In chapter 1 we have seen the admirable expression of Ruth's faith. Indeed, it is admirable, for such is the character of all that comes from God. Did not Jesus Himself admire the centurion of Capernaum who through faith acknowledged his own unworthiness and the omnipotence of the Lord's word to heal his servant? Chapter 2 now shows us different characteristics of this faith and the blessings that grace brings to it.
Up to this point Ruth's faith was resting on the work of grace which God had done on behalf of His people: but her faith must have an object, a personal object, and it is impossible for her not to find it. Ruth does not yet know the mighty man spoken of in verse 1, but she hopes to meet him on the basis of grace. Listen to her speak to Naomi: "Let me, I pray, go to the field and glean among the ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find favor" (v. 2). Surely this land of Israel where God had visited His people to give them bread would also have some ears of grain for her. Although she is poor and without rights she knows she can count on the Lord's resources. Her path is clear, as faith's path ever is, but she does not choose her path of her own will. We often incline to consider the result of our own thoughts or the fruit of our natural hearts' desires as the path of faith, whereas faith never acts except in full dependence on the Word of God. Ruth consults Naomi and Naomi tells her: "Go, my daughter!" Certainly God will guide her in this path. His providential grace brings her into the field of Boaz.
Boaz, a member of the family of Elimelech who had died, takes his place, so to speak. Naomi has a protector in Israel: a wealthy and powerful head of her family. "In him is strength" to restore this poor, completely ruined house. He bears the name of one of Solomon's future temple's two pillars (1 Kings 7: 21), erected by the king as witnesses of the establishment of his kingdom, the glorious period that would follow the afflictions of David's reign. Boaz comes from Bethlehem, calls out the blessing of the harvest to his servants (Ps. 129: 8), and immediately notices Ruth in the midst of the reapers. Just so, grace goes before faith. When asked, the servant who is set over the workers bears witness to the Moabite woman. She came poor and humbly supplicating, he says, set to work immediately, and has allowed herself scant any rest. Just like this servant, so the Spirit of God today bears witness to the character and activity of our faith. "Remembering unceasingly your work of faith," the apostle writes to the Thessalonians. Faith takes pains and does not rest until it has gathered in the blessings that God scatters upon her pathway.
What a touching beauty is in this first meeting of Boaz and Ruth! The words falling from the lips of this wealthy man resound like heavenly music in the ears of the poor stranger. Will he reproach her for intruding? Who could think thus of him? No, "Hearest thou not, my daughter?" he says. In my very field, and not in another I desired you to be and desire you to remain. Let nothing induce you to leave it. - He associates her with his maidens. She need not fear anyone; has he not given orders concerning her? And just as Boaz's field offers her nourishment, so there she also finds what is needed to quench her thirst. How many are the favors here heaped up for Ruth. But wait: this chapter has yet fresh gestures of grace in store for her and the following chapters others yet. They multiply and grow greater until they reach the bounds of eternity! What should Ruth say to all this? If faith is already admirable, how much more admirable is He who is faith's object. What majesty united with deepest condescension, yes, with almost maternal tenderness are seen in him! He towers up like the pillar of brass in Solomon's temple, he stoops to the most minute and delicate attentions of love, a love that has nothing in common with human passion, a love full of holy, merciful majesty, raising up its beloved object to himself after having consented to stoop to her level. This is Boaz, this is our Jesus!
The understanding of the resources of grace does not come to us in a moment. These resources are ours according to the measure of our faith's activity. Bit by bit Christ opens to us the enjoyment of the infinite treasures of His heart.
The first thing Ruth does is to fall on her face and bow down to the ground. Should she not be thankful when Boaz expresses himself in this way? You who profess to know Christ have never truly believed if the words of His mouth have not bowed you down at His feet. Oh, what dried up hearts and arid souls you have, you rationalists of our day who dare call yourselves Christians but judge the word of our Lord instead of receiving it! You fools who proudly exalt yourselves in His presence and sling out your criticisms and cutting remarks at Him, criticisms really more insulting than the blasphemous curses of uncouth soldiers. You ought to cast yourselves down, overwhelmed, at His feet! Go, get back, persevere in your pride until judgment reaches you; Boaz's fields and His promises and His person will never be yours!
In turn, Ruth opens her mouth. "Why," she asks, "have I found favor in thine eyes, that thou shouldest regard me, seeing I am a foreigner?" I love this "why" that demonstrates the deep humility of this young woman: "I have no right." she says as it were, "to such favor." She is not concerned with herself except to confess her unworthiness, but how she appreciates him! "You took notice of me when I was nothing to you!"
The servant had given witness to the poor Moabite woman; now the master himself declares what he has found in her. She was not standing before him with her righteousness as Job once did before God. Her experiences had begun where Job's experiences ended, and he before whom she was bowing down takes it upon himself to bring her character to light, for he knew everything. "It has fully been shown me, all that thou hast done to thy mother-in-law since the death of thy husband, and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come to a people that thou hast not known heretofore." In Ruth Boaz sees the work of love, the fruit of faith; her care for Naomi, a type of the afflicted, distressed people of God, had not escaped the master. Yes, this poor daughter of Moab was a true Israelite in whom there was no guile. Also as a true daughter of Abraham she had left her land and her family and had made her way to a people unknown to her. Boaz sets his seal of approval on such love and faith; then he offers her a reward: "Jehovah recompense thy work, and let thy reward be full from Jehovah the God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to take refuge!" The reward is not faith's object, but rather serves as its encouragement.
Ruth answers as Moses once did in Exodus 33: 13. Boaz's praise does not puff her up; she is well aware that all is grace and she desires to find yet more grace. She recognizes his authority over her and declares herself to be his unworthy servant. Then he singles her out for honor by inviting her to his feast. Ruth sits at Boaz's table! What a mark of favor for this poor foreigner! "She ate and was sufficed, and reserved some." Isn't this scene similar to that of Jesus multiplying the loaves?
The fellowship that Ruth has just found at Boaz's table does not cause her to forget her task. On the contrary, she draws new strength from it for fresh activity with more abundant and more blessed results than ever before. In order to be effective our work must flow from what we have received for ourselves and it will be all the richer in results the greater the measure in which we have personally enjoyed the Lord's presence.
A heart nourished and refreshed by Christ can never be selfish. Is it not written: "Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7: 38)? Ruth thinks of Naomi, and when she returns she brings her the remainder of her meal and that which she had gleaned. Likewise, the believer devotes the fruit of his labor to God's people and seeks their prosperity. How few Christian there are who realize these things! What importance does the prosperity of Christ's Church have for those who prefer their own church or their own people and their own gods? God's poor, afflicted people do not appear to be worth caring for to these indifferent hearts. They may perhaps insist on the work of the gospel before the world, but a heart that is in fellowship with the Lord does not sacrifice the one for the other. The apostle Paul was just as much a minister of the assembly as he was a minister of the gospel. He loved the Church which Christ in His love had purchased with His own blood. It was far from Paul to love a sect or a church of his own invention; he knew only Christ's Assembly, and he was jealous as to her with a jealousy which was of God, so that he might present her to the Lord as a chaste virgin.
Naomi's heart is full of gratitude toward the man who had shown regard for Ruth when he might have rejected her as a foreigner. What sweet conversation is this exchange between these two God-fearing women! Ruth speaks the charming name of Boaz, and Naomi responds by giving thanks to Him who had not left off His kindness toward the living and the dead.
What a touching character Naomi displays! Ruth shows more the initial enthusiasm of young faith, whereas Naomi reveals the experience of a faith matured in the school of testing. Young Christian souls, don't heedlessly pass over the experience of those who have known the Lord longer than you have. Naomi helps her daughter-in-law to know him better: "The man is near of kin to us, one of those who have the right of our redemption." Experience always goes hand in hand with intelligence. Naomi is aware of what is becoming in Israel; she knows the order that is to adorn God's house. The counsels of Christian experience always bind souls to the family of God and to Christ just as Naomi's counsels attach Ruth to those who surround Boaz. These counsels, however, also separate her from every other field (v. 22). These other fields might well afford just as many ears to the gleaners, but they would lack the presence of the one to whom Ruth's heart was henceforth indissolubly bound as well as the peace and joy that he dispenses. The experience of those who have grown old in the path of faith is precious, for such experience promotes a walk in holiness among the young! This voice of experience also will ever understand how best to give thanks, for it knows the grace and kindness of the Lord in the past as well as in the present. Ruth cleaves to Boaz and dwells with her mother-in-law.