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BOAZ AND HIS REAPERS
Ruth 2:4. And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The Lord be with you. And they answered him, The Lord bless thee.
EVERY season suggests to us some appropriate considerations: and even the most common incidents of life are capable of affording us very important instruction. Certainly, at first sight, a man’s intercourse with his reapers would not promise much for spiritual edification: but the address of Boaz to his people, and their reply to him, were altogether so different from what is usual in our day, that we shall find our time not unprofitably employed in the investigation of them.
Their mutual address is the first thing to be considered—
It may be understood in a two-fold view;
As a friendly salutation—
[It seems probable that, if not at that time, yet in after ages, this kind of address was common in the time of harvest [Note: Psalms 129:7-8.]. But, as used on this occasion, it deserves peculiar notice; both as expressing great condescension and kindness on his part, and as evincing much respect and gratitude on theirs. Boaz, it must be remembered, was “a mighty man of wealth [Note: ver. 1.]:” and therefore any notice from him might be deemed an act of condescension, and more especially this, which conveyed to their minds such a sense of paternal love. And their reply argued a becoming feeling of filial respect. Into how many fields might we go, before we heard such greetings as these! How much more frequently might we hear complaints respecting the work, on the one part; and murmuring concerning the wages, on the other part! Notwithstanding the superior advantages we enjoy, and the higher attainments which, in consequence, we might be expected to make in every thing that was amiable and praiseworthy, how uncommon an occurrence should we deem it, if we chanced to witness such greetings in the present day! The true picture of modern life may be drawn in those words of Solomon, “The poor useth entreaties; but the rich answereth roughly [Note: Proverbs 18:23.].”]
As a devout benediction—
[From the piety evinced by Boaz, we may well suppose that these benevolent expressions, on both sides, were not a mere customary form; but a real desire, in the bosoms of them all, for their mutual welfare in reference to the eternal world. How lovely was the address, how suitable the answer, in this view! It is remarkable, that the Apostle Paul begins and ends almost every epistle with prayers and benedictions, expressive of his love for the souls of men. And such ought our correspondence to be, even when the main subject of our letters refers to temporal concerns. Such, too, should be our daily intercourse with friends and servants, in the house, or in the field. Who does not admire this interview between persons so distant in rank, yet so allied in spirit? Let us, then, cultivate the spirit here manifested: for, verily, if it universally obtained, we should enjoy almost a heaven upon earth.]
The next point for us to consider, is, What instruction we should gather from it—
We may learn from it,
That the blessing of God is our chief good—
[This, under any view of their expressions, is evidently implied. The wealth of Boaz, if he had possessed ten thousand different estates, would have been of no real value without the blessing of God; and with that, the men who laboured in reaping down his fields were truly rich. It is the light of God’s countenance which is the only solid good [Note: Psalms 4:6.]: “In his presence is life; and his loving-kindness is better than life itself [Note: Psalms 30:5; Psalms 63:3.].”]
That religion then appears in its true colours, when it regulates our conduct in social life—
[It is in vain for a man to pretend to religion, if in his daily converse with the world he do not manifest its power to transform the soul. What is the knowledge even of an angel, without love? What the faith that could remove mountains? What the zeal that could give all our goods to feed the poor, or even our bodies to be burnt for Jesus’ sake? We speak advisedly when we say, that in the full possession of all these excellencies we should be no better than “sounding brass and tinkling cymbals,” if we were not under the habitual influence of love [Note: 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.]. Know ye, Brethren, that your religion must be seen, not in the church or in the closet only, but in the shop, the family, the field. It must mortify pride, and every other evil passion; and must bring forth into exercise “all the mind that was in Christ Jesus [Note: Philippians 2:4-5.].” Try yourselves by this standard: see what you are, as husbands or wives, parents or children, masters or servants. See whether you possess the courtesy of Boaz, or the respectful love of his reapers. It is in this way that you are to shine as lights in a dark world. It is in this way that you are to put to shame the specious pretences of politeness, and the feigned humility of those who are candidates for earthly honour: your courtesy must be the genuine offspring of Christian benevolence; and your whole deportment, a visible exhibition of your Saviour’s image.]
And now, not as a master to his servants, but as a father to his children, I say, “The Lord be with you!” And may there be in all of you a responsive voice, imploring the blessing of Almighty God on him, who truly, though unworthily, seeks your welfare.
“The Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”
RUTH’S PIETY AND REWARD
Ruth 2:11-12. And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother-in-law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore. The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.
THE book of Ruth contains only the domestic occurrences of one poor family: and it may well excite our wonder, that such trifling incidents should occupy the pen of inspiration, when the affairs of kingdoms and nations are overlooked. But there is nothing trifling that relates to morals: and still less, that relates to the Messiah. Were there nothing contained here but an exhibition of filial piety, it would not be recorded in vain; because a very principal intent of the inspired volume is, to rectify, in every relation of life, the dispositions and habits of mankind. But an attentive reader of this history will discover in it a fund of rich instruction. To assist you in this search, we shall set before you,
The general circumstances of the history—
Not having time to notice every thing, we shall confine ourselves to those parts which deserve our more especial attention. The famine that was in the land of Canaan “in the days of one of the Judges,” the consequent departure of Elimelech with his wife and children into the land of Moab, the marriage of his two sons with Moabitish women, the death of Elimelech and of both his sons, the return of his wife Naomi to her native land, when she heard that God had restored plenty to it: these and other circumstances we pass over in silence, in order that we may enter more fully into the things which relate to Ruth.
Ruth was the wife of Mahlon, Naomi’s son: and to her this history principally relates. Two things in particular are stated concerning her, and they are distinctly specified in the words of our text; namely,
[This was so conspicuous, that it was a matter of notoriety, and a theme of high commendation, at Bethlehem, almost as soon as she arrived there. On Naomi’s adopting the resolution to return to her own country, Ruth, though a Moabitess, determined to accompany her: and, though Naomi stated faithfully to her the many inconveniences that would attend it, she would suffer nothing to divert her from her purpose. She had been instructed by Naomi in the knowledge of the only true God, and had seen in her the beauty and excellence of practical religion; and she determined to participate Naomi’s lot, whatever it might be, and to give herself up a living sacrifice to Naomi’s God. True it was, that in order to this she must relinquish all her own relations, and abandon all hopes of ever receiving benefits from them: but she had counted the cost, and deliberately preferred an adherence to Naomi and Naomi’s God, before her country, her kindred, and all that the world could give her. The terms in which she expressed her resolution strongly marked the firmness of her purpose; “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 ought but death part thee and me [Note: Ruth 1:16-17.].”
Here is a pattern of true piety, and particularly as contrasted with Orpah, the relict of Naomi’s other son. Orpah, as well as Ruth, was much attached to her mother-in-law Naomi; but she had not a supreme regard for the God of Israel: and therefore, when she saw what she must forego in order to accompany Naomi, she drew back, and returned to her own people and their gods. When the final decision was to be made, we are told, “They all lift up their voice and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law; but Ruth clave unto her [Note: Ruth 1:14.].” Could Orpah have adhered to Naomi without making any sacrifices, she would have done it; but if she must give up all her prospects in life in such a cause, she will not pay the price. She parts indeed with much regret; but still she parts; like the Rich Youth that turned his back on Christ, because he could not bring his mind to the terms which were required of him [Note: Matthew 19:21-22.]. O that we may learn justly to appreciate the characters of Ruth and Orpah; and instead of drawing back, like Orpah, through the love of this world, may we follow rather the steps of pious Ruth, and “cleave unto the Lord with full purpose of heart.” This is what our God requires of all; nor will our Saviour on any other terms acknowledge us as his disciples [Note: Luke 14:26-27; Luke 14:33.].]
[Though she knew not at all in what way God would requite her, yet she went forward, committing all her concerns to him, and “putting her trust under the shadow of his wings.” Nor was she long before she experienced the tender mercies of her God. On her arrival at Bethlehem, she went into a field to glean some barley for the subsistence of herself, and of Naomi, whose infirmities rendered her unfit for so laborious an employment. Immediately, beyond all expectation, she was treated with great kindness by the reapers; and speedily afterwards by Boaz also, the owner of the field; who gave his servants a strict charge concerning her, and not only recommended her to glean in company with his maidens till the end of harvest, but authorized her to take a portion of their food, and bade the reapers to drop handfuls of corn for her, that she might reap the richer fruits of her industry. On her expressing her astonishment at all this unexpected kindness, she was informed by Boaz that it was a reward for the piety she had exercised towards her afflicted mother-in-law, and towards the Lord God of Israel. Laden with an extraordinary quantity of corn, she went home at the evening to Naomi; who, finding on inquiry that this benefactor was Boaz, a near relation of her own, encouraged her to follow the advice he had given her, and to glean in no other fields but his. Moreover, when Naomi found that this kindness of Boaz continued to the end of harvest, she began to think that God might incline the heart of Boaz to execute the office which belonged to the person who was nearest of kin to one who had died childless, namely, to marry the widow, and “raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance.” In the hope of this, she advised Ruth to adopt a measure, which certainly to us appears exceeding strange, and which cannot be satisfactorily accounted for, except we suppose Naomi to have been actuated by a divine impulse, or at least by a firm reliance on God, whose glory, in this matter, she principally consulted. The expedient, dangerous as it was, succeeded: and Boaz agreed, that if another person who was nearer of kin to Ruth than himself should decline the office, he would instantly take it upon himself. The very next morning Boaz made the proposal publicly to the man who had a prior right; and then, on his declining to fulfil his duty, openly avowed his determination to fulfil it himself; and called the elders of the city to attest his redemption of her inheritance, and his espousal of her for his lawful wife. Thus wonderfully did God reward her for all her piety. Still further, though she had lived several years with her husband, and had borne no child, yet now it pleased God to confer on her that which was the great desire of her soul, and to make her a mother in Israel: yea, so greatly did God honour her, that David, the greatest of all the kings of Israel, sprang from her, as the grandson of her child; and the Lord Jesus Christ himself, the Saviour of the world, was lineally descended from her.
How richly was now that prayer of Boaz answered to her, “The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given to thee of the Lord God of Israel!”]
Such being the principal circumstances of the history, we proceed to notice,
The light which it reflects on subjects of the greatest moment—
And here a flood of light breaks in upon us. Truly the history is replete with instruction: independent of the moral duties which it inculcates, such as those of parental care and filial love, or the religions duties, such as affiance in God and devotion to his service, it reflects a light on,
The ways of Providence—
[Little do persons think, when brought into great affliction, what good may be derived from it, or what are the ultimate designs of God in it. When Naomi first came to Bethlehem, and was recognised by her old acquaintance, she said to them, “Call me not Naomi, but Mara,” that is, not Pleasant, but Bitter [Note: Ruth 1:20.]; but within a few weeks she was congratulated as the happiest of women [Note: Ruth 4:14-15.]: so completely was that Scripture verified in her, “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill; that he may set him with princes, even with the princes of his people. He maketh the barren woman to keep house, to be a joyful mother of children [Note: Psalms 113:7-9.].” The ways by which her exaltation was effected, appeared fortuitous; but they were all ordered by the Lord, who foresaw the end from the beginning. It is said in the history, that “Ruth’s hap was to light on a part of the field belonging to Boaz.” Thus, as far as it was her act, it was casual and undesigned; but as a link in God’s chain, it was entirely ordered of the Lord. The same must be observed in reference to every other part of the history: the minutest event in it, as in that of Joseph, was under the immediate control of God, who made use of the most contingent means to accomplish his own eternal purpose. Let not any then, however reduced, conclude that their case is desperate, or that God has brought them into such a state for evil: for, as the bondage and imprisonment of Joseph were steps to his highest exaltation, so may our heaviest afflictions be the appointed means of bringing us to the most exalted good. “God’s ways are in the great deep, and his footsteps are not known:” and he not unfrequently “makes the depths of the sea a way for his ransomed to pass over [Note: Isaiah 51:10.].”]
The wonders of Redemption—
[Two things were enjoined by the law of Moses for the express purpose of shadowing forth the redemption of the world; the one was, that the nearest of kin should have a right to redeem an inheritance which his relation had mortgaged [Note: Leviticus 25:25.]; and the other was, that the brother of a person who died childless should marry his widow, in order to raise up seed to the departed person, and to prevent his name from perishing in Israel [Note: Deuteronomy 25:5-10.]. These prefigured the Lord Jesus Christ as our kinsman, “bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh,” redeeming us by his own precious blood; and uniting himself to us, that we may bring forth fruit unto God [Note: Romans 7:4.]. Now both of these things were done in the history before us: Boaz, as the kinsman of Ruth, purchased her to be his wife; and also redeemed her inheritance, that she, together with himself, might have the enjoyment of it. When he called the elders to be witnesses of the transaction, these were his own words; “Ye are witnesses this day, that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, and all that was Chilion’s and Mahlon’s, of the hand of Naomi: moreover, Ruth, the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife [Note: Ruth 4:9-10.].” Both the one and the other he obtained by purchase, being entitled so to do by the special ties of consanguinity: and we are expressly told, that the Lord Jesus Christ assumed our nature for that very purpose, that, “being made of a woman, and under the law, he might redeem them that were under the law [Note: Galatians 4:4-5.].” The words of the Apostle are, “Forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage [Note: Hebrews 2:14-15.].” How interesting then does this portion of the inspired records become, when we behold what a mystery is contained in it!]
The call of the Gentiles into the Church of Christ—
[In common cases it was unlawful for an Israelite to marry one of the daughters of Moab: but Ruth was become a proselyte to the Jewish religion, and was therefore entitled to fill the privileges of a child of Abraham. Still as a Moabitess, taken into that line from whence the Messiah was to spring, and actually made an instrument of continuing the succession whereby he was brought into the world, she was a witness for God to the Gentile world that he had not utterly forsaken them; but that they in due time should be incorporated with his chosen people, and become partakers of his salvation. Previous to this period, she was barren; but now she bore a son, through whom thousands and myriads were born to God: and in being the lineal ancestor of Christ, she was instrumental to the happiness of all that shall be saved by him, even of us Gentiles, as well as of those that were of Jewish descent. To her therefore we may eminently apply those words of the prophet, “Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear! break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child! for more are the children of the desolate, than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord [Note: Isaiah 54:1.].” Let none then apprehend that they are so far off, but that they may yet be brought nigh by the blood of Jesus, and “sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God.”]
The procedure of God in the day of judgment—
[Rewards do not always accompany virtue in this world, because God has appointed a day wherein he will judge the world in righteousness, and reward every one according to his works. But there are some instances wherein God appears for his people now, in order that he may give a specimen, as it were, of what he will do hereafter: and such an instance is exhibited in the history before us: Ruth’s love to Naomi, and her confidence in the God of Israel, were richly recompensed. And who shall ever fail of recompence, that devotes himself unfeignedly to the God of Israel, and surrenders for him all his worldly prospects and comforts? We must indeed bear in mind the difference between the conduct of Orpah and of Ruth: it is not by a profession of love, but by the actual manifestation of it, that we must approve ourselves to God: we must not be contended with saluting his people, but must adhere to them, deliberately braving all difficulties and trials, and determinately adhering to his sacred cause. Let us only act in this manner; and the whole universe, like the Bethlehemites on that occasion, shall soon witness our reward [Note: Mat 19:29 with Psalms 45:10.].]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Ruth 2". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany