Thanks again to Jonathan Durke for this guest blog: part 2 of a study guide alongside a series on the book of Ruth.
Read Ruth 2:1-13
Naomi and Ruth have now returned to Bethlehem and have arrived at the time of the barley harvest. However, the two ladies have returned empty. They are empty of a home, empty of relatives and particularly empty of food. They were poor widows.
Yet, emptiness is healthy and helpful when it is God who does the emptying. As we shall see later in the story, it is God’s providence that has caused Naomi and Ruth to be emptied because He is about to do something remarkable in their lives.
- Reflect on a time when the Lord has emptied you or has permitted a seemingly bad situation but, on reflection, was His sovereign working in your life.
When the Lord is emptying you do not resist Him but embrace His activity in your life.
God does not empty us for no reason. He empties us so He can place something else within us. God is about to fill their lives with good things .
The barley harvest was a significant time for the Israelites. It was the time just of the Passover Festival – where Israel remembered their exodus from Egypt, when the Lord passed over their firstborn to kill the firstborn Egyptians and rescue them from slavery.
- Can someone remember and explain the key command God gave them for that night so He would pass over them?
- Discuss how is this event is an image of the Gospel?
As the Israelites were provided a redeemer for their children, a lamb, so Ruth now meets her redeemer in the form of Naomi’s relative Boaz. He was a relative of Elimelech, Naomi’s now dead husband.
Read Ruth 2:14-23
Ruth asked her elderly mother in law Naomi if she could go to the field to glean (pick up) the ears of grain, which was a right for those who were poor. Ruth begins to glean and just so happens to be working in Boaz’s field. Then Boaz appears, greets his reapers and comes across Ruth. He engages her in conversation.
As Boaz and Ruth talk we can begin seeing her trust in the Lord blossoming.
- Which verse might indicate Ruth growing faith in God and why?
Perhaps Ruth being in the fields of a foreign land, with alien people and conversing with a stranger was a difficult place to be in. Yet, in spite of all the change going on in her life and the hard circumstances, it was the right place. The best and safest place to be is where God wants you to be.
- Share a time that appeared difficult but on reflection you knew to be where God wanted you. Share why God may have wanted you there.
Aside from the core relationship in this narrative between Ruth and Boaz, let us look briefly again at the other key relationship in this story, Ruth and Naomi. These two had a remarkable friendship. They cared for each other. When leaving Moab, Naomi gave Ruth the opportunity to go back to her family and be protected and provided for. In Bethlehem, Ruth took the initiative to go out and work hard to provide for and protect Naomi. Ruth resolved to be dedicated in every way to Naomi all the days of her life. They had a culture of honour and respect towards each other.
- How might this kind of honour, respect and dedication be reflected to each other in our church family today?
- What would it be like for a single, foreign woman to go into the harvest field?
There is another relationship we can glean from the book of Ruth that may go unnoticed to our modern eyes. It is the relationship between the Church and the poor. The activity Ruth was engaged in as she gleaned from the fields was an activity instituted by God in the Law. Land owners were instructed to not glean the entirety of their property but to leave the edges alone. This was so that the foreign, poor and destitute might be able to glean, eat and not die in their poverty.
In New Testament times the early Christians, though not all Jewish, were instructed to continue with this principle. (See Galatians 2 v 10)
- How can you in your church continue to remember the poor?
The account of Ruth includes statements such, ‘as it turned out’ and ‘as it happened.’ This symbolizes the fact that nothing which occurred was manipulated by Ruth or part of a grand and intricate strategy. Instead, God guides her as she takes steps. The truth is we really know very little of what the Lord is doing all the time around us. While we are walking the path, the Lord is directing our footsteps and clearing the way. (See Proverbs 3 v 5 – 6)
- Are there areas where you are just having to trust God? … that he is, or will, work things out?
Ruth was prepared to work hard while God was working on her behalf. It is the comforting and inspiring revelation that God is sovereign and we are responsible.
Returning to Ruth and Boaz’s interaction, it is here that we see what Boaz is really like, or rather who Boaz is really like…Jesus Christ. Boaz foreshadowed what Jesus would do for us. Let us briefly observe from Scripture how Boaz reflects Jesus.
V.5 – Boaz noticed Ruth straight away. Jesus notices us all the time.
V.14 – Boaz provides for Ruth. Jesus provides all we need.
V.15 – Boaz protects Ruth. Jesus protects us by His mercy.
Boaz shows Ruth grace. v 10 “Why have I found such favour in your eyes?” Jesus showed us “favour” or “grace” – the undeserved kindness of God!
As true a reflection as all this was, all pictures fall short of the reality of Christ. Nothing is better than the real thing!
Boaz was what was called a “kinsmen or guardian redeemer”. (For more details on this law – see Leviticus 25:23-55)
- Care, protect and love each other as Ruth did for Naomi, Boaz did for Ruth and Christ has for you.
- Show respect to those who are older and those who have come from another culture.
- Remember the poor
- Trust Jesus as your redeemer who has knows us, provides, protects and shows grace to us.