CHAPTER 2: GROWING IN GRACE
GRACE AND HUMILITY
INTRODUCTION TO THIS CHAPTER
The book of Ruth is a love story. At its simplest level It is a love story between two people – Ruth and Boaz – which is going to change not only their lives but the lives of the whole nation of Israel. But, on a spiritual level it is a love story between God and His people, between Him and me. It is a story of two sides of the coin of love:
- On the one side is the REALITY of the Grace of God towards us: True, total, Godly love (Agape) is a love that loves despite everything. Grace is undeserved love. Grace is God giving us what we certainly don’t deserve. Grace is more than forgiving us for our sin – our selfishness and constant rebellion against Him; it is more than mercy – not giving us the punishment for our selfishness and constant rebellion against Him; it is providing for us, protecting us and promising us eternal life when we have done nothing to deserve it. This is the love of Grace.
- The other side of the coin is our RESPONSE to this Grace of God. Ruth teaches us that faced with the realisation of His Grace we should respond with humble thanks and amazement, and we should respond with service and self-sacrifice towards Him.
SO, LIFE LESSONS FROM RUTH CHAPTER 2
- Be oh-so grateful for God’s GRACE towards us.
- Respond to His Grace with a life of HUMILITY.
MEETING THE “MAIN MAN” – JUST A CO-INCIDENCE???
Ruth 2: 1-3 Now Naomi had a kinsman of her husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz.
And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, ‘Please let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after one in whose sight I may find favour.’ And she said to her, ‘Go, my daughter.’ So she departed and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers; and she happened to come to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.
So, at last the love story begins! Here we meet Boaz – in the physical world he is seen as – a “kinsman-redeemer” (but more of that later), a man of “great wealth” (a Hebrew phrase meaning he possessed the finest of qualities), from the tribe of Judah. In the spiritual realm can you think of a Redeemer, with the finest of qualities, from the tribe of Judah? Hm??? No prize for guessing that Boaz is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ! This is a love story of Christ with you!
Now, Ruth just “happened” to come to the field belonging to Boaz…right! I don’t think this was any co-incidence. I believe in “God-incidents”. Here she was – a young woman who had chosen to follow Naomi and the God of Israel; a young woman who was now showing that she was willing to do what it takes to live in the land…and she just “happened” to come to Boaz’s field. No! This has the hand of God written all over it. How about you? Did you just “happen” to find God? I don’t think so. I know that God draws us to Him. Jesus said:
“no-one can come to me unless the Father who sent me, draws him” (John 6:44)
God is still in the business of drawing people and setting up opportunities for them to meet His Son.
This is Grace – this is God’s favour on Ruth and on you.
THE KIND OF CHARACTER THAT GOD LOVES
Ruth 2: 4-7 Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem and said to the reapers, ‘May the Lord be with you.’ And they said to him, ‘May the Lord bless you.’ Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, ‘Whose young woman is this?’ And the servant in charge of the reapers answered and said, ‘She is the young Moabite woman who returned with Naomi from the land of Moab. ‘And she said, ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’ Thus she came and has remained from the morning until now; she has been sitting in the house for a little while.’
You know, Ruth didn’t have to say “please let me glean and gather after the reapers”. The Law (as decreed in Leviticus 19: 9-10) gave her the RIGHT to glean in the fields. But Ruth did not demand her rights, rather she showed two character-traits that Boaz – and God – just loved:
- She came humbly and asked “please”. If we are ever going to know the Lord further, then we need to know to come to Him humbly.
- She came to work and serve – and she has worked hard. If we are ever going to know the Lord further then we need to do our part and not sit back “on our laurels” and expect it all to come to us.
Oh…and one more thing…and remember this is a love story. A loose translation of Boaz’s question “Whose young woman is this?” would be “well…where in the world has she been that I haven’t seen her before??!!” Yes…there is a clear and immediate physical attraction by Boaz. And remember that the Lord is spiritually attracted to you too.
This is humility – that we are truly, sincerely, humbly grateful for Grace.
THE WONDER OF GRACE – PROVISION, PROTECTION AND PROMISE
Ruth 2: 8-9 Then Boaz said to Ruth, ‘Listen carefully, my daughter. Do not go to glean in another field; furthermore, do not go on from this one, but stay here with my maids. ‘Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Indeed, I have commanded the servants not to touch you. When you are thirsty, go to the water jars and drink from what the servants draw.’
How wonderful! It was a dangerous world that Ruth was living in. But Boaz provides her with Protection (“I have commanded the servants not to touch you”), Provision (“when you are thirsty go to the water jars”) and therefore the Promise that all would be well for Ruth…as long as she did one thing…”stay here”.
For us, the spiritual lessons from this are wonderful! The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is His Protection now and forever more – He will never leave us or forsake us; His Provision of all that we need now and forever more – all He has He gives to us; and His Promise of eternal life for all those who believe in Him. But, the warning is there too for us: we must ensure that we remain in His “field of Grace”. The warning is that if we wander elsewhere, try to get what we (think we) need from the “fields” of legalism, or pleasure, or post-modernistic views that all roads lead to heaven, then we are putting ourselves at great risk as we walk away from His protection.
This is Grace – this is God’s favour on Ruth and on you.
BE HUMBLE. GOD KNOWS YOU BETTER THAN YOU KNOW YOURSELF!
Ruth 2: 10-13 Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground and said to him, ‘Why have I found favour in your sight that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?’
And Boaz answered and said to her, ‘All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know. ‘May the Lord reward your work, and your wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.’ Then she said, ‘I have found favour in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and indeed have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants.’
Boaz knew all about her! Oh yes, she was a hated Moabitess and her life was really messed-up. But Boaz did not focus on that. He focused on all the good that he saw in her. What a picture this is of the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. He knows all about you and me. He knows how messed-up our lives have been and continue to be. But He focuses on all the good that He sees in us. How often do we think He is there to simply point out our faults to us and tell us how disappointed in us He is. The truth is that, because of His great love for us, He sees all the good in us.
This is Grace indeed! Let us be grateful for His Grace.
And Ruth? Again we see how humble she is. She bows in his presence. She is amazed she has found “favour” in his sight (there it is again – “favour” is the same word as “grace”), amazed that he treats her as one of his (“maidservants”) even though as a Moabitess and a stranger she did not deserve His favour. Now let us apply this to ourselves. We sing that Grace is “Amazing Grace”, can you see how amazing His Grace is to us? Even though He knows all about us, yet He lavishes His love and favour upon us.
This is humility – that we are truly, sincerely, humbly grateful for Grace.
GRACE UPON GRACE FROM ONE WHO REALLY LOVES YOU
Ruth 2: 14-16 And at mealtime Boaz said to her, ‘Come here, that you may eat of the bread and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar.’ So she sat beside the reapers; and he served her roasted grain, and she ate and was satisfied and had some left.
When she rose to glean, Boaz commanded his servants, saying, ‘Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not insult her.’ And also you shall purposely pull out for her some grain from the bundles and leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.’
This is the first time that Boaz has met Ruth and already he has asked her out to lunch! He is not slow that man! And she was not disappointed – she ate her fill and had some left over. Is this not the same in the spiritual realm for you and me? When we receive the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we are completely and abundantly satisfied. Of course, this does beg the question for us all: Are you satisfied with all that Christ offers you?
And we also see how great Grace is. Mercy meant she was allowed by Law to glean in the fields. Grace (or favour) was shown in that grain was to be deliberately pulled out so that she could have more. Boaz’s grace was seen in his ensuring she got more than she was entitled to.
This is Grace – that the Lord gives us more than we deserve – more love, more favour, more life. Life abundantly. Thank You Lord, for Grace upon Grace!
GRACE – ABUNDANTLY MORE THAN WE COULD HOPE OR THINK!
Ruth 2: 17-19 So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. And she took it up and went into the city, and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also took it out and gave Naomi what she had left after she was satisfied. Her mother-in-law then said to her, ‘Where did you glean today and where did you work? May he who took notice of you be blessed.’ So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, ‘The name of the man with whom I worked today is Boaz.’
Now again we see that Ruth humbly understands that although she has been shown great Grace and Favour, yet she has the responsibility to play her part – she has worked till evening. And the fruit of her work is enough grain to feed them for 10 days! Yet Naomi’s response is not to praise Ruth for her toil but to ask where she had got it from.
In the spiritual realm we are called to work alongside the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ – and others will see something in us that amazes them and that they want to know more about. And like Ruth let us be always ready and willing to share with others the source of our life – our protection, our provision and our promise – and the amazing Grace that has been given to us.
GRACE – OUR “KINSMAN REDEEMER”
Ruth 2: 20-23 And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, ‘May he be blessed of the Lord who has not withdrawn his kindness to the living and to the dead.’ Again Naomi said to her, ‘The man is our relative, he is one of our closest relatives.’ Then Ruth the Moabitess said, ‘Furthermore, he said to me, ‘You should stay close to my servants until they have finished all my harvest.” And Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, ‘It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his maids, lest others fall upon you in another field.’ So she stayed close by the maids of Boaz in order to glean until the end of the barley harvest and the wheat harvest. And she lived with her mother-in-law.
And so we come to the nub of the matter: Naomi recognises that Boaz is “our relative” – the Hebrew word is “geol” and means “kinsman-redeemer”. The Law (Deuteronomy 25: 10) decreed that the kinsman-redeemer had the duty of marrying a childless widow to raise up children for her.
Jesus was born in the “likeness of man” (Philippians 2: 7) and is therefore our “blood relative” who came to pay the price for redeeming us through His death on the cross. We are going to see in the next chapter what this actually looked like. But let us recognise right now that this is the ultimate expression of Grace. For, as Roy Hession, in his book “Our nearest kinsman” has pointed out, Jesus had the three things that were necessary to be our Redeemer:
- The right to redeem us – He is the Son of Man.
- The ability to redeem us – He came from Heaven to earth for this very purpose.
- The willingness to redeem us – which He showed through His death on the Cross.
AND SO THE CONCLUSION – KNOW THE TRUTH
- Ruth chapter 2 tells us the TRUTH of God’s amazing GRACE towards us. He is the God who knows us from the womb, who loves us despite all our background, and who lavishes on us His Provision, Protection and Promise. And what is GRACE? It is the favour of God towards us in that He gives us what we don’t deserve – because He loves us. What a great Father God we have!
- Ruth chapter 2 tells us the TRUTH of the call to total HUMILITY towards Him for all that He has done for us, is doing for us and will do for us. And what is HUMILITY? Well…just over a week ago Mark and I walked 20 miles in 5 hours around the coast of the Hoo Peninsula as part of my “Kent Coast Walk”. At the end of our intrepid journey we were tired but pretty proud of what we had achieved. There was much “slapping each other on the back”. And then I returned home to read in “Sorted” magazine of 49 year old Michael Stocks who, taking part in what is called “ultrarunning” completed 24 hours of non-stop running for 155 miles in the pouring rain! Boy! I felt humbled! And felt even more so when I discovered that 85 year old Geoff Oliver ran 77 miles in the same non-stop 24 hour race!! What is humility? It is knowing the truth about yourself and your sin and being amazed and thankful at the Grace of God. What a great Father God we have!
FOR FURTHER DISCUSSION – ON YOUR OWN OR WITH OTHERS
- What struck you most about this session?
- Try and put yourself in the mind of Ruth at the start of this chapter. How do you think you would be feeling? What would you be thinking? Now along comes Boaz. What will you (in the place of Ruth) be thinking? Doing this may help you grasp how wonderful and amazing is Grace.
- Read again this most wonderful passage from chapter 2: ‘May the Lord reward your work, and your wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.’ Then she said, ‘I have found favour in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and indeed have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants.’ What does this say to you? Is it saying that Grace comes from “works”?
- So she sat beside the reapers; and he served her roasted grain, and she ate and was satisfied and had some left. What about this one…compare it with Luke 6: 38 – what does “running over mean” and what are we meant to do with what “runs over”?
- Similar to this last thought – in verses 17-19 she took home what she had been given and shared it with Naomi (her mother-in-law ie her own family) – who was amazed. What lesson should this teach us as to what we should do with what we have been “given”?