Ruth 2: What is Your Reaction to Grace?
Read Ruth 2 before reading this blog.
Last week we talked about letting the Book of Ruth point you to the heart of the father and I think the best way to do that is to truly empathize with Ruth. Let’s put ourselves into her shoes. She is a Moabite woman, a woman that should never be permitted in the assembly of God, heading to a country where they serve God.
As a foreigner, Ruth probably has an accent, dresses out of Israelite style, and on top of that, she’s a childless widow, which left her at the bottom of the social scale, next to lepers. We can infer that she did not fit in and she probably wasn’t well received by many. With all that in mind, I want you to truly see Boaz and his compassionate heart towards her. Let the personality of Boaz toward this foreign widow point you to the everlasting love of the Father. Imagine these words of Boaz to Ruth as the words of God to you:
Ruth 2:8-13 NLT ...“Listen, my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields... 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.” Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly. “What have I done to deserve such kindness?” she asked. “I am only a foreigner.” “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. May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.”
Working to Leave Poverty
Naomi, Elimelech, and their family left Israel due to a famine and when Naomi returned to God’s country, she was blessed by returning to an abundant harvest in her homeland.
Ruth 1:22 "So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning."
In those days, Israel had what you could call a social assistance program:
Deuteronomy 24:19 “When you are harvesting your crops and forget to bring in a bundle of grain from your field, don’t go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigners, orphans, and widows. Then the Lord your God will bless you in all you do.
Farmers were commanded, in the Law of Moses, to not fully harvest their fields. This way, the poor, the needy, and the hungry could come and work for the remainder of the harvest for food for themselves.
When Ruth and Naomi return back to Judah, this is the social assistance program they turn to so that they will not go hungry. This type of living was not easy at all. The foreigners, widows, and orphans did not sign up for a profile on their local state government website, enter their e-mail, and receive direct deposit weekly unemployment paychecks. No, this poor way of life was often characterized by sweating underneath the blazing sun to gather as much food as their basket could carry, not knowing if they would even be allowed back on that field. It was a bargain to see if that field you walked all that distance to would be kind enough to allow you to trail behind them in their work so that you could eat; or even if they would let you come back, or even if they would treat you fairly. In Ruth 2:22, Naomi warns Ruth to stay with Boaz because she could be harassed in other fields. This was not a life short of hard work.
In Ruth 2:7 she said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.’ She came into the field and has remained here from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.”
Ruth is certainly not the average worker. And chapter 2 goes on to show how Boaz is not the normal Master. He is a master who protects this woman (Ruth 2:9), gives her more than she worked for (Ruth 2:18), and invites her to continue safely working on his field until the harvest is over (Ruth 2:23).
Boaz says in Ruth 2:8 “Listen my daughter, stay right here with us; don’t go to any other fields. Stay right behind the young women working in my field; when you are thirsty draw from My well.”
This kindness towards Ruth was certainly unexpected. A kindness and grace generously given. Do these words sound familiar? Let’s look at the Gospel parallels:
2 Corinthians 6:18 “And I will be a Father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty.”
John 4:10, 14 says “Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water... whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
What is Your Reaction to Grace?
Now notice the difference here between Naomi and Ruth, they both were receivers of grace. At the end of Ruth 1 when Naomi was given a blessing: that there was food again in Judah, that she arrived there having had safe travels, that she entered into community, and that she entered into hope. But, despite all the sin she committed in Ruth 1, Naomi is still bitter when she receives this grace, saying why has all of this bitterness come upon me by God? (Ruth 1:20-21). Yet, we never see Ruth asking why. When Ruth lived in Moab with her husband, they were married for ten years, yet she never bore a child. Having children, especially in that day, was a great blessing and provided great social status, yet for a reason we do not know, in those ten years Ruth could not conceive. Then, her husband dies. Never in this time is a complaint from Ruth recorded. Ruth then clings to her mother-in-law, possibly the only member left in her family, and they move to a land she’s never been, a land that would be very hesitant to accept her. Upon arriving to this new land, she immediately looks for tough work to provide for her and her mother-in-law. And, when she receives kindness from Boaz, she doesn’t say “oh, finally! After a decade of trials, I have finally been given the grace I deserve!” She instead kneels in gratitude and asks “what have I done to deserve such kindness?” (Ruth 2:10). Ruth exhibits the heart of a humble servant. This is a significant difference in attitude between two separate women to the same graceful God. Not one blessing was bigger than the other, but one woman was proud, focusing on her bitter life, and the other woman was humble, looking optimistically ahead.
How Do You See Yourself?
Our view of God is morphed by our view of ourselves. Do we see ourselves as deserving of His blessings because of the suffering we endure? Or are we humble to His throne, seeing ourselves as a sinner, never amounting to His goodness, undeserving, and therefore grateful for His grace?
Just like Ruth, you and I were once foreigners. We were far off and unqualified for God’s love by our sins, but God in His loving kindness came and welcomed us into eternal life through His son, Jesus. In the instant we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, God calls us daughter, He protects us, calls us to be a worker on His field, and gives us never ending access to living water. When we become a daughter of God we receive this grace that Boaz so well demonstrates to Ruth and because of our sin, we should fall on our knees asking, “What have I done to deserve this kindness?” In this redemption, and the riches of this grace, God provides for our every need and blesses us with eternal life in Heaven. Keep looking at the heart of Boaz and you’ll see just how much God cares for you.
Ephesians 1:3-8: "All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding."