Is it really because Ruth is amazing?
Ruth 2:1 -13
At the moment I’m reading through the book of Ruth, so I’ll be sharing a few words on Ruth in the weeks to come. These posts are short and unpolished! Let me know your own thoughts on the book of Ruth in the comments; I’d love to hear your encouragements from God’s Word. If you’re looking for a commentary on the book of Ruth, try this great book by Barry Webb, * covering several of my favorite Bible books.
Ruth: still an outsider
Last week I wrote about how wonderful it is to me that Ruth returns to Bethlehem. Even though she’s never been there before, it’s her hometown. She has put her trust in the Lord -so all the promises and the blessings of being a child of God are absolutely hers.
So it was striking to me as I started to read through Chapter 2 of The Book of Ruth, that she’s still identified as that women from Moab. “Ruth the Moabite said…the young Moabite women…from the country of Moab…” Ruth even refers to herself as a “foreigner“.
So is she one of God’s people or is she on the outside?
He doesn’t treat her as a foreigner
Boaz answers this question for us.
This week we meet Boaz. He’s a worthy man, he’s one of the extended family and he’s the owner of the field. He’s a man who leads with his identity as a man of God – look at how he greets the workers in his field: “The Lord be with you!”
He notices Ruth, picking up ears of grain in his field, and asks about her. The young men tell him what they know about the “young Moabite woman”, but Boaz has already heard of her. So he speaks to her; he wants her to stay safe in his field, and when she’s thirsty, to drink the water he provides.
He treats her with immaculate kindness.
Ruth falls to the ground in gratitude and questions him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?”
As a reader who already loves Ruth for her spirit and her loyalty and her character, it’s easy to see why someone is kind to her. But her reaction reminds me that Boaz’s treatment of Ruth is in some way unexpected.
Why is he kind?
He has heard about her kindness to Naomi and her faithfulness to the Lord. He has heard how she left Moab in every sense and joined herself to a people she hasn’t met before – how she came home to a place she had never been before. Ruth has clearly been the talk of Bethlehem, and the report is a good one.
Faithfulness: it’s surprising
But here’s why Boaz is kind to Ruth: it’s because of the faithfulness of the Lord.
Ok, it’s also because of the faithfulness of Ruth – because he heard of her devotion to Naomi and to the Lord, he blesses her. But all this kindness flows from the covenant. That’s why she is collecting grain in the field – because the covenant made provision for the poor.
And the covenant is the reason Boaz can say: “The Lord repay you for what you have done“. The language of repaying and “a full reward” being given to Ruth by the Lord feels jarring and a little confusing. Surely God is not our debtor? He doesn’t owe us anything, just because we serve Him or His people. But that’s what it says: because Ruth has been kind, the Lord will repay her.
I understand that to be a little window into the wonder of the covenant, that the Almighty God so graciously entered into a covenant with people He had Himself made. He made promises; He bound Himself to them. The mighty God, with frail people – isn’t that amazing?
He promised that if they put themselves under the shelter of His wings in obedient faith, then He would repay them with kindness. Not because He is our debtor, but because He has promised to do so. Not because we deserve it, but because He has promised to do so. It all depends on the faithfulness of God, and that’s the good news.
I love that image of refuge under the wings of the Lord, the God of Israel. It communicates so much about the tender protection He gives His people. I’m reminded that I take refuge by placing my trust in Christ, by trusting in the One in whom all God’s promises are “Yes” and “Amen”. There is no safer place to be. Because it all depends on the faithfulness of God.
We’re really in the family
Is Ruth still an outsider? No, she isn’t – Boaz makes it clear that Ruth is part of God’s covenant people. And you can’t be just kind of His child, in a backdoor not really part of the family kind of way. But she’s still a Moabite – and that’s part of the miracle.
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob…
I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6
Here’s week 1 of The Ruth Reflections: Naomi and the breaking in of grace
And week 2 of The Ruth Reflections: Where is your hometown?