What do you expect from life? For Naomi and Ruth, they probably couldn’t expect much. We read their story in the book of Ruth.
Chapter one opens with a famine in the land. At that time, Elimelech took his wife Naomi and two sons into the foreign land of Moab. The sons marry Ruth and Orpah; it looks like all is going to be well. But then Elimelech and the two sons die. However, there’s a ray of hope! “The Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them” (Ruth 1:16 ESV). Will the widows find provision if they go back to Bethlehem? Orpah didn’t think so, she’s not going with Naomi. But Ruth said something astonishing: “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (v.16).
Ruth is a Moabitess. As a foreign woman, could she expect much in a new land?
In chapter two, we see that Ruth shows great character in saying to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favour” (2:2). She wants to be here among God’s people serving Naomi’s God.
Well, Naomi agrees and away Ruth goes to glean. “As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz” (v.3) So, what is Boaz like? This is how he greets his reapers: “The Lord be with you” (v.4). Boaz is a man of God. He’s a man so saturated with God that it flavors his everyday speech. And who does he take notice of? It is Ruth. What makes her stand out from the crowd? It’s her servant-heart towards her mother-in-law.
So how does Boaz treat her? With kindness. He seeks to protect her. And how does Ruth react? She bows down with her face to the ground and wonders why she has found his favor. She humbly lowers herself because she knows she doesn’t deserve such extravagant kindness. Boaz acknowledges Ruth’s faithfulness to her mother-in-law in leaving her own people and land to come to a people that she does not know. Heblesses Ruth saying, “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” (v.12).
She doesn’t deserve this kind of favor, yet she receives it. This is the key idea that hangs over these verses. One way that Ruth could have responded to Boaz’ kindness would have been to feel that she deserved this level of kindness from Boaz, or she could have responded by not accepting his kindness because she thought she was too bad. The Bible tells us that she humbly accepts the undeserved kindness.
And Boaz just piles it on. First, he allows her to sit with the reapers and eat bread and dip it in wine with them. Then he tells his men to let her glean even among the sheaves! And so Ruth sets about in the fields again. When she beats out what she’s gleaned, it amounts to 22 liters of barley! Now just imagine what Naomi must have thought as she saw her daughter-in-law come home at the end of the working day with 22 liters of barley. She was astonished! She asked, “Where did you glean today? And where have you worked? Blessed be the man who took notice of you” (v.19).
But what is truly amazing is that Ruth’s story is our own—we were once foreigners to the covenants of the promise (Ephesians 2:12). Moreover Jesus made it very clear that the entire Bible is about Him. And this Old Testament book, the book of Ruth, shows us a picture of what Jesus is like. If we have come to know the Lord Jesus by trusting in Him, we have found ourselves under His wings. He has lavished His extravagant kindness and grace on us—and He keeps on giving!
Written by Sean Tong for YMI