Ruth week 2: The Wings of Refuge

Last week in Ruth 1 we saw God’s hand fall hard upon Naomi and her family. A famine in Judah, a move to Moab, the death of her husband, the marriage of her two sons to foreign wives, the daughters-in-law were barren for 10 years, then the death of her two sons. One blow after another caused Naomi to say (1:13, 20), “The hand of the Lord has gone out against me . . . the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.” In fact, she is so oppressed by God’s bitter providence in her life that last week we saw that she couldn’t see any signs of hope as they start to appear (ex: “Call me Mara!”)

She knows there is a God. She knows He is Almighty and rules in the national and personal affairs of men, and she knows that He has dealt bitterly with her. Her life is tragic, but what she has forgotten in her suffering is that in all the bitter experiences of His children, God is always plotting for their joy and happiness.

Psychologists tell us that the kind of losses that Naomi and Ruth have faced lead to depression that is insurmountable: loss of their husbands/children, financial ruin, social ruin and shame, infertility, a major move to a new culture, and loneliness. These kinds of wounds don’t easily heal. Actually, this kind of pain is the kind that affects you for the rest of your life. This pain has tremendous staying power. We can safely assume that both of these women are battling depression with the forecasted hope of barely getting by for the rest of their lives.

vv. 1-2: As we pick up the story here in chapter 2, Ruth must go out to work as a field laborer because there’s no food in the pantry. So she asks for Naomi’s blessing to go, and off she goes, a barren, widow, foreigner who looks foolish to every eye that sees her, into the fields to glean, to toil and sweat for hours for a handful of grain. This is her lot, for now at least…

v. 3 Ruth goes to work and we read: “So she set out and went and gleaned in the field and she [just so] “happened” to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech.”

The Hebrew equivalent to “gleaning” would be a homeless shelter, food bank, food stamps, or the welfare system. The equivalent situation of Ruth today would be like one of you young college gals moving to Phoenix by yourself with no parents to pay for anything, find a place in a respite shelter, and then sitting and waiting at a labor force outfit waiting to get hired to do construction site clean up with men who aren’t respectful.

And as she went out to find a field out of all the fields to glean in, she just so happened to go out to the filed of Boaz; Boaz just so happened to be a godly man; he just so happened to be a single man who is wealthy; and he just so happened to related to Eli.

Let me help you out here: this is God’s doing and God’s providential care and provision for Ruth and Naomi. As Christians, even in the midst of our free choices, we know that God is over all things and this is not good karma or luck. God is showing “hesed” to his daughters Naomi and Ruth whom he loves through ordinary events in life that seem to be just a coincidence.

v. 4: Then Boaz’, the business owner, the big boss man, rolls up to check on his fields and his workers. Look how Boaz greets his employees. “May the Lord be with you.” And they said to him, “May the Lord bless you.” At the end of each service we end with a similar blessing from Numbers 6:24-26.

Can you imagine your boss rolling up into the office one day greeting you with a blessing like this? Boaz is a good dude, and he’s created a great place for his employees to work at, and we will see later that Boaz’ good character rubs off onto his other workers, which is significant in the time of the Judges.

vv. 5-7: Boaz checks in with his assistant and inquires as to who this woman is, and he quickly learns who she is and offers her his blessing of gleaning, but he also ensures her physical safety as well. Unlike the men in the book of Judges, Boaz does not exploit her and treat her as a piece of property as he easily could. Women, take note, this is the kind of man you ought to be looking for. Ruth looks her worst, Boaz is impressed with her character, and loves her by protecting her. Look for men who give, not take.

vv. 8-9: 8 Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. 9 Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.”

In stark contrast of the society around Boaz, he not only treats Ruth respectfully, but offers her extra-ordinary grace. He addresses her as “my daughter” (v. 8), which means that he accepts her as a true Israelite, not as a foreigner. Then he tells her to stay on his field to glean, drink water from his well, and his men were told not to touch her, but instead serve her. In plain English Boaz says to his employees: “You see that pretty lady over there? She’s pretty ain’t she? If you touch her I’ll kill you. I have a lot of fields and secret places no one knows of… they’ll never find your body!”

Okay, this Boaz guy is just getting to be a dream guy…Men! Here’s your example. Be a Boaz kind of man! Ladies, they’re out there… don’t settle. Hold that bar up high… God will honor that decision… I promise!

vv. 10-12: Rightfully so, Ruth is shocked and falls to her face and asks Boaz why she has found such favor in his eyes? This is a good question many of you ladies should learn from. Ask the dudes that like you, “Why are you so good to me?” Get their intentions out in front. They may not have good motives for being nice to you, just sayin!

So Boaz says, “11 All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. 12 The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” This is what you want to hear!!
Essentially, “The provision and protection I give to you today Ruth, are just foretastes of what God is going to do for you. He is the one providing for you through me.” Great theology Boaz! “God is the source of your provision Ruth! He is the ‘hesed’ giver. He is the orchestrator of all of this!” Boaz has been kind to her because of godly character.

But notice what is happening here. Ruth wanted to know why she had received grace from Boaz, and it wasn’t because she didn’t do anything, because she did. Why did she receive grace? Boaz says that she received grace because she came to take refuge in God, under His wings. So this grace is free, but was given under a condition, “You must come!”

v. 13: Ruth humbly receives her roles as Boaz’ servant, who by the way is not eligible for marriage in this culture. But she is now Boaz’ property and is under his wings for refuge, trusting his goodness and his care. But it gets even better for Ruth…

vv. 14-16: Boaz breaks every rule and says, not only do I want you to stay here on my field, but come and eat with me and my other workers until you are full. Then he tells his young men to not only let her glean, but as she is gleaning, pull out grain from the bundles that you pick for her to glean, and do not correct her, because what they are doing for her was not supposed to happen. Some rules must be broken!

vv. 17-20: So Ruth gleaned till it was dark and when Ruth came home from work that day, she gave Naomi the special gift of what she had left over from the lunch she shared with Boaz. Then she says, “Oh yeh, I almost forgot mom, I have 22 liters of barley baby! It’s all beaten out and ready to cook!

Ruth is truly an amazing woman. In verse 7 we read that “she has continued from early morning until now without resting even for a moment.” Verse 17 goes on to say that she gleaned until evening and then before she quit, she beat out what she gleaned, measured it, and took it home to Naomi. In case you’re wondering, that’s a lot of work!

There is no doubt that the writer wants us to admire and copy Ruth. She takes initiative to care of her destitute mother-in-law. She is humble and meek and does not put herself forward presumptuously. She works hard from sunup to sundown. She doesn’t complain. She takes initiative. She’s a keeper! Ladies, Ruth is a model of a godly woman! Dudes, look for a Ruth!

Then Naomi asks, “Where did you get all this barley?”, and Ruth tells her, “At Boaz’ field”. Naomi blesses Boaz and thanks him and God Almighty (I AM) for His “hesed”.

v. 20: And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.”

Naomi tells Ruth that Boaz is a close relative of theirs and is one of her “redeemers” (2:20). Do you sense a “hesed” providence behind all of this?

Kinsman Redeemer: The word “redeemer” comes from the phrase “kinsman-redeemer” which is part of the Israelite law of marriage (Deut. 25:5-9) that God established to preserve families like Naomi’s. According to the law, other sons or close relatives of hers should marry the childless widows and use their seed to preserve the deceased relative’s name (have children) and land inheritance.

By law, God set this up to protect women in these situations and to keep families from poverty. A kin (or relative) was to step up and sacrifice for the sake of his relatives’ family, marry her or her daughter (or daughter-in-law in this case), and he will get no payoff from this, and will be looked to by many as a fool. His children with her are not “his” children who will take on his land or build his wealth. Rather, he will be preserving Naomi’s name and legacy for Elimelech, Mahlon, and Chilion.

This is where we get the phrase “kinsman redeemer”. This is a huge risk and foolish sacrifice to many people, especially those in the days of the judges. But Naomi is now seeing glimpses of redemption. Sweet redemption!

And this redemption was initiated by God’s “hesed” for His people, given freely to those who run (or come) to God for refuge and help. There are many people who never run to God for help and run off to foreign lands or live destitute lives because they do not trust God to provide for them. We saw that last week with Eli and Oprah, I mean Orpah.

Also, many times the relative (redeemer) won’t redeem what he is supposed to redeem. But the good news for us this morning is that Jesus fills perfectly the role of kinsman-redeemer for us. We are part of God’s family (Gen. 1-2; He created us). We had everything and lost it all and have no hope of survival on our own (Gen. 3; we rebelled from God’s rule). God sent a kinsman-redeemer to purchase us at the cost of His own life, and our eternal gain, so that we have hope of life, not just here, but eternally with Him, sharing in His wealth and glory (Jesus).

Jesus is our kinsman-redeemer who left His place of wealth, power and prestige, and looked foolish to many. And unlike Boaz, gave everything He had up for us, including His life so that our sin would not be held against us. The only contingency of us receiving this “hesed”, is that we come and rest under God’s wings of refuge.

This is the message of the gospel in the Old and New Testament. God will have mercy on anyone (all people groups) who humbles himself like Ruth and takes refuge under His wings. In Matthew 23:37 Jesus said: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

All that the Israelites had to do was to take refuge under the wings of Jesus. If they would’ve stopped justifying themselves; stopped relying on themselves; stopped glorifying themselves; then they would have been redeemed.

But they would not. Ruth was not their model. There was no falling on their face before Jesus. There was no humble acceptance of Him being the King. There was no bowing down. There was no astonishment at grace. Don’t be like the religious leaders.
God is not the type of business owner who is looking for people to work for Him. He is like a mother hen looking for her offspring to shelter under her wings. God is looking for people who will leave (as Ruth did) father and mother and homeland or anything else that may hold them back from a life of love and redemption under the wings of Jesus.

vv. 21-23: After Naomi discovers that it was Boaz who showed Ruth “hesed”, Ruth goes on to tell Naomi that Boaz wants her to stay and glean in his field until everything has been harvested. Ruth is working for a redeemer, she is protected from nasty men with terrible motives who want to exploit women for their gain, and they have food to eat and trade with so that they can live, and move, and have their being.

And we would do well, once we find our refuge under the wings of Jesus, to remain there. To trust Him even when things seem iffy. To glean from his fields and not fields from owners who will take from us, enslave us, and exploit us.

Are you gleaning from the wrong fields right now? Are you enslaved a bad slave master? To whom or where have you run to to take refuge? What are you bowing down to, or what impresses you more than God’s gracious gift of Jesus?

Today, may we stop justifying ourselves; stop relying on ourselves; stopped glorifying ourselves. Today may we humble ourselves before King Jesus; bow down and worship Him; glean from His fields; be astonished at His grace; take refuge under His wings; stay close to His workers.

May the workers of Jesus (or May those who call themselves Christians) obey their boss in the same way Boaz’ workers obeyed him; may we love well; passionately protect; graciously share; lovingly include. Or as the prophet Micah said it: May we “do justice; love mercy; and walk humbly!”

Let’s Pray!