appreciate and accept that it’s bigger than the both of you.
That a marriage is a covenant between man and woman and family and community and most importantly and union between the mortal and the divine.
In Ruth Two, this understanding, this commitment, this covenant takes place.
Some will say that you need a long period of time, a long courting period to assure these things.
Today’s events happened in just one twenty-four hour period.
In the first five verses of the book, ten years went by. A famine started and ended, a family migrated, two marriages were made, and three men died.
But now this entire chapter covers just one day.
In Genesis 2, God woke Adam up and gave Adam and Eve to each other. Adam recognized immediately and said, “This is now bone of my bone And flesh of my flesh.”
He was saying, “This is the one I’ve been seeking. This is the one I’ve been fitted for, and she for me.”
Notice again. It’s not Adam and Eve. It’s God and Adam and Eve.
Marriage has lost its power and position today because we have tried to leave God out of it.
There’s a popular book out today called “letting go of God”. It’s written by a comedienne/actress who has once and for all decided to divorce God, and take Him completely out of her life.
It’s an interesting premise, because the whole idea of divorcing God required us to acknowledge that he exists.
Why would you bother divorcing a non-existing being? Curious isn’t it?
But regardless, how does one divorce the all-powerful, all-knowing, creator the universe? You can’t just give him his walking papers and he’ll leave you alone. God is everywhere. You can’t take him out of your world.
God loved Ruth and provided for Ruth and put Ruth in the right place and made it so Ruth met her ‘kinsman redeemer”. He bonded a permanent covenant of love and grace between them. He was there the whole time loving and guiding every step.
Ruth was a poor woman on here hands and knees picking up the scraps and leftovers. It would have been easy for her to think that God was giving her the short end of the stick. But instead she saw blessing, and was given even more blessing.
We can think like Ruth and say “Hey, I may only have one open door, but that’s enough. I’ll walk through, and go where the word of God directs me to go. I’ll live for Christ and He’ll take care of the details”
That’s the kind of woman Ruth was. She had been taught some hard lessons and had learned from suffering.
It says that she then just “happened” onto the field of Boaz, which of course ought to make us smile, because she no more happened onto that field than she created the sun.
God directed her specifically to the place and time when he was going to give her a gift.
She turned into a field she came to for seemingly arbitrary reasons.
But it was a most important place at a most critical moment.
And everything in her life changed.
That’s us, when we meet Jesus where we are, who we are, just as we are. When we meet Jesus, our kinsman redeemer, it is a God ordained covenant marriage in eternity, filled with overflowing blessings, and everything changes.
Charles Spurgeon, a 19th century evangelist wrote:
Whenever we are privileged to eat of the bread which Jesus gives, we are, like Ruth, satisfied with the full and sweet repast. When Jesus is the host no guest goes empty from the table. As Ruth was “sufficed, and left,” so is it with us. We have sat at the table of the Lord’s love, and said, “Nothing but the infinite can ever satisfy me; I am such a great sinner that I must have infinite merit to wash my sin away;” but we have had our sin removed, and found that there was merit to spare; Yes, there are graces to which we have not attained; places of fellowship nearer to Christ which we have not reached; and heights of communion which our feet have not climbed. At every banquet of love there are many baskets of fragments left.
May our lives be overflowing with handfuls of God’s grace this day and every day. In Jesus Name,
©2010 Timothy Henry