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In Bethlehem, Ruth gleans (walking behind the harvesters and collecting the leftover grain – very hard work) in Boaz’s (a very close relative) fields.
- Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?”
- And the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, “She is the young Moabite woman, who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab.
- She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.’ So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest.”
Boaz extends his protection over her.
- Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women … Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.”
Ruth is amazed! She is a foreigner – a MOABITE at that, a historical enemy of Israel. She asks him why he is being so kind to her. And Boaz says:
Ruth 2: 11-12
- But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before.
- The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”
He gives her food to eat and he makes sure his workers drop extra grain for her. Ruth tells Naomi about him and Naomi is thrilled.
Ruth 2:20 – 22
- And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by the LORD, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.”
- And Ruth the Moabite said, “Besides, he said to me, ‘You shall keep close by my young men 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 young women, lest in another field you be assaulted.”
So, we close this section of Ruth with the last verse of the 2 Chapter.
- So she kept close to the young women of Boaz, gleaning until the end of the barley and wheat harvests. And she lived with her mother-in-law.
Ruth is still in the season of widowhood, but what other season or seasons do you see in these passages?
In her season of taking care of Naomi, what enabled Ruth to lay down her life for another? What enabled her to put their concerns before her own?
Ruth was a hard worker according to verses 7 and 23. She gleaned from sunup to sundown to feed herself and Naomi. No whining, moaning, or swooning. What impression do you think this make on Boaz and the other workers?
Ruth has now entered at least two new seasons of life. Last lesson we saw her go through marriage, not able to have children, and widowhood. Now, once in Judea she is living with Naomi and has taken the role as caregiver and bread winner. She has entered the work force probably for the first time. Seeing a way that God is providing to care for Naomi and herself, she initiates going to work. God providentially leads her to the field of Boaz, a relative of Elimelech to glean the leftovers of the hired pickers. This was God’s law to provide for the poor or those passing through who needed food. She is well treated, but it is hard physical, back-breaking work.
Everyone seems to be impressed with Ruth’s work ethic. The foreman, when asked by Boaz who Ruth was, said, “She is the young Moabite woman, who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. 7 She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.’ So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest” (Ruth 2:6-7). And later we are told she gleaned until the end of the barley and wheat harvests. This wasn’t just a part time job. Gleaning wasn’t something she did when they were low on food. She worked diligently to store up food for the future and her work ethic was a witness of her character. Would she have found favor with Boaz if she was lazy and griping about the hot sun or her feet hurting? No, she would not.
Caregivers are those who lay down their lives for another. They set aside their own agendas, feelings, and needs for the welfare of another. This is what Ruth is doing for Naomi. Their neighbors, friends and family are witnessing Ruth’s godly character through her sacrificial love for Naomi.
Ruth is learning and obeying the word of God. Surely, this commandment was foremost in her mind.
Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you (Exodus 20:12).
Also, as we covered in Lesson One, she was surely meditating on Deuteronomy 6:4 and Leviticus 19:34: loving God and loving people.
Her descendant would say, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).
The people in Bethlehem are seeing Ruth as a kind, loving, and hardworking daughter-in-law through these hard seasons of working outside the home and taking care of another.
Marriage Childlessness Widowhood Working Caregiver
Many of us have been in each or all of these seasons. We all have our own stories to tell. My prayer is that your story includes love and loyalty to God and family, and faithful commitment to those who rely on you to care for them, and a strong work ethic. If your story is like mine, it took some time to reach a fully committed heart that could say: “Life is hard, God is good, glory is coming, so I will stand fast in Your grace” (my paraphrase of John Piper’s quote).
Friends, if you are widowed or divorced, and have the responsibility of being the caregiver and provider for your children or your parents, remember Ruth’s story. Face life in the presence of God, in faith, by the power of the Holy Spirit, lay down your life for them and God who is rich in mercy will repay you.
What does it mean to lay down your life for another?
If you find yourself in a season of caregiving, what have you learned from Ruth that might help you to lay down your life for another?
How is your work ethic? Is it a witness for good in your work place?
If you are not already laying down your life for another, what plans can you make now to prepare for that?
Jesus will care for you as you care for others. Lay it all down at his feet.
You are loved
Lesson 3 out soon