A devotional Study of Boaz and Ruth at Harvest time

A devotional Study of Boaz and Ruth at Harvest time

The story of the Book of Ruth is well known. It tells the story of the experiences of Ruth the Moabitess and how she came to rest under the blessings of the God of Israel.

The story starts at a time of severe famine in Bethlehem-Judah, (1:1), and is about couple named Elimelech and his wife Naomi. They had decided to flee from their hometown to the country of Moab, and this they did, taking their two boys, Mahlon and Chilion, with them. However, their sojourn there was not a happy one. Although finding sustenance for their physical needs there, Elimilech died. The boys then each married Moabitish girls. This was not strictly forbidden, but probably not encouraged. About ten years later, the two young men died as well, (1:5). This further tragedy left Naomi and her daughters-in-law Ruth and Orpah bereft. Wisely, Naomi decided the best thing to do would be to return to Bethlehem-Judah. On the way she persuaded Orpah to return home to Moab but she was not able to dissuade Ruth from continuing with her on the journey. We well recall the emotional and stirring words of Ruth when she said, ‘Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God, my God: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me’, (1:16-17).

When they reached Bethlehem-Judah it was the beginning of the barley harvest and while a welcome awaited them they had, nevertheless, to live in poverty. Naomi explained to friends that she ‘went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty’. In order to survive Ruth had to go and glean in the fields so she and her mother-in law would not go hungry. The message I want to bring to you starts at that particular point.

Sometimes when things go wrong in our lives we ask, ‘Why me?’ Yet we do not see the need to ask the same question when things go right. When Boaz first encountered Ruth in the field and spoke with her she said, ‘Why have I found grace in thine eyes?’, (2:10). The pecking order at harvest time was as follows: at the top was the landowner, in this case Boaz; second, was a supervisor, (2:6); next, were the skilled reapers; in turn, these were followed by sheaf binders; finally, gleaners were allowed to forage for themselves around the edges and in the corners of the fields, as well as picking up fallen ears anywhere in the field. Harvest was a seriously busy time and not much opportunity was available for conversation, yet here the landowner makes time to speak at some length with a lowly gleaner. Ruth was young, a widow, a stranger, living on the breadline, and therefore extremely vulnerable. Yet, he noticed her and spoke to her, and her reaction was as we have seen, ‘Why me?’

We shall pursue the circumstances described in chapter 2 verse 14 and our application under the following headings: Invitation; Participation; Fellowship; Appreciation; Satisfaction; Reflection.

Invitation

Somewhat surprisingly Boaz invited Ruth with these words, ‘At mealtime come thou hither’. I imagine that normally the gleaners would have eaten what little they had in a sheltered corner of the field whereas here was an invitation, indeed a command, to come into the house to eat with the chief men of the harvest. Ruth must have been overwhelmed by such a thought. It was of course all of grace. We too have, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, been summoned by Him to attend a mealtime that He has instituted for our blessing and to facilitate worship. We are invited to the Lord’s Supper and it is significant that the invite is personal. The Lord says, ‘At the Supper, I want you there’. It is by grace that such an invitation is given and we must be ready to respond positively on each first day of the week.

Participation

While it would have been a blessed thing just to attend and respond, Boaz is concerned that she should participate in the bread and the vinegar. This was apparently a sweet and refreshing drink concocted from wine vinegar mixed with oil and eaten accompanied by bread. On a hot harvest day this provision would be most welcome to all the workers and strengthen their resolve to continue the work into the afternoon, and evening. At the Lord’s Supper of course bread and wine are provided as emblems of remembrance and it is the Lord’s will that all who attend should participate in this sacred ordinance. It is sad to accept the invitation but not participate, as that is a great loss. It is His desire that all should participate in the bread and wine so all should do whatever has to be done to facilitate this privilege. So, blessed and encouraged, we continue in the field until the work is done.

Fellowship

Scripture records that Ruth ‘sat beside the reapers’. She would be conscious that she was the least of all who were there, yet here she was in fellowship with them enjoying what had been provided. The bread, as well as speaking of the body given, also reminds us of the unity of the believers whatever their position in life or where they come from. At the table all are equal and are treated as such. The hymn writer, George Goodman, penned the words, ‘The bread and wine are spread upon the board; the guests are here invited by the Lord’.

Appreciation

Our verse tell us that during the meal Boaz ‘reached her parched corn’. This was possibly ‘hard grains of wheat not yet fully dry, roasted in a pan or on a plate’, Robinson. This was apparently most palatable. For Ruth it was something special from the hand of the landowner. While it is true that the Lord’s Supper is a place where we give something to Him, it would be a poor feast if we did not receive some special thought or blessing from Him. Please note too that He reached it to her. He was close beside her, within easy touching distance of him when he chose to come and sit a while with her. So too at the Lord’s Supper today, He sits close by and we may feel His gracious touch of love as the feast progresses. We appreciate the closeness and the love… And so, too, does He.

Satisfaction

It is recorded that Ruth ‘did eat, and was sufficed, and left’. She thoroughly enjoyed the special parched corn and so, satisfied, she left the house and returned to the field and, subsequently, well provisioned to her mother-in-law. She had experienced strange and moving things that day. As we attend the Supper and sit close to Him and receive special blessings from Him we too are deeply moved. We experience feelings of joy and satisfaction that warm our hearts and encourage us to continue in His service. Some words from Henry Bennett‘s hymn are, ‘Taken up with Thee Lord Jesus I would be; finding joy and satisfaction all in Thee’; Thou the nearest, and the dearest, unto me‘.

Reflection

When Ruth returned to Naomi she faced two separate questions, v. 19, ‘Where hast thou gleaned today?’ and, ‘Where wroughtest thou?’ Understandably, Naomi, worried for her welfare and wondered where she had been. To this double question Ruth provides a strange and single answer, ‘The man’s name . . . is Boaz’. Ruth was not interested in the place but only in the person. Her heart and mind was full of him. It seems she hardly heard the question and could speak only of him. She was falling in love with him and he already loved her. And so is our relationship with our Lord. The place diminishes in importance and the Person fills our hearts and minds so that we speak only of Him. We recall the Lord’s word that ‘where two or three are gathered together… there am I in the midst’.

Conclusion

Therefore, let us attend the feast as requested and expected, participate and enjoy closeness to the Lord and the fellowship of the saints, and be prepared to speak more of the Person rather than the place; of the Who rather than the where.

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