The Field of Opportunity

God truly does work out all things for good. He turns tragedy into triumph, tears into laughter and mourning into dancing. We see this in the second chapter of Ruth. The first chapter brought only tragedy and sorrow. After losing her husband and two sons, Naomi, joined by Ruth, returns to her homeland. And she is bitter. In Ruth 2 we begin to see light at the end of the tunnel. It gets brighter with every verse.
“There was a relative of Naomi’s husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech. His name was Boaz.” (Verse 1)
We finally meet Boaz, the leading man in our story. He will prove to be more than just a love interest to Ruth. He serves the role of a redeemer. Ruth and Naomi come to Bethlehem empty. They’ve lost everything and have no one to care for them. Boaz will change all that. He will redeem what has been lost. He will give Ruth and Naomi a future and a hope.
Two things we learn about Boaz in this first verse. Firstly, he is a relative of Naomi’s husband. Let me explain why this is important to our story. In Hebrew culture, if a man died before he could give his wife a son, it was up to the nearest (unmarried) relative to marry her. This was done to keep the family name alive and to secure any family estate there might be.
The oldest available brother would be first in line to take on this responsibility. If all brothers were spoken for, then it was up to the closest blood relative of the deceased.
Ruth’s husband, Elimelech, had only one brother. Unfortunately, he also had died. Boaz may have been an uncle or cousin. Whichever the case, he meets the criteria. He qualifies as kinsmen redeemer.
The second thing we learn about Boaz is that he was wealthy. In other words, he had the resources to redeem Naomi and Ruth. You see; it was also up to the redeemer to assume any property debts, as was the case here.
Boaz is a type of Christ, our kinsmen redeemer. He assumes our debt. Furthermore, He claims us for His bride, as so beautifully illustrated in the Book of Ruth.
“So Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” (Verse 2)
Ruth looks to find favor. That’s what grace is – unmerited favor. Ruth must rely on the compassion and generosity of another. Her future depends upon it. So it is with us. Like Ruth, we find grace with our Redeemer. Our future depends upon it.
“Then she left, and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers. And she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.” (Verse 3)
In ancient Hebrew culture there was no such thing as government aid. God’s law required that neighbors help each other out, as we read in Leviticus:
“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God.'” (Leviticus 23:22)
If you were poor you could find a nearby field and stock up. Anything on the corner of the lot was fair game, or anything left on the ground. God set up a system for the rich to care for the poor without taxing the heck out of them.
Ruth happened to come to the field of Boaz. Actually, she ended up here by design. God is the One making things happen.
“Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you!” And they answered him, “The Lord bless you!” (Verse 4)
Notice how Boaz greets his employees. His prayer is that the Lord be with them. That should be our prayer when we show up for work.
“Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” (Vs. 5)
“Who’s the babe?” Boaz asks
“So the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered and said, “It is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. And she said, ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’ So she came and has continued from morning until now, though she rested a little in the house.” (Verse 6-7)
This is some welfare program. The poor didn’t have care baskets dropped at their doorsteps. They had to work for their supper. Ruth worked long and hard, taking only one short rest break. This illustrates the balance between grace and works. God provides for us on the basis of grace, but we must be willing to do good works for Him. That’s not what saves us, but we’re not called to be idle either.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
“Then Boaz said to Ruth, “You will listen, my daughter, will you not? Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women. Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Have I not commanded the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.”
(Verse 8-9)
So long as Ruth listens to Boaz and doesn’t stray off, she will be well taken care of. She is welcome to reap with the other women. Water will be provided. She doesn’t have to draw her own. Boaz also promises to protect Ruth from predators, otherwise known as hormonal young men. Only two things he asks: listen to me and remain with me.
Jesus tells us the same. He says, “Come in from the outskirts and glean with my people. Come drink of the living water.” He promises to care for us and protect us from predators. All He asks is that we listen to Him and remain with Him.
“So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” (Verse 10)
Overwhelmed by Boaz’s grace, Ruth comes to terms with her own unworthiness. “Why me? I’m an outsider!” So it is when we come to Jesus. Though we come from afar, he takes notice of us. How is it that we find such favor? I remember feeling this way when I first met the Lord. I couldn’t believe He would receive someone so undeserving. His grace truly is amazing. It’s humbling.
“And Boaz answered and said to her, “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before.” (Verse 11)
Ruth may have been a looker, but that’s not what impressed Boaz most. It was her sacrificial love. After suffering great loss, she remained true to her mother-in-law.  Boaz goes on to tell Ruth…
“The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.” (Verse 12)
Ruth wasn’t on a manhunt when she came to Bethlehem. She followed Naomi to seek refuge under the wings of God. What a beautiful image of our Lord. I’m mindful of when Jesus entered into Jerusalem weeping:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37)
That’s the heart of God. He longs to gather us and smother us with his love. He desires to be our shelter, our refuge and our help in time of need. Do you see Him that way? Ruth did!
“Then she said, “Let me find favor in your sight, my lord; for you have comforted me, and have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants.” (Verse 13)
Though Ruth wasn’t a maidservant of Boaz, he accepted her just the same. He extends to her all the same privileges. In the Hebrew household, maidservants became part of the family. As servants of the Lord, we also become part of His family.
“Now Boaz said to her at mealtime, “Come here, and eat of the bread, and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed parched grain to her; and she ate and was satisfied, and kept some back.” (Verse 14)
This is a picture of communion. In Hebrew culture, when two break bread and dip in the same bowl, they declare oneness. We do the same when we come to the Lord’s Table. We declare our oneness with Him and with each other.
Ruth ate and was satisfied. Actually, she was more than satisfied – she held some bread back. She saved this portion for Naomi. That’s how it is when we commune with Jesus. He leaves us satisfied. Then we go out and share with others.
“And when she rose up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. Also let grain from the bundles fall purposely for her; leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.”
(Vs. 15-16)
Ruth is permitted to glean wherever she wants, whatever she wants, whenever she wants. “As a matter of a fact,” Boaz tells the young men, “Make it easy for her. Let grain fall from your bundles accidently on purpose.” You and I are to be like these young men. We’re not to horde the blessings of the Lord. Let them spill over.
I like that Boaz instructed the young men to casually let the grain fall. They were to distribute the grain without drawing attention to themselves. That’s how we’re to distribute the blessings of God. Keep it casual. Don’t put the focus on you.
“So she gleaned in the field until evening, and beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. Then she took it up and went into the city, and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. So she brought out and gave to her what she had kept back after she had been satisfied. And her mother-in-law said to her, “Where have you gleaned today? And where did you work? Blessed be the one who took notice of you.” So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked, and said, “The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz.” (Verse 17-19)
After gleaning from sunrise to sunset, Ruth took home a half-bushel (25 pounds) of barley. She also surprised Naomi with a tasty chunk of bread. “Where’d you score all the goodies?” Naomi asked. “The man’s name is Boaz,” Ruth told her.
“Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “Blessed be he of the Lord, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!” And Naomi said to her, “This man is a relation of ours, one of our close relatives.” (Verse 20)
Chapter 1 ended with Naomi blaming God for afflicting her and bringing her home empty. Well, she has changed her tune! “Blessed be he of the Lord!” she declares. “This Boaz is a great catch! He knows God. He is kindhearted. Not only that, he is next of kin.” That’s code for, “He’s just the man we need!”
In the original, the term “min-goel” was used where it says “close relative.” Min-goel is Hebrew for “kinsmen redeemer.” Boaz was a relative of Elimelech. If unattached, he has a responsibility to Ruth. It’s up to him to redeem her. The big question is: will he?
“Ruth the Moabitess said, “He also said to me, ‘You shall stay close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.'” (Verse 21)
Ruth has more good news. She tells Naomi that she can clean up in Boaz’s field as much as her little heart desires. Plus, she gets to follow the reapers and take what they leave.
“And Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, and that people do not meet you in any other field.” So she stayed close by the young women of Boaz, to glean until the end of barley harvest and wheat harvest; and she dwelt with her mother-in-law.” (Verse 22-23)
Naomi tells Ruth, “It’s good you’re in a safe place where you can be protected and provided for. I’m glad you don’t have to go anywhere else.” That’s how it is with our kinsmen-redeemer. No need to venture off. We’ll be well cared for if we stick with Him and those who are His.
Sisters, stay close to each other. Brothers, you also stay close. Let’s glean together while harvest time is still upon us. Let’s join as one and share in the blessings we reap. And let’s not forget to break bread together. As often as we do, let us remember our Redeemer.

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