Hard work, awkward moments and "chance" connections round up act two of our drama.
· In Chapter 1, Naomi and Ruth had traveled from Moab to Bethlehem after a long famine. For Naomi it was going home, and it was a bittersweet return. For Ruth, it was the beginning of a new life in a new nation.
· The very last thing we read in 1:22 is “They arrived in Bethlehem in late spring, at the beginning of the barley harvest.”
Ruth 2:1-23 (NLT)
· As Chapter 2 – the second act of this four scene drama – opens up, we’re updated on Naomi and Ruth’s situation: They are hungry.
· This shouldn’t be too surprising. The famine might be over, but these dear women are still just that; they are women living in a culture with little opportunity for them to access wealth, power, position, or even employment apart from the covering of a husband or father. Apart from the obvious emotional and spiritual impact, this is why it was such a huge burden that Elimelech and Mahlon died, leaving the ladies alone.
· However, Naomi and Ruth were not without options. Israel had a system of benevolence where those who were poor, widows, orphans and so on could be provided for by gathering from the edges and left-overs of harvested fields. This was called GLEANING, and was actually part of Old Testament law:
Leviticus 19:9-10 - 9 “When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. 10 It is the same with your grape crop—do not strip every last bunch of grapes from the vines, and do not pick up the grapes that fall to the ground. Leave them for the poor and the foreigners living among you. I am the Lord your God.
· There are at least twelve places in the chapter where gleaning is mentioned (in the NLT as picking, gathering, etc.). And as we see in the rest of the chapter, this is the process that Ruth takes full advantage of to feed herself and her mother-in-law.
· LESSON: If you need something, work for it.
· Even if you don’t have “gainful employment” through a paycheck, if you’re able-bodied, you can work hard. Don’t look for a handout; you can be of service to someone.
· 2 Thessalonians 3:10 - Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.”
· The first few verses of chapter 2 also introduce us to someone new, Boaz. He is a wealthy older man who is a relative of Elimelech.
· Simply by being there, Ruth gets Boaz’s attention... The first thing he does when he sees her is ask somebody about her:
5 Then Boaz asked his foreman, “Who is that young woman over there? Who does she belong to?”
6 And the foreman replied, “She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi. 7 She asked me this morning if she could gather grain behind the harvesters. She has been hard at work ever since, except for a few minutes’ rest in the shelter.”
· Boaz immediately goes to Ruth, and encourages her to stay in his fields, to follow right behind his workers, and pick the better grain. He tells his men not to harass her, and offers her access to the well water so she can stay hydrated.
· And at the mealtime, he calls to her and has her come and sit with his workers, eating their prepared food and wine.
· How do you think this made Ruth feel? [Blessed? Encouraged? Maybe nervous too?]
· What about the other workers, the men and the women? [Why is SHE special? She’s a Moabite! How come she gets to glean right alongside us as we work?]
“And as it happened...”
· And going back to the first few verses of the chapter one more time, it’s kind of interesting how verse 3 sets things up for the events which follow. It says, “And as it happened, she found herself working in a field that belonged to Boaz”.
· If you didn’t know better, you could almost read it like this was some kind of happy accident. After all, Ruth was, understandably, surprised that this wealthy man was so kind to her... He had done an awful lot more for her than one might expect.
· On the other hand, stop and think about it for a moment: Boaz is apparently a man of means. He has fields, workers, and so on. He could have just given Ruth some food or money and sent her on her way. But he didn’t.
· LESSON: Be generous, but wise. [If you have the ability to be generous, do it in such a way that it helps people earn it when appropriate.]
· Ruth gleaned quite a bit of food. She was well blessed by Boaz. And when she explained to Naomi what had happened, Naomi wasn’t that surprised. She fills Ruth in on a larger family relationship in vs 19-20:
19 “Where did you gather all this grain today?” Naomi asked. “Where did you work? May the LORD bless the one who helped you!”
So Ruth told her mother-in-law about the man in whose field she had worked. She said, “The man I worked with today is named Boaz.”
20 “May the LORD bless him!” Naomi told her daughter-in-law. “He is showing his kindness to us as well as to your dead husband.* That man is one of our closest relatives, one of our family redeemers.”
· One of the main themes from the first chapter was that God is sovereign over all of life’s circumstances. This means that the phrasing back in verse 3, “And as it happened...” is entirely ironic! Of course Ruth ended up in Boaz’s field! It’s all according to plan...
· Nothing in our lives happens by chance. You’ve probably heard someone say that if it wasn’t for bad luck, they wouldn’t have any luck at all? Well, we don’t have luck: good, bad, or otherwise.
· What we have is a God who is in control... who wills and ordains events to occur according to His purposes.
· “And as it happens”, you’re here this morning, in church, and starting to see a bit of how God sovereignty works as things unfold here at the end of chapter 2... But we’ll have to get into Chapter 3 before we see more!