Ruth 1:22 – 2:16 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest. 2:1 Now Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. 2 And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” 3 So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech. 4 And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The LORD be with you!” And they answered, “The LORD bless you.” 5 Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” 6 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. 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.”
8 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. 9 Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. 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.” 10 Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” 11 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. 12 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!” 13 Then she said, “I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.”
14 And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. 15 When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. 16 And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.”
Two weeks ago I shared with you ten aspects of a godly woman that we see in the person of Ruth: Compassionate, willing to help those in need , kind, loyal, and devoted, submissive, full of initiative, hard-working and industrious, courageous, full of gratitude, faithful and honest, and generous. In the same way, after following the story’s progress, we’re going to consider eight aspects of a godly man that we see in the person of Boaz. It is my hope and prayer that taken together the heart of God would be plain for all to see. And it is my hope and prayer that with God’s heart in plain sight we’d all eagerly pursue it for ourselves and for one another.
THE STORY CONTINUES
This section begins with two bits of information that will certainly pique a careful reader’s curiosity. The first occurs at the very end of chapter one and the second at the very beginning of chapter two. For no immediately apparent reason the author notes that Naomi and Ruth made it back to Israel “at the beginning of barley harvest (late April/early May)” (1:22) and secondly that “Naomi had a relative of her husband’s… whose name was Boaz” (2:1). Why include these things? What are their significance? We don’t have to wait long to find out.
The reason for the mention of the harvest season becomes immediately clear. After more than a decade in Moab, Naomi and Ruth made it safely back to Bethlehem. But having made it home, what would be their means of provision? How would they eat? Where would they get money to buy things? In answer to these questions, full of good will, initiative, industry, and courage Ruth asked Naomi for permission to go glean grain (to pick up the barley left behind by the harvesters). And so, with Naomi’s blessing that’s exactly what she did…she “set out and went and gleaned…”.
This, then, is the reason the author felt compelled to note that it was at the beginning of barley harvest. He was preparing us for the ladies’ means of provision. The LORD had indeed lifted the famine and the scene of bitterness had begun to turn pleasant. The harvest time was a season of celebration and gladness. The chapter that began with famine and leaving, ends with returning and fruitfulness. And so we see the winding path of glory begin to straighten out for the women. Remember that, Grace. Remember that things are not always as they seem. Remember that God is always working for the highest glory even when they seem to be descending into the deepest valley.
But would Ruth find a landowner willing to allow her to glean? Would she find someone’s favor? God had commanded his people to allow for gleaning as a means of providing for people in just this type of situation, but after a lengthy famine, would the Israelites be a bit less willing to share? Would they be quick to hoard? The answer to those questions is also the reason for the mention of Boaz. We learn of Boaz in 2:1 but don’t meet him until 2:4. But when we finally do meet him, the reason for his mention becomes clear.
It’s interesting that Ruth set out in a “random” direction hoping to find the favor of a field owner, it’s interesting that Ruth “happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech,” and it’s interesting that Boaz “accidentally” (“behold”) ended up in his field as Ruth was working in it.
The author began the chapter by introducing the barley harvest and Boaz such that his readers would be prepared for the paths of the women, the harvest, and , the worthy man to come together. The author presents as chance (with a wink) nothing less than divine providence working for divine glory. Remember that too, Grace. Remember that chance is an illusion and that all things are being worked together for good by God.
Having arrived just in time to notice the stranger gleaning in his fields, Boaz inquired about her identity, “Whose young woman is this?” (2:5). Even though he didn’t recognize her by sight, Boaz had heard of Ruth’s kindness and loyalty to Naomi, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me” (2:11).
Consequently he immediately took her under his protection, saying to Ruth, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not glean in another field or leave this one” … “Have I not charged the young men not to touch you?” (2:8, 9). And he also immediately took her under his provision, “When you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn” (2:9).
Uncontrollably grateful, Ruth fell down before Boaz and inquired as to the source of his unexpected and exceptional kindness. Boaz’s answer was his appreciation for Ruth’s care for his kinsmen, Naomi. And his hope for her was that God would be even more kind to her still (2:11-12). At this, Ruth’s gratitude again came spilling out (2:13) at the favor and kindness of Boaz.
Finally, then, before the day was over, Boaz bestowed three more acts of generosity upon Ruth (and Naomi through her). First he invited her to eat and drink with him and his workers. Second, he allowed her to pick grain before it had been picked (making it much easier to gather), and third, he commanded his workers to leave out for her some of the bundles that they’d already picked (to cut it for her and leave it behind).
What a remarkably pleasant and encouraging part of the story. This young, vulnerable woman stepped out in faith on behalf of her aged mother-in-law and was rewarded with nothing but kindness and generosity. Where there was uncertainty, emptiness, and vulnerability, there is now a clear path, fullness, and protection. And so it is for all who would trust Jesus. Whatever you fear losing, you will find limitless more in Jesus. Whatever you leave behind, you will find in abundance in Jesus. Whatever fear keeps you from surrendering all, will be made up for 100 fold in Jesus.
The prohibition of the Moabites in Israel (and Israel in Moab) for those who continued on in their pagan ways, serving their pagan gods. But it seems that Ruth truly was converted; and her conversion was accepted by Naomi, Boaz, and God himself. Still, however, at the end of this passage we’re left wondering if this is merely a brief moment of blessing or if it is a new season of blessing. Will Boaz’s and God’s kindness continue or will the women end up back in peril? We’ll find out a bit more next week. For now, remember once again this simple fact: when it seems like you’re caught in the mundane, the meaningless, the futile—when it seems like their can’t possibly be any significance in paying the 100th bill of the month, or filing the 1,000th document of the day, or disciplining your kid for the 10th time in the past 10 minutes, or getting up in pain every day for months on end—remember that God is at work. There are no wasted minutes in the kingdom of God for the people of God. Learn to love the ordinary because the ordinary is that through which God works his sovereign will.
For the rest of the sermon, as I mentioned earlier, I want to shine an even brighter light on Boaz and therein highlight eight aspects of the heart of a man of God. Men, listen carefully in order that we’d put on more of the character of God. Women, listen prayerfully in order that God would be pleased to strengthen your brothers. Church, listen eagerly in the hope that God might give us generations of men marked by such attributes.
THE HEART OF A GODLY MAN
For the third time I mean to focus on a key, but implicit aspect of the book of Ruth (godly womanhood and suffering). And for the third time I need to remind you of the fact that while Boaz provides an excellent example of several aspects of godly manhood, we do not see in him everything there is to know about masculine godliness. Again, while it would be a significant mistake to miss the author’s implicit extolling of the God-honoring virtues in Boaz, it would also be a mistake to pretend the author meant to give a thorough definition of manhood or a systematic account of all God requires of men. Boaz is not a perfect man, but there is much we can learn about godly masculinity from him.
As we work our way through the eight attributes of a godly man highlighted in Boaz, remember four things:
First, as with our look at the heart of a godly woman in the person of Ruth, many of these characteristics are not exclusively masculine. That is, all godly people will display most of these things in some ways.
Second, although there are ways in which these traits are not exclusively masculine, we see in Boaz particularly masculine expressions of them. By God’s design, there really is a difference between the way men and women are to make things flourish, look to God, protect the vulnerable, be generous, etc. In a world that wants to blur every distinction that God hardwired into his creation, we do well to let God’s word serve as our guide.
Third, and I should have mentioned this in the sermon on godly womanhood, none of these are tied to Boaz being married. Every one of them were displayed prior to being married to Ruth. In other words, these are as much for single men as for married men.
And fourth, no one but Jesus Christ lived these out perfectly. Men, don’t be tempted to lessen God’s standard for you because you know you’ve fallen short (and will again). But don’t allow yourself to be crushed by your failure either. Do your best to walk in righteousness in the power of the Spirit and hold fast to the one who died for the fact that you can’t. If you are a Christian rejoice in the kindness of God to reveal these things to you and the promise of God to work them out in you.
With that, let’s consider eight aspects of the heart of a godly man as they appear throughout Ruth in Boaz.
- Worthy (2:1). In this sense a “worthy man” means one of wealth, honor, and influence. It was Boaz’s “worthiness” that drove many of the events of the story. It was because he was “worthy” that he owned and managed such a fruitful plot of land. It was because he was “worthy” that he had the ability to serve Ruth and Naomi. It was because he was “worthy” that his servants listened to his instructions to let Ruth glean and to refrain from giving her a hard time. And it was because he was “worthy” that the elders of the town gave him an audience and listened to him speak. Not all godly men will be as wealth as Boaz, but all godly men will be hard working, fair, generous, respectable, honorable and influential. Grace, pray for the men here. Pray that we’d work hard to produce much in order that we’d have much to give. Pray that we’d think carefully and live with integrity that people would listen carefully when we speak. Men, let’s not be passive, lazy, childish, or vulgar. Let’s put on godliness in every way and therein become worthy men.
- Husbandmen (2:3). God has charged men to exercise dominion over his creation (Genesis 1:26-28). That is, God commands men to conquer and subdue the wilderness. In that way, godly men are called to be good lords. But that is not all God charges us with. We are not merely to take new ground and drive out chaos. God also charges us to turn the wilderness into civilization, chaos into order, and potential into fruit. Godly men are to take that which God has given us and make it flourish. That is, he calls us to be lords and husbandmen. We see this in Boaz as he efficiently managed his fields and brought in its harvest. And (don’t miss this) it is precisely because he was faithful in this way that he was able to provide for Ruth and Naomi. In my experience men either like kicking in doors or they like long-tending the things they have. God calls us to be both. We are to conquer all that God has charged us with and make it flourish. Done rightly, we will be strong and tender. We will be brave and careful. Grace, pray for us in this. Men, let’s not settle for less than the charge of God on our lives. Godly men are good husbandmen.
- Godward (2:4, 12, 3:10). Boaz saw everything through a God-tinted lens. That is, Boaz understood his whole life and the entirety of the world around him in light of God’s relationship to it. Thus the first words he uttered in the story, his greeting to his workers was,’The LORD be with you.” His hope for Ruth was that God would be as kind, loyal, and rewarding to her as she had been to Naomi (2:12, 3:10). His understanding of Ruth’s situation was one under the wings of God her refuge. Men, many make the mistake of making God a part of our lives. For many, maturity in the Christian life means making God an ever increasing part. But Boaz, along with the rest of the bible, teaches that genuine godliness means that God is life and everything else that we allow in must come under his rule for his purposes. Men of God are godward in their view of themselves and all things. There is no part of a godly man’s life that is not ruled and shaped by God.
- Saviors (2:9, 14, 15-16). Lords conquer and subdue, husbandman make things flourish, and saviors protect and defend. Immediately, upon recognizing their vulnerable position, Boaz looked to protect Ruth and Naomi. As we saw earlier he charged her to remain in his field and he charged his men not to touch her (2:9). He protected her from starvation by allowing her to glean in his field (2:8) and by providing food and water (2:9, 14). And he protected her even from the insults of his hired help, commanding them not to “reproach” or “rebuke” her (2:15-16). Grace, pray for the men of Grace to be strong with the strength of God. Men, this isn’t a call to some form of hyper-masculinity; with bigger and louder trucks, spending 7 days/week at the gym, and carrying a shotgun around in your pocket. But it does mean that we need to care about our fitness, courage, and charge such that those under our care know that whatever comes for them must go through us first. Godly men give themselves to protect and defend the vulnerable.
- Generous (2:8, 9, 14, 21-23, 3:11, 15, 4:13). The thing to see here is that Boaz did not merely provide the bare minimum for Ruth and Naomi, he was exceedingly generous. 2:14 says, “And at mealtime Boaz said to her, ‘Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.’ So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. ” What’s more, Boaz not only let her reap among his fields, he also let her glean “even among the sheaves” and he told his servants to take out some of the bundles of grain they’d picked and leave them for Ruth. More still, Boaz not only granted her permission to glean that day, but throughout the entire barley and wheat harvest (2:21-23). After she visited him on the threshing floor he gave her as much grain as she could carry for her and her mother-in-law (3:15). Most yet, Boaz eventually agreed to become Naomi’s redeemer (3:11), Ruth’s husband (4:13), and the perpetuator of Elimelech’s line (4:13). It’s hard to imagine greater generosity than all of that. Men, we must be people who contemplate the unimaginable generosity of God toward us and seek to emulate it continually with friend and stranger. We must be known, if we are to be truly godly, as people who continually look to bless others in ways that only make sense in light of the gospel of God. Boaz was an exceedingly generous man, and so are all godly men.
- Righteous (2:8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 3:6-14). While the fool and the sinner look to take advantage of the vulnerable and are attracted primarily to sensuality, charm, and external beauty, Boaz was a righteous man. He sought to protect the vulnerable (Ruth and Naomi) and he did so at significant expense to himself. What’s more, he primarily noticed and was attracted to Ruth’s care for her mother-in-law, her hard work, her courage (2:11), and her kindness (3:10) (her character). She very well may have been attractive, but there’s no mention of Boaz being caught up in her charm and beauty. On the contrary, in a situation where many men would have taken advantage of Ruth, Boaz maintained her purity and her reputation (3:6-14). More still, like God, Boaz was not concerned with the fact that Ruth was a foreigner (2:10) and not one of his own (2:13). She had placed her hope in Naomi’s God, in Boaz’s God, and so, on account of Boaz’s righteousness, she knew the kindness of God. Men, holiness is not an option for godly men. Tolerating sin is not an option. Looking at pornography or letting our minds wander away from our wives is not an option for godly men. Dishonest gain is not an option. Boaz was righteous and so are godly men.
- Wise (3:12-13, 4:1-10). The Lord Jesus charged his followers to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves (Matthew 10:13). He gave that charge to his disciples prior to sending them out to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God. He did so knowing that by obeying his command they would undoubtedly encounter many who would despise them for their message. His point was that in a context like that they needed to be sinless but also clever, righteous but also cunning, innocent but also wise. Virtually every action of Boaz fit this bill. He was wise in his handling of Ruth and Naomi’s need for food, in his handling of Ruth’s unusual way of approaching him and proposing to him on the threshing floor, in his handling of the servants who would have known that Ruth spent the night at his feet, and especially (as we’ll see more clearly when we get to chapter 4) in his handling of the nearer redeemer. Our culture likes to portray animals and children as brilliant and men as dolts. But men of God are readers, we are careful thinkers, we seek wisdom, and we know that these things are primarily found in the Word of God. Boaz was filled with wisdom as are all godly men.
- Respectful to his peers and elders (4:2, 9). Throughout most of the story Boaz is presented as the one with the power to decide. He decided how to treat his servants, Ruth, and Naomi. Their well-being was in his hands. And as we’ve seen, without exception his choices were for the good of those under him. What’s equally impressive to me is the fact that he showed the same type of integrity toward those who were his equal and superiors. We see this in the fact that he was unwilling to make any backroom deals concerning Ruth and Naomi. All his dealings were in the light, in front of the elders of the town. At his insistence the elders were summoned as he informed the nearer redeemer of his opportunity to acquire Elimelech’s field when he probably could have gotten away without doing so. At his insistence the elders heard the case and witnessed the transaction. And as God intended, the elders were there to give approval and celebrate the goodness of what transpired. Ultimately, though, we see this in the manner in which Boaz submitted to God. As I mentioned earlier, having just come out of a great famine, it must have been a temptation not to allow the poor to glean. Having a young, vulnerable, needy woman present herself at night to him must have been a temptation to take advantage. And yet in every way, Boaz remained respectfully under the One in authority over him. I know too many men who are eager to lead and take charge of those under them, but quick to try to slide out from under the authority over them (speeding, taxes, grumbling about their boss, not submitting to their elders, etc.). As Boaz was, godly men are: careful to care for those under them, and careful to submit to those over them.
It seems that the road of glory was straightening out for Naomi and Ruth and much of that was on account of the godliness of one man, Boaz. In this passage the sovereign goodness and rightness of God is plain, the godliness of Boaz is plain, and the rightness of God’s people placing all of our hope in God (regardless of how things appear to us) is plain.
Jesus promised us that if we follow him this life will not always be this pleasant and right. On this side of heaven there will not always be a happy turn or a noble savior to rescue us from the injustices of others. But Jesus also promised us that if we follow him, one day we will know only pleasantness, rightness, justice, salvation, and rescue. Boaz was a remarkable man. We would do well to look to him and imitate him in many ways. But in every way Jesus was superior. Look, therefore, ultimately to him; for an example and rescue when you fall short.