One of the most powerful love stories in the Bible is the story of Ruth. Not only does it show the development of love between Ruth and Boaz, but it reveals a lot about the God who loves us. This month, the focus of the series of posts will be about Ruth.
God had made provision that all who would renounce heathenism, and connect themselves with Israel, should share the blessings of the covenant. They were included under the term, “the stranger that sojourneth among you,” and with few exceptions this class were to enjoy equal favors and privileges with Israel.Ellen G. White. Patriarchs and Prophets, page 507
Part 2: Kind Deeds to A Stranger
Ruth and Naomi enter Bethlehem but the chapter does not begin with them but with Boaz. Boaz was a wealthy and influential man who was a relative of Elimelech. In their day, wealth is measured by the land and the livestock that one has.
Upon arrival to Bethlehem, Naomi was quite at home. She knew the customs and traditions of the town and every person around town. Ruth, on the other hand, must have been in shock for being a foreigner in a strange land. What made matters worse for the two of them was that they lived in poverty.
During their time, it was customary for harvesters not to gather all the grain in the field, rather they leave some to the poor and needy. This is in accordance to the Lord’s commandments in Leviticus 19:9,10 and 23:22. This was what Ruth was doing. To survive, she waits on the harvesters as they gather to pick up what they have dropped or left behind. This will help her and Naomi to survive hunger. Unknown to Ruth, she is harvesting on the land of a wealthy man named Boaz.
Boaz was not only wealthy and influential but he was also God fearing and kind hearted. This manifested in how he greeted his servants each time he visits them. He noticed Ruth and inquired about her from her reapers. It was not hard to notice a foreigner doing something that poor and widowed Hebrew women do. Upon inquiry, the servants had nothing but good words for Ruth. They told their master how industrious she is since she has worked non-stop with little rest. They also noticed how polite and humble she had been when she asked for permission from them to work in their field.
We cannot really say for what reason, maybe Boaz was just that kindhearted man. Maybe he was a man that understood that a foreigner such as Ruth might be abused by other landowners. Whatever his motives are, he asked Ruth not to glean from any other field other than his. More than that, he also instructed his servants not to harass her as some of them probably do to other women or poor people who are picking grain during their time. Instead, he even asked them to secretly but intentionally leave more grains of barley for Ruth to pick up.
Ruth could not believe what Boaz has told her. She was comforted by the fact that someone is helping her even in her poverty and nothingness. She was even given not only the opportunity to work, but also the security from harassment and provisions and rest during work day.
It was later on revealed that Boaz not only knew of Ruth’s industry and humility but also of her faith. He heard about her loyalty and dedication to Naomi and her new found faith in God. This probably lead him to treat Ruth with extra kindness. He knew how the Lord rewards those who are faithful and loyal, and that is the same kindness he wanted Ruth to see.
At the end of the day, Ruth told Naomi everything that happened including the kindness of Boaz. She then instructed Ruth to continue working in Boaz’s fields as she would be more protected there.
Rewards of Faith and Work
Ruth is an expatriate in Judah. Like most expatriates or foreigners living and working in a different land, they have to do double the effort to get to know the new environment they are in. Ruth did just that. She not only embraced her mother-in-law’s culture but showed to everyone that she is industrious and honest in her work. She continued working with only a short rest in between.
The Lord rewards faithfulness and hard work. Our perseverance and toil in His work will always be rewarded.
We could say that that is not always true. This may be based on our or other people’s experiences while other people may have met a harder challenge or a grave calamity or misfortune after putting in a lot of effort despite having total reliance in God to see things through. We may think that it is not entirely true that God does reward hard work and faithfulness but our perspectives should change.
But sometimes the rewards do not come in monetary or material objects rather in good relations with other people or increase in opportunities to work. Sometimes the rewards come in forms that we overlook or do not expect. But more often than not, the ultimate reward is a better character that is taken after Jesus Christ himself.
“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”Romans 5:3-5
Looking at the story of Ruth, she still had to do back breaking work, but she was given a better opportunity to work and a better relationship with other people. Rewards are not always what we want it to be, but it is often what we need it to be.
Kindness to Strangers
Boaz was introduced as a wealthy and influential man. However, the story revealed that he is not all money, power and possessions. He is in fact more than that. The way he treated his servants by way of greeting shows that he is a man with a kind heart. He is someone who found his influence through kindness, honesty and fair treatment of others. More than that, he is a man who diligently follows God.
With this in mind, we can only assume that the kindness he dealt with Ruth was not out of personal gain but rather out of love for God. He was not one who would deal kindly to Ruth because he had a hidden agenda. He seemed to have treated Ruth kindly because he probably knew the dangers other field owners and other servants may do to a stranger like Ruth. He knew that some might take advantage of a hardworking stranger who would have no voice to complain about their misconduct. He even went so far as to instruct his servants to help Ruth somewhat in her work without making her overly dependent to them. Such is a man that serves God.
This is how God wants us to deal with strangers who have a different upbringing or religious background than us. We are to treat them kindly without leading them towards dependency. In fact, taking after Boaz’s example, we are to aid them and lead them towards God in a way that would not take advantage of them or alienate them of our practices and dealings. This does not only come out of a kind heart but also as a commandment from the Lord.
Exodus 23:9 says ““Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” We do this, not because we are better or greater than them, but because we too are strangers in this world. We do this in recognition that everything we own, even though we have toiled and worked our backs off our possessions, are all owned by God. We are merely servants for a master who has given us the opportunity to manage His possessions and assigned us to work here in this world.
The Kindness and Love of God
The story of Ruth and Boaz tells not just a love story or a story of kindness to a stranger but about the character of God. Both people show extraordinary characteristics that set them apart from the rest of the people around them.
Ruth was a hardworking woman of faith who embraced a country and culture that is entirely unfamiliar to her. She embraced Naomi’s lifestyle and faith because she knew that God was with her and the people she is adopting. She probably developed a devotion to God that prompted her to stay. On the other hand, God came down on earth as a man and adopted the lifestyle and habits of men. He knew us for He created us, but the experiential knowledge was different. He, too, was a stranger when he walked this earth. He, too, experienced hunger, thirst, frustration, anger, desolation, loneliness and temptation, yet He overcame everything because of His constant and daily devotion and connection to the Father. He too worked and toiled not just as a carpenter, but as a preacher, a healer, a comforter, a counselor, a peacemaker, a teacher, a fisherman, a cook, among others. In fact, it is hard to imagine an idle Jesus. He was a man who was also always on the go and always working with a purpose. Even playing along with children is hard work!
Moreover, Boaz was a man of faith, integrity, honesty and kindness. He treated his servants kindly and even reminded them of God through his greeting. He dealt kindly with strangers as he did with Ruth. He took care of those under his wing and gave them fairness and honesty. In the process of being this righteous man, he gained wealth and influence that he used further to help others. On the other hand, God IS integrity, faith, honesty and kindness. He is all of that and more. He is a vineyard owner who sends his servants to tend to his vines and he treats them kindly and patiently even if the servants commit mistakes frequently. He deals kindly with us, strangers in a foreign world, and frees us from all manner of chains that the world has to offer as long as we let him. Like Boaz, He wants us, the Ruth of this world, to just work within His fields because He knows the dangers that other field owners do to strangers like us. He bids His servants to drop part of their harvest so that we could pick up more than we normally can. That is how kind, generous and loving God is.
The story of Ruth and Boaz is indeed a story of love and redemption. It is a story that reveals the character of God and in a later lesson we would learn that it also mirrors our own redemption story.