Summary: Ruth has 3 strikes against her: a widow, a foreigner, and fatherless. God provides by the law of gleaning, and the righteousness of Boaz.
Ruth 2: God Provides GENEROUS JUSTICE
***My father told me about his great-grandfather, a farmer who emigrated to America, along with many from his church in the Netherlands. Unfortunately, the man’s wife died, leaving him with three young children. He hired a teenage girl to watch the children, and he eventually married her. They had several children together before he died, leaving her with no means of support. What was she to do? Neighbors and relatives stepped up, to work the land and support the family, until the children could take over. Because of the gracious support of the rural Christian community, the poor family survived and thrived.
The story is personal for me; those are my roots, and I am the product of one of the branches. What would have happened to that family if they had not been part of such a supportive community? If they had been immigrants in a city, with no church community, no land to be worked, and less gracious neighbors, would they have survived? Would the children have been forced to forego their education to work in a sweatshop, or be trafficked by evil predators? Would I have been born into abject poverty, instead of being born into a stable family with the resources to give me an education and opportunities to succeed?
God provided for that family in need, through godly people.**
How does God PROVIDE? Last week, we saw that God provided FAITH to Ruth, a Moabite woman raised in a pagan family. Her faith was so strong that she left Moab, to go to Judah with her mother-in-law, Naomi. The faith of Ruth sustained Naomi, who was overcome with bitterness.
Faith is only as good as its object, and Ruth put her faith in the God of Israel, as well as God’s covenant people in the vicinity of Bethelem. She said to Naomi, “Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.”
Ruth put her trust in the God of Israel. Psalm 146:5-9 describes God like this: “Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God. He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—he remains faithful forever. He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow…” Ruth qualified on all three counts!
Eleven times in Deuteronomy, God commands his people, through Moses, to show justice and compassion to foreigners! Deuteronomy 10:17-18 is one example: “The LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.” God’s justice is impartial, and he goes beyond cold justice to love people who need his help—people like Ruth.
God commands his people to reflect his character, and to practice COMPASSIONATE JUSTICE. (Preacher: Timothy Keller has a book by that title.) God’s justice goes beyond fair and impartial courts of law. God’s justice, as we will see in Ruth, encompasses righteousness, love, and faithfulness.
God’s compassionate justice was found in Bethlehem—at least, among some of God’s people in Bethlehem.
Read Ruth 1:22-2:3.
Ruth had faith, but faith alone does not put food on the table. Ruth was willing to work for her supper.
Yet ambition alone will not put food on the table. Many poor people are not lacking in ambition, but in opportunity. If there are no jobs available to them, or they don’t have transportation, or they can’t earn a living wage, they will suffer.
God’s justice in the Old Testament provided opportunity for the poor, the fatherless, and foreigners. Part of God’s provision was that his people must allow for “gleaning” crops.
Leviticus 19:9-10, “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the LORD your God.”
Gleaning was a generous and just way to provide for people in need. Everyone had a chance to gather at least a little food for themselves, even if they had no land.
Despite social and cultural differences, the principles of gleaning has social and political implications for today. We will not all agree how to apply the principles, but in today’s polarized political environment, we must recognize God’s commands for COMPASSIONATE JUSTICE for those in need.