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Studies in the Book of Ruth (4): Chapters 2-3

I Steele, Glenburn

Chapter 2

His Particular Interest in Ruth (cont.)

There was guidance for Ruth but there was also grace as she is caused to inquire, "Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger?" (v.10). He knew the sorrow of her past and the sacrifices of the present, but his grace would see to it that she was recompensed and her reward would be full (vv.11-12). Paul reminds us that "your labour is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Cor 15.58). The judgment seat is before us "and then shall every man have praise of God" (1 Cor 4.5), provided our conduct has been praiseworthy! Yet it is unthinkable that there will be nothing in the life of every true believer that will receive the "well done" in that day. Boaz recognised the blest position of repose and shelter now occupied by Ruth as he speaks of "the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust". The Psalmist has well said, "Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice" (Ps 63.7).

Ruth responds to Boaz (v.13) with a desire for continued favour and an acknowledgement of the comfort and friendship that he had shown to her. He spoke to her heart (Newberry margin) and in this we are reminded of the Lord: "The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary" (Is 50.4). How often He has succoured our weary souls with a word!

Boaz’s grace is not finished yet (v.14). She has food and fellowship provided in such fullness that she is more than sufficed. What a wonderful statement that "he reached her parched corn". This is corn that had been through the fire, speaking of the sufferings of the Lord Jesus at Calvary - something on which to feed our souls! What a vision as the Lord reached out His scarred, nail-pierced hands to the disciples with the words, "Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side" (Jn 20.19-20). He reached Ruth and He is near enough to reach the feeblest saint with food to gladden fearful hearts.

Boaz also instructed the young men to make room for Ruth and to make it easy for her not just to glean the corners of the field but to glean among the sheaves (vv.15-16). There is to be no reproach for her from them. Note that reproach enough comes from without (Heb 13.13) and it is sad if we reproach one another within the company of saints. "Handfuls of purpose" were to be allowed to fall specifically for her to gather for herself. Do we take the Word of God and apply it personally to our own hearts and lives or do we just feel that the Word is for some other believers?

Ruth spent long hours toiling in the field and "beat out that she had gleaned" (v.17). It is good to gather at ministry meetings and conferences, but how needful to beat out the Word for ourselves. If we so do, it will become evident to others. "Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all" (1 Tim 4.15). When the children of Israel gathered the manna it was an omer for every man but here Ruth gathers an ephah of barley. "An omer is the tenth part of an ephah" (Ex 16.36), thus emphasising that what was gathered under grace is far more than what could be gathered under law! How blessed we are today.

The scene at the end of the chapter takes us back to the city and Naomi, who asks that searching question, "Where hast thou gleaned to day?" (v.19). Let us mark well that gleaning in the Word of God is a daily business. If my spiritual life is to develop and flourish I must desire to study the Scriptures more than my necessary food! Ruth does not exactly answer the question, but she turns the attention of Naomi to Boaz. She speaks of the man with whom she has gleaned. The Scriptures will lead us to Christ for He is in all the Scriptures! Have I found Him in the Word today?

Naomi makes it clear to Ruth that this man is the kinsman redeemer. What blessing and loving kindness from the Lord in their experience. Now what was required of Ruth was simple obedience to what Boaz had said and "she kept fast by the maidens of Boaz…unto the end of barley harvest and of wheat harvest" (v.23).

Chapter 3

In vv.1-6 there is guidance given to Ruth by Naomi, in view of coming into the presence of Boaz.

The pursuit of rest

Naomi asks, "Shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee"? (v.1). This is the motivating desire of Naomi for Ruth, and she has already referred to this. "The Lord grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband" (1.9). What Naomi could not provide she acknowledged that the Lord Himself would.

We have many aspects of rest referred to in the Scriptures beginning with the rest of salvation (Mt 11.28). This is closely followed by the rest of service (Mt 11.29) experienced as a result of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, "For we which have believed do enter into rest" (Heb 4.3). Then there is Sabbath rest that began with God after He had accomplished the work of creation - "God did rest the seventh day from all his works" (Heb 4.4). How glad we are today that, "there remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God" (Heb 4.9). Here, in the chapter being considered, Naomi has in mind the rest of intimate relationship with the kinsman redeemer.

The process of refinement

Naomi knew where Boaz could be found and the kind of activity with which he would be occupied. "Behold, he winnoweth barley to night in the threshingfloor" (v.2). We do well to consider what is involved in winnowing. Isaiah describes the process from a divine standpoint. "I will help thee, saith the Lord, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff. Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them" (41.14-16). This is a picture of the government of God in the lives of His people. How solemn it is to think of the beating to loosen from our grip the paltry things of this world and the fanning of the wind to blow away the chaff of our lives. Israel, in Haggai’s day, experienced just this - "Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it…saith the Lord of hosts" (1.9). Sometimes God blows on our priorities to make us realise what is really important in the light of eternity!

Yet it is good to see that God is willing to work with man in the humblest of conditions as seen in the barley in our chapter. This was true of Gideon as God used him to defeat the Midianites, "and, lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian" (Judg 7.13). Far better to have the chaff removed today by the wind of God, than to persist with what is wood, hay, and stubble only to see it burned in the fire at the Judgment Seat!

Preparation required for his presence

Naomi now gives Ruth a fourfold instruction (v.3) to ensure that she is ready to meet Boaz. In considering her preparation let us challenge ourselves in respect of the preparation we make before coming into the presence of the Lord Jesus in the gatherings of God’s people.

1) "Wash thyself" points to the need for purity in view of His presence. Did not the Lord indicate this: "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me"? (Jn 13.8). To enjoy communion we need to be clean and the application of the Word of God to our lives has this sanctifying effect (Jn 15.3).

2) "Anoint thee" speaks of the preparedness of the Spirit of God in service to fit us for the task to which we have been called. "Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts" (2 Cor 1.21-22).

3) "Put thy raiment upon thee" demands a fitness of character in keeping with the One into whose presence we approach. The Laodiceans were instructed to put on "white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear" (Rev 3.18).

4) "Get thee down to the floor" calls for a process of mind that leads to humility, in the presence of One far greater than ourselves (see Phil 2.3). One of the most difficult things to do even in the service of God is "to get down"!

To be continued.


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