Summary: When life seems dark and dreary, God is still near. His nearness always ends in hope. Hope is faith under fire.
Under the Wings of God there is Hope
Bible Background: This quiet tale of ordinary life stands in strong contrast to the war and strife of Judges, which relates to the same general period. No doubt many people lived just such a normal peaceful life during this time period. Although Israel’s faith was at a low ebb, the book of Ruth makes it clear that the personal faith of many in Israel remained strong. The most striking feature of this simple and beautiful story is the sense of God’s intimate concern in humble affairs. He is the One who orders all the circumstances of daily life, even for the most unimportant people. And so the new-found faith of a Moabite girl, and her sacrificial love for her mother-in-law are woven into the great tapestry of God’s plan of salvation. For descended from Ruth is King David, and from the line of David comes the Messiah himself. (Taken from Eerdman’s Bible Handbook).
Gleaning laws for the poor: Leviticus 19:9-10, Deut. 24:19-21 demonstrates God’s concern for those who are in need. Scripture constantly reminds us of God’s care for widows, orphans, and strangers. Matthew 25:31-46 brings the point home when Jesus bases the judgment on how we care for the needy and says that when you care for them you care for me. Righteousness is equated with this care in action in this passage.
Levirate Marriage Laws: Deut. 25:5-10 describes the legal code behind Ruth’s marriage to Boaz and why he had to obtain permission from the closer relative. The Hebrew word gaal (Kinsman-redeemer) is rich in meaning. Translated “redeemer, avenger, and relative” it often refers to God’s relationship with us, (in Job 19:25, Ps 19:14, 78:35, Prov. 23:11, Is. 41:14, just to name a few). The Sadducees used an interesting twist on this law in a question to Jesus about the resurrection in Luke 20:27-38. Boaz refers to Ruth as a woman who was known for her noble character, 3:11 (Chayil isshah). These are the same Hebrew words found in Proverbs 31:10.
Questions for Reflection:
1. Contrast Naomi’s reaction to her situation with Ruth’s reaction and what do you see?
2. Who demonstrates more hope and faith in this story, Naomi the Israelite or Ruth the Moabite?
3. Have you ever seen people outside the church expressing more hope and faith than those inside the church?
4. What do you suppose God thinks about that?
5. How does Boaz demonstrate his faith?
6. Of these three, Naomi, Ruth and Boaz, which do you identify with most and why?
7. How does God touch a hopeless situation and bring hope? How has he done this in your life?
8. Ruth left her family, her homeland, and her gods and came to live with a people she did not know and to the Lord under whose wings she came to take refuge. How can you come to take refuge under the wings of the Lord today?
Last week we left Naomi in bitterness and grief as she and Ruth came to Bethlehem. Today we will see how God turns lemons into lemonade… how he provides hope in the darkness of hopelessness. As we read, pay attention to the character of Boaz and Ruth, notice how their relationship develops and finally observe Naomi’s reaction.
Ruth 2:1 Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, from the clan of Elimelech, a man of standing, whose name was Boaz. 2 And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, "Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor." Naomi said to her, "Go ahead, my daughter."
3 So she went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech. 4 Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, "The LORD be with you!" "The LORD bless you!" they called back.
5 Boaz asked the foreman of his harvesters, "Whose young woman is that?" 6 The foreman replied, "She is the Moabitess who came back from Moab with Naomi. 7 She said, ’Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.’ She went into the field and has worked steadily from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter." 8 So Boaz said to Ruth, "My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with my servant girls. 9 Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the girls. I have told the men not to touch you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled."