II. Service (Ruth 2:1-23)
II. Service (2:1-23)
2:1-3 Through this story, God was preparing sleepy Bethlehem, hometown to Naomi and the male lead to whom we’re introduced here, as the site of his miraculous interruption at a later point in history (see Mic 5:2; Matt 2:1). Boaz was a wealthy relative of Elimelech (2:1) and, as Matthew 1:5 reveals, the son of Rahab, the same former prostitute who hid Israel’s spies and survived the collapse of Jericho because of her faith in God (see Josh 2:1-24; 6:22-25).
Ruth wanted to serve and care for Naomi, so she asked to go into the fields and gather fallen grain (2:2). The law of Moses (as if it had been given with Ruth and Naomi in mind) provided for the poor by commanding the Israelites to leave behind some grain at harvest time so that the poor could gather it and have food (see Lev 19:9-10; 23:22; Deut 24:19-21). So, Ruth went to gather grain behind the harvesters. Seemingly by chance, though, she happened to be in the portion of the field belonging to Boaz (2:3). Of course, nothing happens by chance, and no one just happens to be anywhere. The use of “happened to be” is the author’s way of acknowledging the providential working of God in Ruth’s life.
2:4-18 When Boaz arrived and learned who the gleaning woman was, he had compassion on her and offered her provision and protection (2:5-9). Ruth couldn’t understand why she had found favor with him, especially because she was a Moabitess, a foreigner to Israel (2:10). Boaz essentially told her that she was simply reaping the blessings of the kind of life she had sown. Her kindness, service to her mother-in-law, and decision to take refuge under the Lord’s provision had brought blessing on her own head (2:11-12). The care Ruth had shown to Naomi would have been especially meaningful to Boaz because Naomi’s husband had been his relative.
Because of Ruth’s faithful commitment, Boaz pronounced a blessing on her, asking that the Lord—under whose wings [she had] come for protection—would provide a spiritual covering for her (2:12). To this, Ruth responded with humble gratitude (2:13). Then, Boaz graciously provided still further help to her—more than the law required—so that she would not have to work as hard to provide for herself and Naomi (2:14-18).
2:19-20 That evening, Naomi was pleased to see how well Ruth had done in her gleaning, but she was shocked when she learned that Boaz was the one to show her such kindness. Immediately, Naomi recognized that this was no chance encounter: the sovereign hand of God had made a connection for them. She informed Ruth that Boaz was one of [their] family redeemers (2:20).
As a “family redeemer” (or kinsmen redeemer), Boaz could fulfill the law of levirate marriage (see Deut 25:5-10). This was an ancient provision that meant that if an Israelite man were to die without having a son as an heir to carry on his family name, the man’s brother could provide for the deceased by marrying his widow. Then “the first son she [bore would] carry on the name of the dead brother, so his name [would] not be blotted out from Israel” (Deut 25:6).
2:21-23 Given this provision in God’s Word and the divine connection that had occurred between Ruth and Boaz, Naomi encouraged Ruth to continue working in Boaz’s field (2:22-23). Naomi was right that God had shown kindness to them in their pain and loss. But, he had also stretched his sovereign hand over these circumstances in order to use them for his larger kingdom purposes, something the women would not be able to understand within their lifetimes (4:17-22).
Make no mistake: God can similarly work through your circumstances today to bring about future blessings and even to change the world—whether or not you’re able to connect all the dots on this side of eternity.