Life Lessons: RUTH: A Woman of Character (Chapter 2)
As we pick the story back up from last week, we find Ruth and Naomi settling into their new life in Bethlehem just as the barley harvest was beginning. Now remember, just because they’ve gone back to Bethlehem doesn’t mean their troubles have ended. Yes, they are now around Naomi’s friends but they still don’t have someone to truly care for them so it’s up to them to figure it out and being the young one Ruth decides to go out and glean in the surrounding fields.
Gleaning, or picking up the leftover grain, was a form of welfare for the needy. People were able to travel from field to field during the harvest season to collect little bits of grain that could then be turned into flour they could use for bread. While gleaning was definitely a provision it was in a very humbling way. There was no hiding that you were in need and your pride would definitely take a hit but had Ruth not been put in that position she would not have been in the path to meet Boaz. This hard step was leading to an amazing future but Ruth didn’t know that yet.
So, who is this Boaz? Well, he was the owner of the field that Ruth started gleaning in and he took notice of her from the beginning. He was concerned with her safety and asks her to stay in his fields so that she can be looked after but unbeknownst to Ruth he also instructs his workers to leave behind extra grain for Ruth and to not scold her if she does something wrong. (These actions are definitely out of the ordinary for this time but even more so for a foreigner.) Ruth works diligently all day and when she goes home with her grain that night Naomi is overwhelmed by all that has occurred and inquires as to whose field Ruth spent the day in. When she finds that this kindness was shown by Boaz, she instructs Ruth to heed his words. Also, note that the word kindness used to describe Boaz’s treatment of Ruth can be translated as loyal love. He was treating her with the utmost respect and honor long before she became his. Ladies, take note...His respect was not contingent on her affection.
Not to get too much into the cultural practice but Boaz is Ruth’s Kinsman Redeemer, which at the time was a next of kin who had the right to “redeem” a lady (or land, etc.) and thus a family by undertaking marriage and provision for the family. (This insured the family line didn’t die off.) What I love about Ruth and Boaz’s story is that this obviously becomes an afterthought or detail in Boaz’s eyes. I think reading between the lines you can truly see he respected and cared for Ruth in a way he did not have to do, regardless of a family obligation. This relational interaction led me to several truths...
Truth number one...Ladies, we need to recognize a godly man and understand that he is trustworthy and to be respected. No one is perfect but if you know a man is talking to God daily, seeks godly wisdom for his decision making and treats you as the daughter of God, then you can most likely trust what he tells you. Boaz was obviously recognized as a fair and just employer but also a godly and honored man. Naomi didn’t seem shocked at all by his kind treatment of Ruth. This is something you should be on the lookout for in your life and I don’t just mean romantically.
Truth number two… We need at least one Naomi in our lives. A strong, godly woman to come alongside us and do life. This is a woman who has godly wisdom and holds to the same standards as you. I am very fortunate to have several Naomis in my life and I have leaned on them so many times. I have learned in recent years that we need women in our lives that can give tough love AND trustworthy advice. I call this group of ladies my council and they sometimes tell me to do things I’m scared to do or to step out in faith and I often follow through not because they are pushing me into it but rather because I trust their judgement and understanding of my life. These are the same women that I can be completely vulnerable before because I know they are safe. They are the ones I ask to pray for me. The ones with which I share my fears and concerns. I know they will hug me when I’m sad. Go through my pro and con list when I meet a man. Laugh with me when I embarrass myself and help me create a taco bar beyond belief so I can make an epic Facebook post and take all the credit but here’s the thing, if they are NOT godly women who are chasing the same truths that I am, I can’t trust their judgement. I can step out on that limb because I know they won’t lead me astray. I also take very seriously any critiques they have of my life, attitude, habits and decisions because they are speaking from a place of truth. (Side note: Not everyone is a safe harbor for your conversations and lots of trouble can be stirred up by one person. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom and grace when choosing your council and the ability to discern who is truthful and trustworthy.)
Truth number three… Ruth’s character as a good woman preceded her. We know this because of Boaz, himself. When he is speaking to Ruth asking her to stay in his fields for her safety she is moved by the favor she has found and expresses this to him. He replies, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband…” (2:11) This reminds me so much of the story of Rebekah and Isaac. A servant is sent to find Isaac a wife with the idea that she would need to do certain tasks as a sign that she was “the one” but they were also signs that she was a good woman. By showing kindness to this servant she set herself up as the mother of Jacob/Israel and ultimately Christ. We see the same with Ruth. It is obvious that she is acting out of love and compassion because she surely didn’t choose the easy option. Her character will show up again but I think it’s such a great reminder that our choices can have far reaching effects.
Considerations for the Modern Ruth:
Do you recognize and appreciate the godly men in your life? How do you think YOUR character represents you to the world? Do you have a Naomi and can you be a Naomi to other women?
“Lord, please surround me with Naomis and allow me to be a Naomi in the life of others. Help me to recognize godly wisdom versus wisdom that claims to be from you. Allow me to discern truth and be a godly representative for you. Thank you for providing godly mentors for every season of my life.”