Bible Study: Book of Ruth Chapter 2

Ruth Chapter 2: Growing in Grace


by I Gordon

 

 

Introduction

 

Having dedicated herself to the God of Israel, Ruth, in chapter 2, begins to grow in her relationship and dedication to Boaz. In Ruth we see the attitude and character of one in whom God is pleased. And through humility and dependence Ruth begins to grow in grace. This chapter also displays the gracious provision and protection that comes from Boaz. Among other things, this chapter shows us:

-         how to live with the Lord’s grace as your foundation

-         the one requirement for the protection and provision of God

-         the type of character that pleases the Lord

 

Queue the music... dim the lights...Introducing the main man!

 

2:1 Now Naomi had a kinsman of her husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz.

 

In this verse we are introduced to the main man in the book of Ruth. So let's just pause a while to examine this new character we are now introduced to. Boaz, we are told, was a relative of Naomi and his lineage is traced back to Perez, a son of Judah. As a relative he would qualify as a kinsman redeemer (but more on that later…) We are also told that he was a man of great wealth which was a phrase meaning that he possessed the finest of qualities. Who could this man be a picture of? Is there a Jewish redeemer from the tribe of Judah, who possesses the finest of qualities? Um, can’t think of one… seriously, no prize for guessing that Boaz is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Oh the providence of God!

 

2:2-3 And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after one in whose sight I may find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” So she departed and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers; and she happened to come to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.

 

God in his mercy to the foreigners, widows and the poor instituted laws that governed the harvesting of produce to ensure that no one went empty handed. Leviticus 19:9-10 clearly said that the reapers of the harvest were to leave the corners of the field and the gleanings of the harvest for those in need. Ruth then, as a gentile, went out to glean and she just happened to do so in the field belonging to Boaz. Thousands of fields to choose from and she got lucky. It just happened! It was pure coincidence right?[1] What about you? How did you just happen to meet Jesus, of whom Boaz is a type? Coincidence? I think not! Behind the scenes God drew Ruth to Boaz’s field because He had plans to use Ruth for His purpose. It’s exactly the same for us today. God is still in the business of drawing people and setting up opportunities for them to meet His Son![2]

 

Whoa… Who is that!?!

2:4-7 Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem and said to the reapers, “May the Lord be with you.” And they said to him, “May the Lord bless you.”  Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” And the servant in charge of the reapers answered and said, “She is the young Moabite woman who returned with Naomi from the land of Moab. “And she said, ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’ Thus she came and has remained from the morning until now; she has been sitting in the house for a little while.”

 

We come now to the first meeting of Boaz and Ruth and we get a glimpse of Ruth’s character that pleased Boaz. As we have previously mentioned, under God’s law Ruth had a right to glean and gather after the reapers. However Ruth did not enforce her rights but came by grace asking ‘please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves’. If we are ever going to know the Lord further we also need to learn to come to Him by grace. We cannot come to the Lord claiming our rights or presenting our good works as something that he must repay us for. No, the throne of grace is open and available to those who see that grace is the only way open for them to come.[3] We also see Boaz attitude towards Ruth. The first thing he says is ‘whose young woman is this?’ I once read in a commentary on Ruth that a very, very, very loose translation on this verse would be ‘well, where in the world has she been that I haven’t seen her before!’ Told you it was loose – but it’s good![4]

 

Grace meets humility

2:8-9 Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Listen carefully, my daughter. Do not go to glean in another field; furthermore, do not go on from this one, but stay here with my maids. “Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Indeed, I have commanded the servants not to touch you. When you are thirsty, go to the water jars and drink from what the servants draw.”

 

Now it wouldn’t have been easy being a widow on your own in those days. In fact, it could be quite dangerous. But Ruth had no reason to fear with Boaz. What was Boaz’s response to Ruth’s approach by grace? It was one of provision. He would provide the field for her to glean in, water to drink when she was thirsty and protection from anyone harming her. Amazing! Yet he has one command – stay in his field![5] In other words, look to him and he will provide. Just don’t go off into other fields even if they look good. The Lord also has promised that he will provide our needs with the same condition of looking to Him.[6] Naomi had to learn this lesson the hard way down in Moab earlier when she had doubted the provision of God and wandered off, back to the world. But Ruth was single-minded and dedicated – firstly to Naomi and her God, but soon she would show that same dedication to Boaz.

How can the Lord be so gracious to me?

 

2:10 Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your sight that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?”

 

Ruth is shaking her head - ‘I don’t get it. I just do not get it! Why are you so kind to me? I’m a Moabite!’ She was amazed. Moab was the son of an incestuous relationship between Lot (who was drunk) and his oldest daughter and as a nation the Moabites were Israel’s enemy, having opposed Israel when she came out of Egypt. So why was Boaz so kind? Well, in the natural it was probably because he was pretty keen on Ruth! But what about the spiritual? Have you come to the point in your Christian life where you just have to stop and shake your head in disbelief at the grace of God? You’ve seen what you are like in your own nature, yet you still find yourself blessed by God. That’s is why grace is so amazing.[7]

Meeting the one who sees and knows all…

 

2:11-13 And Boaz answered and said to her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know. “May the Lord reward your work, and your wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.”  Then she said, “I have found favor in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and indeed have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants.”

 

Amazed at Boaz kindness to her, Ruth asks why he had been so kind. What we discover is that Boaz knew all about Ruth and her commitment before she knew anything about him! He knew of her heart and the sacrifice she had made to follow Naomi and the Lord. This again pictures the Lord Jesus who knew all that we are even before we have begun to know him. It also shows us that it is not necessary to blow our own trumpet before God or man. Not before God because he is already entirely aware of all that we do and will reward us appropriately; or before man because it’s not likely that he’s at all interested! Isn’t it refreshing when you see people who are committed and faithful to the Lord, behind the scenes, where no one but the Lord is watching? Ruth was like this. What she did was done out of love and devotion and not in trying to make a name for herself. It’s the little Pharisee in each of us that wants to be seen as something great before man. In Ruth we see a lethal combination. Someone who is dedicated and loyal without trying to draw attention to herself, as well as humble and dependant upon grace in her relationship with Boaz.

 

No dilly-dally with Boaz!

           

2:14 And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here, that you may eat of the bread and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar.” So she sat beside the reapers; and he served her roasted grain, and she ate and was satisfied and had some left.

 

So is Boaz keen or what? J. Vernon McGee points out in his book that this is the first time that He has met Ruth and Boaz has already asked her out to lunch! He’s not slow that man! And we read that ‘she ate and was satisfied and had some left’. Is this not the result of anyone that truly meets and experiences the Lord Jesus Christ? She wasn’t disappointed as his kindness extended beyond what she expected and as we are soon to see, coming to Boaz by grace would yield more unexpected results. This begs the question – Are you satisfied? Are you satisfied with Jesus? If not, then have you learned to live by grace and seen all that God has graciously provided to us as sons of God?[8]

 

Grace upon Grace

2:15-16 When she rose to glean, Boaz commanded his servants, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not insult her.” And also you shall purposely pull out for her some grain from the bundles and leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.”

 

By the law Ruth had a right to glean among the corners of the field. By grace Boaz pulled grain from the bundles for her, and she was even given the right to glean among the sheaves. Not just mercy, but grace![9] Boaz had gone beyond what was called for by the law and had generously blessed her. You might expect that because of his mercy God would find a way to forgive us, but through the cross He goes way beyond that and gives us a gift of righteousness. You may expect that God would forgive us our sins and leave it at that, but He went way beyond that giving us full rights as His sons. This is why grace is so amazing and will be talked about even in the ages to come.[10]

 

Grace leads to amazement – and action!

2:17 So she gleaned in the field until evening…

 

This little verse does however provide us with the second warning of the chapter. Well, maybe not so much a warning as a checkpoint for your Christian life. The first was in verse 8 where we saw that Boaz would provide but she needed to stay in His field. Here, in verse 17, we see Ruth’s response to the graciousness of Boaz. Did she take his grace for granted? Did she say ‘wow, it’s all given to me. I might as well put my feet up for the day and do my gleaning when it is cool at night.’ No, her attitude is the correct response, as she let his grace become the motivation for her hard work in the field all day![11] We too can learn from Ruth in this.

 

Abundantly more that we could hope or think

2:17-19 So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. And she took it up and went into the city, and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also took it out and gave Naomi what she had left after she was satisfied. Her mother-in-law then said to her, “Where did you glean today and where did you work? May he who took notice of you be blessed.” So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, “The name of the man with whom I worked today is Boaz.”

 

At the end of the day she was left with an ephah of barley! Amazing aye? Ok, I’m sure you, like me, have no idea how much an ephah is, so I looked it up and it’s 22 litres. This would be enough to feed both herself and Naomi for about 10 days.  No wonder Naomi was surprised and had to know where she had got this! Naomi didn’t praise Ruth even though Ruth had obviously been working hard and deserved some praise. But the thing is, the fruit of Ruth’s labor couldn’t simply be explained in terms of Ruth’s diligence. ‘Whose field were you in?’ is Naomi’s first comment. Has that happened to you? Has what you have received from the Lord been so obvious that others just have to know where you got it? Did people notice the difference in you when you first met the Lord that they just had to know what could account for such a change? If not then I guess the other question is, have you, like Ruth, been sharing with others what the Lord has imparted into your life? What the Lord gives us is obviously for our benefit, but he also wants us to be able to share that with others for the edification of all. Ruth was faithful in this and may our testimony, like hers, be of the man that has caused all this to happen.

 

Qualifications for a Kinsman-Redeemer

2:20 And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed of the Lord who has not withdrawn his kindness to the living and to the dead.” Again Naomi said to her, “The man is our relative, he is one of our closest relatives.”

 

The word relative here is from the Hebrew word geol, meaning ‘kinsman-redeemer’. The responsibilities of the kinsman redeemer had been clearly defined in God’s law and included marrying a childless widow to raise up children in her dead husbands’ name. (Deut 25-10) The redeemer had to be a blood relative. Here we see the need for Jesus to be born on earth, being made in the likeness of man (Phil 2:7) so that he could qualify as our redeemer. Through the incarnation, God became ‘a blood relative’ and through his death on the cross the price was paid for the redemption of the world! Roy Hession, in his book ‘Our nearest kinsman’ states three things that were needed for someone to actually become your redeemer. Firstly they needed to have the right to redeem and as has been previously mentioned this was given to the closest relative. Secondly they needed the ability to redeem. Could they pay the price? It would be useless if the redeemer was as poor as the one being redeemed because he wouldn’t be able to care for the person needing redemption. Finally, they needed to be willing to redeem. Would they take on the responsibility that came with being the redeemer? Jesus Christ more than adequately looked after all three requirements! He had the right to redeem as our relative, becoming flesh and blood as we are. He was able to pay the price as he had lived his whole life without sin. And finally, and thankfully, he was willing to redeem even though it meant going to the cross. Thank You!

 

Above and beyond

2:21-23 Then Ruth the Moabitess said, “Furthermore, he said to me, ‘You should stay close to my servants until they have finished all my harvest.’” And Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his maids, lest others fall upon you in another field.” So she stayed close by the maids of Boaz in order to glean until the end of the barley harvest and the wheat harvest. And she lived with her mother-in-law.

 

The last point in this chapter is the even greater position that Boaz gave Ruth. Firstly he was gracious in pulling out bundles of grain for her to glean in. But he went further than that and allowed her to glean for the whole season right next to his actual workers. So you had the workers who were paid to glean for Boaz and then there was Ruth, working right along side them and everything she grabbed she was allowed to keep for herself! She didn’t plant the wheat or play any part in ensuring that there was adequate growth. She simply got to reap the benefits for herself! A good picture of our inheritance in Christ, where we shall surely benefit in the age to come because of His work on our behalf.

 

 

Other Bible Studies in the Book of Ruth Series


[1] Aren’t we fortunate it ‘just happened’? I mean, if it hadn’t just happened then you could call off the wise men and the shepherds 1100 years later cause there would not have been baby Jesus as He was a descendant of Ruth and Boaz. Ok, so God would have found another way… anyway, the point is this – Ruth probably got up in the morning, thanked God for His guidance and protection, and wandered off down the road. She was probably completely obvious to the fact that God was directing her, but He was. And He does us when we commit our way unto Him. Often quietly, without trumpets and neon flashing lights, but guide us He will. Give Him your day and say ‘thanks’.

[2] I don’t think we are ever going to understand this until we sit at His feet and get Him to explain it. But it’s still interesting to look at our salvation from Gods’ point of view instead of our own. Jesus clearly said that ‘no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me, draws him.’ (John 6:44). Which of the disciples ‘decided’ that they would follow Jesus? None. He walked into their life, said ‘come and follow me’ and they dropped what they were doing and left! Pauls’ conversion is another example (Acts 9:1-8). He is full on persecuting the church when a light from Heaven flashes down and it’s Jesus telling Paul to follow Him. Paul summed up what he thought about it in Gal 1:15-16 where he says he was ‘set apart from his mothers womb’ and was ‘called by Gods grace’. But it doesn’t stop there. Paul writes that we also were ‘chosen before the foundation of the world’. Ephesians 1:4. So on the one hand we have Gods choice of us and on the other we have our free will response. We have to hold onto both truths because the Bibles presents both. Someone once asked Charles Spurgeon how he reconciles election and free will – he responded by saying you don’t need to reconcile friends. They both are true! Told you we couldn’t understand it!

 

[3] Best example I can think of is in two different people and how they related to the Lord when He was on earth. Both are found in the book of Matthew. Firstly the rich young ruler in Matt 19:16-26. He came to the Lord saying ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do to inherit eternal life.’ In other words he approached Jesus by the law. He thought he could do some ‘good thing’ that would guarantee a place in heaven. He came by the law so Jesus answered him by the law and gave him the commandments. Jesus did this because He knew that the full extent of the law had not yet worked in this man so that he would come by grace. (See Romans 3:19-20) The right way is the example of the gentile woman in Matt 15:21-28. Being a gentile she was not legally entitled to Jesus’ help. He had come first to the lost sheep of Israel. But in her response to Jesus she came by grace, not the law, and received grace! And Jesus was amazed at her faith. The Lords grace is the only way in which we can come. It requires faith and humility on our part but it pleases God as much as it pleased Jesus back then with this gentile woman.   

 

[4] It’s good because it reminds us of the fact that this book is a love story! J. Vernon McGee wrote the book I mentioned and it was this aspect of the love story of Ruth that he really brought out well. And of course, never forget that our relationship with the Lord is a love story – the divine romance! Isaiah 54:5 ‘Your Maker is your husband, whose name is the Lord Almighty. And your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.’

[5] The obvious thing is don’t do what Naomi did and go back to the world. But it means more than that. Even within your relationship with the Lord we can still wander into other ‘religious’ fields which are not fields of grace as we have seen here and fields that do not have merciful owners! The Galatians did this and caused Paul to write to them saying ‘You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?.. .Are you so foolish having begun in the spirit, are you now trying to be perfected by the flesh?’ Gal 3:1-3. Earlier Paul had written ‘I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel.’ Gal 1:6. Even in a ‘religious’ setting they had left Jesus and His grace as their means of life and resorted to a fleshly effort to obey the law. Stupidity! Imagine Ruth leaving Boaz’ field cause she would rather strive all day by herself in the hot sun to achieve way less, than accept Boaz’s gracious provision. You would call her stubbornly proud at best, mental probably being closer to the truth! Then how crazy are the proud ‘religious’ types that would rather earn their own salvation than trust and rely upon Jesus?

 

[6] Matt 6:31-33 “Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’ “For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.

 

[7] William Newell in his classic on Romans wrote some awesome thoughts concerning grace. One of his points for ‘the proper attitude for those under grace’ was – ‘To believe, and to consent to be loved while unworthy is the great secret.’ I like that.

[8] Not thinking of possessions here but spiritual blessings. The Old Testament law had physical blessing for obedience to the law. Nearly everything was outward. ‘Be good and you’ll get rain, your barns will be full, and your cows will be huge.’ That kind of thing. But in the New Testament the blessings are spiritual not physical. He has promised to provide our needs physically which is good but God is predominantly interested with inward things, not outward. Ephesians 1:3 tells us that we HAVE been blessed with EVERY SPIRITUAL blessing in Christ. Paul then goes on to tell us what these things are in Chapters 1-3 and it is these things that we are to focus on, be amazed at, and rest in. They are the true provision of Jesus that should satisfy us!

 

[9] Once heard that ‘mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve.’ The example is given of a father wanting to teach his son about the grace and mercy of God.  The son had disobeyed his father and as a punishment was ordered to stay in his bedroom for three hours. But after an hour the father went into the boys room and told him he could now come out. He then took the boy down to the local supermarket and bought him an ice cream. Letting him off his punishment was mercy, but the ice cream was definitely grace! God goes way beyond mercy and gives us grace.

 

[10] You bet it will! Ephesians 2:7 ‘Even when we were dead in our transgressions, God made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.’ Those who are saved in this age are used as an example of God’s amazing grace even in the ages to come!

 

[11] Can’t you just see her working hard, while all the time thinking ‘He is so kind to me! And I still don’t know entirely why! Naomi will be amazed, Can’t wait to tell her.’ Boaz’s kindness became her motivation. Jesus’ love compels the Bible says, yet at the same time there is the warning ‘do not take the grace of God in vain.’ Let us be like Ruth.