Ruth 2
This month we are talking about the ebb and flow of blessing  and to that end last week we started reading the book of Ruth in the Old Testament.  We learned in Chapter One of the demise of fortunes for Naomi, how the tide of life had gone from her, but we finished last week with Naomi and her Moabite daughter in law Ruth returning to Bethlehem, and there was a hint that the tide of good fortune could be coming back in for Naomi.
We continue in Chapter 2: it starts with an aside, known only to the reader and not to the players in the story.  It is a clue to keep in the back of your mind as we read.
2 Now Naomi had a kinsman on her husband’s side, a prominent rich man, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. 
Back to the story: Ruth realised that her mother in law was stuck in this place of grief so she initiated change. She offered to do things to make life better and to give her mother in law hope.
Often when we have been beaten down by the circumstances of life, we curl up in a ball, assume the foetal position and suck our thumbs.
That was where Naomi was. Woe is me, God has dealt harshly with me, don’t called me Naomi (meaning pleasant), call me Mara (meaning bitter.
Contrast this with Ruth, who we will remember was also grieving. Her husband had died too. Her country woman and sister in law had gone back to Moab. She was (as the writer so often tells us) a foreign woman in a foreign culture.
Yet Ruth did not sit down and bemoan her circumstances. She got up and did something to alleviate the pain.
I was reading this week a book called Attitudes of Amazing Achievers and it said something that spoke into the difference between Naomi and Ruth:
“Life is not about what happens but what we think about what happens. It is not about how bad things are, it is about how we interpret our circumstances, and whether we decide to learn lessons or wallow in self pity.…”   The difference between Naomi and Ruth.
2 And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, ‘Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain, behind someone in whose sight I may find favour.’ She said to her, ‘Go, my daughter.’ 
She took the initiative and did something to alleviate some of their pain.
Gleaning is picking up the grains of corn that the harvesters have missed or dropped. The Mosaic law said that the gleanings were to be left for the poor. Leviticus 23:22
"'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. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the LORD your God.'"
Ruth was going to go to the fields and pick up what the harvesters had missed.
It could be a dangerous business especially for a woman who was there defenceless and at the mercy of the men in the field. Remember she was a foreign girl in the midst of working men. It was brave for her to have stepped out to do this.
3 So she went. She came and gleaned in the field behind the reapers. As it happened, she came to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.
You know about my belief in ‘it so happened”.  There are no such things as co-incidences, they are God-instances. God may not be mentioned in this story but he is there, leading and guiding.  Ruth may not have known of this El Shaddai of her mother in law but that same God was now guiding her steps, and guiding them to a place of deliverance.
It is when we start making movement that God directs our steps. 
Proverbs 16:9  says: The mind of man plans his way,  But the LORD directs his steps
When we sit and wait for God to act, we wait for a long time. But when we start moving God can alter our steps to move in the direction he wants us to go. So it doesn’t matter what you start out doing, God can change your direction whilst you are moving.  In this case, he directed her steps to the field of Boaz.
 4 Just then Boaz came from Bethlehem. He said to the reapers, ‘The Lord be with you.’ They answered, ‘The Lord bless you.’ 5 Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, ‘To whom does this young woman belong?’ 6 The servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, ‘She is the Moabite who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. 7 She said, “Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the reapers.” So she came, and she has been on her feet from early this morning until now, without resting even for a moment.’ 
Once again we are reminded that Ruth was a foreigner and was destitute – only the poor gleaned.  But she was diligent in what she did and was noticed by the foreman to be working really hard.  People notice what we do things of our own volition, people notice when we are polite, people notice when we work hard.  Our actions are a testimony. What do your actions testify to?
8 Then Boaz said to Ruth, ‘Now listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. 9 Keep your eyes on the field that is being reaped, and follow behind them. I have ordered the young men not to bother you. If you get thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.’ 
Was this indication that the tide of fortune was turned for Ruth, and therefore Naomi, her mother in law?
10 Then she fell prostrate, with her face to the ground, and said to him, ‘Why have I found favour in your sight, that you should take notice of me, when I am a foreigner?’ 11 But Boaz answered her, ‘All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. 12 May the Lord reward you for your deeds, and may you have a full reward from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge!’ 13 Then she said, ‘May I continue to find favour in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, even though I am not one of your servants.’
Again, people notice us when we do good.  Boaz had heard of this foreign girl who had come back with Naomi – it was the talk of the town, but the reports were not negative – they praised Ruth’s devotion and kindness.  We reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). Ruth reaped kindness because of her kindness.
14 At mealtime Boaz said to her, ‘Come here, and eat some of this bread, and dip your morsel in the sour wine.’ So she sat beside the reapers, and he heaped up for her some parched [toasted] grain. She ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. 15 When she got up to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, ‘Let her glean even among the standing sheaves, and do not reproach her. 16 You must also pull out some handfuls for her from the bundles, and leave them for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.’
Blessing start pouring her way. Not only was she allowed to hang around the fringes of the field, she could get amongst the workers and the workers were told to drop a bit her way as well. 
She was invited to the table of the workers. She an outsider ate with the workers.  
Think about the times. Jews did not eat with foreigners because they considered them unclean. So it is an extraordinary honour to be invited and accepted by the Jewish owner and his workers.
17 So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah {about 21 litres or a bushel] of barley. 18 She picked it up and came into the town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gleaned. Then she took out and gave her what was left over after she herself had been satisfied. 
It is now that that earlier stage direction that only we as the listeners knew about becomes apparent:
19 Her mother-in-law said to her, ‘Where did you glean today? And where have you worked? Blessed be the man who took notice of you.’ 
We can say “Aha, I know!”
2So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked, and said, ‘The name of the man with whom I worked today is Boaz.’ 20 Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, ‘Blessed be he by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!’ Naomi also said to her, ‘The man is a relative of ours, one of our nearest kin.’ 21 Then Ruth the Moabite said, ‘He even said to me, “Stay close by my servants, until they have finished all my harvest.”’ 22 Naomi said to Ruth, her daughter-in-law, ‘It is better, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, otherwise you might be bothered in another field.’
Suddenly Naomi recognised that God was in this, she recognised that God was intervening. She remembered the provision God made for widows in Scripture. God had instituted the concept of Go’el “kinsmen redeemers” – a relative who marries the widow of his brother to take continue his late brother’s estate and family line.  
Deuteronomy 25:5  When brothers reside together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her, taking her in marriage, and performing the duty of a husband’s brother to her, 6 and the firstborn whom she bears shall succeed to the name of the deceased brother, so that his name may not be blotted out of Israel.
Here was Boaz who fitted into that category and not only that but Ruth had caught his attention.
Dr Larry Crabb paraphrased Naomi’s response (in v 20): “the Lord has not discarded me. He has always been there, but now I see his kind heart at work. My pain is still real. I’ve felt it keenly for 10 years. But now…I’m beginning to recognise the shape of a dream that’s bigger than every dream I’ve so far valued”.
’ 23 So she[Ruth] stayed close to the young women of Boaz, gleaning until the end of the barley and wheat harvests; and she lived with her mother-in-law.
The fortunes of Ruth and Naomi were changing. The tide had was coming back in, their poverty was no longer an issue. They were back in Bethlehem and it lived up to its name “the place of bread”.
But there was still hurt and pain for both of them concerning husbands and children. That tide had not yet come in completely. But the tide was coming in.
The tides of our life bring blessing or trouble. Our response to those tides determines our outcome. 
Our faith in our future is determined by who it is that we trust.  God says I will never leave you nor forsake you. 
Next week, the next instalment of the story of Naomi, Ruth and now this new player Boaz…