Sunday, September 30, 2012

[Matt's Messages] "Ruth and Boaz"

“Ruth and Boaz”
Gleanings from the Book of Ruth
September 30, 2012 :: Ruth 2:1-3:18

Our short sermon series is titled, “Gleanings from the Book of Ruth.”

And two weeks ago, the first message was called “Ruth and Naomi.”

We were introduced to two widows. An Israelite widow, Naomi, who had left Israel with her husband and moved to Moab where her two sons had married Moabite women, including a woman named Ruth.

But all of the men died, leaving three destitute widows in a land plagued by famine.

Naomi decided to go home to Israel, hearing that there was food there again and she left one of her daughter-in-laws behind.

But her daughter-in-law, Ruth tenaciously stuck with Naomi and returned with her to Bethlehem just as the barley harvest was beginning.

Remarkably, Ruth resolutely declared that she would stick with Naomi no matter what and put her trust in the God of Israel.

Naomi, impoverished by her losses, returned empty and bitter to Israel, but she has Ruth with her.  And all of Ruth’s unyielding lovingkindness to her.

And that’s where we left off.

Sound familiar?

Of course, most of us know this story and know what’s going to happen next.

But, again, try to pretend that you don’t.

Here are two women who are in a most precarious position.

They have just about nothing, but they have the Lord.

Ruth chapter 2, verse 1.

“Now Naomi had a relative on her husband's side, from the clan of Elimelech, a man of standing, whose name was Boaz.”

Today’s message, “Ruth and Boaz.”

Verse 1 introduces a new character. A man.  We don’t know much about him yet, but we do know that he was related in some way to Noami’s deceased husband.  And he is a man worth knowing. He is a man of standing.

What will he do in this story?  V.2

“And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, ‘Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.’ Naomi said to her, ‘Go ahead, my daughter.’ So she went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech.” Stop there for a second.

Ruth has pluck.

She and Naomi are in a desperate situation, and she tries a desperate plan.

She proposes to go to the fields that are harvesting the barley and pick up what the hired-workers don’t glean.  And Naomi lets her.

Now, this practice was included in the Law of Moses, especially in Deuteronomy chapter 24.

It was part of God’s safety-net for taking care of the poor people in Israel.

Landowners were to leave the corners of their fields unharvested so that the poor could find something to eat.

One thing that is great about this welfare arrangement is that the poor still have to do some work to qualify for the help.

In fact, it was hard work, outdoors, in the sun.

And it was dangerous work for single women who could be taken advantage of.

And even though it was in the Law, that doesn’t mean that the landowners always followed it. This was the time of the Judges, remember!

But Ruth had the courage to go out to the field and begin gleaning at the edges.

And v.3 says that she just so happened to find herself working in a field that belonged to no other than ... Boaz!

You and I know that “nothing just so happens.”

Our God is sovereign, and lovingly He orchestrates all of the tiny details of our lives.

The Hebrew here for “as it turned out” in the NIV could be literally translated, “it chanced to chance” which is the author’s way of winking at us that all of what we perceive in life as random is sovereignly chosen for us by the Lord.

So, your last week, and the things that happened to you?  Sovereignly chosen for you by the Lord.

Do we always know what God is up to as He puts together our days for us?

Not at all.

But we know that God is in charge, and if we know who God is, we know that He’s up to something good for us.  No matter how it seems.

Do you need to hear that this morning?  It’s true.

Ruth didn’t know, however, how important it was that she found herself in this place on this day. Because, behold, look who happens to show up?  V.4

“Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, ‘The LORD be with you!’ ‘The LORD bless you!’ they called back.”  Stop there for just a second.

I love that verse.

I think that is an amazing verse.

Now, I know that this was a special person in a special land among a special people, but wouldn’t it be great if all of our businesses functioned like Boaz’s farms?

The boss shows up and blessed the workers.
The workers have joy on their faces as they bless the boss back?

“‘The LORD be with you!’ ‘The LORD bless you!’”

I think that Boaz was a great example of what a godly businessperson ought to be.

And remember, this is during the time of the Judges!

Nearly everyone was doing what seemed right in their own eyes.

But there were still a few people who were doing the right thing.  No matter what other people were doing.

They didn’t just go along with the flow. They did things God’s way, and God blessed them in the time of the Judges.

Boaz was a man of standing and a man of blessing. A man of character and man of compassion.


“Boaz asked the foreman of his harvesters, ‘Whose young woman is that?’ The foreman replied, ‘She is the Moabitess who came back from Moab with Naomi. She said, 'Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.' She went into the field and has worked steadily from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.’ So Boaz said to Ruth, ‘My daughter, listen to me. Don't go and glean in another field and don't go away from here. Stay here with my servant girls. Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the girls. I have told the men not to touch you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.’”

This is quite extraordinary.

Boaz notices Ruth. She stands out. She’s different.

Who is that?

The foreman explains who she is. Her reputation precedes her. And she’s worked hard.

So Boaz speaks to her.

And he is very generous with her.

He calls her, “My daughter,” which is something for an Israelite man to say to a Moabite foreigner.

It might also hint at a large age difference between the two of them.

And Boaz instructs her to stick around, to stay close to his own worker girls, and to get drinks from the company water jars.

And more than that, he has warned his men not to harass her, or else.

Boaz shows compassion to Ruth.

Was there attraction between these two people?  It doesn’t say that.

The Bible emphasizes how compassionate Boaz is to Ruth.

He is doing what the Law said to do, and going beyond that. He is showing some “hesed” to her, isn’t he?  Kindness-beyond-duty. Compassion.

And Ruth knows it. See how she reacts in verse 10.

“At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed, ‘Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me–a foreigner?’ Boaz replied, ‘I've been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband–how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May 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.’”

What a beautiful statement!

Ruth is flabbergasted by Boaz’s compassion, but Boaz just sees it as showing the LORD’s kindness to someone who has been showing the LORD’s kindness.

Boaz has heard about Ruth. “Oh, so this is the woman that everyone in Bethlehem has been talking about!  You left your homeland and came to trust in the LORD and are taking care of Naomi. I’ve heard of you.”

And the LORD will take care of you.

I love how he says it in verse 12.

“May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.’”

You have been a little chick, come under the refuge of the LORD’s sheltering wing.

That’s a great picture of the compassion of the LORD.

Why did the LORD put the gleaning laws into the Torah?

Because He cares about the poor.

Do you care about the poor?

God cares about people.

And God is trustworthy. He is big and holy and powerful and SAFE.

He is refuge for those who come to Him, to hide under His wing.

That’s a beautiful picture of what salvation is.

We tend to talk about salvation as forgiveness from sins, and it is.  Gloriously, it is!

But it is also just putting ourselves under the wing of the Almighty.

Entrusting ourselves to His care.

Do you know the compassion of the Lord?

Have you taken refuge under His wing?

It’s safe there.

If you have not come under His wing as Ruth did, I invite you to do so right now.  The world is harsh place with danger on every side.  And it’s even worse if you make God your enemy.

But Jesus has become our peace, reconciling God and Man.

And He invites us to take our place under the wing of the Almighty.

He is our refuge and strength if we will place ourselves under His compassion.

When God revealed Himself to Moses in the cleft of the rock, He said that He was, “The LORD, the compassionate and gracious God...”

He is our refuge and strength if we will place ourselves under His compassion.

And, if we have truly experienced that compassion, we will show it to others.

Ruth showed it to Naomi.  Boaz showed it to Ruth.

And he said, “May 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.13
“‘May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord,’ she said. ‘You have given me comfort and have spoken kindly to your servant–though I do not have the standing of one of your servant girls.’

At mealtime Boaz said to her, ‘Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar.’ When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over.

As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, ‘Even if she gathers among the sheaves, don't embarrass her. Rather, pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don't rebuke her.’

So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah. [That’s between 35 and 50 pounds!]

She carried it back to town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered. Ruth also brought out and gave her what she had left over after she had eaten enough.

Her mother-in-law asked her, ‘Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!’ Then Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one at whose place she had been working. ‘The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz,’ she said. ‘The LORD bless him!’ Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. ‘He has not stopped showing his kindness [his “hesed”] to the living and the dead.’ She added, ‘That man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers.’

Then Ruth the Moabitess said, ‘He even said to me, 'Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain.'’ Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, ‘It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with his girls, because in someone else's field you might be harmed.’ So Ruth stayed close to the servant girls of Boaz to glean until the barley and wheat harvests were finished. And she lived with her mother-in-law.”


Boaz shows her incredibly generosity. He feeds her. He tells his crew to leave extra for her to pick up. It amounts to more than 35 pounds. It’s more than she needs. It’s more than Naomi needs. They can live for two more months and longer!

They are now out of immediate danger because of the compassion of Boaz.

Because of his “hesed.”  V.20 Naomi says, ‘He has not stopped showing his [loving]kindness to the living and the dead.’ ...‘That man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers.’”

We’ll find out what that means next week.

The point here is that Boaz has been kind to his distant relatives [He didn’t have to do any of that!] and has shown the compassion of the LORD to those who need it most.

And the story forces us to ask ourselves today, “Are you and I compassionate people?”

Are we generous with those who have needs?

Who do we show “hesed” to?

Who do we show our kindness-beyond-duty to?

I know that many of you are very compassionate.

Just what we’ve seen this year in extra giving to missions has shown that.

Six Haitian children going to Henoc’s school.
Our ten missionary families each getting at $250 Christmas gift.
A thousand dollars donated to Emily Whitehead’s ongoing medical needs.

And that’s just financial compassion.

I know that many of you are engaged in tangible, practical acts of kindness.

We have been shown the compassion of the Lord, we need to show it to others.

How might the Lord be leading you and me to greater acts of compassion in the next week?

Now in chapter 3, the word of application that I want to emphasize is character.


We’ve already seen that Boaz is a man with true character, that is, that he is an upstanding man who does what is right and good. He has a good heart, and it shows in his choices, and then those choices speak for themselves in a good reputation.

Your character is the sum of your virtuous qualities.

It is who you really are when no one is watching.

It is a description of your heart and is reflected in your choices.

A man or woman with good character consistently chooses what is right and good.

They can be trusted and they are valuable in the Lord’s sight.


Now, about two months have gone by (near the end of the barley harvest), and Naomi gets a wild idea into her head.  Chapter 3, verse 1.

“One day Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, ‘My daughter, should I not try to find a home for you, where you will be well provided for? Is not Boaz, with whose servant girls you have been, a kinsman of ours? Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor.  Wash and perfume yourself, and put on your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don't let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.’ ‘I will do whatever you say,’ Ruth answered.”

Now, I think that this is a crazy plan.

There are so many ways that this could go wrong.

Naomi is acting like Yenta the Matchmaker, and she has a crazy plan to do it.

Get dressed up and go sneak into the place where the men are, and after they are all happily fed and asleep, uncover Boaz’s feet and lie down, and then do what he says.

There are just so many ways for this plan to go wrong.

I’m sure that you can think of them all yourself.

What if she gets caught?
What if she gets abducted?
What if someone takes advantage of her?
What if Boaz takes advantage of her?
What if he gets the wrong idea?

What is the idea?

This is a crazy plan, and there is only one thing going for it.

The people carrying out the plan are people of character.

Naomi trusts in the character of Ruth to do what is right.
Naomi trusts in the character of Boaz to do what is right.
Ruth trusts in the character of Boaz to do what is right.

So Ruth does what Naomi suggests. V.6

“So she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do. When Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile [just so happened to be at the accessible end!]. Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down. In the middle of the night something startled the man, and he turned and discovered [!] a woman lying at his feet.

‘Who are you?’ he asked. ‘I am your servant Ruth,’ she said. ‘Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.’”

Which, when translated, means, “Please marry me. You are someone who could legally do that, and Naomi and I need it. Please marry me.  Please spread the corner of your garment over me like, as you said before, the LORD has spread His protective wings over me.

Please marry me. I know that it is unusual for me to ask. I am a foreigner. I am a woman. Women don’t ask men to marry them. I am not in your class right now.  I have been working in your fields.  But we need you.  Please marry me.”

“‘Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.’”

Now, we know what would have happened next if this was SAMSON who found Ruth at his feet, don’t we?

But this is not Samson. This is Boaz.

And he is a man of character. Listen to his amazing response!  V.10

“‘The LORD bless you, my daughter,’ he replied. ‘This kindness [hesed] is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor.”

You have chosen me!

And you have been thinking, not just of yourself, but of Naomi and what she needs.

V.11  “And now, my daughter, don't be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character.”

Boaz amazingly says, “Yes” to Ruth’s proposal, and the reason is because he knows that she is a woman of noble character.

She was a Proverbs 31 woman before Proverbs 31 was ever written.

She was a woman of integrity.
She was a woman of understanding.
She was a woman who chose correct behavior.

She was a woman committed to her needy mother-in-law when she could have been vying for a young, handsome husband for herself.

She was a woman characterized by hesed, and Boaz saw in her, his equal.

If this was Hollywood movie, they would have tumbled into the bushes and had hot sex right then.

But these were two people with good character, and they saved the sex for where it belongs...after the wedding.

If there would be a wedding...

There is one more complication. V.12

“Although it is true that I am near of kin, there is a kinsman-redeemer nearer than I. Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to redeem, good; let him redeem. But if he is not willing, as surely as the LORD lives I will do it. Lie here until morning.’

So she lay at his feet until morning, but got up before anyone could be recognized; and he said, ‘Don't let it be known that a woman came to the threshing floor.’

He also said, ‘Bring me the shawl you are wearing and hold it out.’ When she did so, he poured into it six measures of barley and put it on her. Then he went back to town.

When Ruth came to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, ‘How did it go, my daughter?’ Then she told her everything Boaz had done for her and added, ‘He gave me these six measures of barley, saying, 'Don't go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.'’ Then Naomi said, ‘Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today.’”

A man of character. He will get the job done.

Now, Naomi and Ruth only had to wait a day.

We’re going to have to wait a week to see what happens next.

But we can see here what happens when two godly people act with godly character.

They do the right thing, even when it is hard.

Are you and I men and women of character?


With godly quality to our hearts?

God wants to build character in us so that we learn to do the right thing, to make the right choices, and to build a good reputation.

I long for our church to be known as a loving family of generous, compassionate people of godly character.

Would you pray with me for just that thing?

Gleanings from Ruth