Ruth was a Moabite, which means she came from the land of Moab. Do you remember Abraham’s nephew, Lot? One of Lot’s sons was named Moab and Ruth was a descendant from him. The Moabites were a pagan people – they had rejected God and worshiped idols.
Ruth had married an Israelite man. He and his family had come to her town because there was a famine in their town of Bethlehem. Ruth had loved him, and was broken hearted when he died. She was even more broken hearted when her father in law died and her mother in law, Naomi, decided to go back to her home land.
“Where you go, I go. Where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God. Where you die, I will die.”
With a surge of love and faithfulness Ruth committed herself to Naomi and to the God of Israel. The two widowed women journeyed back to the land of Bethlehem and arrived at the beginning of barley harvest.
The women needed to eat and Ruth took on the responsibility to collect food for the two of them. With tummy grumbling with hunger she settled on a bountiful barley field. Oh how easy it would have been to have reached out and picked from the ample grains that grew across the vast field. But no, Ruth knew that would not be right. It was not hers. Ruth swallowed all pride for the practical need of belly filling, and fell in line with the other poor, displaced people. The leftovers. The forgotten pieces. That was all she had claim to. Slowly her collection of barley grew in her apron as she picked up the pieces of barley that the field pickers dropped.
As only God can orchestrate, Ruth had chosen to pick in a barley field that belonged to Boaz. Boaz, the strong, wealthy son of Rahab and Salmon.
When Boaz walked out to his field to check on things he noticed this foreign woman, Ruth, picking up the leftovers in his field. He asked some of his workers who she was and why she was there and his heart was moved for this foreign woman. Boaz was very kind to Ruth and told her to only come and pick grain from his field and to drink water from his well when she was thirsty.
Overcome with gratitude Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him for his kindness, “But why me?” she asked him, looking around at the other poor people that were also picking up the leftovers. “Why are you showing this kindness to me?”
“I have heard your story. I know you left your family and the land that you know. I know you came here to a people you do not know with traditions that you do not understand. The Lord will repay you, and a full reward will be given to you by Him under whose wings you came for refuge.” Boaz’s voice broke as he finished this line and he left Ruth to go back to her picking.
Refuge. His bedtime stories had been filled with stories from his mother about God being the God of refuge. She had told him often the story of God saving her from Jericho – how she waited in her room while the city around her crumbled, and he had often imagined it to be like a baby bird nestled safely under its mother’s wings while all around was danger. A safe refuge. Boaz admired Ruth for making the choice to leave all she knew to follow this God of Israel, he knew the challenges that came with such a decision.
When Ruth went home at the end of the day Naomi was thrilled with the day’s report. “Oh Ruth, do go back to his field to pick!” And throughout all of barley season Ruth continued to pick from Boaz’s field.
When barley season came to a close Naomi told Ruth that she must see what Boaz’s intentions were. “Ruth, you must go uncover his feet and lay down by them. Then wait and see what he says.”
Under the cover of darkness Ruth slipped out to where Boaz was sleeping. She pulled his blanket away from his feet and laid her own body up close. “Wha…? Oh, Ruth, is that you?” Boaz whispered in a sleepy confusion. “Why are you here?”
With quiet confidence Ruth simply replies, “Take your maidservant under your wing.”
Boaz’s heart leaped – this was a declaration of love and dependence.
Boaz provided refuge, strength and help for Ruth.
Boaz and Ruth were married and they had a baby named Obed. Obed had a son named Jesse.