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Naomi had a kinsman.
A kind kinsman
I. God never wants His instruments of succour unto those that trust in His mercy. Some relation (either natural or spiritual) God will raise up to relieve His in their deepest extremity.
II. Some rich men may yet be religious men. Though indeed they are rare birds, yet riches and religion are not inconsistent things.
III. It Is a brave attainment to be rich in this world, and to re rich in good works too. So Boaz was. Boaz did not make gold his confidence, but was rich in faith (James 2:5), and rich to God (Luke 12:21). (C. Ness.)
Boaz a yeoman
In these early days, especially under the rule of the judges, when hostile inroads on the chosen people were so frequently made by unfriendly neighbours, the man who had great possessions was in a manner compelled to be also a military leader, and so we may very justly combine the two meanings, and speak of him as a valiant man and a wealthy; or, as Dr. Morison has paraphrased the expression, “a strong and substantial yeoman.”(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
The rich kinsman
All that the appointed kinsman could do for the estate and body of his impoverished relative the Lord Jesus as our goel does for our souls and our everlasting state. In His humanity He is our nearest kinsman. In His Deity, he is perfectly able to supply all our wants, and to defend us from every danger and oppression. As the promised goel, the Lord Jesus has a special relation to Israel as a nation, and a particular personal relation to every believing soul. He is the goel, the Kinsman Redeemer of the nation of Israel. He is the seed of Abraham, in whom all the nations are to be blessed. God gave the land of Canaan unto Abraham, and unto his seed for ever. It was to be their permanent possession. But the children of Abraham have been long since cast out of their inheritance. Their land has been taken from them, and they have been wanderers and exiles on the heart. Yet God ordained that this land should not be sold for ever, because it was His land. It was Immanuel’s land. And Immanuel is their kinsman according to the flesh, who is to restore again that land to the seed of Abraham. His feet are in that day to stand upon the Mount of Olives. But the Lord Jesus Christ is also our goel, our Kinsman Redeemer--to fulfil the great duties of a Restorer to us. He restores that which He took not away. He has redeemed our lost estate. He has brought life and immortality to light, and given us a kingdom which cannot be moved. He has redeemed our persons from bondage and condemnation. We may go to Him just as freely and hopefully as the impoverished Jew went to his kinsman, perfectly sure that He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. This gracious character of our blessed Saviour is brought out in many points of view in the history of Boaz. When Naomi returned to Judah with Ruth, she found a goel already prepared for her. He was “a mighty man of wealth,” perfectly able to meet all their wants, and to restore them to their happy condition again. And such a kinsman has been provided for us. We need not say, “Who shall ascend up to heaven to bring Christ down from above?” He is already prepared to be a Saviour for us, before we are born. We have nothing to do but to receive Him, trust in Him, and obey Him, as our gracious Lord. Like Boaz, He is “a mighty man of wealth.” All things in heaven and earth are His. And if we are His, all things are ours. He can enrich His people with every conceivable blessing. No good thing can they want while they have Him for their friend and portion. The name of this rich kinsman of Naomi’s was Boaz, which means strength. In this name we may find a memorial of our Divine Redeemer. Jesus is our strength and our salvation. He is the power of God unto salvation for us. What mighty works He has done for us! What works of mercy is He still willing to accomplish! He is our Kinsman Redeemer. We see Him in His lowly human, suffering form, wearing our nature, and bearing the burden of our sins. We see Him in the unsearchable riches of His grace as God over all, and in the triumphs of His obedience as the Lord our Righteousness, possessing unlimited wealth to be applied to our needs. We see Him of infinite might, exalted above the heavens, angels, authorities, and powers being made subject unto Him. We see Him fully provided for us, waiting to be gracious to us, and ready to receive the poorest and the most wretched of His kinsmen who come to Him. (S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
Let me now go to the field, and glean.
The young to work for their parents
Ruth does not propose that Naomi should go with her to the field. She wished her honoured mother to enjoy the rest and ease suited to her time of life, whilst she herself was exposed to the troubles and inconveniences of her humble occupation in the fields of strangers. Young persons should be cheerfully willing to bear fatigues and troubles for the sake of their aged parents, that they may enjoy such ease as the infirmities of age require. The charities of the heart sweeten life, A young woman cheerfully labouring for aged parents is far happier than a fashionable lady spending in idleness and dissipation the fruits of the industry of her ancestors. (G. Lawson.)
A dutiful daughter
1. God often raises high buildings upon weak foundations. Great things often come from small beginnings.
2. All daughters ought to be dutiful daughters unto those mothers whom God hath set over them; they should ask their counsel, and obey their commands, as Ruth did here her mother-in-law, Naomi.
3. That poverty should not make any person have low thoughts of piety; Ruth doth not grudge at God for keeping His servants no better.
4. All honest endeavours ought to be used for supplying wants, but not by any wicked ways whatsoever. Ruth here resolves not to return to Moab under her present wants, as Israel did under their wilderness wants to return to Egypt; neither doth she think of such wicked ways as stealing to satisfy her hunger. Neither yet doth Ruth resolve to take up the begging trade, as too many lusty vagrants and vagabonds do in our time, but she rather resolves to labour with her hands.
5. That even lawful liberty ought not to be used without modesty and humility in asking leave. A good heart inquireth, “Is it lawful, decent, and expedient?”
6. Such as find grace and favour in the sight of God shall undoubtedly find no less in the sight of man. God will speak in the hearts of men, for all such as wait on Him in the way of His providence, labouring with their hands (Jeremiah 15:11; Proverbs 16:7).
7. A meek spirit gives forth mild speeches. Some persons have quick and hot spirits, yea, even good persons. That Naomi should be thus meek in her misery was much, for misery is a morose thing of itself, and unhinges the spirit; yet sanctified affliction contributes much to meeken even a choleric mind. (C. Ness.)
We have seen how ample were the relief and the portion provided for Ruth.
1. The first step is to reduce her to the deepest necessity. She has arrived with Naomi in Bethlehem. But they are there in great poverty, and with no apparent means of relief. How this very necessity brought out a proof of the excellence of Ruth! Love for her mother constrained her to seek a supply for their need. And she came to the field, as a poor stranger, to gather up the scattered heads of barley which the reapers had left in their path, and in the corners of the field. It could have been the result only of extreme necessity. Thus God brings the soul that He has loved and saved to an experience of utter want. He makes every hope to fail, every means of spiritual safety to depart. The sinner must be thus brought down to feel himself lost and perishing. And when the Spirit has accomplished this, it is an important and blessed step toward a full revelation of the riches of grace already prepared for him.
2. The next step is to take away all feeling of rebellious pride in their state of want. Ruth had great self-respect, a dignity of character that would have honoured any condition in life. But she had no pride that rebelled against her condition. “Let me glean after him in whose sight I shall find grace.” This is a most happy and a most exemplary state of mind. She demanded and expected nothing as a claim of merit or right. How important to you is such an example. But it is thus God leads the sinful soul to its great Kinsman. His gracious plan is to give everything freely, and to make man receive His free gifts with grateful acknowledgment that he has deserved nothing. But how long do we struggle against this spirit! How hard it seems contentedly to depend on mere grace to the ungodly! This is one main obstacle in the way of our salvation.
3. The next step is one of gracious providence, to bring her, as it were by accident, to an unexpected introduction to her rich kinsman. Ruth is wholly ignorant of him or of the location of his fields. She is equally ignorant of the exalted connection she is to have with him. To her the future of life is darkness. But God, her gracious God, in whom she trusts, is light in whom is no darkness at all. What an encouragement to us does this ignorance of hers afford! How abounding may be God’s provided mercies for us! Ruth goes out into the harvest-field of Judaea, separated among its various owners only by landmarks, which could not be distinguished at a distance, not knowing to whose field she might be led. But God had disposed and prepared her way before her. “Her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging to Boaz.” It was God’s own plan for her, another part of which was now coming out to her view. And when at last she finds the gracious end to which the whole is brought, she could look back upon this, and say, “Now I know why I was made so poor, and led to Boaz’s field to glean.” How often is the gracious providence of God thus manifested in bringing the poor and perishing soul under the ministry of the Word. How applicable to our purpose is this illustration! The first sight of a Saviour is attractive and lovely to the seeking, sinful soul. The sinner comes into the midst of his flock, and is struck with the precious blessings which they enjoy. The Shepherd stands in their midst. Jesus is there, to awaken, instruct, sanctify, and feed His people. The hearts of all are evidently refreshed by Him. He blesses them, in the ministry of His Word, by the teaching of His Spirit. They praise Him with grateful homage in return. The whole scene is awakening and attractive. Thus often the most abiding impressions of the value of religion, of the excellence of a Saviour’s worth, and the happiness of those who faithfully wait upon Him, are received. Men are drawn to Christ, and made happy in trusting Him, by the enjoyment which His people evidently derive from His service. And nothing is more important than that Christians should ever wear an aspect and maintain an influence which will adorn the doctrine they profess. “I see,” said Richard Cecil, contemplating his own sinful, wasted life, in his youth, “I see two unquestionable facts. First, my mother is greatly afflicted in circumstances, body, and mind; and yet I see that she cheerfully bears up under it, by the support which she derives from constantly retiring to her closet and reading her Bible. Second, that she has a secret spring of comfort of which I know nothing; while I, who seek pleasure by every means, seldom or never find it. If, however, there is any such secret in religion why may I not attain it as well as my mother? I will immediately seek it from God.” He rose from his bed instantly, and began to pray. And when the Saviour comes in thus to bless His people, “sweetly the sacred odours spread.” Sinners are drawn and encouraged to come to One so gracious and so compassionate. The reapers of His harvest are animated and strengthened by His presence, and the Word of His grace goes out with special power to the souls of those who hear. (S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
Motive for permitting the poor to glean
One forcible motive to persuade the rich to suffer the poor to glean may be this: Even the greatest in respect of God is but a gleaner. God, He is the master of the harvest; all gifts and graces they are His in an infinite measure, and every godly man more or less gleans from Him. Abraham gleaned a great glean of faith, Moses of meekness, Joshua of valour, Samson of strength, Solomon of wealth and wisdom, St. Paul of knowledge, and the like. Now, if we would be glad at our hearts that the Lord would give us free leave and liberty for to glean graces out of His harvest, let us not grudge and repine that poor people glean a little gain from our plenty. (T. Fuller, B. D.)
Her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz.
Gleanings in the field of Boaz
1. I learn, first, from this subject, how trouble develops character.
2. Again, I see in my text the beauty of unfaltering friendship.
3. Again, I learn from this subject that paths which open in hardship and darkness often come out in places of joy. And so it often is that a path which starts very darkly ends very brightly. When you started out for heaven, oh, how dark was the hour of conviction--how Sinai thundered, and devils tormented, and the darkness thickened! All the sins of your life pounced upon you. After a while you went into the harvest field of God’s mercy; you began to glean in the fields of Divine promise, and you had more sheaves than you could carry, as the voice of God addressed you, saying, “Blessed is the man whose transgressions are forgiven and whose sins are covered.” A very dark starting in conviction; a very bright ending in the pardon, and the hope, and the triumph of the gospel. So, very often, in our worldly business or in our spiritual career, we start off on a very dark path. We have to ford the river, we have to climb the mountain, we have to storm the castle; but, blessed be God! the day of rest and reward will come.
4. Again, I have to learn from my subject that events which seem to be most insignificant may be momentous. Can you imagine anything more unimportant than the coming of a poor woman from Moab to Judah? Can you imagine anything more trivial than the fact that this Ruth just happened to alight--as they say--just happened to alight on that field of Boaz? Yet all ages, all generations, have an interest in the fact. So it is in your history and in mine; events that you thought of no importance at all have been of very great moment. That casual conversation, that accidental meeting--you did not think of it again for a long while; but how it changed all the phase of your life.
5. Again, I see in my subject an illustration of the beauty of female industry.
6. Once more; I learn from my subject the value of gleanings. It is all the straws that make the harvest, it is the pence that make the pound, and it is all the opportunities of doing good that make a life of usefulness if rightly employed. Elihu Burritt learned many things while toiling in a blacksmith’s shop. Abercrombie, the world-renowned philosopher, was a philosopher in Scotland, and he got his philosophy, or the chief part of it, while as a physician he was waiting for the door of the sick-room to open. (T. De Witt Talmage.)
Great issues out of little things
It was strikingly remarked by Pascal that “if the nose of Cleopatra had been a little longer or shorter it would have changed the history of the world.” The cackling of geese once saved Rome. An apple failing from a tree suggested to Sir Isaac Newton that great law by which he unlocked the mysteries of the starry firmament and shed a new light on the whole creation of God. The lifting of the lid of a common tea-kettle by the steam generated within it set James Watt upon a train of thought that led to the invention of a steam-engine, which has revolutionised our whole manufacturing industry and multiplied human intercourse a thousandfold. A reed of an unknown species, borne to the feet of Columbus by the Atlantic wave awakened in his mind the conjecture that there must be another continent; and this issued at length in the discovery of America. A little bird, flying from the mouth of the cave in which Mohammed is concealed, misleads the soldiers that are seeking his destruction; and this influences the character of religion and the history of our race for many centuries over the larger portion of the earth. Pharaoh’s daughter, coming down to the waters of the Nile to bathe, finds a smiling infant in its floating cradle among the bulrushes, and becomes God’s unconscious instrument in saving the life of one who is to deliver a nation from cruel bondage, to ascend Sinai and speak with God, and to conduct the million hosts of the chosen people, amid miracle and wonder, to the borders of the promised land. Ruth’s “hap is to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz”; and this eventually raises the poor stranger to affluence, and brings her name into the golden genealogy of the Saviour of men. (A. Thomson, D. D.)
The stranger in the harvest field
1. We see how God raises up friends for His people if they really need them. If you are poor, perhaps you could tell how, when times were hard the Lord has sent you a friend in your distress. Or, in some gloomy hour, when your heart has been ready to burst with inward grief, some kind Christian friend has called upon you, into whose ear you made bold to pour all your troubles, and found unspeakable relief.
2. We may learn, too, from this part of Ruth’s history, what a happy thing it is to put ourselves under the shelter of God’s care. Happy, happy, those who are thus dwelling “in the secret place of the Most High, and abiding under the shadow of the Almighty,” who can say, “He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him will I trust.”(Bp. Oxenden.)
Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The Lord be with you.
Salutation and prayer
I. That it is a commendable thing for one to salute another when they meet.
II. That masters are to pray that God may be with their household, family, and workmen. (R. Bernard.)
A good master
1. The works of God’s providence are very wonderful works. There is a “behold” put upon this passage. Oh, the wonderful concurrence of these occurrences! Here Ruth is ordered by Providence into Boaz’s field, and Boaz is ordered by the same Providence to meet Ruth in his field; and all this in tendency to accomplish a great design of their marrying together, infinitely above both their thoughts. It would plainly astonish us to observe diligently the strange occurrences of Divine Providence, and it is our great loss to live so little in the observation of every passage and footstep thereof.
2. It is comely and commodious for masters to mind personally their own concerns. Thus Boaz here did. Wise Cato could say, “That man which minds not his vintage or harvest, the further he is from his labour, the nearer he is to his loss”; and his eyes are every way, and everywhere.
(1) Upon the servants;
(2) upon the reapers;
(3) upon the gleaners;
(4) not only looking to, but even lodging in the midst of, his labourers, if he did not also labour him self in winnowing work (Ruth 3:2; Ruth 3:4).
3. Christianity is no enemy to comity and courtesy; or, civil salutations are consistent with true sanctity in humane society.
4. Civil salutation ought to be paid again in the same coin, saluting for saluting. (C. Ness.)
Boaz the farmer
Farming, rather than gardening in the ordinary sense of the word, is man’s oldest occupation. It may not be esteemed the most dignified one, nor may those engaged in it be generally found either the most enlightened or refined of men; still, instituted by Divine authority, and pursued by man in his primeval innocence, with the ordinances of marriage and the Sabbath-day, it is a vestige of Eden. Besides, it is probable, if not certain, that it is the one employment in which man had God for his teacher. The heathens themselves represent the gods as having taught him how to cultivate corn; and in this, as in many of their other legends, they have preserved a valuable fragment of ancient truth. There is that indeed in the nature of wheat, barley, and the other cereals, which goes almost to demonstrate that God specially created them for man’s use, and originally committed them to his care. These plants are unique in two respects--first, unlike others, the fruits or roots of which we use for food, they are found wild nowhere on the face of the whole earth; and secondly, unlike others also, they cannot prolong their existence independent of man, without his care and culture. When mines are empty, and furnaces stand quenched and cold, and deep silence reigns in the caverns where the axe of the pitman sounded, the husbandman shall still plough the soil. His, the first man’s, shall probably be the last man’s employment. The occupation which Boaz followed rises still higher in importance when we look at the multitudes it employs. Great as we are in commerce and manufactures--clothing nations with our fabrics, covering every sea with ships, and carrying the produce of our arts to every shore--the cultivation of the soil employs a larger number of hands than any other trade. Now these interests turn to a great extent on the manner in which those who follow Boaz’s occupation discharge their duties: and it is therefore a matter of thankfulness that in him the book which instructs both kings and beggars, peers and peasants, how to live, sets before us a model farmer.
I. His diligence in business. Boaz was not one whom necessity compelled to labour. He was rich; and is indeed called “a mighty man of wealth.” Yet he made that no reason for wasting his life in ease and idleness. Nor, though he employed overseers, did he consider it right to commit his business entirely into their hands. In the first place, such irresponsibility is not good for servants. It places them in circumstances of temptation to act dishonestly. Neither is it, in the second place, for the master’s interests. “The eye of the master maketh a fat horse,” says an English proverb. “The farmer ploughs best with his feet,” says a Scotch one--his success turning on the attention he personally gives to the superintendence of his servants and the different interests of his farm.
II. His courteousness. “Be ye courteous” is a duty which Paul--himself a fine example of it--enjoins on Christians (Acts 26:12). His was courtesy to a superior; but a still finer ornament of manners, and of religion also, is courtesy to inferiors. And what a fine example of that is Boaz! It is with no cold looks, nor distant air, nor rough speech, nor haughty bearing, making his reapers painfully sensible of their inferiority--that they are servants and he their master--Boaz enters the harvest field. More beautiful than the morning, with its dews sparkling like diamonds on the grass, and its golden beams tipping the surrounding hills of Bethlehem, these morning salutations between master and servants! Loving him, they esteemed his interests their own. His conduct corresponded with his speech. Observe the eye of compassion he cast on Ruth. He paid as much honour to the virtues and feelings of this poor gleaner as if she had been the finest lady in the land. Behold true courteousness! This grace is a great set-off to piety. As such it should be assiduously cultivated by all who desire to “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour.”
III. His piety. “The Lord be with you”--his address to the reapers on entering the harvest field--has the ring of sterling metal. What contrast Boaz offers to farmers we have known, by whose lips God’s name was frequently profaned, but never honoured--their servants, like their dogs and horses, being often cursed, but never once blessed! “Like master, like man.” Boaz almost never opens his mouth but pearls drop out. His speech breathes forth pious utterances. All his conversation is seasoned with grace; and, though the result of a Divine change of heart, how natural his religion seems!--not like a gala-dress assumed for the occasion--not like gum-flowers worn for ornament, but such as spring living from the sward--not like an artificial perfume that imparts a passing odour to a thing that is dead, but the odours exhaled by roses or lilies bathed in the dews of heaven. Nor was it only in the language of piety that his piety expressed itself. It did not evaporate in words. We have heard him speak; see how he acts! One night sleeping by a heap of corn, alone as he supposed, he wakes to find a woman lying at his feet. It is Ruth. Instructed by Naomi, she takes this strange Jewish fashion to seek her rights and commit her fortunes into his hands.
IV. His care for the moral and religious interests of his servants. Boaz in his own life set them an example of piety which could hardly fail to produce a favourable impression on their minds. Some are content to get work out of their servants; they take no interest in their souls--no more than if, like the cattle they tend, they had no souls at all. Unlike these, Boaz spoke to his servants as a God-fearing man. One who felt himself responsible to God and to their parents also, he charged himself with the care of their morals. This appears in the warnings and kind instructions he gave both to them and to Ruth. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)
Relations between employers and employed
The great operations which some in these days think fit to carry on, more for their own glory certainly than the good of their country or countrymen, entirely preclude anything like friendship between the chief and the multitude of his subordinates. It is impossible that a man who has a thousand under him should know and consider each, and there would be too much pretence in saying, “God be with you,” on entering a yard or factory when otherwise no feeling is shown with which the name of God can be connected. Apart altogether from questions as to wealth and its use, every employer has a responsibility for maintaining the healthy human activity of his people, and nowhere is the immorality of the present system of huge concerns so evident as in the extinction of personal goodwill. The work man, of course, may adjust himself to the state of matters, but it will too often be by discrediting what he knows he cannot have and keeping up a critical resentful habit of mind against those who seem to treat him as a machine. He may often be wrong in his judgment of an employer. There may be less hardness of temper on the other side than there is on his own. But the conditions being what they are, one may say he is certain to be a severe critic. We have unquestionably lost much and are in danger of losing more, not in a financial sense, which matters little, but in the infinitely more important affairs of social sweetness and Christian civilisation. (R. A. Watson, M. A.)
On the relations that subsist amongst the different classes of society in general, and in particular the intercourse between employers and operatives
How lovely is the picture of this Hebrew harvest field! It has often been remarked that the Bible, in its histories, doctrines, and precepts, is suited to all nations and all times. Though written by Jews, it is written for the world; though addressed chiefly to Israel, it is framed to suit mankind. To a monarchy in one age, and a republic in another, it gives forth its saving lessons without partiality and without embarrassment. The patriarchal institutes that prevailed in the time of Boaz were very different from the political constitutions of modern Europe. The subjection of the servant to his master which prevailed in those days was very different from the freedom and equal rights of all classes in our own land. Human happiness and misery do not turn on the form which the organisation of society may assume. It is a baptism by the Spirit that will sweeten and hallow the relations of life, whatever the external form may be into which they have been cast. In view of the condition and tendencies of society, what is the duty of a Christian patriot? He is not to whine idly for the return of the good old days, when society consisted only of two classes, kind masters and happy serfs; neither is he madly to plant himself in the breach, with the view of stemming and turning the advancing tide. Let believing men, whatever may be their views of the optimism in political organisation, fix it as an axiom in their minds that for the highest good of the species much more depends on the spirit which animates persons than on the forms which institutes may assume. Let all who hope in God and love their brethren act on this principle, and act together on it. Consider now, more particularly, the two features that characterised the intercourse between Boaz and his reapers. These are kindliness and godliness; there is love of men, and there is reverence of God.
I. Kindliness is greatly to be desired in the intercourse of employers and employed in our day. The master and the men must meet often for the transaction of business that is of common concern. If the meetings be devoid of kindness, they are unpleasant and injurious. How much we suffer from harsh, supercilious pride on the one hand, and dogged, discontented pride on the other! Here is a noble field for the philanthropist to labour on. He who shall increase the kindliness between operatives and their employers will be a benefactor of his race. All does not lie with the masters, but the initiative is with them. They have more in their power. We shall lose all the benefit of our vast machinery, it will be blighted by a curse, if we use living men as a part of it--if we make no distinction between the most wonderful work of God and these dead, mindless workers which our own hands have set up. Human brains have been weighed in the same balance with the dross that feeds the furnace! You take the girth of a man’s soul, as you do of a wrought-iron piston, with the view of ascertaining the amount of propulsion that may be expected out of it. Both, and both alike, you put under the steam, and work them till they be worn. This is the ailment of society. Man is not a brother to man. The labourer should not fret against the employer as such. He is part of the organisation of Providence. We don’t want this wheel that racks you taken out of the way. We want it oiled with holy human sympathy. But how shall we get such kindliness poured out upon the too, too sharp spirits of men, when the classes meet in a bristling array of mutual suspicion and defiance? We must go to seek it in the source of all good. The sympathy of which we have been speaking is the second commandment; in order to reach it we must climb up to the first. We must begin at the beginning (Ecclesiastes 12:13). We are thus brought to the other leading characteristic of the intercourse depicted in the text.
II. Its godliness. Look to the subject-matter of that kind mutual salutation, and you will find that master and men lived in the fear of God, and were not ashamed to own their religion in each other’s presence. The secret lies here. There would be more of human kindness amongst us if there were more of genuine faith in God. It is here that our defect lies. In great measure God is banished from history, from politics, from merchandise, from manufactures. God is not willing to be banished from any of His works. In Him we live and move and have our being. We do not propose that at your desks or your counters you should set aside your ledgers and commence a debate on systems of theology. Everything in its own time and place. There is such a thing as doing common business in a Christian spirit, walking about on earth like one who is going home to heaven. We are very low as to the existence of godliness in the heart; and we are still lower as to the manifestation of it in the ordinary intercourse of society. Very little of it is possessed; and even that little is not brought into exercise. We are persuaded that few masters are to be found at present who would not be ashamed to acknowledge a sinner’s hope in a precious Saviour in presence of their workmen; and comparatively few mechanics, who, if such an acknowledgment were made, would not openly sneer or secretly impute it to hypocrisy. The two classes distrust each other. Even the religion that they have they hide in each other’s presence. Alas, the only salve is by a tacit compact kept far away from the sores of society! The motions of the community are jarring and painful, because they are not softened by Divine grace. It is a short-sighted policy to shut up religion in churches and prayer-meetings, or even in households. Religion is intended for the world. The world has need of it. There cannot in the nature of things be a proper intercourse between human beings if the fear of God and the faith of the gospel do not pervade it. How can you treat a man aright when you have in view only the lowest part of his nature--the briefest period of his destiny? If all that your mind takes in regarding him be his work and his wages--the profit and loss in money of retaining or dismissing him--your treatment of him cannot possibly be right. It is only when you learn to take in the whole man that your conception can be accurate and your conduct wise. Conclusion:
1. Those who have no chief end for their souls, and no chief aim of their lives beyond things seen and temporal, bring no godliness to bear on the business of society. You cannot apply to a brother what you have not experienced yourself. One thing is needful. If you are not working for God, you are idle; if you have not gained your soul, you have lost all.
2. Those who are born from above bring too little godliness to bear on the common interests of life. (W. Arnot.)
Friendly co-operation between masters and men
Why do not employers take employes into their confidence? I know a gentleman very well who has over a thousand hands in his employ. I said to him some years ago, when there was great trouble in the labour market, “How are you getting on with your men?” “Oh,” he said, “I have no trouble.” “Why,” I said, “haven’t you had any strikes?” “Oh, no,” he said, “I never had any trouble.” “What plan do you pursue?” He said, “I will tell you. All my men know every year just how matters stand. Every little while I call them together and say, ‘Now, boys, last year I made so much; this year I make less; so you see I can’t pay you as much as I did last year. Now I want to know what you think I ought to have as a percentage out of this establishment, and what wages I ought to give you. You know I put all my energy in this business and risked everything, put all my fortune in it and risked everything. What do you really think I ought to have, and you ought to have?’ By the time we come out of that consultation we are unanimous; there never has been an exception. When we prosper, we all prosper together; when we suffer, we all suffer together; and my men would die for me.” Now, let all employers be frank with their employes. Take them into your confidence. Let them know just how matters stand. There is an immense amount of common sense in the world. It is safe always to appeal to it. (T. De Witt Talmage.)
Religion in the harvest field
1. It is remarkable that those who stand prominently forward in the lineage of our Lord according to the flesh represent the varied callings and positions of the human race; as if He who was not ashamed to call us brethren had woven into the tapestry of His human scenes threads borrowed from every skein of life, that He might be, as it were, girt with the garment of our humanity, and consequently be able entirely to sympathise with us.
2. But whilst on the one hand our blessed Lord received into Himself according to the flesh streams from every source of human life, He manifested again in His life and works the scenes from which they flowed. So that there is no employment in life but what the labourer, be he monarch, priest, or peasant, may find a practical brotherhood in Christ, and derive lessons of instruction and comfort in the hours of toil from Him who was “King of kings,” “our great High Priest,” and “had not where to lay His head.”
3. The leading lesson which Boaz teaches us is the sanctity of every earthly occupation when pursued by the servant of God. The real greatness of any man’s work consists in its being done according to the standard and limits of religion; and the absence of consciousness or religious expression is no sign of the unreality of real religious principle.
4. In the country, a large portion of whose population is agricultural, the conduct and character of the farmer or the landed proprietor is of no small consequence. He can improve or deteriorate the race of the labourer, he can elevate or depress multitudes of those around him, by the way in which he acts; and we are bound to believe that to a great degree God blesses the crops and the harvest according to the character of those connected with them.
5. The position of Boaz is one which silences all possible objections. He was no inferior farmer who could afford to be religious because he had not the opportunity of speculation, “for he was a mighty man of wealth.” He was not ashamed to recognise God, while, alas! how many amongst us of a similar class have not the courage to acknowledge to those they employ that they recognise God as the source and author of all that they possess. The example of the master will be followed by the man; if he puts religion forward in the front of his intercourse with his labourers, he will set the fashion to the field, the farmyard, and the cottager’s home. The foreman will own God, and the reaper will “catch the trick” of reverence. It would seem as if some men imagined that some chance hand opened the womb of the teeming earth. It is to such men that God says, “They did not know that I gave the corn; therefore will I return and take away My corn, I will destroy her vines and her fig-trees” (Hosea 2:9). But in the stately and almost sublime interview between Boaz and his reapers we find a practical suggestion also--why should not farmers not only recognise God and religion, but do something to realise the connection between God and themselves?
6. Another striking feature in the conduct of Boaz is the care that he takes of the purity of unmarried women when at work in his fields; for Boaz said unto Ruth, “Have I not charged the young men that they shall not touch thee? Go not to glean in another field, but abide here fast by my maidens.” It would almost seem as if the young men and young women worked in different fields. How lamentable is the “contrast of a picture like this with that displayed by the estates of our farmers in seedtime, hay harvest and corn harvest. Imagine the long tale of shameful and miserable life that many a woman wrecked early on the quicksand of impurity has to tell upon her death-bed, and too often connects it all with the first hint given in the field in which God’s merciful hand was most singularly manifested in scattering His bounties.
7. But there is one more point full of instruction in the conduct of Boaz--his consideration of the gleaners. Some farmers close their gates altogether against the gleaner, and many are strict in their injunctions that but little shall be left for the poor. Yet surely the prayers of the poor, when genuine and honest, bring a blessing upon all around them, and what is given to them is but a loan to God. (E. Monro, M. A. )
Business to be sanctified by religion
Our forefathers symbolised a beautiful truth when in our old market towns they erected a market cross. As if to teach the buyers and sellers to order their actions and to sanctify their gains by the remembrance of a crucified Saviour. In the orders which God gave for the encampment of Israel during their pilgrimage to Canaan it was provided that every part of the camp looked towards the tabernacle. And thus God taught them ever to remember that He was in their midst, and that before Him they must walk day by day. (Aubrey C. Price, B. A.)
Piety with courtesy
Piety not only stands with humanity and civil courtesy, but also exacteth and requireth it (Matthew 12:1-40.12.50.; 1 Peter 3:8; Luke 10:5). God hath, His ethics, and commandeth good manners as well as good conscience. Affability and courtesy is the way to win others; men’s minds are taken with it, as passengers’ eyes are with fair flowers in the springtide; whereas a harsh, sullen, sour, churlish conversation is very distasteful to all, galleth the best (witness David, 1 Samuel 25:1-9.25.44.), and openeth bad men’s mouths to speak evil of religion. (J. Trapp.)
Then said Boaz unto his servant, . . . Whose damsel is this?
And the servant . . . said, It is the Moabitish damsel.
The welcome reception
We can imagine many ways in which Boaz and Ruth might have been made acquainted with each other. But surely none which would have been better adapted to awaken the deepest and tenderest mutual interest in the mind of each. She appears in all the loveliness of virtuous modesty, humbly toiling for a mother’s support and comfort, though unused to labour. He appears before her clothed with dignity and benevolence. We are now to witness their first mutual introduction, and the welcome reception which he gives to her. First we have the rich kinsman’s notice of her, addressed to his head servant. Extensive as are the concerns of Boaz, the poor stranger whom the Lord hath led there is not forgotten. Happy indeed is such prosperity as this! The heart is not lifted up, the spirit is not made selfish and arrogant. There is a tender care for the poor maintained amidst the enjoyments and luxuries of wealth. Thus the Saviour comes to visit His earthly field, and calls the servants whom He has set over it to account for their charge. His ministers watch for souls as they who must give an account. Not the poorest stranger is unnoticed or forgotten by Him. Jesus may be considered as asking His ministers continually, of one and another in their flock, “Who is that?” What a dying reflection was that of the eminent Archbishop Williams in the reign of Charles I.: “I have passed through many places of honour and trust, both in Church and State, more than any of my order in England, this seventy years before. But were I assured that by my preaching I had converted but one soul unto God, I should take therein more spiritual joy and comfort than in all the honours and offices which have been bestowed upon me.” This question of Boaz brings us to the reply which the servant makes. He is not inquired of in vain. He has made himself acquainted with the whole history of Ruth. And in giving his account he uses great skill and kindness in setting forth the advantageous circumstances of her case. He tells of her origin; of her return, her emigration from Moab to Israel; of her need--her poverty compelled her to beg permission to glean; of her gentle humility; of her perseverance. His account is marked by the evidence of the utmost kindness and compassion. When we think of this as an illustration of the account we may give of some daughters of the Lord Almighty who are committed to our charge, how appropriate seems the whole story. To create and maintain a familiar and intimate acquaintance with the members of the flock committed to him is a most important instrument of usefulness to a faithful pastor. The whole influence and value of his ministry will be greatly dependent on this knowledge of his people. Suppose I could say of all the youthful females in the field around me, as each one severally appeared for my account, “This also was a daughter of Moab, but she has come back.” How applicable to them would become Paul’s account of the Corinthian Christians, “Such were you, but ye have been washed, ye have been justified, ye have been sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” She has come back. The answer of the servant of Boaz leads us to Boaz’s own address to the lonely stranger. How kindly and freely he welcomes her to his ample provisions! And lest she should not understand the openness of his invitation, he calls her attention particularly to this fact of her entire welcome to every provision there. The Saviour’s grace is thus open and free. Whosoever will may take of the water of life freely. Here are abundant supplies of all that you can desire or ask; and all given without recompense or hope of return from you. He urges her to remain in the field to which the gracious providence of God had sent her: “Go not to glean in another field.” Our gracious Kinsman feels equally jealous of any partnership or competition in His work of grace for you. He lets you know that if you attempt to be saved in any other way Christ shall profit you nothing. There is salvation in none other. There is no field in which you can gather happiness, and rest, and abiding peace, but the field of Christ. Well may we apply to you Boaz’s address, “Go not from hence. Abide here fast by my maidens. Let thine eyes be on the field that they do reap, and go thou after them.” Nothing is more important for your religious character than appropriate religious society. The examples and influence of faithful people of God are a precious help to you in your Christian course. Be the companion always of those who fear God, and turn away your feet from the paths of evil men. The landmarks among these various fields, which separate them from the field which the Lord hath blessed, may not be always perfectly distinct and apparent to you. Try no experiment how far you may go towards these strange fields and return in safety. Dwell in the heart of the land, and make the fact always sure, that you are with the Lord and His chosen flock. Here you have every promise of protection and supply. Your gracious Kinsman has charged His ministers to help and guide you, not to hurt or hinder you. Ruth’s humble and grateful answer to her unknown kinsman may conclude our present thoughts. “She fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger?” What deep humility! What consciousness of need! What confession of her own unworthiness! What affectionate gratitude for the kindness he has displayed! It is just so that the loving-kindness of the Lord humbles the pardoned sinner to the dust. (S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
Hath continued even from the morning until now.
Ruth’s industry prompted by love
Ruth had spent no more time under covert than was absolutely necessary for enabling her to return to her labours. “It is vain to rise up early and sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows.” We ought to consult our health in carrying on our labours, and not to make them a burden too heavy for us to bear. When covetous desires of gain induce men to overwork their powers, they sacrifice their health to Mammon, whom they have chosen for their God. But Ruth was labouring for her mother as well as herself. Her love to Naomi would give her spirits and strength to endure the heat of the climate. (G. Lawson.)
Then said Boaz unto Ruth, Hearest thou not, my daughter?
Go not to glean in another field.
1. There may be an hearing without an heeding.
2. Loving-kindness to necessitous persons ought not to be shown in word and tongue only, but also in deed and truth (1 John 3:1). Boaz’s kindness was real, as well as verbal. Mouth-mercy and lip-love is good, cheap, and aboundeth everywhere in our age. God is kinder to those that glean in His gospel-fields than ever Boaz was to Ruth; He will not put us off with mouth-mercy only, but will make Himself known by His name Jehovah as well as by His name of God Almighty.
3. God’s gleaners should have their proper and peculiar gospel-fields to glean in. They should not go to glean in the fields of strangers (John 10:5; John 10:8). They have their senses exercised to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:14). They have a spirit of discerning (1 Corinthians 12:10) whereby they do discern the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). This makes them hate every false way (Psalms 119:104). (C. Ness.)
Let thine eyes be on the field that they do reap.
(for the Young):
I. The manifestation of what is hidden in human life. In the early spring the buried seed-corn was completely hidden. You could get no answer to such questions as, What sort? How much? Is it germinating or rotting? The reply would be, Wait. Harvest will reveal. So in human character. Thoughts, and wishes, and life-bias are often concealed. The good, through failure, seems bad; the bad, through hypocrisy, good. There shall be an unveiling. Contact with Christ brings out, in conversion and in judgment, many surprises in human character. “There is nothing hid that shall not be known.”
II. The increase of what is small in human life. What contrast between the seeds and the sheaf. What growth, “some sixty-fold, some an hundred-fold.” So with the greatest thing in human history, Christianity. The babe, becoming the sovereign of the race. So with good and evil in human lives. The thought growing to wish, wish to resolve, resolve to deed, deed to habit, habit to influence that is immeasurable. “Who hath despised the day of small things?”
III. The retribution for what is done in human life. In the destiny of tares and wheat, Christ teaches souls to read their retribution. It is the outcome of the life. Hell and heaven are the perfect outgrowth, the harvest of character. The good shall ripen to glory, the evil to shame. “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap: he that soweth to the flesh,” etc.
IV. The passing away of opportunity in human life. Each season gives its own chances.
V. The providence of God over the whole of human life. He cares for human life, and through frosts and summer heats, storms and midnights, matures the Christly soul. “All things work together for good.”(Urijah R. Thomas.)
Have I not charged the young men.--
Masters and servants
1. Here we see that servile natures are most prone and proclive to wrong poor strangers. Indeed, generous spirits disdain to make those the subjects of their cruelty which rather should be the objects of their pity; but it complies with a servile disposition to tyrannise over such poor people as cannot resist them. Like petty brooks pent within a narrow channel, on every dash of rain they are ready to overflow, and wax angry at the apprehension of the smallest distaste.
2. From these words observe, that it is the part of a good master not only to do no harm himself, but also to take order that his servants do none (Genesis 12:20; Genesis 26:11).
3. In these words Boaz doth intimate that if he gave a charge to the contrary none of his servants durst presume once to molest her. If he, a mere earthly master, could procure such obedience to his commands, surely if the Lord of heaven enjoins us anything we ought to do it without any doubt or delay. (T. Fuller, B. D.)
Then she fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground.
The lowly attitude of a grateful heart
I. what deep and touching humility is expressed here.
II. what affectionate gratitude is here.
III. what confessions of unworthiness are here.
IV. what consciousness of need is here. (W. Baxendale.)
Ruth’s humility and gratitude
What had Boaz done for Ruth that she falls down on her knees and thanks him for his favours in language expressive of such warm gratitude? He had assured her of his protection. He had invited her to gather the gleanings of his corn, and to drink of his water. And what thanks do we give to Him who invites us to come and buy wine and milk from Him without money and without price? Ruth thought herself greatly honoured by the attentions of Boaz. She was a stranger and foreigner, an alien to the commonwealth of Israel, and did not reckon herself entitled to any kindness from the people of the Lord. The humble are always disposed to be thankful, and therefore they are always happy. When men are swelled with such a sense of their own merit that they think themselves entitled to everything, they will never be pleased. But you can scarcely displease the humble man, because he thinks anything better than he deserves. He enjoys peace in his own bosom, because his expectations are seldom disappointed. He acquires the goodwill of all around him, because he is thankful for the smallest favours, and not dissatisfied when he meets with none. (G. Lawson.)
It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother-in-law.
The praise of virtue
I. that virtue shall not want trumpeters to sound out her praises to the full (Psalms 37:6).
II. that well-doing procureth favour to the poor, though strangers, at the hands of the virtuous; for this was the cause of Boaz’s love to Ruth, as here he acknowledgeth; and this is true godliness, to love others for their goodness. (R. Bernard.)
The gracious approbation
Ruth begins now to reap the abundant harvest which is growing for her in the Divine purposes of mercy--a harvest of which Boaz’s fields are only a part, and of which indeed all that Boaz possessed was but a feeble illustration. She had been faithful in that which appeared to be the least, and now she was to be rewarded with that which seemed to be much. We have first to remark upon the gracious approbation which Boaz bestows upon her whole history, though he knew not her personally. It is thus you may often think yourself unknown, and unobserved in your efforts to do right in your different relations of life, when there are many eyes upon you, watching your character, and many ears may be listening to what the Lord has enabled you thus to do for Him. Give yourself no concern about this. God, your guardian and protector, will see that you have all the reputation and recompense which is good for you. Ruth supposed herself concealed in the field of Boaz. But he declares to her that her faithfulness to Naomi had been fully related to him, and he knew her well. Thus the Saviour recounts to His people, and for them, the acts of their life which have manifested their love to Him. Nothing that you do is worthy the Saviour’s notice. But nothing that you really do for Him will be unnoticed by Him. You will never be rewarded for your works. But you will be judged by your works. They are the proofs of your faith, as the fruits on the tree are the evidences of its character and its worth. Certainly there is nothing on earth so blessed and so precious as the approbation of our Divine Master, speaking in our own hearts, of the service we have feebly but sincerely tried to render to Him. But Boaz not only expresses approbation, he also speaks of recompense to Ruth. She shall not be unrewarded. Naomi may not be able to do anything for her. But Naomi has other paymasters in the Lord’s employ beside herself. Our acts of benevolence and love for Christ’s sake can never go without their result of blessing even in this life. The merciful man doeth good to his own soul. We comfort the needy and the sorrowing, and we are thus preparing comforters for ourselves in the persons of others whom the Lord will raise up to minister to our wants. We aid the children of the poor, and we are laying up a heritage for our children in the kindness of others whom we know not. But apart from this result of recompense, there is also our own happiness in the work itself. “It is more blessed,” that is, it is happier, a happier state and habit of mind, a happier condition of feeling and thought, “to give than to receive.” Whatever we do in kindness to others for Christ’s sake He returns to us in our own secret personal enjoyments. He ministers to us a peace and blessedness in the work which is our inward possession, and which comes to us without any reference to outward results. But Boaz prays for more than recompense: “A full reward be given thee,” etc. For full rewards in any course of human life we must look beyond the present state of being. The Saviour says of the objects of beneficent action, “They cannot recompense thee, but thou shalt be recompensed in the resurrection of the just.” Whatever results come now from any of the acts of life, they are extremely partial. The final results are yet to be revealed. The abundant harvest is to be gathered hereafter. But it will be surely gathered. The Saviour shall Himself minister to those who have been faithful to Him here, an abundant recompense, a full reward. But while the Saviour thus animates and encourages His disciples with the blessed hope before them, see how the answer of Ruth to Boaz illustrates their self-renouncing mind. The more generously a noble mind is dealt with, the more humble and unassuming does it become. This is eminently the case with the children of God when their Divine Redeemer comforts and blesses them. Never do they feel so perfectly unworthy as when He pours the special ministration of the oil of gladness into their souls. But all this only increases their sense of their own unworthiness of such mercy. And their cry and prayer is, that they may still find favour in His sight--that He would look upon them with eyes of mercy, and think of them according to His own grace and not according to their merits. Boaz’s gracious provisions for the lonely stranger crown and close this instructive interview. Was any conduct of man ever more delicate, dignified, or beautiful? But it is only a feeble illustration of the riches of a Saviour’s grace. (S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee.
Ruth’s reward; or, cheer for converts
I. what has the young convert done? We illustrate the subject by the instance of Ruth.
1. Many young converts deserve encouragement because they have left all their old associates. Ruth, no doubt, had many friends in her native country, but she tore herself away to cling to Naomi and her God.
2. Next, Ruth, having left her old companions, had come amongst strangers. She knew Naomi, but in the whole town of Bethlehem she knew no one else. She felt herself to be alone, though under the wings of Israel’s God. Boaz very properly felt that she should not think that courtesy and kindness had died out of Israel; and he made a point, though he was by far her superior in station, to go to her and speak a word of encouragement to her. Come, let us pluck up courage, and encourage every Ruth when she is timid among strangers. Let us help her to feel at home in Immanuel’s land.
3. The new convert is like Ruth in another respect: he is very lowly in his own eyes. Ruth had little self-esteem, and therefore she won the esteem of others. She felt herself to be a very inconsiderable person, to whom any kindness was a great favour; and so do young converts, if they are real and true.
4. Once more, the young convert is like Ruth because he has come to trust under the wings of Jehovah, the God of Israel. This is what our young converts have done: they have come, not to trust themselves, but to trust in Jesus. They have come to find a righteousness in Christ--aye, to find everything in Him.
II. what is the full reward of those who come to trust under the wings of God? I would answer that a full reward will come to us in that day when we lay down these bodies of flesh, that they may sleep in Jesus, while our unclothed spirits are absent from the body but present with the Lord. But there is a present reward, and to that Boaz referred. There is in this world a present recompense for the godly, notwithstanding the fact that many are the afflictions of the righteous. Even in losing the present life for Christ’s sake we are saving it, and self-denial and taking up the cross are but forms of blessedness. Do you ask me, “How shall we be rewarded for trusting in the Lord?”
1. I answer, first, by the deep peace of conscience which He will grant you. Can any reward be better than this? That, however, is only the beginning of the believer’s reward.
2. He that has come to trust in God shall be “quiet from fear of evil.” What a blessing that must be! “He shall not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.”
3. More than this: the man who trusts in God rests in Him with respect to all the supplies he now needs, or shall ever need.
4. Another part of the believer’s great gain lies in the consciousness that all things are working together for his good. Nothing is, after all, able to injure us. Neither pains of body, nor sufferings of mind, nor losses in business, nor cruel blows of death, can work us real ill. Is not this a reward for which a man may well forego the flatteries of sin?
5. Then, let me tell you, they that trust in God and follow Him have another full reward, and that is, the bliss of doing good. Can any happiness excel this?
6. Many other items make up the full of the reward; but perhaps the chief of all is communion with God.
III. what figure sets forth this full reward? I do not think that Boaz knew the full meaning of what he said. He could not foresee all that was appointed of the Lord. In the light of Ruth’s history we will read the good man’s blessing. This poor stranger, Ruth, in coming to put her trust in the God of Israel, was giving up everything; yes, but she was also gaining everything. Ah! when you come to trust in Christ, you find in the Lord Jesus Christ one who is next of kin to you, who redeems your heritage, and unites you to Himself. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
A military gentleman once said to an excellent old minister in the North of Scotland, who was becoming infirm, “Why, if I had power over the pension list, I would have you put on half-pay for your long and faithful services.” He replied, “Ah, my friend, your master may put you off with half-pay, but my Master will not serve me so meanly--He will give me full-pay. Through grace I expect a full reward.”
Under whose wings thou art come to trust.
The wings of God
1. They were swift wings under which Ruth had come to trust. There is nothing in all the handiwork of God more curious than a bird’s wing. You have been surprised sometimes to see how far a bird can fly with one stroke of the wings; and, when it has food in prospect, or when it is affrighted, the pulsations of the bird’s wings are unimaginable for velocity. The English lords used to pride themselves on the speed of their falcons. These birds, when trained, had in them the dart of the lightning. How swift were the carrier-pigeons in the time of Anthony and at the siege of Jerusalem! Wonderful speed! A carrier-pigeon was thrown up at Rouen and came down at Ghent--ninety miles off in one hour. The carrier-pigeons were the telegraphs of the olden time. Swallows have been shot in our latitude having the undigested rice of Georgia swamps in their crops, showing that they had come four hundred miles in six hours. It has been estimated that, in the ten years of a swallow’s life, it flies far enough to have gone round the world eighty-nine times, so great is its velocity. And so the wings of the Almighty, spoken of in the text, are swift wings. They are swift when they drop upon the foe, and swift when they come to help God’s friends.
2. The wings under which Ruth had come to trust were very broad wings. There have been eagles shot on the Rocky Mountains with wings that were seven feet from tip to tip. When the king of the air sits on the crag the wings are spread over all the eaglets in the eyrie, and when the eagle starts from the rock the shadow is like the spreading of a storm cloud. So the wings of God are broad wings. They cover up all our wants, all our sorrows, all our sufferings. He puts one wing over our cradle, and He puts the other over our grave. Yes, it is not a desert in which we are placed; it is a nest. Sometimes it is a very hard nest, like that of the eagle, spread on the rock, with ragged moss and rough sticks, but still it is a nest; and, although it may be very hard under us, over us are the wings of the Almighty.
3. The wings under which Ruth came to trust were strong wings. The strength of a bird’s wing--of a sea-fowl’s wing, for example--you might guess from the fact that sometimes for five, six, or seven days it seems to fly without resting. There have been condors in the Andes that could overcome an ox or a stag. There have been eagles that have picked up children and swung them to the top of the cliffs. The flap of an eagle’s wing has death in it. There are birds whose wings are packed with strength to fly, to lift, to destroy. So the wings of God are strong wings. Mighty to save. Mighty to destroy.
4. The wings under which Ruth had come to trust were gentle wings. There is nothing softer than a feather. You have noticed when a bird returns from flight how gently it stoops over the nest. The young birds are not afraid of having their lives trampled out by the mother-bird; the old whip-poor-will drops into its nest of leaves, the oriole into its casket of bark, the humming-bird into its hammock of moss, gentle as the light. And so, says the psalmist, He shall cover thee with His wing. Oh, the gentleness of God! But even that figure does not fully set it forth; for I have sometimes looked into the bird’s nest and seen a dead bird, its life having been trampled out by the mother-bird. But no one that ever came under the feathers of the Almighty was trodden on. Blessed nest! warm nest! Why will men stay out in the cold to be shot of temptation and to be chilled by the blast, when there is this Divine shelter? (T. De Witt Talmage.)
Some have imagined the reference to be to a hen, beneath whose wings her little birds flee for shelter and warmth, according to one memorable and touching comparison used by our Lord (Luke 13:34). It has been suggested by others that the allusion is to the mercyseat in the holy of holies in the ancient tabernacle, over which the wings of the cherubim stretched from the one extremity to the other, and above which the Divine glory shone with benignant radiance. Nothing could be more sublimely descriptive of dedication to the service of the true God--committing oneself to Him for providential protection and salvation, and seeking the loving fellowship of His Church--than “coming to trust beneath Jehovah’s wings.” (A. Thomson, D. D.)
Let me find favour in thy sight, my lord; for that thou hast comforted me.
Good from encouraging words
Is there not a useful suggestion in all this to persons in places of authority and influence? There is sometimes a grievous fault in withholding praise from others. At the fountain-head of some of our greatest rivers a slight touch of the hand or foot would be sufficient to determine the course in which they should ever afterwards flow. And, in like manner, a kind word spoken to another at a moment when the heart is ready to faint may be the means of dispelling the chill of despondency, of stimulating the efforts of an honest industry, of confirming good resolutions, and of helping to fix the future destiny of a brother. Some persons are far too much afraid of the effect of a little generous and well-timed praise. They would keep all their flowers in an ice-house. Letting in a little sunshine upon them at times would not be amiss. Let masters and parents and teachers try the experiment of what an encouraging word or look can sometimes do. Let it be distinctly seen by those whom they can influence that they are on the side of whatever is virtuous in effort, noble in aim, and heavenward in aspiration. (A. Thomson, D. D.)
At mealtime come thou hither.
The common meal
1. It should indicate the Divine hand in providing it.
2. It should minister to the calm contentment of our hearts.
3. It should indicate a self-respect before men.
4. It should prepare for the next duties in life. (E. Price.)
Mealtime in the cornfields
I. that god’s reapers have their mealtimes. The reapers in Jesus’ fields shall not only receive a blessed reward at the last, but they shall have plenteous comforts by the way.
1. God has ordained certain mealtimes for His reapers; and He has appointed that one of these shall be when they come together to listen to the Word preached. When the Lord blesses the provisions of His house, no matter how many thousands there may be, all His poor shall be filled with bread.
2. Often, too, our gracious Lord appoints us mealtimes in our private readings and meditations. Here it is that His “paths drop fatness.” No wonder that men grow so slowly, when they meditate so little. We must take the truth, and turn it over and over again in the inward parts of our spirit, and so shall we extract suitable nourishment therefrom.
3. Let us not forget that there is one specially ordained mealtime which ought to occur at least once in the week--I mean the Supper of the Lord. There you have literally, as well as spiritually, a meal.
4. Besides these regular mealtimes, there are others which God gives us, at seasons when, perhaps, we little expect them. You have been walking the street, and suddenly you have felt a holy flowing out of your soul toward God; or in the middle of business your heart has been melted with love and made to dance for joy, even as the brooks, which have been bound with winter’s ice, leap to feel the touch of spring. You have been groaning, dull, and earthbound; but the sweet love of Jesus has enwrapped your heart when you scarce thought of it. Seasons, too, we have had on our sick-beds.
5. Let me observe that, while these mealtimes come, we know not exactly when, there are certain seasons when we may expect them. The Eastern reapers generally sit down under the shelter of a tree, or a booth, to take refreshment during the heat of the day. And certain I am, that when trouble, affliction, persecution, and bereavement become the most painful to us, it is then that the Lord hands out to us the sweetest comforts. Again, these mealtimes frequently occur before a trial. Sweet cordials prepare for stern conflicts. Times of refreshing also occur after trouble or arduous service. Christ was tempted of the devil, and afterwards angels came and ministered unto Him. After conflict, content; after battle, banquet. When thou hast waited on thy Lord, then thou shalt sit down, and thy Master will gird Himself and wait upon thee.
II. to these meals the gleaner is affectionately invited. That is to say, the poor trembling stranger who has not strength enough to reap, who has no right to be in the field except the right of charity--the poor, trembling sinner, conscious of his own demerit, and feeling but little hope and little joy, is invited to the feast of love.
1. In the text the gleaner is invited to come: “At mealtime come thou hither.” We trust none of you will be kept away from the place of holy feasting by any shame on account of your dress, or your personal character, or your poverty; nay, nor even on account of your physical infirmities.
2. Moreover, she was bidden not only to come, but to eat. Whatever there is sweet and comfortable in the Word of God, ye that are of a broken and contrite spirit are invited to partake of it. You are saying in your heart, “Oh, that I could eat the children’s bread!” You may eat it. You say, “I have no right.” But the Lord gives you the invitation! Come without any other right than the right of His invitation.
3. Note further, that she was not only invited to eat the bread, but to dip her morsel in the vinegar. The Lord’s reapers have sauce with their bread; they have not merely doctrines, but the holy unction which is the essence of doctrines; they have not merely truths, but a hallowed delight accompanies the truths.
III. boaz reaches her the parched corn. None but the Lord of the harvest can hand out the choicest refreshments of spiritual minds. How does He do this?
1. By His gracious Spirit He first of all inspires your faith.
2. Having done this, the Saviour does more; He sheds abroad the love of God in your heart.
3. But Jesus does more than this: He reaches the parched corn with His own hand, when He gives us close communion with Himself.
4. Yet once more let me add, the Lord Jesus is pleased to reach the parched corn, in the best sense, when the Spirit gives us the infallible witness within that we are “born of God.” Philip de Morny, who lived in the time of Prince Henry of Navarre, was wont to say that the Holy Spirit had made his own salvation to him as clear a point as a problem demonstrated in Euclid. The sun in the heavens is not more clear to the eye than his present salvation to an assured believer; such a man could as soon doubt his own existence as suspect his possession of eternal life.
IV. After Boaz had reached the parched corn, we are told that “she did eat, and was sufficed, and left.” So shall it be with every Ruth. Sooner or later every penitent shall become a believer, every mourner a singer.
1. “She did eat, and was sufficed.” Your head shall be satisfied with the precious truth which Christ reveals; your heart shall be content with Jesus, as the altogether lovely object of affection; your hope shall be filled, for whom have you in heaven but Christ? Your desire shall be satiated, for what can even your desire hunger for more than “to know Christ, and to be found in Him”? You shall find Jesus charm your conscience, till it is at perfect peace; He shall content your judgment, till you know the certainty of His teachings; He shall supply your memory with recollections of what He did, and gratify your imagination with the prospects of what He is yet to do.
2. “She was sufficed, and left.” Some of us have had deep draughts of love; we have thought that we could take in all of Christ, but when we have done our best, we have had to leave a vast remainder. There are certain sweet things in the Word of God which you and I have not enjoyed yet, and which we cannot enjoy yet; and these we are obliged to leave for a while, till we are better prepared to receive them. Did not our Lord say, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now”? There is a special knowledge to which we have not attained, a place of intimate fellowship with Christ which we have not yet occupied. There is yet a beyond, and there will be for ever.
3. A verse or two further on we are told what Ruth did with her leavings. It is very wrong, I believe, at feasts to carry anything home with you; but she was not under any such regulation, for that which was left she took home and gave to Naomi. So it shall be even with you, poor tremblers, who think you have no right to a morsel for yourselves; you shall be allowed to eat, and when you are quite sufficed, you shall have courage to bear away a portion to others who are hungering at home. When you hear a sermon you think, “My poor mother cannot get out to-day; how I wish she could have been here, for that sentence would have comforted her. If I forget everything else, I will tell her that.” Cultivate an unselfish spirit. Seek to love as you have been loved. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Let her glean even among the sheaves.
I. The God of the whole earth is a great husbandman. This is true in natural things. As a matter of fact all farm operations are carried on by His power and prudence. In spiritual matters God is a great Husbandman; and there, too, all His works are done for His children, that they may be fed upon the finest of the wheat. Permit me to speak of the wide gospel-fields which our heavenly Father farms for the good of His children. Every field which our heavenly Father tills yields a plentiful harvest, for there are no failures or famines with Him.
1. One part of His farm is called doctrine field. What full sheaves of finest wheat are to be found there! Gospel doctrine is always safe doctrine. You may feast upon it till you are full, and no harm will come of it. Be afraid of no revealed truth.
2. The great Husbandman has another field called promise field; of that I shall not need to speak, for I hope you often enter and glean from it. The whole field is your own, every ear of it; you may draw out from the sheaves themselves, and the more you take the more you may.
3. Then there is ordinance field; a great deal of good wheat grows in this field. In all the estate no field is to be found to rival this centre and crown of all the domain: this is the King’s acre. Gospel gleaner, abide in that field; glean in it on the first day of every week, and expect to see your Lord there; for it is written, “He was known of them in the breaking of bread.”
4. Fellowship and communion with Christ. This is the field for the Lord’s choicest ones to glean in.
II. a humble gleaner.
1. The believer is a favoured gleaner, for he may take home a whole sheaf, if he likes: he may bear away all that he can possibly carry, for all things are freely given him of the Lord. Alas, our faith is so little that we rather glean than reap; we are straitened in ourselves, not in our God. May you all outgrow the metaphor, and come home, bringing your sheaves with you.
2. Again, we may remark that the gleaner, in her business has to endure much toil and fatigue. I know a friend who walks five miles every Sunday to hear the gospel, and has the same distance to return. Another thinks little of a ten miles’ journey; and these are wise, for to hear the pure Word of God no labour is extravagant.
3. We remark, next, that every ear the gleaner gets she has to stoop for. We will go down on our knees in prayer, and stoop by self-humiliation and confession of ignorance, and so gather with the hand of faith the daily bread of our hungering souls.
4. Note, in the next place, that what a gleaner gets she wins ear by ear; occasionally she picks up a handful at once, but as a rule it is straw by straw. Now, where there are handfuls to be got at once, there is the place to go and glean; but if you cannot meet with such abundance, be glad to gather ear by ear, That is a sorry ministry which yields nothing. Go and glean where the Lord has opened the gate for you. Why the text alone is worth the journey; do not miss it.
5. Note, next, that what the gleaner picks up she keeps in her hand; she does not drop the corn as fast as she gathers it. Be attentive, but be retentive too. Gather the grain and tie it up in bundles for carrying away with you, and mind you do not lose it on the road home. Do not lose by trifling talk that which may make you rich to all eternity.
6. Then, again, the gleaner takes the wheat home and threshes it. It is a wise thing to thresh a sermon whoever may have been the preacher, for it is certain that there is a portion of straw and chaff about it. Many thresh the preacher by finding needless fault; but that is not half so good as threshing the sermon to get out of it the pure truth.
7. And then, in the last place, the good woman, after threshing the corn, no doubt winnowed it. Ruth did all this in the field; but you can scarcely do so. You must do some of the work at home. Separate between the precious and the vile, and let the worthless material go where it may; you have no use for it, and the sooner you are rid of it the better. Judge with care; reject false teaching with decision, and retain true doctrine with earnestness, so shall you practise the enriching art of heavenly gleaning.
III. a gracious permission given: “Let her glean among the sheaves, and reproach her not.” We have no right to any heavenly blessings of ourselves; our portion is due to free and sovereign grace. I tell you the reasons that moved Boaz’s heart to let Ruth go among the sheaves. The master motive was because he loved her. He would have her go there because he had conceived an affection for her, which he afterwards displayed in grander ways. So the Lord lets His people come and glean among the sheaves, because He loves them. There was another reason why Boaz allows Ruth to glean among the sheaves; it was because he was her relative. This is why our Lord gives us choice favours at times, and takes us into His banqueting house in so gracious a manner. He is our next of kin, bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh. Oh, child of God, never be afraid to glean! Have faith in God, and take the promises home to yourself. Jesus will rejoice to see you making free with His good things. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The benevolence of Boaz
This benevolence of Boaz seems to me to have two lessons in it: one practical how we should do our benevolence; and one theological--how God does His benevolence. You will see, in the first place, that Boaz does not give her the wheat. Generous as he is, she earns what she gets. He does not send her back home and send the young men with sheaves after her; he lets her work for what she receives. To give something for nothing is always a dangerous piece of business. Sometimes we must do it, it is true, but it is not the ideal kind of benevolence. If you desire to do something for the poor that will endure, let them do something to earn that which they receive from you. And yet while Boaz thus allows her to earn what she receives, so that she is no pauper, no beggar, has no self-respect taken away from her, he does it largely and with a great, generous mood, not in a niggardly way. But, most of all, he gives her secretly. Boaz anticipated Christ. A great many years before Christ had said, “Let not your right hand know what your left hand does,” Boaz practised that maxim. He hid his benevolence from this woman, and Boaz enjoyed the benevolence all the more because she did not understand it. In our benevolence let us maintain the self-respect of those we aid; let us not make paupers of them; and strive how we can do the most good with the least possible display. That is not the ordinary rule, but it is a good one. But this story of the benevolence of Boaz is also a parable. It indicates the way in which God does His good works among men. Did you ever think how true it is that God also maintains our self-respect when He gives to us--how very little He gives unless we do something to get the gift? When we pray for bread for our need, He does not give us the bread; He gives us a piece of land, and a plough, and a hoe, and we must sweat for the bread. When we pray for clothing, He does not send the clothing; He gives us that out of which we can by our own industry make the clothing. It is certainly true in the material realm. It is true in the intellectual realm. The world is full of wisdom, full of the resources out of which wisdom is gathered; but we must gather it; we cannot get our wisdom ready-made. It is not handed to us. And this is equally true in the spiritual realm. God no more hands the bread of life ready-made than He hands the material bread ready-made. But how generously He gives to those who are willing to work for Him, and take that given in that spirit which preserves the self-respect while receiving the benevolence! We cut down the forests and find the coal-mine; we exhaust the ocean of its whales and find gas and electricity to take their place; and now the scientific men are discussing the problem whether they cannot find a way to utilise the seemingly wasted sunlight. Nature has reservoired them in the coal-fields--that is, God has reservoired them--and out of its reservoir we gather the light. But now men are beginning to say, “Can we not reservoir this sunlight, this heat that goes to Waste, and make it do the world’s work for us?” The world is full of God’s gifts. He only waits for us with pick and axe and hoe, with sweat of brain and sweat of body, to find a way to realise them. And as God sets us to work to get His gifts, and as God fills the world full with them, so God conceals Himself in the giving. I turn to my books of literature, and I find praises of Nature. Nature! What is Nature but a word for God? What is Nature but the minister and servant? What is Nature but the elements that are dropping the great sheaves of wheat in our path, and we do not know that Boaz is hiding behind the hedge smiling at our joy in our discovery. God conceals Himself. He ministers through others, and takes as to Himself the thanks we give to them. (Lyman Abbott, D. D.)
Combination of strength and gentleness in Boaz
There are persons to be met with in social life who, while possessing the more solid qualities of moral excellence, are singularly deficient in the more graceful. They have honesty, but they have no sensibility; they have truth, but they are strangely wanting in tenderness. You have the marble column, but you have not the polish or the delicate tracery on its surface; you have the rugged oak, but you miss the jasmine or the honeysuckle creeping gracefully around it from its roots. But the conduct of Boaz, as we stand and hear him giving those directions to his reapers, proves the compatibility of those two forms of excellence, and how the strong and the amiable may meet and harmonise in the same character. They do always meet in the highest forms of moral greatness. (A. Thomson. D. D.)
The refining art of doing good
I speak of the art of doing good because it deserves a place among the beautiful arts of earth and heaven. We speak “of the refinement of the arts.” Men may cultivate the beautiful and be no better at heart for it all. The beautiful has no ministry to those who reject the great Artist of the universe. He would have saved the world long ago by the ministry of the beautiful had it been possible. What pictures are like those He hangs before us every day? What sunsets represented on the canvas are like the real sunsets? When we love the great Artist out of whose mind has poured all the beauty there is in the world, then every leaf and every flower, every sunrise and every sunset, every vision of beauty in earth or sky or sea, has its tender, gentle, refining influence upon the adoring heart. This art of doing good refines the heart and life even more than the study of the beautiful (C. C. McCabe, D. D.)
So she gleaned in the field until even.
1. Gleaners in gospel-fields should continue in their gleaning work from morning to evening. How many are but half Sabbath folk, that can spare to spend a morning in Sabbath service, but are for their pastimes after that! Ruth was none of those lazy gleaners.
2. Though God be very bountiful to us, yet will He have us to use all the means in a way of subserviency to His bounty. God will give us at the second-hand what He would not give us at first-hand; He will give us grace and knowledge by the use of the means, which He gives not immediately from Himself. “God sells all for labour,” saith Hesiod. (C. Ness.)
I. no labour is too insignificant for love. “So she gleaned.” She was of a good family, accustomed to a life of ease and plenty. That which she does now is anything but dignified.
1. A work for the commonest powers.
2. A work for the commonest people.
3. A work whose results bear no comparison to the expenditure of labour.
4. A work in which is redone that which has been considered as done.
Men measure the worth of work by its conspicuousness. The real worth of work lies in meeting the necessity for its existence, and the motive which inspires it. Two lives depend upon her toil--then her work has worth; she loves the woman for whom she toils--then her work has dignity. Her love consecrates lowest means for highest ends.
II. no results of labour are too insignificant for care. She “beat out that she had gleaned.”(S. B. Rees.)
The successful gleaner
1. Ruth was a gleaner; and so should we be. The Bible is that field. Search the Scriptures; glean there. Pick up every grain, for it contains precious nourishment. No matter how many gleaners; there is food enough for all.
2. Alas, how many careless ones there are, who never glean at all! They loiter all the day of their life idle. And so, when night comes, they sink into eternity with nothing done.
3. Others, again, begin when Ruth leaves off, at even. All the bright and sunny portion of their lives they give to the world.
4. Ruth began gleaning in the morning. She felt that every hour must be employed; that every moment was precious. She laboured diligently. May we make God’s Word our daily study! (Bp. Oxenden.)
She took it up, and went into the city.
Careful of the fruit of labour
It is no less necessary to be careful of the fruit of our labours than to labour with diligence. “In all labour there is profit,” says the wise man; yet there are some that labour for the wind. They lose what they have wrought because they suffer it, through their carelessness, to slip through their fingers. This folly, however, is much less frequent in things relating to the body than in those which relate to the soul. Yet some need admonition to manage their worldly affairs with discretion; but it is far more needful to be careful that we lose none of those things which we have wrought in the service of God, for the benefit of our souls, but that we receive a full reward. (G. Lawson.)
Carry home the wheat
You know it is one thing to have grace, and another thing to have common sense. But she had both. She had got more than she wanted, and “she beat out that she had gleaned; and it was about an ephah of barley.” And she carried away--the straw? No, she did not; but that is what we do sometimes. We attend a meeting, and when we go away we leave the corn behind, and carry away the straw. (H. Moorhouse.)
Where hast thou gleaned to-day?
Where hast thou gleaned to-day?
I. the sphere: life’s opportunities.
1. The law of labour is the law of life. In this world but little can be accomplished without energy and enterprise. In every department this is true.
2. To the open and eager eye openings invite and opportunities multiply. “Let me now go to the field.” “I have set before thee an open door.” “The field is the world.” (Isaiah 6:8.)
3. Forms of activity, how diversified they are. There is not only the reaper but the “gleaner” also. “All works are good, and each is best when most it pleases Thee.” “Gather up the fragments,” and despise not “the day of small things.”
4. Scope exists for all. “How many serve, how many more may to the service come.” “Even I, in fields so broad, some duties may fulfil.”
5. Each “day” brings its demands. “To-day.”
II. the service: our use or neglect of life’s opportunities.
1. Neglect possible. There is no compulsion. The parable of the talents. The field of the slothful (Proverbs 24:1-20.24.34).
2. Success attainable. Satisfaction in healthful industry. Beneficent results are an “ephah of barley.” “Neither man nor work unblest wilt Thou permit to be.” “He shall doubtless come again bringing his sheaves with him.” “Enter into the joy of thy Lord.”
3. Co-operation here desirable. “Let fall some for her.” “Reproach her not.” Community in labour. Unselfishly thinking of others and their work, without unkindliness or rebuke. “Each worker pleases where the rest he serves in charity.”
III. the scrutiny: direct investigation into our use of life’s opportunities.
1. The “day,” however, varying in incident and duration, soon “goeth away.” “The shadows of the evening are stretched out.” “The night cometh when no man can work.”
2. After that, the tribunal and award.
(a) The fact of judgment (Matthew 25:19).
(b) Its characteristics.
(1) Personal and individual: “Those.”
(2) Practical: “Where”
(3) Precise: Each “day” and its doings.
How wise to let the inquiry here anticipate the inquiry hereafter. Day by day and every day should conscience put the question, “Where hast thou gleaned to-day?” (J. P. Allen, M. A.)
A good day’s gleaning
Let Naomi ask us this question, and let us answer, as far as we can, out of Ruth’s experience. “Where hast thou gleaned?”
1. The first thing I am impressed with is this--if you will allow Ruth to answer the question for us--no matter how dark may have been your past life, no matter through what changes and hardships you may have come, you are not justified in giving in to melancholy, much less to despair. Do not sit still; go on with your round. Cast about, go out and forage somewhere. Do the thing that lies next to your hand; go back to the ordinary common work-a-day world, and you will find relief. “Where hast thou gleaned to-day?”
2. If, in answer to my question, you would say that you are nobody, that you are of no account, and that all life’s plans and purposes have come to one swift catastrophe, I rebuke you from Ruth’s history. You may be poor and obscure; so was Ruth; but a new day had dawned. Keep up your heart; greater, if you only thought it, are the things behind the scenes in your favour than all that seems to be against you.
3. Then, when we stand here and ask, and answer, the questions that flew swift as a weaver’s, shuttle between Ruth and Naomi--does not this come out? You have not been working in vain, if you will tell the truth. If you look at things aright, and take yet another look, especially those who are down cast, tell me if you are not bound to admit that your history is beginning to show glints of sunshine, here and there, through its darkness and chaos. Somehow you are getting conscious of it that there is an upper light breaking in. Now, think of the man who came into the field, whose presence opened up a new chapter for Ruth, and opened a wonderful chapter in God’s purposes for a great while to come. On what small hinges do great doors hang! The world is still God’s acre. It is not a field of riot, of chance and haphazard. It is not true that this is a world in which only the fittest survive and the weakest go to the wall. It is not true that the race is to the swift and the battle to the strong. Don’t you see how the gospel comes on the scene with the face of that man Boaz? He is always going about the field, this Boaz, this Kinsman, this Redeemer. His eyes are on you, and He knows more about you than you are giving Him credit for. Blessed is He who is taking knowledge of thee. “Where hast thou gleaned to-day? and where wroughtest thou?”
4. Again, looking at this as a fireside gathering, as it were, to-day, at the end of one week, and before the new one, with its activities, is fully upon us, does not this come out of the question and the answer--that, after all, you have had unexpected success? Ruth’s story shows us that, when we come across good times, when we come to what is called “good luck,” we are in danger then. Now, don’t go away and say that that is come to you because you rose early and sat up late, because you were sharper than other people, because your wits are keener, because you have shuffled the per cents., so to speak, more cleverly. Put in God somewhere; give God the credit, give Him the praise, give Him the glory, for, I tell you, it is all His. (J. McNeill.)
There are some whose only chance of obtaining knowledge is by gleaning. Their education has been neglected. Their opportunities of attending a place of worship are few. Their time for reading is limited. In a word, they are not farmers, and can never show a stack: they can only gather by gleaning.
I. To such let me say, “glean where the corn grows and lies near at hand. You will not find the corn by the wayside, or on the moor. You must go to the fields: it is only on the cultivated land you can find it.” And so with the knowledge that is worth possessing. It is not to be found everywhere. For instance, it is not from every pulpit you hear the gospel: why go where Christ is not preached? It is not in all company that you may glean wisdom. “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise.” It would be well for us to bear in mind that we cannot be friendly with the ungodly without storing up some of the talk we hear, and that we thus store sorrow for the future. It is not every book from which we can glean corn. Reading a bad book is to gather poison.
II. To glean successfully we must be willing to stoop. Gleaning is stooping. The writer heard a man behind a counter say, “The worst folks to deal with are those who know all you are going to say.” This is true enough. A schoolboy who thinks he knows it all is the most hopeless of pupils. The apprentice who will not be told never learns his trade. Many a man would have risen if he could have afforded to stoop for awhile.
III. If we would glean a heap, we must be content with a little at a time. The woman who has gathered the largest bundle of corn never once picked up a handful. It was mostly in single ears: “Here a little, and there a little.” It is wonderful what may be done by never passing by a thing that is worth preserving. To note down, every day, each remarkable thing, would make a wonderful volume in time. To do this thoroughly, we must know the value of each grain of truth. Don’t let the thought that it is only a little prevent your stooping, for stacks are made up of single straws, and London is made up of single houses, which were built a brick at a time.
IV. No one can glean well who is not able to persevere. Gleaning is tiring work. It means a back-ache. We must, if we mean to succeed, be willing to go on long after we are weary. We cannot expect to have it all our own way. If we were as willing to spur ourselves to perseverance as we are to urge on our weary horses, we should accomplish much more than we do. Abraham Lincoln was asked if he thought the war would be over while he was President. “Can’t say, sir.” “But, Mr. Lincoln, what do you mean to do?” “Peg away, sir--keep pegging away.” And pegging away liberated millions of bondmen, and wiped the foul stain of slavery from America’s ‘scutcheon. (T. Champness.)
A charity sermon
Consider the diffusion of pleasure and delight which arose from no great nor lasting act of charity. The hearts of Naomi and Ruth did sing for joy upon sight of a relief which would soon want another: and Boaz throbbed with more noble ecstasies, by as much as it is more blessed to give than to receive,
I. that the poor have a right to glean upon us, and that part of our substance, by the laws of God and nature, is their strict and proper due.
II. that the blessing of God and the poor is an ample retribution to the rich for suffering them to glean, and that they have as strict a right to that as the poor have to their gleaning, and much greater refreshments springing from it.
III. that in religious public ministrations it is far from vainglory to distinguish ourselves by our liberality. Then the more we give the more we may be truly said to promote the glory of God! Then the more we show the forwardness of our mind the more we profess subjection to the laws of Christ. (R. Coleire, M. A.)
Gleaners in God’s harvest field
What have we gleaned? What improvements in thought, character, or heart treasure to refresh us in the present and bring a glorious reward in the future? The world is God’s harvest field, and we are all gleaners. Some gather great swaths and bind heavy bundles, and some gather only a little bunch of grain here and there. The most poor and obscure may glean, and the richest and most prosperous can do but little more than glean. Each day God throws down great handfuls from Time’s garner. Let us take one day. Man rises from slumber in health and strength. He goes forth; nature welcomes him, the heavens are kindling with the dawn, the earth is teeming with beauty. He enters the bosom of his family; from loving voices, smiles and all, he gleans. The child and mother, from a narrow yet fruitful field, are daily learning lessons that shall last through all their future life. Nothing is trivial. God seems to say to us, “Attend to the commonplace, not the heroic.” It is grains that fill up our clays and aggregate the substance of our lives. ‘Where have I been to-day? What company have I met? What have been my enjoyments? Whither have my affections turned? Some gather mean and base things on the highway of life, while others gather all that is beautiful. In the same pond the white and the yellow lily grow. The one from the surrounding elements draws whiteness, purity, and fragrance; and the other only yellow hues and no fragrance. What have we gleaned from this world for the world to come from men, from books, from our families, from work, from nature, and from God? If we would have our soul’s hunger satisfied and our spiritual life nurtured into vigour and beauty, God’s fields are open before us and we must glean. (J. Spencer Kennard.)
Confidence between kindred
It should be one of the first principles in the government of a family that the young shall be taught to tell their parents of all their movements, and that they shall in this way have another powerful motive always to act in such a manner as that they shall never have anything to conceal. It is one of the worst signs in the formation of character when a son has haunts which he is afraid to name, companions with whom he dreads to be seen, or books which he can only read by stealth. Such suspicious secrecy is always the sure and distinct indication of a progress downwards. When the ingenuous son is ready to make his father the trusted confidant of all his pursuits and plans, of all his companionships and amusements, there cannot have been any great divergence as yet from the paths of virtue. But when the parent must needs be duped and hoodwinked, and is thought of and treated as an inconvenient spy, the child has lost the first element of filial obedience by the loss of filial trust and love, and rather wants opportunity than inclination to come out as a villain or a profligate. (A. Thomson, D. D.)
Blessed be he of the Lord, who hath not left off His kindness.
1. In its nature it is “kindness”--the very soul of tenderness to the God-fearing among men.
2. In its continuance. He cannot “leave off” making His children happy.
3. In its application to both worlds--to the “living,” as the song of a Ruth may testify; to the “dead,” as the hope of a Naomi must imply. Both are in the covenant of the God of Israel.
4. In its expression. He knows how to prepare some lip to give it adequate expression before the world. The old shall ever confirm the faith of the young. (E. Price.)
Kindness to the dead
The natural human protectors are gone, but the Almighty Father has taken their place. It is what Elimelech and Mahlon would have desired, and it is kindness to them. Can we not imagine that those who have passed from earth, leaving poor, disconsolate ones behind to struggle with life’s difficulties often find, in their glorified condition, ever fresh and continuous reasons for rejoicing, because they see how the ever-watchful love of God is constantly shown towards beloved ones whose comfort was their desire and endeavour? Mothers and fathers have died wondering what their children’s future would be in this rude, rough world, and with their wonder fear has mingled. Yet now from heaven’s clear heights they behold God’s tender care surrounding them by day and night, saving them from danger, raising up noble-souled friends to help them, doing more on their behalf than their imagination or faith conceived possible; and as they see all this, their souls are moved with a passion of rapturous gratitude, and heaven rings melodious with their “new song” of praise. Yes, the dead are wiser than we think, and probably see more than we suppose of the lives from which they are parted only by a thin, and perhaps from their side transparent, veil. This, at least, is certain, that when God inspires the benevolent to shield the orphan and help the widow, He shows that He has “not left off His kindness to the living and the dead.” (Wm. Braden.)
The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen.
Christ typified by the goel under the law
You can hardly need to be told how a connection, the very closest, may be traced between the Jewish and the Christian dispensations. The redeemer under the law is most accurately a type of the Redeemer under the gospel. Now, suppose we take in succession three cases in which the goel or redeemer was bidden to interfere--forfeiture of inheritance, loss of liberty, and shedding of blood; and examining each transaction under its legal description, let us strive to show you the fidelity with which it images the redemption wrought out for us by Christ.
I. We begin with the forfeiture of inheritance. In Leviticus 25:1-3.25.55 directions are given for the interference of the goel, or redeemer. We fasten, first of all, on the fact that none but a kinsman could fill the office of goel or redeemer. Who does not see, that in laying down and adhering to such a principle as this, the law taught mankind impressively the lesson that He who should arise the Redeemer of the lost world must be bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh? “Forasmuch,” says the apostle, “as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same.” And shall we ever hesitate to declare that the comforting thing to the followers of Christ is that the Goel, the Redeemer, is in the strictest sense their kinsman? Christ was like myself in all points, my sinfulness only excepted. Who is the Israelite that has grown poor, and alienated from him the possession of his father, if it be not man, originally the chosen of God, rich in a birthright which gave him a glorious world for his dwelling-place, yes, and immortality for his lifetime, but who afterwards, by yielding to temptation, stripped himself of all his wealth, and made himself the heir to nothing but corruption? And when we have pointed out to you the impoverished Jew, spoiled of the possession of his fathers, unable of himself to do anything towards regaining the inheritance, and then have turned your attention on the kinsman redeemer paying down the ransom, bringing back the land into the family, keeping it in his own hands until the jubilee trumpet sounded, and then restoring it to the original owner--we think we have furnished you with so vivid a sketch of paradise lost through human apostasy and regained by the purchase of the Mediator, and given back on the day that the archangel shall lift his trumpet, and shall blow a blast at which the sheeted dead shall start, that it must on all hands be confessed that the goel of the law was pre-eminently a type of the Redeemer of the gospel.
II. A brief notice will suffice for the second--where there has been loss of liberty. You will find, by referring to Leviticus 25:1-3.25.55, from which we have already quoted, that for the discharge of debt, or the procuring of subsistence, an Israelite might sell himself either to an Israelite or to a stranger. If he became the servant of an Israelite, there appears to have been no right of redemption--he must remain in his power till the year of jubilee. But if he became the servant of a stranger, then there was a case for the interposition of the goel in the law; for even after that he is sold he may be redeemed again--one of his brethren may redeem him. If the master were an Israelite, the servant was in no sense alienated from God’s people, and the exigence was not such as to warrant the goel’s interference; but if the master were a stranger, then the servitude became typical of man’s bondage to Satan. It might have been said, in a degree, to have withdrawn the servant from the congregation of Israel; and thus a case made out for the kinsman redeemer. The goel might come forward, and the servant might be freed. You will perceive at once that, in its typical character, this transaction is identical with that already reviewed. Is it not the Scriptural representation of man by nature that he is the servant of sin, led captive by Satan at his will? The Israelite could have sold himself to a stranger; and not one farthing could he advance towards bringing back his freedom. Must he languish, then, for ever in bondage? Must he groan for ever beneath the load of oppression? There advances a Mighty One, who proclaims Himself his Kinsman, a Goel made of a woman, made under the law, and bearing the likeness of sinful flesh; and He pays down in sufferings the price of redemption. He strikes the chain with His Cross, and it is broken into shivers; lie bids the prisoner come forth, and he walks in “the glorious liberty of the children of God.”
III. We proceed to the third case of the goel’s interference, a case which differs considerably from those already examined. It was the office of the kinsman, the goel, to interfere, not only when there had been forfeiture of inheritance, or loss of liberty, but also when there had been shedding of blood. If murder had been perpetrated, the prosecution and the execution of the murderer devolved on the nearest of kin to the murdered party. He must pursue the murderer; and if he overtook him before he reached the city of refuge he might take summary vengeance for the death of his relative. But if the goel were not at hand at the time when the crime was committed, it would seem that no stranger had right to arrest or follow the criminal. He betook himself unmolested to the nearest city of refuge, and remained there in safety until the cause was tried before the judges of the land. So that in this case, as well as in the others, the interference depended on the kinsmanship; nothing else could warrant a man in undertaking the office of the goel. And thus that distinguishing feature of a goel, which made him throughout the type of Christ--the feature of kinsmanship to the party requiring interference--stands out as prominently when blood was to be avenged as when land was to be redeemed or liberty regained. But wherein, you will say, in this instance, lies the typical resemblance between the offices of the goel and the offices of Christ? Created deathless and imperishable, was not the human race slain by Satan when he wrought up our first parents to an act prohibited by the words, “In the day that thou cutest thereof thou shalt surely die”? We suppose it to have been with reference to this slaughter of mankind that Christ said of the devil, “He was a murderer from the beginning.” It was clearly through the instrumentality of Satan that death, whether of body or of soul, gained footing in this creation; but if done through his instrumentality it may justly be ascribed to his authorship; and we account it most correct, therefore, to describe Satan as the great “man-slayer.” He it is that hath shed human blood; and all that vast mowing down of successive generations, which keeps the sepulchres replenished with fresh harvests of death, must be referred to that awful being who was “a murderer from the beginning.” And if we can thus find “the man-slayer” in Satan, cannot we find “the avenger of blood” in Christ? Who pursued the murderer? Who, century after century, unwearied and undiverted, opposed Himself in every quarter, by every weapon, to the shedder of blood, till at last, meeting him front to front, in one dread struggle, He took on him a vengeance that drew the wonder of the intelligent universe, and “through death destroyed him that had the power of death”? Who was it that, sorrowing over the wretchedness of a stricken race, “put on righteousness as a breastplate, and clothed Himself with zeal as with a cloak,” and then, equipped for the conflict, sprang forth to grapple with the assassin? Who but the Goel? who but the Kinsman Redeemer? (H. Melvill, B. D.)
It is good, my daughter, that thou go out with his maidens.
Instruction from elders
Old persons may be expected to have collected, by reflection and experience, more wisdom than the young, and should be ready to communicate instruction to those that need it. Let the young have their hands prepared for the service of the old, and the old may recompense them abundantly by the words of their mouths. Happy would it have been for Rehoboam and for all his people had he known what respect is due to the wise counsels of the aged. What numbers of young persons take rash steps in the journey of life which cannot be retraced, because they rather choose to follow the impulse of their own passions than to ask and follow the advices of those who brought them into the world. (G. Lawson.)
The acceptance of favours
“It is good that thou go forth with his maidens,” since he invites thee to glean in his fields. Although Naomi would not be troublesome to her relations, nor solicit favours from them when necessity did not compel her, she was not so high-minded as to reject a favour that was offered. Poor persons, who have seen better days, are sometimes too nice and scrupulous in receiving obligations. It is good to be as independent in the world as our circumstances will allow; but to be absolutely independent is impossible, and to have a spirit above the acceptance of favours, when our circumstances render the acceptance of them needful, is a proud resistance of our spirits to that Providence which manages our concerns and which manages them with wisdom and kindness when it lays our pride in the dust. (G. Lawson.)
That they meet thee not in any other field.
Gadding to be discouraged
“Maidens,” says one shrewd old commentator, “are the fittest company for maidens, among whom a chaste widow, such as Ruth was, may well be recounted.” Modesty is the life-guard of chastity. Let this suggest the wider rule that every one should have his chosen field in which to gather Christian instruction and wisdom; and that having chosen it, he ought to keep to it. The common shepherd whom you meet on the mountains will tell you that the wandering sheep never thrives. And further, that we ought to choose for our cherished companions and “inner friends” those who are gleaners in the gospel-field like ourselves. Wander, through want of vigilance or through secret preference, into the society of the idle, the ungodly, or the immoral, and you are on the enemy’s ground and in the midst of serpents and snares. You are out of the sphere of Divine protection whenever you walk into the circle of temptation without a call of duty; and there is no Davy-lamp in those noxious mines to prevent explosion, or to protect you from destruction. But the fellowship of them that fear God will show you how to be good, and will make you better. Even the lump of clay, when it was placed near the rose, according to the beautiful Persian proverb, caught some of its fragrance (Song of Solomon 1:8). (A. Thomson, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Ruth 2". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany