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The Book of Ruth

Feb 04, 2024 | John Talcott

The Book of Ruth (3) - Working a Field of Dreams

Today, we are in the third week of our message series, “The Book of Ruth,” and we have been reading about a man named Elimelech from Bethlehem in Judah who left his home and went to live in the country of Moab taking his wife and two sons with him. After they had settled down in Moab, Elimelech died and his wife Naomi was left with her two sons. The two sons married Moabite women, but about 10 years later both sons died as well, leaving Naomi alone without her two sons or her husband.

Then, Naomi heard that the Lord had blessed his people in Judah by giving them good crops again and so she decided to go back to Bethlehem. With her two daughters in law, she set out on the road that would lead them back to Judah, but as they were going, she said to her two daughters in law, “Go back to your families.” Her daughters-in-law said, “We want to go with you to your people,” but Naomi persisted. Eventually, Orpah decided to go back, but Ruth stayed with Naomi. And so, together Ruth and Naomi returned to Bethlehem just as the barley harvest was beginning.

As we pick up today in Ruth, chapter two, we are introduced to another character,

“Now Naomi had a relative on her husband's side, from the clan of Elimelech, a man of standing, whose name was Boaz” (Ruth 2:1).

With that introduction, the text continues telling us that after their arrival in Bethlehem, Ruth 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" (Ruth 2:2).

Because she understood their culture, this is what they did, this was God’s way of providing for the poor and widows of Israel. And so,

“Ruth went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters” (Ruth 2:3).

In other words, she began to gather whatever fell to the ground or was left on the edges or corners of the field.

The next words, “As it turned out…” is one of the major themes in the book of Ruth. In other words, there are no great miracles, no voices from heaven, but what appeared to be a coincidence, as something that just happened, we understand to be the providence of God. And so,

“She found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech” (Ruth 2:3).

In other words, the providence of God is a theological term that describes how God uses natural circumstances to bring about his supernatural purposes. As the Bible says in Romans chapter eight, verse twenty-eight,

“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

It just so happened that she found herself in this one particular field, because of the providence of God, because God is working in all things. And so, as it turned out that Ruth, an immigrant in a foreign land, is picking up the leftovers in the field of Boaz, who just happened to be a relative of Naomi’s. And neither Naomi nor Ruth planned it that way, they didn’t expect it to be that way, but it just happened that way.

It is for that reason that we can give thanks in all circumstances, giving thanks to God the Father for everything, because he is working in all things for the good of those who love him (Ephesians 5:20). And so, Ruth is out working in the field, she is being responsible, caring for her mother-in-law, and the Bible says,

“Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, "The Lord be with you!” (Ruth 2:4).

And so, she just happened to be out in the field when Boaz shows up. He comes into the field blessing the workers in the name of the Lord. I love that because he is not a pastor, priest, or prophet, but he recognizes that his field, his workers, and his harvest are all his ministry.

This is a gentle reminder to every single one of you. You don’t have to have the title of pastor or be in full-time ministry to be in full-time ministry because Jesus said,

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

In other words, you don’t have to go overseas as a missionary to preach the gospel, but you can be a missionary in your school or your workplace by just letting the way you live preach the gospel.

And so, Boaz is supervising the workers out in his field, he blesses them, and they called back,

“The Lord bless you” (Ruth 2:4).

Just about that time he notices Ruth because the man of God is concerned about the poor and the widow. And so, he asked the foreman,

“Whose young woman is that?" (Ruth 2:5).

In other words, this is the old school way of creeping on somebody’s profile. This was back in the day you had to ask questions, and so he’s trying to find out some more details about this woman who is gleaning in his field. The foreman replied,

“She is the Moabitess who came back from Moab with Naomi.” She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters” (Ruth 2:6-7).

In that moment, Boaz recognizes that she was most likely carrying lots of baggage, because not only was she a Moabite, but she was homeless, widowed, and destitute. And yet, suddenly he finds himself looking at this most unlikely woman with interest because there was something that caused her to stand out from the others. The foreman said,

“She went into the field and has worked steadily from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter” (Ruth 2:7).

And so, Boaz recognized that she was a hard worker, she wasn’t just looking for a handout, she wasn’t crying about being a victim of her circumstances, she refused to do what most women in that culture, in her situation, did to survive; but instead, she is out working in the field in the heat of the day.

Now, she has really caught Boaz’s attention, because he knew that she had been faithful to Naomi, because she had stayed with Naomi. But that she had also been faithful to the Lord, leaving her homeland, her people and their religion, to serve the one true God of Israel. And so, he hadn’t really been looking, but he saw something different in her, something better, because he notices the godly character of this young widow.

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” (Ruth 2:8).

“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" (Ruth 2:9).

“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?" (Ruth 2:10).

That is a great question, one which Boaz answers in verse eleven,

“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” (Ruth 2:11).

In other words, he heard how she stayed with Naomi when it would have been easier to go back home. And so, he is like, “I’ve heard your story, I’ve seen your profile.” And then he pronounces a blessing over her, saying,

“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” (Ruth 2:12).

Now, I don’t believe that either one of them realized in that moment just how big this blessing would be. But in the next few weeks we are going to discover that this young widow with no hope and no future whatsoever would actually be promoted to the great-grandmother of the king of Israel.

And so, Ruth has seen how Boaz has provided for her, protected her, honored her, and cared for her. Now she has heard from Boaz himself as he blessed her and she said,

"May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord. 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" (Ruth 2:13).

You can almost see Boaz smiling at her gracious reply. And in verse fourteen he invites her to eat with him. He said,

“Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar." When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over” (Ruth 2:14).

And so, Boaz is still protecting her, this is very public, and he is protecting both her image and her purity. He continues to express his generosity, going over and beyond meeting her needs, and he is exceeding her expectations. She ate all she wanted and had some left over, and so this idol worshiping widow from Moab who has now turned to the one true God, discovers that our God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

You must realize that she’s never experienced the goodness of God before, because this is entirely different from what she had known in Moab. The Moabite God of Chemosh was not really a god at all, it would just take and take and take but never give anything. And so, now this poor widow, this immigrant, this laborer in the field has just stepped into new territory. She has stepped on new ground, almost as if God was saying,

“I will give you every place where you set your foot” (Joshua 1:3).

In other words, because of your faith, you have shifted into new territory. You are no longer who you used to be, because you are stepping into your future.

And so, this is her breakthrough moment, she may have felt uncomfortable, feeling like she didn’t fit, and surely some people would look at her as if she was an outsider, but she wasn’t going to pay any attention to them. God had given it to her, those other people, they just don’t know it yet, but it was already hers. And so, she was walking in the promise of the Lord who said,

“See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name” (Revelation 3:8).

In fact, there are some of you here and that is a word for you, that is a prophetic word for someone, and so would you turn to your neighbor and tell them, “It is mine.” You see, God told his people to claim it, put your name on it, own this place, own this territory, walk on it, and move in it. He said, I am giving you,

“A land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant” (Deuteronomy 6:10-11).

And so, Ruth didn’t cling to Naomi because she thought she was her meal ticket. She didn’t stay with her hoping that God would bless her also. She stayed with Naomi because she believed it was the right thing to do. And so, with that perspective, when she got to Bethlehem, she did the next right thing. In other words, she did what the poor and widows do, she started working the corner of the field, and she began to glean in the field behind the harvesters.

“As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, "Even if she gathers among the sheaves, don't embarrass her. Rather, pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up” (Ruth 2:15-16).

And so, Boaz continues watching over her, guarding her dignity, letting her work because she came to work for food. And so, he’s not giving her a handout, but he gave orders to his men to leave a little extra behind.

Now, she didn’t know it then, but she was working in a field of dreams, she was stepping into her future, working whatever door that God opened for her. And so, she is working, catching whatever they dropped, picking up whatever is left behind.

“So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah” (Ruth 2:17).

And so, Ruth comes home to Naomi with an ephah of barley. In other words, she came home with a whole lot of barley. An ephah is about a bushel, or two weeks wages, and that is what Ruth gathered in one day.

This would have been like the way we do Easter egg hunts with our grandkids. We just pour out Easter eggs everywhere, and that’s what the harvesters did, they left so much behind that at the end of the day Ruth could barely carry what she had gleaned. But she put forth the effort and verse eighteen says,

“She carried it back to town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered. Ruth also brought out and gave her what she had left over after she had eaten enough” (Ruth 2:18).

Naomi asked her, "Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!" (Ruth 2:19).

“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” (Ruth 2:19).

Naomi’s jaw dropped, amazed; she was astounded. She’s having one of those God moments, and she was like, “Boaz! The Lord bless him!”

"He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead." She added, "That man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers" (Ruth 2:20).

Here we discover another one of the big themes in the book of Ruth, our kinsman redeemer. And so, we’re going to spend some more time on this in the weeks to come, but I want you to know today that a kinsman redeemer is a relative who comes to the aid of a widow. In other words, in a situation like Naomi’s, a widow who has experienced significant loss, the kinsman redeemer would come in and provide for her, protect her, and take care of her.

Now, what is really amazing about this account is that legally Boaz is not even obligated to be Naomi’s kinsman redeemer. In other words, he’s not the closest relative, because Elimelech’s brother would’ve been the kinsman redeemer. He’s the one that is supposed to do it, and so Boaz in blessing Naomi’s daughter-in-law Ruth has gone far over and beyond anything that could be expected. And he wasn’t done yet, because Ruth said,

“He even said to me, 'Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain” (Ruth 2:21).

Naomi recognized that this could only be the grace of God, and so she said to Ruth,

"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” (Ruth 2:22-23).

What we have found unraveling before our very eyes is an amazing story of the grace of God. Boaz doesn’t owe her anything, absolutely nothing, she wasn’t even an Israelite, and yet he chooses to give her everything. And so, this is not just about the law, this is over and above the law, this is God’s amazing grace. In fact, this is much like the grace that we have all received because the Bible says,

“From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another” (John 1:16).

In other words, each one of us are in the same situation as Ruth, and yet we have a kinsman redeemer. His name is Jesus, he is the living son of God who protects us, provides for us, and has purchased us from the slave market of sin. He saw us out in the field, working out in the world in our brokenness, and he paid the debt for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus meets all of our needs, works in all things, even in our brokenness, our failures, and in our pain. He is the one who promised,

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

And so, our kinsman redeemer, Jesus, is so good to us, and in his providence, he is working in all things to bring about good to those who love him and are called according to his purpose.

My question for you today, is do you love him? Are you his disciple, called according to his purpose? If not, you can know him as your kinsman redeemer today if you respond to his invitation. He invites you to come, to eat with him, to be in a relationship with him. And when you do, he will make all things brand-new because the Bible says,            

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

In other words, if you don’t know him as your kinsman redeemer, he can redeem your brokenness, and renew your hope today, because all things are possible with God.

I want you to understand this because there is absolutely no sin too great for God’s grace. Nothing that you could do or experience that is beyond God’s redemption. In fact, the Bible says it this way,

“Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

And so, no matter who you are or where you are, you can seek God and you can become a new creation. No matter where you are spiritually right now, I want you to hear this, because Jesus is your kinsman redeemer. He is here right now, he is with you, the Bible says it this way,

“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing" (Zephaniah 3:17).

In other words, he loves you, he is for you, and he is working in all things to bring about good to those who love him. Do you love him today? I hope you do, because he “loves you with an everlasting love,” and he said, "I have drawn you with loving-kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3). Would you come to your kinsman redeemer today?

Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Ministry Pass, PC Study Bible, Preaching Library, and Sermon Central. Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

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