Handfuls on Purpose
by James Smith, 1943
RUTH, THE DECIDED PILGRIM. Chapter 1.
"Choose this day."
The book of Ruth, like the Song of Solomon, is full of grace and truth. It evidently belongs to the times of the Judges, perhaps to the early days of Gideon, when the Midianites prevailed and "destroyed the increase of the earth," thereby causing a "famine in the land" (Judges 6:1-6), which constrained this "certain man" to sojourn in Moab (v. 1).
Verse 2, "And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there." Famine drove them there, and Moabitish connection kept them there. "In the days of adversity consider"—for adversity will either drive a Christian nearer his God or nearer the world. If faith does not cling to Him the flesh will drag from Him. Did ever any believer make anything of going to Egypt for help? What did Lot make? or the Prodigal, or Elimelech? Naomi lost both her husband and sons through her journey to Moab. It was all right to go to Egypt for help when Joseph was there, because there was corn in Egypt; but now the true Joseph has been exalted to Heaven, and woe must come upon them that seek help apart from Him. Those who go to the world for help instead of to Him are likely to come back like Naomi a weeping widow bereft of all, or like the Prodigal, repentant in shameful rags.
"Then she arose" (v. 6). The Prodigal also remembered his father's house in the far country, and said, "I will arise." "Naomi heard that the Lord had visited His people, and given them bread," and this was gospel to the afflicted wanderer. She believed the tidings, and her faith brought her back. She heard, she believed, she acted. "Faith comes by hearing." The Gospel of God is good news from a far country. Man has wandered far from God. The good news has reached the world, that God has visited the people in the person of His Son, and given them bread—"The Bread of Life." Oh! that the weary, famished, broken-hearted wanderers who have heard the good tidings would, like Naomi, "Arise." Many have heard this blessed Gospel in the far country of alienation, but how few have believed the report; the majority seem content to dwell in Moab, and feed on the husks that the swine do eat.
"She went forth OUT of the place" (v. 7). There cannot be a returning without a separation. "Come out from among them, and be you separate" (2 Corinthians 6:17). If Heaven would be gained the world must be shunned; if you would eat at the Father's table the swine-troughs must be forsaken. "You cannot serve God and mammon" (Luke 16:13). Choose whom you will serve. "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in Him" (1 John 2:15).
"Surely we will return with you unto your people" (v. 10). This is the language of Ruth and Orpah, and seemingly both alike earnest. But those who would follow the religion of Jesus Christ must endure trial, and to stand must be decided. There are many Orpahs who, through adversity or excitement, run well for a time, but by and by they forsake, like Demas, because they love the world, and not infrequently do such sever themselves, like Orpah, with the kiss of pretended friendship. Rest, in the Moab of this present evil world, is what rebel man would like; but Matthew 11:28 is God's way.
"And Naomi said, Why will you go with me?" (v. 11).
The motives of every professed disciple must be tested. No earthly inducement is offered. No worldly preferment can be gained. "I am too old to have an husband." Undying love alone to the Person of Jesus will spurn every worldly temptation and go forward.
"Behold your sister has gone back" (v. 15). Why? Was not Bethlehem in her eye? Ah, yes! but Moab was in her heart. "Remember Lot's wife." There is no neutral standing; it must be either back to your people and your gods, or "your people shall be my people, and your God my God." It becomes those who name the Name of Jesus to depart from all iniquity. There may be mouth profession where there is heart division, and to trust in profession is to lean on a shadow.
In verse 7 Orpah went out; in verse 15 we see her gone back. The going back of one will always prove an additional trial to another; but see how Ruth overcomes the temptation. She said: "Entreat me not to leave you." What decision there is in the words and tone of her reply, and why so decided, and why did Naomi cease to try her? Because she was "steadfastly-minded" (v. 18). The double-minded are unstable. Her heart was fixed. Would that all the disciples of Jesus were like-minded. She could truly say: "One thing I do, forgetting the things that are behind, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling" (Philippians 3:14). And did she not gain the prize of the high calling when she was made the wife of the wealthy Boaz? "Let no man take your crown" (Rev. 3:11).
Every true believer in Jesus can use the language of Ruth in a deeper spiritual sense. They can say: "Where You go I will go, where You lodge I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, Your God my God." They can also add: "Where You die I have died, and there have I been buried (but now risen again, and nothing shall part You and me. Neither life not death, nor any other creature shall be able." Every Gospel hearer makes their choice either to go "out" or "to go back." What is your choice? "Will you go with this man?" was asked of Rebekah. Her reply was, "I will go." In Luke 14 they began to make excuse; in 2 Chronicles 30:10, "they laughed them to scorn."
"So they two went until they came to Bethlehem" (v. 19). Can two walk together except they be agreed? Here we are reminded of the two on their way to Emmaus. Naomi and Ruth walking together is a beautiful picture of our fellowship one with another on our way to the heavenly Bethlehem (house of bread) with the mutual understanding that naught but death can part us; but our walk with the Lord Jesus death cannot even interrupt. "Because I live, you shall live also" (John 14:19).
Bethlehem may represent the Church; so we read, when they came to Bethlehem all the city was moved about them. There was joy in the house when the Prodigal came back: there is joy among the angels when one sinner repents. This joy is real, because the Church is a family in nature as well as in name.
But they say in astonishment: "Is this Naomi?" (v. 19). What a change, few perhaps can recognize her. Ah! the far country experience is generally a sad one, the pleasant is turned into bitterness, plenty transformed into poverty, fullness gives place to emptiness. She has to confess, "I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty" (v. 21). So with the Prodigal. He gathered all together, but he came home empty, and if the servants did not know him, the father did, and that too a long way off. You remember how the man came back that went down to Jericho and fell among thieves.
If a Christian backslides down into the world, how can he escape being robbed of all he possesses, robbed of his peace, his joy, and his testimony, and when the Lord brings him back (for the Lord will bring him back), it will be in sorrow, shame, and in bitterness of soul, but yet Ruth may be with him, a child of the far country, an experience that will be a blessing to him in the future.
Now, Naomi in reviewing her willful wanderings, has to acknowledge that "the Lord has testified against me" (v. 21). He testifies against every backslider. Are you as near the Lord as you used to be? Is He testifying against you? Return, O wanderer, to your home!"
OUTLINE OF CHAPTER I.
I. A God-Dishonoring Choice (vv. 1, 2). Elimelech means, "My God is King." Why, then, should he go to Moab, and come under Chemosh, the fire-God of the heathen? When we fail to trust the true God we come under the power of the God of this world.
II. A Miserable Experience (vv. 3-5). Naomi lost her husband and two sons in the far country. Forsaking God for worldly advantages and material prosperity will surely bring soul misery.
III. A Soul-Moving Story (v. 6). "the Lord had visited, and given them bread." Such is the Gospel, the story of Divine supply for the needy.
IV. A Testing Time (vv. 7-13). "She went forth." Faith leads to definite action. Her action powerfully influences others. Ruth and Orpah are both deeply moved. "They, seeing your good works" (Matthew 5:16).
V. A Final Decision (vv. 14-18). The one follows no more, the other clings as for very life. The unstable kiss and go back. The steadfastly minded leave all and press on.
VI. A Humbling Confession (v. 21). "I went out full, but come back empty." Yes, we need to be emptied that we might be restored to faith in God. But, thank God, the way back is still open.
VII. A Hearty Welcome (v. 19). "All the city was moved." To come back to a life of simple trust in God is to come into the warmth of a home. Such a backcoming is always seasonable (v. 22)—the beginning of harvest.
RUTH, THE HUMBLE SEEKER. Chapter 2:1-12.
"Seek and you shall find."
"Naomi had a kinsman, a mighty man of wealth" (v. 1). Then why did she go to Moab instead of coming to her wealthy kinsman? Why do many in the time of trial forsake the Fountain of living water and go to broken cisterns? Boaz means strength. What foolishness it is then in the hour of weakness to forget the friend that is strong. Our kinsman Redeemer is a mighty man of wealth, and if I speak of strength, lo! He is strong.
Perhaps the spirit of independence and self-will restrained Elimelech and his wife from asking help from Boaz. They would shift for themselves rather than bow to beg; but what disappointment it brought, what a sorrowful failure it proved. It is always so if we are too proud to let our requests be made known unto God. He may allow us to follow our own stubborn way until we have spent all the strength and energy we had. Then shall we be glad to come back in our emptiness, and be thankful for the gleanings from the fields of our rich kinsman. "You have not, because you ask not" (James 4:2).
Ruth said to Naomi, "Let me go to the field and glean" (v. 2). Ruth may here represent an anxious soul in search of the truth. She has forsaken her old companions and her gods. "Left all," but she has not yet found rest to her soul; but like an earnest seeker, she is not ashamed to gird herself with the gleaner's apron. Those who are ashamed of the truth of God's Word are those who don't know its sacred worth. Many would be glad to get the corn of the heavenly Bethlehem for their souls, but they are ashamed to confess their anxiety by appearing as a gleaner or a seeker. Rather than seek they starve. They deem it prudent that no one should know their need. Ruth did not need to be driven to it, or even persuaded; she went because she desired to go. When any one is really anxious about their souls they will not need to be compelled to search the Scriptures.
Notice also that Ruth knew where to go to glean. "Among the reapers" (v. 3). This is the most likely place to find. Where is a troubled honest seeker most likely to find the needed blessing? Is it not by following after the ministry of those who are "reapers," those who know what to bring in, and what to leave out. As in Leviticus 19:19 some, heedless of this command, gather in all, they don't rightly divide the Word.
"Her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging to Boaz;... and behold Boaz came" (v. 3, 4). "The steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord" (Psalm 37:23). Many a seeker has been constrained to use language like this. "They happened just to light on a part of Scripture that talked about Jesus, and as they went on, wondrous revelations were made." Behold the Master comes and talks with them. While Ruth was gleaning Boaz appeared, and after saluting his servants (for there is mutual love and confidence between Boaz and his workers; he comes with grace in his heart and a blessing on his lips, and his servants bless him; so is it with the willing servants of Jesus, mutual confidence and mutual blessing) he inquires, "Whose damsel is this?" (v. 5) "The Master is come and calls for you" (John 11:28). His compassionate eye rests kindly on the anxious stranger. He draws near, he speaks, "Hear you not, my daughter" (v. 8). It is quite possible for one to be so busy seeking that they do not at first hear the voice of the Master. His words to the seeker are full of grace. "Go not to glean in another field, but abide here."
The law allowed her to glean (Leviticus 19:9), but only grace would say, ."Abide here." Here the Master has found the seeking one. The Good Shepherd seeks until He finds. When a seeking sinner is earnestly following the "reapers" and searching the field of revelation the Master is sure to meet him, and bless him with that grace that fills His heart, and constantly flows from His lips. His grace is good news to the weary gleaner. Grace came to Ruth by Boaz. He knows how to speak a word to the weary.
"Go not to glean in another field" (v. 8). The field of carnal reason will offer you only chaff and stubble. If you abide in Me, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you. Grace brought to Ruth far above what she could ask or think. Not only "liberty," but "protection." "He charged them not to touch her" (v. 9). Such is the privilege of all those who share this grace "wherein we stand."
Now, what effect had this manifestation of grace upon Ruth, did it make her self-confident and boastful? Oh, no!
"She fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground" (v. 10). When a weary, heavy laden soul sees the exceeding riches of His grace self is bowed to the ground. When Saul met the Lord he fell to the earth. It is not the wrath of God that leads us to repentance, but His goodness. The hammer of the law may break the icy heart in pieces, only grace can melt it, but it is easiest melted when broken. After being bowed down with a mighty sense of unworthiness, she asks, "Why have I found grace in your eye, I a poor stranger, you a mighty man of wealth" (v. 10). "Grace," and oh, such grace! "Why?" Just because He is gracious. It is a sure sign that grace is received and enjoyed when this question is so spontaneously asked, "Why have I?" There is astonishment that such unworthiness should be so highly favored. These are the first feelings of the new born soul. "Herein is love" (1 John 3:1).
And Boaz said, "It has been fully showed me all that you have done unto your mother" (v. 11). "I know your works" (Rev. 2:2). It has been fully showed Him (Jesus) all we, have done, whether good or bad. "Inasmuch as you did it unto these, you did it unto Me" (Matthew 25:40). Naomi was the friend of Boaz. Is it not comforting to remember that He knows all the little deeds of kindness we do, no matter how much the blinded world may misjudge our acts?
"Where He may lead I'll follow,
My trust in Him repose;
And every hour in perfect peace,
I'll sing He knows. He knows."
OUTLINE OF CHAPTER 2:1-12.
I. Her Great Humility (v. 2). In desiring to become a gleaner she shows her willingness to take the place of a poor one. But she would rather do that than go back to Moab. Her separation from her old life was complete. She is not ashamed to take the place of a seeker.
II. Her Good Fortune. "Her hap was" (v. 3). She may have gone out trembling, but the guiding Spirit of God was with her, as He is ever with those who have turned their backs upon the far country and its gods. It was while she was seeking that she met the mighty man of wealth.
III. Her Character Searched Out (vv. 5-7). The master considers her case. Nothing is hid from him. "It has been fully showed me," he said. "I know your works, and labor of love."
IV. Her Path Made Plain (v. 8). "Go not, abide here." All fear is now dispelled by the assurance of his grace. Truth-seekers in the field of His Word will find grace upon grace.
V. Her Grateful Acknowledgment. "She fell, and bowed, and said," etc. (v. 10) "Why have I?" Just because he is gracious. She could not plead that she deserved such grace, but she thankfully acknowledged it.
VI. Her Heart Comforted. (1) Comforted with the assurance that he knows all about her (v. 11). (2) Comforted with the assurance that he is in full sympathy with her (v. 12). He desired for her refuge and rest under the wings of Jehovah. All this our heavenly Boaz (Jesus) gives to them that trust Him (Matthew 23:37).
RUTH, THE SUCCESSFUL GLEANER. Chapter 2:13-23.
It now becomes the subject of grace to acknowledge the blessing received. Ruth said, "You have comforted me, You have spoken friendly (to the heart—margin) unto your handmaid" (v. 13). When the Master speaks He speaks home to the heart. He well knows the trouble is there; He came to bind up the broken-hearted. Ruth's confession of grace received just opened the channel wider for the outflow of grace, for Boaz said unto her, "At mealtime come you hither, and eat of the bread" (v. 14), the bread provided by Him for His servants. She now enjoys the privilege of the servant sitting at the Master's table, eating the Master's bread in fellowship with the Master's servants.
"She sat beside the reapers" (v. 14). No doubt these were seasons of rest and times of refreshing (Isaiah 28:12) to this weary laborer; and, moreover, "He reached her parched corn, and she did eat, and was sufficed" (v. 14)
How sweet to get the bread fresh from the Master's hand. This is, indeed, soul-satisfying grace. Many get their bread at second-hand, and are rarely satisfied. Ruth's was a hand-to-mouth existence, but it was from His hand to her mouth, the hand of the mighty man of wealth.
What a lovely little picture is here of those memorable times of blessing wherein our Lord and Master refreshes the hearts of His servants while they are bearing the burden and heat of the day. When He invites them to "Come and dine" (John 21:12), and they sit down with Him, and receive from His own hand those things which He has provided for them, "My God shall supply all your need" (Philippians 4:19). Yet although Ruth had experienced great grace, there is still more to follow, for it is all of grace from beginning to end. Salvation by grace, and the life of faith, are beautifully manifested in this touching story. Ruth offers no excuse, but thankfully receives all He gives. She does not dishonor Him by thinking He is giving too much. Many Christians dishonor the mighty Son of God by living more like paupers than princes.
"All things work together for good" (Romans 8:28). While Ruth is busy gleaning, Boaz is busy planning for her comfort and success. "He goes before" (Matthew 28:7). Boaz commanded the young men, saying, "Let her glean even among the sheaves, and let fall also handfuls on purpose for her." What words of grace are these. Gleaning among the sheaves is the privilege of those who have found favor in the sight of the Master; and what rich sheaves of promise we have in the field of His Word! But only believers have the liberty to glean here (Ephesians 2:12), and according to your faith be it unto you. Those also who have found grace in His sight find many an unexpected handful that has been dropped on purpose for them. And notice, these handfuls did not fall by chance, they were each a gift of his grace. So our blessed Master does not leave His servants to the caprice of blind chance, or to pick up what joy and comfort they may; but many a rich handful He drops on purpose to comfort and cheer them in their work. Gleaning among the greedy and the selfish is most arduous, miserable work, and such is the worldling, seeking satisfaction in other fields. But how different in the field where grace reigns! There the handfuls are dropped on purpose. If you go to glean on other fields be sure the handfuls will cease. Jesus says, "Follow Me."
Now we read that she "beat out that she had gleaned, and took it up" (v. 17). While gleaning in the field of Revelation, among the thoughts of God, how apt we are to gather also the chaff and straw of the foolish thoughts of our own evil hearts. The chaff and straw may increase the bulk, but they will not increase the value of what we may have gleaned. The wheat is precious in proportion as it is pure. So there is much need for the beating out, and this can be best done where Ruth did it—in the field. If, like her, we are more anxious for quality than quantity, then by comparing Scripture with Scripture the truth of God will be clearly beaten out. This is the fine wheat, take it up, and let the chaff go to the wind and the straw to the fire. Preach the Word; if you can't eat the chaff yourself, don't give it to another.
It is also worthy of notice that "she brought forth, and gave her mother" (v. 18) not only what she had gleaned, but also the prepared corn which she had received direct from the hand of Boaz (v. 14). She had received it all through grace, and she kept nothing back. If Naomi represents "pure religion," why does it lack so much? Is it not because many of the gleaners keep back part of the price, laying up for themselves while the kindred of Jesus are in need?
Then Naomi said, "Where have you gleaned today?" (v. 19). Ah! she had been with the "mighty man of wealth," and in the fat pastures where the handfuls are dropped on purpose. Ruth answered, "The man's name is Boaz." (v. 19). That was enough. When servants come out from the presence of Jesus to speak of His Name they come as those bearing much precious seed; there is a heavenly beauty and freshness about them, so that some may be constrained to ask: Where have you gleaned today? But the answer immediately follows: We have been with Jesus, the mighty God, the Prince of Peace.
Ruth went home and told her friend what great things Boaz had done for her and promised to her. Those who value the grace and fellowship of Jesus will also value the privilege of telling others what His grace has done for them. "Come and hear, all you that fear God, and I will declare what He has done for my soul" (Psalm 66:16).
OUTLINE OF CHAPTER 2:13-23.
Ruth went out empty, but she came back laden with blessing and beaming with joy. So much so that Naomi was constrained to say, "Where have you gleaned today?" (v. 19). The secret of her success lay in this—
I. She had been with a mighty man of wealth (vv. 1-19). Like Christ, Boaz had (1) a wealth of possessions; (2)a wealth of influence; (3) a wealth of grace.
II. She had been with a near kinsman (v. 20). She knew not of the near relationship, but he did. The kinsman had the right to avenge or redeem. Our Kinsman Redeemer came not to condemn, but to give His life a ransom for us.
III. She had been with one who understood her need. He spoke to her heart (v. 13, margin). This is always the manner of our Redeemer, for He knows what is in man.
IV. She had been with one who was not ashamed to acknowledge her publicly (v. 14). "She sat beside his reapers: and he reached her parched corn." He gave her a time of refreshing from his own presence. Ruth never says "No" to the gifts of his grace.
V. She had been with one who planned for her good. His eye was over all the field, and all were ready to do his bidding. So handfuls were dropped on purpose for her, "according to His will" (Romans 8:28). They are blessed indeed who come into touch with the unsearchable riches of Christ.
RUTH, THE RESTFUL BELIEVER. Chapter 3.
"Rest in the Lord."
Then Naomi said, "My daughter, shall I not seek rest for you?" (v. 1). Ruth had found favor in the sight of Boaz, and had tasted the exceeding riches of his grace, but she had not yet found the rest of unbroken fellowship. She was not yet in the yoke with Boaz by the marriage tie. "Take my yoke upon you, and you shall find rest unto your souls" (Matthew 11:29). This was the rest that now remained for Ruth. Union to the mighty man of wealth is the almighty remedy for her poverty. Are there not many timid believers who have rejoiced in the grace of Jesus but cannot yet call Him My Lord, My Shepherd?
The only way to abiding communion and uninterrupted fellowship is Ruth's way, "faith and obedience." She believed all that Boaz told her, and did all he bade her (v. 5).
"Behold he winnows barley tonight" (v. 2). This is not the reapers' work, they have gone to their rest. Now He comes whose fan is in His hand, He will thoroughly purge His floor. Every day's work has to be winnowed by the Master, and to the servants of Christ this is a source of comfort, for with the barley, if much labor, there is also much chaff. So they are glad to have this work purged before it reaches the garner, knowing that they are rewarded for the wheat, and not for the chaff, whose end is the fire because there is no life in it.
And Naomi said, "Wash yourself" (v. 3), and get you down to the floor. This advice given to Ruth was practical and common sense, for although she had experienced great grace at the hand of Boaz, yet in approaching him for higher favors still she must use every means possible to secure the blessing desired. And so should we in making our requests known unto Him. If we regard iniquity in our heart the Lord will not hear. First, be reconciled to your brother, "wash yourself," put away and incline your heart (Joshua. 24:23).
Naomi also said, "Mark the place where he shall lie" (v. 4), and lay you down at his feet, and he will tell you what you shall do. If we want to learn the will of our Master toward us we too must be willing to lie at His feet. Mark the promise He has given, for this is where the Master lies, and lay yourself down there and pull the skirt of His Word over you, and wait patiently for Him, for He will tell you what you shall do. Notice the three steps of Ruth to the feet of Boaz: (1) Washing. (2) Watching. (3) Waiting.
"When Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down" (v. 7). The master had sown the seed and carefully watched it from the blade to the ear. Now the harvest is past, the winnowing is over. His soul is satisfied, and he rests. Shall not our Divine Master also see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied when He shall with the fan of judgment winnow the mixed mass on the floor of the world? Shall there not be enough to satisfy His longing soul and make glad the heart of Him who went out from the home of His glory, bearing precious seed, and who sowed in tears? (Luke 19:41). Shall He be sorry that the chaff has been blown away? He shall rejoice over His people with singing (Zephaniah 3:17).
"And it came to pass that at midnight he said, Who are you?" (v. 8). Though He tarry, wait for Him. His voice is often heard at midnight by the waiting one, while others, it may be, are all insensible to His presence. The special blessing is often received through special waiting.
OUTLINE OF CHAPTER 3.
Naomi had great faith in their Kinsman Redeemer. Now that Ruth had put her case into his hands, she is told to "Sit still, for the man will not be in rest until he have finished the thing" (v. 18). See how Ruth entered into that blessed rest.
I. She casts herself at his feet (vv. 4-6). She had offered a request before (chapter 2:7), but now she offers herself. It was in the darkest hour of the night that his voice was heard.
II. She claimed him as her kinsman (v. 9). She claims the fulfillment of his office as redeemer in her behalf. It was a great demand for a poor stranger to make, but the mighty man of grace looked upon it as an act of kindness showed Him (v. 10).
III. She received his promise (v. 10-13). There was no reluctance in Boaz to perform the part of a kinsman redeemer. She asks, and at once the promise is given. He is faithful who has promised. Ruth does not make him a liar by guilty doubt.
IV. She rests in his work. She sits still now, leaving him to do the redeeming work. What else could she do? The work was not hers, but his. She had his promise that he would finish the thing. So she rests in faith. Rest in the Lord. Trust also in Him, and He will bring it to pass. (Leviticus 16:30, 31).
RUTH, REDEEMED AND CLAIMED. Chapter 4.
"Then went Boaz up to the gate, and sat down there" (v. 1). What to do? To intercede for Ruth. And success is sure with such an intercessor, being "a mighty man of wealth." He is a man of mighty influence, and must prevail. Are we not reminded here of Him who has ascended up on high, and is set down at the Father's right hand to make intercession for us who have been found of Him? He who delights in mercy, and who is able to save to the uttermost (to the end) all that come unto God through Him, seeing He ever lives to make intercession for them.
And Boaz said to his kinsman, "Redeem, for there is none to redeem beside you; and I am after you" (v. 4). This kinsman, like the law, had the first claim, but not the ability to redeem. The law is our kinsman condemner; but Jesus, like Boaz, is our Kinsman Redeemer. By the law is the knowledge of sin, not the forgiveness of sin. This we can have through the precious Blood alone, the great redemption price. By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified. The answer this kinsman gave was, "I cannot redeem." But Boaz, the mighty man of wealth, is well able to redeem, therefore what the law could not do "in that it was weak" (Romans 8:3), abounding grace has accomplished, for "He has redeemed" (Galatians 3:13).
Boaz said, "What day you buy the field, buy (it) also of Ruth" (v. 5). Ruth, as emblematic of the Church, is the real treasure in the field. The field is the world; the treasure is the Church, as in Matthew 13:44. And our heavenly Boaz, who was rich, for our sakes became poor, because He sold all that He had and bought the field, that He might secure the hidden treasure.
"And Boaz said unto the elders and all the people, You are my witnesses that Ruth, the Moabitess, have I purchased to be my wife" (v. 10). A few points are worthy of notice in connection with this Redemption.
I. He only could redeem. He had the right as kinsman; he had the power as a mighty man of wealth; he was also in the right condition to redeem, being alone; and now the redemption itself brings joy and satisfaction to his own soul. And shall not the redeemed Church be to the heart of her Redeemer a new source of eternal joy and satisfaction? He shall be satisfied. Christ only can redeem. His incarnation made Him our Kinsman, and gave Him the right to redeem. His divinity made Him mighty, and gave Him the power to redeem. We have redemption through His Blood (1 Peter 1:18, 19).
II. This was a Willing Redemption. Boaz did not grudge the redemption money. How could he when his heart was set on the purchase of Ruth? He willingly offered the full price, although that price included the gift of himself. So was it with Jesus, our princely Kinsman, who loved us and gave Himself for us, that He might give Himself to us. Nor did He hesitate to pay the awful price of sorrow, suffering, and blood, that He might redeem us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.
III. This was a Gracious Redemption. Boaz was not ashamed to redeem Ruth, the poor stranger. The prince of wealth stoops to lift the poor helpless one, who cannot redeem herself. He has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden; he has shown strength with his arm; he has exalted them of low degree, he has filled the hungry soul with good things, and now the soul of Ruth shall magnify her lord.
The wealthy Prince of Heaven is ashamed of none who look to Him for redemption. He says, "Look unto Me, and be you saved." He invites the wretched, the miserable, the poor, the blind, and the naked to look to Him and trust in Him. Yes; He stoops in His redemption work to lift the helpless from the horrible pit on to the Rock of Strength, to lift the poor and the polluted from the dunghill, to rank among princes, and to be co-heirs with Himself. He is not ashamed to call them brethren. So the gleaner, through grace, becomes an heir of His glory.
IV. This was a Public Redemption. There were many witnesses to the fact that the price was paid; this thing was not done in a corner, but in the presence of the elders of all the people. When Moses smote the rock, it was in the presence of the elders. The Rock Christ was also publicly smitten, they put Him to an open shame. He suffered without the gate. As Boaz went up to the gate to finish the work in behalf of Ruth, in the sight of many witnesses, so Jesus went up to Calvary and finished the work the Father gave Him to do in behalf of His people. Afterwards, when the price was paid, He rose from the dead; and as Boaz, when the bargain was settled, "plucked off his shoe," Jesus plucked off the grave-clothes as a token that the covenant was sealed and the inheritance redeemed; and the apostles say, "We are witnesses." He was seen of many.
V. The Purpose of this Redemption. "That the name of the dead be not cut off" (v. 10). In Adam all have died unto God; but in Christ, through His redemption, all that believe are made alive unto God. Thus spiritual seed is raised, according to the gracious purpose of God. "Boaz did not redeem Ruth to be his slave." He says, "Ruth have I purchased to be my wife," to be part of himself. What more could he do for her than that he had done? Communion has now culminated in union. Her service henceforth shall be that loving, ready service which is the glad outflow from unity of heart, and purpose, and interest, and in the self-sacrificing spirit of those who abide in the Master's presence, and who know that He hates putting away. You are not your own, you are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your bodies and spirits, which are His. It was the grace alone of Boaz that transformed the life and relationship of Ruth, and by faith she got access into this grace wherein she now stands and rejoices in hope.
VI. This was a Perfect Redemption. "Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife" (v. 13). The prophecy of Naomi has now been fulfilled. "The man will not be at rest until he has finished the thing" (chapter 3:18). Our Kinsman Redeemer shall likewise come and finish the thing by taking His purchased Bride home to be with Himself, for where He is there shall we be also. The day that Boaz redeemed Ruth that same day he took her. The present dispensation is the day of salvation (redemption) to the Gentiles. At the close of this same day our Divine Kinsman shall appear, and take His redeemed Church to Himself. So shall she be forever with her Lord and Savior.
When Ruth knew that Boaz had purchased her to be his wife, would she not be anxiously looking for him every moment to come and take her to be with himself? Is not this the present position of the Church? Working, waiting, watching, until He come who has redeemed us by His own Blood, for the Lord Himself shall descend, and when He shall appear we shall be like Him, we shall see Him as He is, and dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
May the Lord direct your heart into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.