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.”
17 So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. 18 And she took it up and went into the city. Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also brought out and gave her what food she had left over after being satisfied. 19 And her mother-in-law said to her, “Where did you glean today? And where have you worked? Blessed be the man who took notice of you.” So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, “The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz.” 20 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.” 21 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.’ ” 22 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.” 23 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 2:1-23
I am thoroughly enjoying studying and writing through the book of Ruth. One of the things that I find the most engaging is how easy it is to see God moving in the lives of Ruth and Naomi – two ordinary people. I love how we get to see God work through ordinary (even unlikely) people because, at our core, people typically think it is unlikely they will see God move and work in their lives because they are ordinary, insignificant, or unworthy or whatever other labels we attach to ourselves. Thinking about this brings to my mind another unlikely person that God worked through a generation or so before the book of Ruth: a prostitute named Rahab.
You can find Rahab’s story in Joshua 2 and 6. What comes to mind when I think of Rahab is how God used this unlikely person to fulfill His promise to His people. Before the promised land was taken – before God’s people could receive the promises of God, spies were sent out to help make plans for the conquest of the land. They found themselves in Jericho and in danger. The only person to help them was Rahab. She rescued them, hid them from her own people, and asked only that the Lord – whom she had heard of and now showed faith in (Joshua 2:9, Hebrews 11:31) – would “deal kindly” with her family as she had “dealt kindly” with the spies by hiding them (Joshua 2:12, James 2:25). And that is exactly what God did for Rahab: He dealt kindly with her.
That phrase “dealt kindly” is the Hebrew word hesed which is often translated as loving-kindness and refers to the type of unfailing, loyal love that we know is characteristic of God. The word hesed is prominent in the book of Ruth, showing God’s fingerprints in the lives of the ordinary and the unlikely.
Hesed in the Field of Boaz
Ruth and Naomi find themselves in Bethlehem, the house of bread, during the barley harvest. Their husbands are dead, and they have no one to provide for them. So, what do they do? Naomi is already bitter; does Ruth join her and just sit together and starve in angry sadness? No, Ruth looks at the harvest taking place around them and asks Naomi to “Let [her] go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight [she] shall find favor” (v. 2).
Now, Ruth would not have known that God had already provided for the hungry and the sojourner in the time of harvest (Deuteronomy 24:19), but, surely, Naomi knew because she told Ruth (calling her “daughter”) to go ahead. What faith Ruth showed here to go out into her new home (called “Ruth the Moabite” throughout the chapter) and seek to find favor with a random local so she would be able to feed herself and Naomi. And that faith was rewarded; notice how it says in v. 3 that the field she “happened to come to” belonged to Boaz who turned out to be “a close relative…one of [their] redeemers” (v. 20)! What appeared to her as “happenstance” was actually God’s plan of redemption playing out in their lives! In the same way that Rahab’s house happened to be the one the Israelite spies stumbled into and found safety, Ruth stumbled into the field of the very man she needed to meet – the very man God intended for her to meet.
Boaz had already heard about Ruth, her conversion, and all she had done for Naomi after the death of their loved ones (v. 11). Not only that, he also got a good report about how hard she was willing to work to take care of Naomi from the man in charge of his harvest (vv. 6-7). Hearing these things prompted him to give an opportunity for Ruth to be safe while she worked for her family and be a blessing beyond what she could provide or work for herself.
As far as Ruth knew, she was being the literally breadwinner for her little family. She hoped to be able to help Naomi (who viewed herself as having been “brought…back empty” (1:21) from the land of Moab) by at least filling her belly. She went out to a local field and asked the foreman if she could go behind his reapers and harvest the barley that fell on the ground. She wanted permission to harvest leftovers – scraps off the ground! But, praise be to God, she “happened” upon a field from the “clan of Elimelech” – the clan whose God was their King – and God was more gracious and loving than she knew. She sought to gather leftovers, but she reaped hesed!
Remember the blessing that Naomi prayed over Ruth and Orpah, “May the Lord deal kindly with you” (1:8)? That phrase deal kindly is hesed. When Naomi heard of all that happened in the fields, she recognized the kindness that Boaz showed to them was a blessing of “the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead” (v. 20); the word kindness there is also hesed.
Boaz’s hesed showed up in the way that he made sure that Ruth was protected from the assault she may have suffered in another field at the hands of unrighteous men (vv. 9, 22) it showed up in the way that he allowed her to move along with his reapers for protection and support (v. 8); it showed up in the way that he told his reapers to leave more than scraps behind so she could reap a bigger harvest through her faithful work (v. 16). Most importantly, Boaz showed hesed by blessing her: “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!” (v. 12). You see, Boaz showed hesed because of the Lord. He was the conduit for the hesed of God – the very same God in whom Ruth had put her trust and taken refuge!
A God of Never-Ending Hesed
Just as Boaz had noticed, Ruth had come to the God of Israel for refuge. She had forsaken the false gods that were part of her heritage in worship of the one, true God. She had left her people and become a part of His people. She had come to the house of bread and sought to harvest bread for her and Naomi. What she did not know was that her God was more than simply a refuge for her but “Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). Naomi asked that Ruth receive hesed from the Lord, but Ruth was just beginning to see that her God is “abounding in steadfast love” (Exodus 34:6)! He has a surplus of hesed – in fact He is rich in it (Ephesians 2:4) – and had an unexpected harvest for Ruth and Naomi that was more abundant than they could “ask or think”!
This can be seen in how Boaz allows her to have some of his workers’ food at lunch (dipping the morsel seems a bit Lord’s Supper-ish, don’t you think?), enough to eat “until she was satisfied” and take the leftovers to Naomi (vv. 14, 18). She gathered “about an ephah” (about 3/5 of a bushel or thirty pounds) of barley (v. 17)! Naomi felt like she left Israel full and came back from Moab empty, but Ruth left for the field empty-handed and came back with a thirty pound sack full of barley ready to be made into bread.
Even in her bitterness, Naomi recognized the hesed. In that way, she like Ruth was beginning to learn the beauty of God’s hesed. But neither of them knew hesed like Boaz.
You see, Boaz would have learned a lot about hesed from his mother. Many years before, she was a prostitute in the city of Jericho. She had two Israelite spies stumble into her house and asked that they give hesed to her family if she gave them safety. Through faith in the Lord and His mercy and hesed, she (in addition to her family, just as she asked) “did not perish” with the rest of Jericho. Matthew 1:5 tells us her name – “Salmon [was] the father of Boaz by Rahab”! What hesed for God to redeem one like Rahab and include her in the family lineage of Jesus!
Naomi had no idea that God would so specifically answer her prayer of blessing in how God would choose to “deal kindly” with Ruth. There is no way she could have known, but He did! When Boaz recognized what God had done in Ruth’s life, there is no way for him to know how God intended to use him in the lineage of Jesus, but God did!
Maybe today you think there is no way that anyone could love you, but know this: God is still abounding in hesed today. His loving-kindness is so great that “He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). We have seen how a young prostitute named Rahab placed her faith in Him and did not perish. We have seen how a young Moabitess placed her faith in Him by seeking refuge under His wings and found redemption. That same faith and belief produces the same results today (Romans 10:9-10, 13). So, put your faith in Jesus and find life and redemption in Him.
 Sinclair Ferguson, Faithful God: An Exposition of the Book of Ruth (Bryntirion Press, 2013), 49.