If you want to understand the heart of God, study the book of Ruth. It is easily the number one book illustrating God’s compassion and provision toward his people. This book is set in the period of the Judges, which is a dark time in Israel’s history, eventually ending in civil war. Although we’ll soon study Judges in Jumpstart, it should be said that Israel participated in utter wickedness. As Ruth leaves her mother-in-law to go gather grain, her life and safety were in real danger.
Through God’s providential hand, Ruth ended up in the field of Boaz, a kinsman of Naomi. Notice the way Boaz greets those working his field as well as their response (2:4). Although Israel had become a perverse people, Boaz was a respected man of character. His outstanding character is also illustrated in how he treats Ruth.
The book of Ruth is ultimately a love story. Ironically, the wealthy, single, attractive Boaz had no presumption that Ruth would be interested in him. His actions towards her were not as a suiter, but as one who loved the Lord and lived out the heart of God, rather than simply following the letter of the Law. God is concerned for the powerless and downtrodden—widows, orphans, and foreigners who cannot defend themselves legally or otherwise. Some examples from the Old Testament Law are as follows:
You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry. (Ex 22:21)
When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. (Lev 19:9)
He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. (Dt 10:18)
When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. (Dt 24:19)
When it comes to harvest season, to be within the Law, Boaz only had to order his harvesters to stay away from the edges and not go back for anything dropped. He was not obligated to order his harvesters to intentionally drop part of the harvest for Ruth and the others, nor did he have to give her water, food, or cooked grain to take home to Naomi. He went above and beyond. Why?
Boaz did this for two reasons, first, he recognized Ruth’s character and the way she treated Naomi (2:11). He simply wanted to reward her for her kindness and loyalty. Secondly, however, more than the first, Boaz understood God’s concern for the plight of a foreign widow like Ruth. Not only does he pray for Ruth, “May the Lord reward your efforts! May your acts of kindness be repaid fully by the Lord God of Israel, from whom you have sought protection!” but he, himself, is the answer to his prayer. God provided for Ruth and Naomi through Boaz.
We can all get wrapped up in the do’s and do not’s of scripture, all the while forgetting to pay attention to God’s heart behind those commands. Sure, pray for people, but ask God in that prayer, “What can I do today to show these people God’s love?”
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate