Because the fields around Bethlehem lie at different levels, the grain does not all ripen at one time. The harvest time could last for some time. According to Leviticus 19.9-10 and 23.22, Ruth was well within her rights to glean from the fields. The corners of fields were not to be reaped, and the sheaf accidentally left behind was not to be fetched away. Similar laws were given regarding vineyards and oliveyards.
Ruth had returned to Bethlehem with Naomi and took on the awesome task of providing for her mother-in-law. To work in the fields was a hot and tiresome job. But, Ruth was willing to work as a demonstration of her love for Naomi.
So what’s a nice Moabitist girl like you doing living in Judah? Ruth could have asked that question about her decision to follow Naomi from her homeland Moab to Judah. In Judah, she was despised because she was a foreigner. There was no love lost between the Jews and the Moabites. She took a risk to go into the fields to glean with other Jewish women. She had no one to protect her from physical or emotional harm. As a widow, she had absolutely nothing to depend on except her youthful strength and resolve. She had given up everything to follow Naomi.
It was in the fields of Boaz that she began to earn the respect and admiration of the villagers. When Boaz became aware of her situation, he made sure that there was an additional blessing for Ruth and Naomi. The harvesters were instructed to leave extra grain for Ruth to pick up and to make sure that she was not molested by anyone. Ruth harvested an ephah of barley (just under a bushel, Ruth 2.17). Here is a side of the character of Ruth that is often overlooked. She was willing to work hard in the arid heat of Israel to ensure that her mother-in-law did not starve.
When Naomi found out that Boaz had taken interest in Ruth, she set a plan into action that is told in the rest of the book. Naomi realizes that Boaz is one of the kinsman redeemers in the family tree of Naomi. The interest in Ruth by Boaz brings about a change of heart in Naomi. She declares, “The LORD bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our guardian-redeemers.” This glimpse of kinsman-redeemer may have given Naomi hope that some unexpected developments might be just around the corner. It appears in the economy of God that he is always in the business of working good in the lives of his people, whether with Ruth and Naomi in this story or with you in your own story, God is surely at work for good. Our task is to stay on course, keep working and serving others, and not give up too quickly.
- Think about the decisions you have made in the past. How hard did you have to work after making the decision? Did you hang in there or give up too soon?
- Think about how it would feel to give up everything that you have: country, family, status, etc. How difficult do you think it was for Ruth to give everything up to follow her mother-in-law?
- Think about your service to others. How dedicated are you to continue to serve others even when the service is difficult and dangerous?
Living into the Story
- Choose one thing that you can do in your workplace that will cause others to begin to respect and admire you for being a Christian.
- Pick someone that you can reach out to and bless by providing for them in a great time of need