Author Philip Yancey, in What’s So Amazing About Grace?, tells of a comparative religion conference where experts from all over the world debated what, if any, belief was unique to the Christian faith. They began eliminating possibilities. Incarnation? Resurrection? But there are other faiths telling of deities that appeared in human form and also returned from death. The debate went on for some time, until theologian and philosopher C. S. Lewis joined the discussion. When told that they were trying to agree on the one unique characteristic of Christianity, Lewis responded, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”
Ruth has prayed that she can glean in a field where she will “find favour” or “grace” (Ruth 2:2 KJV). Grace is benevolence bestowed on one who doesn’t deserve it and can’t earn it. As an abject widow and foreigner, Ruth has no claims on anyone. Providentially, God leads her into a field owned by a relative of Elimelek (2:1, 3). Ruth now becomes the recipient of Boaz’s undeserved favour (2:10, 13).
How is grace bestowed upon Ruth?
Boaz calling Ruth “my daughter” (2:8) tells us that he is a much older man, probably a contemporary of Naomi, for she too uses that term of endearment with Ruth (2:2). But I believe there is more. Boaz knows that Ruth has embraced Yahweh, the God of Israel (1:16). In addressing her as “my daughter” (2:8), he is acknowledging her as family; not a foreigner, not a Gentile, and certainly not an accursed Moabitess.
You and I, too, must marvel at the grace God has extended to us. As Gentiles, we were outside the covenant that God made with the Jews (Ephesians 2:11–13). But when we believe in Jesus, we are adopted into the family of God. We become sons and daughters of God (John 1:12).
Gleaners normally move from field to field, but Boaz asks Ruth to glean in his field only—and not only this one time, but throughout the entire barley and wheat harvests. Gleaners can move in only after harvesters have left an area, but Ruth is allowed to follow behind Boaz’s workers (2:8–9). Boaz even orders his men to deliberately “pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up” (2:16). Ruth is also allowed to drink the water Boaz provides for his workers, a privilege not normally permitted to gleaners. He even shares his food with her
(2:9, 14). To ensure she is treated with respect, and not verbally abused or physically molested, he places her under his personal protection (2:9, 15, 22). In giving her permission, provisions, and protection, Boaz is going beyond what is required by the law. Ruth has become the recipient of Boaz’s extravagant generosity and abundant grace.
Ruth does not lose sight of who she is—a foreigner and someone even lower than a servant. Mindful that she is a recipient of undeserved grace, she asks to remain in that grace (2:10, 13). Likewise, may we in humility and gratitude pray like Ruth, “May I continue to find favour in your eyes, my [Lord]” (2:13).
Would you agree with C. S. Lewis that “grace” is the one unique characteristic of Christianity? Why? How would you explain “grace” to a non-Christian?
How have you experienced grace this week? How did this unmerited act of kindness affect you? On whom can you bestow grace this week?