Introduction: Chapter 1 revealed the sadness and the need for redemption that comes from sin and rebellion. Chapter 2 reveals both the hope that comes from God’s love and the fruit of His love in a believer’s life. Of all His gifts, the greatest is His love: “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. 13:13). Here, He showed His love through His blessings and provision for both Ruth and Naomi. He also showed His love by bringing them a relative of Naomi’s husband named Boaz, who would restore them as a “kinsman redeemer” (Lev. 27:9-25; Dt. 25:5-10). From God’s provision to Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz and their love for each other, He reveals seven truths about the fruit of His love.
First, God’s love in Boaz produced the fruit of faithfulness. From Boaz’s blessings that came from his faithfulness, God reveals that He will also bless you when your love produces faithfulness. Second, after sacrificing her life in Moab, Ruth sought to selflessly provide for Naomi out of love. From this, He reveals that His love produces the fruit of sacrifice for others. Third, in this account, His invisible hand guided Ruth to her redeemer Boaz. From this, He reveals that His love for you will guide you through His Spirit. Fourth, in this account, Boaz showed kindness to both his servants and Ruth. From this, He reveals that His love produces the fruit of compassion. Fifth, also in this account, Boaz rewarded Ruth for her selfless sacrifice. When your motives are pure, God will also reward you when you share His love with others in need. Sixth, God blessed Ruth and Naomi with the fruit contentment that came from His love. His love can also produce the fruit of contentment in your life. Finally, after seeing His plan and His provision, Naomi’s heart was transformed and she praised God. From this, He reveals that His love can also produce the fruits of transformation, gratitude, and praise in your life.
God’s blessing to Boaz for his faithfulness. Chapter 2 begins with a contrast. Because Elimelech lacked faith, he fled to Moab during a drought. As a result, he suffered and died (Ruth 1:1-3). By contrast, his relative Boaz had the faith to stay in Israel. As a result, he received the fullness of God’s blessings: “1 Now Naomi had a kinsman of her husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz.” (Ruth 2:1). Although the exact translation is lost, Boaz’s name most likely meant “within him is strength.” He had the faith and strength to trust in God’s provision while Israel was under the curse of a drought. For his faithfulness and obedience, Boaz received each of the 10 blessings that God promised in Deuteronomy 28. First, he was later exalted amongst the nations (Dt. 28:1-2; 26:19). His name appears in both of Jesus’ genealogies (Matt. 1:5; Lk. 3:32). Second, he was exalted within his own nation (Dt. 28:3). The Hebrew phrase for “great wealth” is also translated as “O valiant warrior”, the phrase that God used when He first called Gideon to attack the Midianites (Jdgs. 6:12). Boaz would also become David’s grandfather. Solomon, his great-grandson, later named one of the pillars of the Temple after him: “ . . . and he set up the left pillar and named it Boaz.” (1 Kgs. 7:21(b)). Third, he was later blessed with fertility through Ruth (Dt. 28:4). By contrast, she had been infertile while married to Elimelech’s son in Moab, a symbol of His judgment (Ruth 1:4-5; Dt. 28:18). Fourth, he was blessed with God’s provision (Dt. 28:5). Fifth, he was blessed with success (Dt. 28:6). Sixth, he was blessed with protection (Dt. 28:7). Seventh, he was blessed with prosperity (Dt. 28:8). Eighth, he was blessed with holiness (Dt. 28:9). Ninth, he was blessed with respect (Dt. 28:10). Finally, he was blessed with the fullness of God’s blessings (Dt. 28:11-14).
Michelangelo Buonarroti (1476-1564) (Sistine Chapel fresco - 1508-12)1
When your love and faith in God produces the fruit of obedience, He can also bless you. When you love Christ and have faith in Him, you share in Abraham’s blessings: “Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham . . . So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.” (Gal. 3:7, 9). Obedience does not lead to your salvation. If that were the case, Christ died needlessly (Gal. 2:21). Yet, when your love for Him produces the fruit of obedience, you allow Him to bless you. Are Christ’s blessings from your faith and obedience visible for others to see?
Ruth’s selfless sacrifice for Naomi. Ruth sacrificed all she had in Moab to follow Naomi to Israel. Yet, instead of mourning her life and the world that she had left, she pleaded with Naomi for the honor to serve her by gleaning in the fields for scraps of food that she might use to feed Naomi: “ 2 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.’” (Ruth 2:2). Like Christ, Ruth’s faith motivated her to provide for those in need. Her elder, windowed mother-in-law took priority over her own needs. Ruth’s love also melted Naomi’s grief over the loss of her husband and sons. Overcome with gratitude, she called Ruth her “daughter,” not her daughter-in-law.
Jesus also sacrificed everything for you. Jesus also left the comforts of His throne in heaven to take the lowly form of a human servant. He “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” (Phil. 2:7). Like Ruth, He did not come to be served but instead to serve others: “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:28; Mk. 10:45). “But I am among you as one who serves.” (Lk. 20:28(b)). He loved you so much that He suffered a brutal death on the cross to atone for your sins (1 Pet. 2:24; 1 Cor. 15:3; 1 Jo. 2:2). His self-sacrifice should motivate you to want to make your life a “living sacrifice” for Him (Ro. 12:1). Are you looking for ways to give back to Jesus?
Jesus’ love should motivate you to serve those in need. If you are looking for a way to thank Jesus, He wants you to serve those in need with the love that is within you: “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” (Matt. 25:40). In Old Testament times, the wealthy served the poor by ensuring that food remained on their fields after a harvest to allow the poor to “glean” what they needed to feed themselves: “19 When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20 When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow. 21 When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not go over it again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow. 22 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this thing.” (Dt. 24:19-22). “Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the LORD your God.” (Lev. 19:9-10; 23:22; Ex. 23:10-13). God warned the Jews not to “harden their hearts” to those in need: “7 If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; 8 but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.” (Dt. 15:7-8). When Jesus examines your heart, will He find it hardened to those in financial, health, or emotional distress?
When you help the poor, you help advance Jesus’ Kingdom. Providing for the poor is also one of the two things that defines true religion: “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (Jam. 1:27). If any person claims to be religious, that person should also fight for justice and correct the wrongs that hurt the weakest members of society: “He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.” (Dt. 10:18). He expects you to: “do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8). “Learn to do good, seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, [and] plead for the widow.” (Is. 1:17). “Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.” (Prov. 31:9). “The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor, the wicked does not understand such concern.” (Prov. 29:7). “He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker, but he who is gracious to the needy honors Him.” (Prov. 14:31). “Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute.” (Ps. 82:3). Jesus also warns that if you are not moved out of love to help those in need, your faith is dead: “15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. 18 But someone may well say, ‘You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.’” (Jam. 2:15-18). Are you freely giving time and money out of love to help those in need?
Provide for the emotional as well as monetary needs of widows. The account also highlights every believer’s obligation to: “plead the case of the widow.” (Is. 1:17; Jer. 22:3; Jam. 1:27). A window also should not be ignored merely because she is old: “Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old.” (Prov. 23:22). Today, government assistance has allowed many elderly individuals to receive food, housing, and medical care. Yet, many wilt in loneliness without visitors. If you have an elderly parent, are you providing God’s love through your companionship?
God’s love guided Ruth to Boaz. Although neither Ruth or Naomi could see it in their many tragedies, God was guiding their every step as part of His greater plan of redemption for them, for Israel, and for all of mankind: “3 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.” (Ruth 2:3). Ruth did not randomly meet her future kinsman redeemer. God brought her there to give birth to the line that would include Israel’s deliverer, King David, and mankind’s deliverer, Jesus.
God is also sovereign over you. When you submit to God, He will also order your steps for His purposes: “The steps of a man are established by the LORD, and He delights in his way.” (Ps. 37:23). “The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” (Prov. 16:9). “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” (Prov. 16:33). “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’” (Jam. 4:14-15). Jesus is both the author and perfecter of your faith (Heb. 12:2). When you submit to Him, the Holy Spirit will also guide you (Jo. 16:13; 14:26). Have you surrendered to Christ to allow the Holy Spirit to guide your steps for His purposes?
Boaz’s kindness to his servants. Being blessed with holiness from his faith (Dt. 28:9), Boaz was kind to his servants: “4 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.’” (Ruth 2:4). Thus, the fruit of his love was visible for all around him to see.
Boaz’s kindness to Ruth. As a holy man, Boaz was also kind to the poor. This was evident when he allowed an unknown woman to glean his fields: “ 5 Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, ‘Whose young woman is this?’ 6 The servant in charge of the reapers replied, ‘She is the young Moabite woman who returned with Naomi from the land of Moab. 7 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. 8 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. 9 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.’” (Ruth 2:5-9). Boaz’s love motivated him to do more than what was required of him. In addition to allowing her to glean in his fields on a permanent basis, he made three extraordinary offers that were contrary to the customs of that time. First, he offered this immigrant girl from an enemy country both the friendship and the companionship of staying with his own servants. Normally, the Jews were not to form agreements with the people of the pagan nations around them (Ex. 23:32). Second, he exceeded what was culturally expected at that time by offering her protection from the unwanted sexual advances of his male servants. In the context of war, Jewish men were allowed to claim the captured foreign women as a spoil of war (Dt. 20:14). Third, he allowed her to draw from the water taken by his servants from the wells to the fields. Normally, that would be her task. Under the Law, drawing and carrying water were menial tasks that were frequently given to aliens living within Israel: “ . . . and the alien who is within your camps, from the one who chops your wood to the one who draws your water, . . .” (Dt. 29:11). For example, when the Gibeonites tricked Joshua into believing that they were immigrants, Joshua agreed to let them live as the Jews’ servants. Yet, as servants, their tasks would include drawing water, as if they really were immigrants: “The leaders said to them, ‘Let them live.’ So they became hewers of wood and drawers of water for the whole congregation, just as the leaders had spoken to them.” (Josh. 9:21). Although Ruth had helped his relative, Boaz’s actions were the fruit of God’s love within him.
The symbolism of God’s Kingdom in Boaz’s field. Boaz’s offers to Ruth were like the offers that Christ offers to all believers. First, He offers you companionship (Rev. 3:20; Heb. 13:4; Gal. 3:28). Second, He offers you protection (2 Thess. 3:3; Prov. 30:5; 2 Sam. 22:31). Third, He offers you His living waters (Jo. 4:14; 6:35; 7:37-8; Rev. 7:17). If you have accepted these things from Christ, are you offering them to others in need?
Show love to the unloved, including immigrants. Like Boaz, the fruit of God’s love in your life should include the unloved members of society, which includes immigrants: “So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” (Dt. 10:19). “You shall not wrong a stranger [foreigner] or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Ex. 22:21). “You shall not oppress a stranger [foreigner], since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Ex. 23:9). “When a stranger [foreigner] resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger [foreigner] who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.” (Lev. 19:33-34). “You shall not pervert the justice due an alien or an orphan, nor take a widow's garment in pledge. But you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and that the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I am commanding you to do this thing.” (Dt. 24:17-18). Moses declared that there was “one law” for the Jews and “alien sojourns,” i.e., foreigners (Nu. 15:14-16, 29). God also watches over the aliens or immigrants in the land: “The LORD protects the strangers [foreigners]; He supports the fatherless and the widow, but He thwarts the way of the wicked.” (Ps. 146:9). In some cases, compassion toward an alien requires allowing the alien to stay and inherit land like any other citizen: ‘“You shall divide it by lot for an inheritance among yourselves and among the aliens who stay in your midst, who bring forth sons in your midst. And they shall be to you as the native-born among the sons of Israel; they shall be allotted an inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel. And in the tribe with which the alien stays, there you shall give him his inheritance,’ declares the Lord GOD.” (Ezek. 47:22-23). When immigrants enter your country illegally or overstay their visas, will you still show compassion for them?
Boaz’s reward for Ruth’s selfless acts for Naomi. God’s love inside Boaz melted his heart of any prejudice that he might have had for Ruth as a foreigner from a pagan, enemy country: “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?’ 11 Boaz replied 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. 12 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.’ 13 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.’” (Ruth 2:10-13). Here, Boaz represented Christ. In his reply to Ruth, Christ spoke through Boaz. As a reward for her faith in Yahweh and her selfless love, His “wings” would provide her with both refuge and delight: “How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. 8 They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house; and You give them to drink of the river of Your delights. 9 For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light.” (Ps. 36:7-9).
Nicolas Poussin (1593/94-1665) Summer (Boaz and Ruth) (oil canvas 1660-1664)2
God blesses those who help those in need. When you help the poor or those in need, God also promises to bless you: “How blessed is he who considers the helpless; the LORD will deliver him in a day of trouble.” (Ps. 41:1(b)). “You shall generously give to him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all your undertakings.” (Dt. 15:10). “When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.” (Dt. 24:19). “One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, and He will repay him for his good deed.” (Prov. 19:17). Yet, if you let others know about your good deeds, you have received your reward (Matt. 6:2). If you instead give in secret, God will bless you on Earth and in heaven: “It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave;” (Matt. 20:26-27). Have you given God reasons to bless you?
The satisfaction of Ruth and Naomi from God’s provision. Ruth found satisfaction in the meal that Boaz provided for her. She also gleaned an ephah of barley, which brought satisfaction to Naomi: “14 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.” 15 When she rose to glean, Boaz commanded his servants, saying, ‘Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not insult her. 16 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.’ 17 So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. 18 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.” (Ruth 2:14-18). Normally, a poor person gleaned the grain that had fallen on the ground. Yet, after feeding her, Boaz allowed Ruth to glean grain directly from the sheaves of the barley like a laborer. Although the definition of an ephah varies, “an ephah of barley could have weighed from thirty to fifty pounds.” (Daniel Block, The New American Commentary: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture, Judges, Ruth, Vol. 6, B & H Publishing Group 1999 p. 670).
Glean all you can from God’s Word and He will bring you satisfaction. In the parable of the sower, Jesus explained that “the seed is the word of God.” (Lk. 8:11(b)). As a believer in Christ, His Word also lives inside of you: “for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” (1 Pet. 1:23). Thus, if the seed symbolizes the Word of God, Ruth’s account also reveals the satisfaction that comes to believers when they consume the Word: “We should use Ruth’s example to glean everything we can from the Word of God: Ruth worked hard. Ruth had to stoop to gather every grain. Ruth could only pick up one grain at a time. Ruth had to hold on to each grain, and not immediately drop it. Ruth took the grain home and threshed it. Ruth took the threshed grain and winnowed it. Ruth was nourished by the grain.” (David Guzik on Ruth 2).3
Naomi’s transformed heart and praise for God. The seed that God provided for Naomi not only satisfied her, it also transformed her heart with praise toward God: “19 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.’ 20 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.’ 21 Then Ruth the Moabitess said, ‘Furthermore, he said to me, ‘You should stay close to my servants until they have finished all my harvest.’’ 22 Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, ‘It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his maids, so that others do not fall upon you in another field.’ 23 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.” (Ruth 2:19-23). Just as this chapter begins with a contrast, it ends with one as well. At the end of chapter 1, Naomi wanted to be called “Mara” or bitter. She blamed God for her tragedies (Ruth 1:19-21). Yet, her heart melted through God’s love. For the first time, she realized that He was using Ruth as part of His plan to redeem her. She urged Ruth to stay close to Boaz’s servants to prevent another man from raping her and forcibly claiming her as a spouse. Naomi realized that Boaz was a close relative or a “kinsman redeemer” who could redeem them under God’s Law (Lev. 27:9-25; Dt. 25:5-10).
Let God’s Word transform you as well. God’s Word can transform you because it contains His truth: “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” (Jo. 17:17). It has the power to build up your faith when it is lacking: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Ro. 10:17). When you consume His Word, it will transform you by guiding you on your path (Ps. 119:105). It will also transform your mind (Ro. 12:2). Are you reading the Word each day to allow God to transform you?
A large harvest in God’s field also awaits you. Every believer is a harvester for God: “Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.’” (Matt. 13:30). Like Ruth, a large harvest awaits you in God’s field of souls who have heard the seed of the Word and are ready to be harvested: “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.” (Jo. 4:35). Are you helping to harvest new believers into the Kingdom of eternal life?
Image credit: Michelangelo Buonarroti: Boaz (artbible.info)↩︎