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By: Larry Shaffer
Ruth 2, part 1
The scene is set. Naomi returns home to Bethlehem with a sense of God’s abandonment upon her. Ruth, her daughter-in-law, returns with her. Ruth, the foreigner, feels drawn to Israel and no longer feels at home in her own country. She has embraced Naomi’s God as her God and Naomi’s people as her people. The two widows settle back into Bethlehem but this time, Naomi doesn’t live in the nice part of town. She is without a man to labor and bring home income. Naomi is too old to marry, and Ruth is in a foreign land without a viable dating website to help her find the “needle in a haystack” of a man who will marry a foreigner. They settle in and begin to live in very humble means. But, providentially, the Bible tells us that “they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.”
It’s off to work we go
Ruth was young (probably mid 20’s), healthy and industrious. She wanted to do all she could to provide for Naomi and herself. So, she said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after one in whose sight I may find favor.” Gleaning was to pick up the stalks of grain left by the workers after the first cutting during the harvest. Mosaic Law commanded that harvesters do not harvest the far corners of their land or pick up the gleanings that incidentally fall to the ground. These were to be left for the orphans, widows and poor. As a foreigner, Ruth had a lot going against her, but her hope and prayer was that one of the farmers would look upon her with favor and welcome her to his field. By faith, she set out to glean and work hard to provide sustenance for Naomi and herself.
Faith in action
The text says that Ruth “happened to come to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.” Boaz was a kinsman or close relative to Naomi’s husband and Ruth’s father-in-law, Elimelech. Now, whether Ruth unknowingly came upon Boaz’ field or whether she strategically and intentionally went to his field, the text does not say. My sense, in reading it several times, is that Ruth was thoughtful and intentional. We will see that God honors both her faith and her action.
She took action!
Lord, let us learn from Ruth. It seems she had a strong sense of Your presence in her life and that you were at work to bless her, use her and keep her. But she didn’t just sit back and wait for you to give to her. With humility and respect, she acted. May we also exhibit faith with action; following you, listening to you and exhibiting humility and dependence on You while moving forward with thoughtful action. What we see with our physical eyes is not all that there is. You are always at work and acting on our behalf. May we live by faith and not by sight. Amen!