As we listen to the book of Ruth, it is clear that life had not been easy for this young Moabite woman. She married into an Israelite family, who had gone to live in her native country. But before they had been in Moab ten years, great tragedy struck. Ruth’s husband, father-in-law, and brother-in-law all died. Her mother-in-law, who is filled with bitterness, decided to return to Israel, when she heard that God had come to help his people. And Ruth made the wise and godly decision to go with her. Ruth threw in her lot with God’s people, but still her life did not seem promising. For to the casual onlooker, Ruth was an outsider from one of Israel’s enemies. She lacked financial support. Her mother-in-law could not or would not help, and so Ruth went out into the fields to gather leftover stalks of grain—alone.
However, Ruth was not really alone, because God was with her. As we saw last week, the Sovereign Lord directed her into the fields of one of her relatives by marriage. His name was Boaz, a well-off, influential landowner. In the story of Ruth, a dramatic moment has arrived. Ruth and Boaz talk for the first time. What will happen?
Boaz gave a kind answer to Ruth’s request. As this scene opens, all was not sweetness and light for Ruth. On the one hand, she gathered grain so that Naomi and she could eat. But on the other hand, this was hard work, and from the coming conversation with Boaz, we can gain hints that she felt threatened, perhaps because she was a Moabite. She may well have wondered how successful her endeavor might be. Suddenly, everything changed for her good! It was in the path of faith that Ruth found blessing.
Ruth found acceptance. His kind greeting (“my daughter”) was a message of welcome. Boaz didn’t address her as an enemy or even a foreigner but as a family member. His words conveyed a sense of inclusion and reassurance. They might well have been the first kind words she heard since she arrived in Israel. It was like saying, “We’re glad you’re here; please make yourself at home.” This sense of acceptance ought to permeate every situation in every assembly of Christ’s people. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (Romans 15:7 NIV). In addition, his words were also an invitation. He told her to stay in his fields. From his emphasis, it seems that she might have been in the process of leaving. He quieted her fears. My brothers and sisters, we must realize that we need to make others feel very accepted. We might be familiar with handshakes and perhaps hugs in the local church we have attended for a while, but the hearts of guests can be very apprehensive. Perhaps they have never felt acceptance. Now certainly, you don’t rush up and give a guest a hug! But you can ask them if they’d like a cup of coffee, show them where to hang up their coats, or offer to sit near them.
Ruth received protection. Boaz gave Ruth a place in his community of workers. He did not offer to pay her, but he allowed her to support herself off his possessions. Yes, God’s law commanded this, but he let her know that he walked according to the law of the Lord (Psalm 119:1). He reassured Ruth that no one would abuse her verbally, physically or sexually in his fields. He sought to put Ruth at ease. She would not have to work looking over to her shoulder. She was in a secure place where she could enjoy gathering food. It is a man’s responsibility to make women and girls feel safe and secure (cf. 1 Timothy 5:2).
Ruth discovered compassion. Boaz gave Ruth permission to drink from the water jars used by his workers. This was very considerate care for a woman working hard under the near eastern sun; it would also save her time in getting her own water. This act of compassion reversed the usual social customs, because in that culture foreigners usually gave water to Israelites and women to men. So then, this would strike Ruth as very special treatment. He invited Ruth to take the first steps from outside the social circle of the community of Israel to inside at least the outer part of that circle.
Where are you in your fellowship of believers? If it is a gathering of true followers of Christ, you should feel welcome and being drawn closer. It can take people with little knowledge of community time to feel accepted, but the atmosphere of acceptance should be evident. Receive invitations to draw nearer as you perceive the grace of the good news of Christ in the assembly. If you are inside, reach out to people who are new to the group. Get out of your comfort zone to bring others into it. You are the messenger of Christ’s love to newcomers and to those who still linger on the fringes of your local church.
Grace and peace, David