Opening Prayer: Gracious Father, we thank you that you have sent your only Son to be our life and light. We thank you that you have also given us His Spirit. Grant us grace now to hear your word rightly, to love you more fully, and to walk faithfully before you.
We considered the sharp contrasts last week between Ruth and Naomi, and yet we have also noted that despite Israel’s failures God is still visiting his people, still giving bread to the hungry (1:6, 22). The point is that God’s people always need a great Savior, and this “Mary” will bring life to Israel though the birth of a son.
Boaz the Relative
Boaz was the son of Rahab of Jericho (Mt. 1:5, cf. Ruth 4:20-21, Josh. 2:1ff), and this gives us some important insight into who Boaz is and what makes him such a “great” and “mighty” man (2:1). Gideon and Jephthah were also called “gibor khayil” (Jdg. 6:12, cf. 1 Sam. 9:1, 1 Kg. 11:28, 2 Kg. 5:1). Khayil can also mean “competent” (Gen. 47:6). Boaz contrasts sharply with Elimelech: his name probably means something related to “strength,” but it is clear fairly quickly that his strength is in his generosity, in his kindness, and in his diligence. Boaz did not leave the land when times got tough, he trusted God through the difficulties expecting to be raised up in due time.
Ruth asks Naomi’s permission to glean in the field (2:2). There was a “field” around every city which was divided according to the inheritance of various families (e.g. Lev. 25:34). Certain portions of the field might be sold in hard times, but they would be returned in the year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:13-17, 28-31). The idea of gleaning behind the harvesters is part of Israel’s legal code for the protection of the poor (Lev. 19:9-10, 23:22, Dt. 24:19-22). The “field” in Bethlehem is contrasted here with the “fields” of Moab (1:1, 2, 6, 22).
Ruth says that she wants to go into the field in order to gather after one in whom she finds “grace” (2:2). This is the same word used to describe the “grace” that Noah found in the eyes of the Lord (Gen. 6:8). It is this very expression that Ruth uses when she bows down before Boaz (2:10, 13). Boaz calls Ruth his “daughter” (2:8) and entreats Ruth to stay with his “young women” (2:8-9). This attention that Boaz shows Ruth is fairly extraordinary, but Boaz is most impressed with Ruth’s commitment to the God of Israel, “under whose wings” she has come for refuge (2:12). The “wings” of God is a reference back to the Exodus when God bore his people on “eagles’ wings” (Ex. 19:4, Dt. 32:9-12) as well as the wings of the cherubim that overshadowed the mercy seat in the Most Holy Place (Ex. 25:20, 37:9). To be under the “wings” of Yahweh is to be covered in blood, in the care of his covenant. Boaz’s kindness extends further when he invites her to eat with him, giving her more than enough (2:14), and she is “filled” despite Naomi’s emptiness. Boaz also orders that his men not only allow her to gather after them but that they intentionally leave extra stalks for her (2:15-16). As Ruth “clung” to Naomi (1:14), Boaz now instructs Ruth to “cling” to his young women (2:8) and young men (2:21), and she does (2:23). Salvation is found in clinging to the people of God.
Conclusions & Applications
Ruth returns to Naomi “full,” and Naomi cannot help but bless Yahweh who has not forgotten his covenant mercy and kindness (2:17-20). This is of course a huge reversal of her previous statements (1:20-21). But this is what grace does, and we should be hungry for more.
Naomi tells Ruth that this man Boaz is their Near Redeemer (2:20). This word describes God’s redemption of Israel from Egypt (Ex. 6:6, 15:13), and forms the basis upon which Israel is to live like freemen: A redeemer is one who frees a slave (Lev. 25:47-55), buys back land or an inheritance (Lev. 25:25-34), or even avenges murder (Num. 35:9-29, Dt. 19, Josh. 20:2-9). Redemption is also an act of substitution before the Lord (Lev. 27:14-34). And the one appointed to these tasks was a near relative (Lev. 25:48-49).
Ultimately, all of this is about our Lord Jesus who is our Savior-Brother, our Near Redeemer (Ps. 19:15, Is. 43:1, Tit. 2:14, 1 Pet. 1:18). And this is good news for our families (Mk. 3:35), and it means that we have become Kinsmen-Redeemers to one another and to our communities, to the lost, to the hungry, to the barren, and to the bitter.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Closing Prayer: King Father, you have truly blessed beyond anything we could have expected. You sent your Son to die for us while we were still sinners. While we were still your enemies, you came for us. You claimed us as your family, your relatives, and you intervened on our behalf. We thank you and praise you and ask you to give us the grace to live this way for others both those in our own families and all of our neighbors. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who taught us to pray, singing…