When Naomi and Ruth, the refugee widows, arrived in Bethlehem, they took advantage of an Israelite law that allowed for a practice called “gleaning” (Leviticus 23:22). Farmers were to leave the edges of their fields unharvested so that the poor could come and glean (gather up) what was left. Additionally, anything the harvesters dropped was to be left for the poor. Ruth went out to glean so that she and her mother-in-law would have something to eat.
Unbeknownst to Ruth, she chose the field belonging to a relative (perhaps a cousin) of her late father-in-law, a man named Boaz. Boaz was a godly man. In fact, the first word he speaks in Scripture is “Jehovah”, the covenant name of the God of Israel (v.4). As Boaz was inspecting the harvest, Ruth caught his eye. When he found out who she was, he went to her and made a generous offer that went above and beyond the intent of the “gleaner’s” law (v.8-9). He offered his protection and blessing for Ruth to glean exclusively in his field. In an agrarian society like Israel’s, Boaz could not have made a kinder (or more romantic) offer.
One of Boaz’s most admirable qualities is that he took seriously his responsibility as a servant of Jehovah. To Boaz, the fact that Ruth had come to seek refuge “under the wings of the God of Israel” meant that he was going to personally provide that refuge on the Lord’s behalf (v.12). And his generosity reflected the grace of God: Boaz not only allowed Ruth to eat with his workers and to take home the leftovers, he also instructed his men to drop handfuls of grain on purpose so that she could take home even more (v.16).
When Naomi heard about Boaz and his generosity she was excited — and she recognized the hand of the Lord at work. It was no coincidence that Ruth had “just happened” to meet Boaz, a man who “just happened” to be a candidate to redeem Naomi’s place in society. As a close relative of her late husband, Boaz could, through a special kind of “redeemer” marriage, restore what Naomi and Ruth lost back in Moab: their family and their future.
The experience of Naomi and Ruth is a beautiful parallel of our experience as lost sinners who come to Christ. We come to Him with nothing to offer but brokenness and spiritual poverty. We are at His mercy, and He is our only hope for redemption. We find His grace to be overwhelming and His kindness to be abundant. Like Ruth, we could say, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me?” We bow before Him as strangers and stand up as family. Isn’t that awesome?! And tomorrow it just gets better…