Unexpected Faith.

And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.”

So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. And she took it up and went into the city. Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also brought out and gave her what food she had left over after being satisfied. And her mother-in-law said to her, “Where did you glean today? And where have you worked? Blessed be the man who took notice of you.” So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, “The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz.” And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.” And Ruth the Moabite said, “Besides, he said to me, ‘You shall keep close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.’” And Naomi said to Ruth, her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, lest in another field you be assaulted.” So she kept close to the young women of Boaz, gleaning until the end of the barley and wheat harvests. And she lived with her mother-in-law. – Ruth 2:14-23 ESV

In verse one we were introduced to Boaz and told that he was a kinsman or relative of Elimelech, Naomi’s deceased husband. The Hebrew word the author used is mowda and it refers to a close relative. This is important, because in verse 2o, Naomi refers to Boaz as “a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.” And the Hebrew word she used is ga’al, which refers to a close relative who holds the responsibility of acting as guardian and protector for those family members who might be in need.

…to act as kinsman, do the part of next of kin, act as kinsman-redeemer.  (“H1350 – ga’al – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 30 Dec, 2016)

This provision was established by God in the Mosaic Law.

If your brother becomes poor and sells part of his property, then his nearest redeemer shall come and redeem what his brother has sold. – Leviticus 25:25 ESV

It also extended to care for widows. In the book of Deuteronomy we read:

If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead man shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. – Deuteronomy 25:5 ESV

So the kinsman-redeemer was an individual who was required to play a significant and God-ordained role in the lives of those in need. He was to be their advocate, redeemer, protector, surrogate, avenger and benefactor. Strong’s Concordance provides a comprehensive description of the role.

…by marrying brother’s widow to beget a child for him, to redeem from slavery, to redeem land, to exact vengeance.

So when Ruth returned to Naomi and informed her of all that had happened and about her surprising encounter with Boaz, Naomi is thrilled. For the first time in a long time, she was receiving a bit of good news. While she firmly believed that God was the one who had brought all the misfortune on her (see Ruth 1:13), she was willing to see that God was the one who had guided Ruth to the field of Boaz. This had been a divine encounter.

The author goes out of his way to remind his readers that Ruth was a foreigner and not a blood-relative of Boaz.

And Ruth the Moabite said, “Besides, he said to me, ‘You shall keep close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest,’” – Ruth 2:21 ESV

This is significant. Ruth is a non-Israelite. Even though, as a Moabite, she was a distant relative because she descended from Lot, the nephew of Abraham, she would have been considered a Gentile, a non-Jew. She was not a worshiper of Yahweh. Her people were seen as enemies of the Jews. This makes Boaz’ treatment of her all that more remarkable. He was showing her undeserved, unmerited favor and kindness. But at the same time, he had been impressed with her unconditional love for and commitment to Naomi. He had earlier told Ruth:

“All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” – Ruth 2:11-12 ESV

Ruth, a Moabite, had been willing to leave her homeland and her family in order to care for her mother-in-law. She had stepped out in faith, casting her lot with Naomi and her God, relying on Him to meet their needs and provide for their future well-being. She could have stayed in Moab and remarried, beginning a new life. But she had told Naomi, “wherever you go, I will go. Wherever you live, I will live. Your people will become my people, and your God will become my God. Wherever you die, I will die—and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I do not keep my promise! Only death will be able to separate me from you!” (Ruth 1:16-17 NLT).

There is something familiar in Ruth’s actions. They are reminiscent of what Jesus saw in the lives of the Gentiles among whom He ministered. When Jesus had encountered a Roman centurion whose servant was paralyzed, He marveled at the man’s faith. The centurion fully believed that Jesus had the power and authority to order his servant’s healing and it would take place. And Jesus told His disciples:

“Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” – Matthew 8:10-12 ESV

Ruth’s faith in God was seen in her commitment to place all her hope for her future in His hands. She was a Moabite widow living in foreign land with her nearest relative being another widow who had no capacity to care for her. And yet, Ruth got up in the morning and headed to the fields, determined to work, but also dependent upon the favor of God.

Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor. – Ruth 2:2 ESV

And God had come through. He had led her to the field of Boaz, her kinsman-redeemer. God had chosen to show favor on Naomi through Ruth, the Moabite. When Naomi, a Jew, had lost all hope, her Gentile daughter-in-law had stepped up, casting all her worries and cares on the God she had committed to follow. And God must have looked down from heaven and said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith” (Luke 7:9 ESV).

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