Summary: God directs our paths and turns our trials into blessings; He works behind the scenes in Ruth chapter two. Ruth doesn't despair but gets to work.
The tragic atmosphere of Ruth chapter one changes dramatically in chapter two. In the opening verses we see Ruth undaunted by her plight. She could have chosen Naomi’s despair and bitterness, but instead she looks to God’s provision as she heads for the fields.
Ruth wasn’t a farmer, she owned no land, yet Jewish Law provided for the poor by allowing them to gather grain left behind by the “reapers” (or harvesters). Since reapers worked carefully, the gleaning of fallen grain was mere subsistence living, much like trying to survive today by recycling aluminum cans. Plus keep in mind that Ruth was not Jewish--so technically she was outside the defined covenant boundaries. Also, many landowners in this lawless period of the Judges were hostile to the poor. Ruth might well have expected to be treated as an “illegal immigrant”--yet she took the risk of faith. She refused to waste time feeling sorry for herself.
We are introduced in this chapter to the one who will resolve the plight of Naomi and Ruth, a distant cousin of Elimelech by the name of Boaz. He is described as a “man of substance” or “standing”, and that doesn’t refer merely to material wealth. His name in Hebrew means “in him is strength,” which can also be translated “honor, character, ability.” As we progress in our study of Ruth we will find that Boaz is a picture of our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Verse 3: “As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech.” This is a closer connection than merely being from the same tribe. To some, this outcome might appear to be the result of chance; we live in a world that denies God’s sovereignty. The eye of faith reveals that this “All things were working together for good.” God led Ruth to the right place. This was not an accident; it was a divine appointment! As we trust in God, leaning not on our own understanding, He will direct our paths (Proverbs 3:5-6). Even our seemingly small and inconsequential decisions of life can change our lives when we are living in the will of God.
Ruth wisely asks permission to gather in the fields, not wanting to anger the landowner; being from Moab was a strike against her. Of the 12 times Ruth’s name is mentioned, 5 times her nationality is added as a reminder that she was a foreigner. You know the feeling if you’ve ever tried to get a job in a foreign country--you have language, cultural, ethnic, and even religious barriers working against you; you’re treated as an outsider...yet God opens doors which no one can shut. What we glean from this story that no one need feel left out of God’s plan.
In verse 4 we gain an important insight into the character of Boaz. John Piper calls him a “God-saturated man.” He greets his workers with the salutation, “The Lord be with you!”, and receives a blessing in return. Are you in a position of authority? If so, how do you greet those who work for you? And what do they say of you, in return?
Boaz takes notice, and asks his foreman about Ruth; he is surprised to see a stranger in his field and wants to know her background, where she fits in this small town of Bethlehem. It is not likely, as some have suggested, that this was “love at first sight”. Boaz learns of Ruth’s link to Naomi, who he knows well. The report of his foreman (vss 6-7) impresses Boaz. In vss 8-9 he gives what amounts to the free offer of the Gospel: he offers a stranger that which will save her life. Compare his gracious words to the invitation of Christ, “Come unto Me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). Boaz goes beyond what he was obligated to do by Jewish Law, granting Ruth privileges which only his workers enjoyed. He may be aware of Naomi’s hardship and wants to help. Is Boaz becoming attracted to this hard working young woman? Perhaps so, but with compassion put in his heart by God.
Ruth responds with humility and some measure of amazement at this display of generosity. This is how we respond to what God has done for us in the Person of His Son. Remember when you received Christ as your Savior; weren’t you overwhelmed with God’s amazing grace? We are so blessed that we cannot imagine why the Father would be so good to us! In gratitude, Ruth expresses her desire to continue to find favor in her benefactor’s eyes. This is the unavoidable response to grace.
Verse 12 is a beautiful pronouncement (and the key verse of the chapter). Boaz reveals that he is aware of Ruth’s kindness to Naomi, then he wishes her God’s best: “May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”