1 Now Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. 2 And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” 3 So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech. 4 And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you!” And they answered, “The Lord bless you.” 5 Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” 6 And the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, “She is the young Moabite woman, who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. 7 She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.’ So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest.” 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 Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.” 10 Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since 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 to 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 The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” 13 Then she said, “I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.”
Shane Clairborne tells a story about a friend of his who had fallen upon hard times and was panhandling on a street corner. He made up a little sign, as folks begging on street corners sometimes will. His cardboard sign said this: “In need of grace.”
There is something compelling and convicting about that: “In need of grace.” I suspect I find that moving because I could make up a sign like that on any day of the week and just stand out on a street corner as well. “In need of grace.” The reality is that we all could hold signs like that because we all need grace. It is a basic human need, like the need for food or sleep.
Grace is the unmerited, undeserved mercy of God. R.C. Sproul put it well when he wrote:
It is impossible for anyone, anywhere, anytime to deserve grace. Grace by definition is undeserved. As soon as we talk about deserving something we are no longer talking about grace; we are talking about justice. Only justice can be deserved…God never “owes” grace….God reserves for Himself the supreme right of executive clemency.
I suppose that is what makes grace so fascinating, so amazing, and so beautiful: it can only be given to us by the God whom we have sinned and rebelled against…but it is exactly what He gives us in Jesus! He who reserves “supreme right of executive clemency” has granted it willingly and lavishly in Jesus.
In the unfolding of the story of Ruth, we now come to chapter two and the fascinating character of Boaz. As we consider Ruth 2:1-13, I am going to use Boaz unapologetically as an allegory for the nature of grace. Not to put too fine a point on it, I am going to argue that Boaz is a type or a depiction of Jesus. How Boaz treats Ruth is going to serve as an image for how Jesus treats us.
I say I am going to do this unapologetically for it seems clear to me that this is one of the intentions of the story: to depict the love of God for His people in and through the actions of Boaz toward Ruth. I will also point out to you that the first and last statements we hear from Boaz in our text involve the blessings and goodness of God.
4 And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you!” And they answered, “The Lord bless you.”
12 The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”
I want to argue that those two statements about the goodness of God form what is called an inclusio. An inclusio is a literary tool by which identical or similar words or phrases bookend a text. That is, a similar phrase or word or idea comes at the beginning of a text and at the end. In so doing, the inclusio informs what happens in the middle. Thus between the invoking of God’s name and blessings at the beginning and end of our text, Boaz demonstrates hesed, lovingkindness, and grace.
How Boaz treats Ruth is what grace looks like. How Boaz treats Ruth is how God treats us. Let us watch this beautiful scene unfold.
Boaz saw Ruth.
It will sound overly simplistic, but the first step of grace is when the one who is able to give grace sees the one who needs it. This happens in the beginning of our text when Boaz sees Ruth.
1 Now Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. 2 And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” 3 So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech. 4 And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you!” And they answered, “The Lord bless you.” 5 Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” 6 And the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, “She is the young Moabite woman, who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. 7 She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.’ So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest.”
Here is the setting for our drama of grace: Ruth, the foreigner, has come to Naomi, her mother-in-law’s land. She, Ruth, has no status. She has, from a human perspective, risked a great deal in coming and in rejecting her mother-in-law’s initial advice that she stay in her own homeland of Moab. She returns with Naomi instead. The two women are widows and are impoverished. Their husbands are deceased. They are in a precarious position to be sure.
But Ruth shows a courageous and industrious spirit. She says to her mother-in-law that she wants to go glean in the fields after the reapers. You will recall that chapter one concluded with the significant fact that Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem during the barley harvest. Thus, the famine had ended. Even so, you can starve to death next to a buffet if you have no means of receiving the food yourself, so Ruth, the foreign daughter-in-law, proposes that she go and glean.
Gleaning refers to the process of picking up the stalks and grains that the reapers accidentally dropped or intentionally left while harvesting the crop. It is important to realize that gleaning was viewed by Israel as a kind of welfare program for those in need. Thus, it was legislated by God in Israel’s laws. For instance, we read this in Leviticus 19:
9 “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. 10 And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.
In other words, those who owned and those who harvested fields were to leave some of the harvest on the edges and in the corners for the poor to glean. Deuteronomy 24 says the same.
19 “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. 20 When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. 21 When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. 22 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this.
The edges of the field were to be left unharvested and any of the grain that was dropped was to be left there for the poor. And this was what Ruth proposed to Naomi: that she go and glean behind the reapers of the harvest. Naomi gave her blessing and Ruth went to the field of Boaz, unbeknownst to her, who was a kinsman of Naomi’s late husband Ebimelech.
While resting, Boaz, who owned the portion of the field in which Ruth was gleaning, came along and began talking to his servant. While talking to him, he noticed this strange foreign girl.
5 Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?”
May I suggest that this is the very doorway to grace: when the one who has grace to give sees and acknowledges the one who is in desperate need of grace? Nothing happens without that: he sees her!
Perhaps you feel as if nobody at all sees you. The good news of the gospel of Christ is that God sees you. The amazing statement, “For God so loved the world,” means, at its most basic level, that God sees the world and has compassion upon it.
“Look at the birds of the air,” Jesus says in Matthew 6:26, “they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Yes. Yes you are. God cares for the little birds and the you are more valuable than the little birds. He sees you! He loves you!
Ruth certainly did not miss the significance of her being seen. Near the conclusion of our text we read this:
10 Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?”
She marveled that Boaz took notice of her. But he did! And God notices you as well!
Boaz included Ruth among his own people even though she was not originally his people.
Not content with merely seeing her, Boaz also drew her near to his own people.
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. 9a Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them.
Boaz tells her two things initially: (1) stay in my field and (2) stay close to my young women. Robert Hubbard suggests that Boaz’s invitation for Ruth to stay in his field with his young women “is not as unimportant a detail as it might seem.” He explains:
First, his instruction seemed to grant Ruth some sort of status in Boaz’s household…Certainly Ruth’s reaction suggested that she got more than she originally sought (see v.10)…Probably the most one can say is that Boaz granted Ruth an informal status as – again, by modern analogy – “most favored gleaner.” His workers would treat her as if she belonged with them because he said so (see vv.15-16)…As a follow-up to 1:14-17…here she stepped from “outside” Israel to the outer edge of the “inner” circle. Second, the instruction in effect placed Ruth under Boaz’s protection…
How wonderfully beautiful this! Ruth, the outsider, is welcomed into the company of Boaz’s people. Leon Morris agrees with Hubbard that this invitation to Ruth “apparently indicates some form of status in Boaz’ household.” Status was simply more than Ruth could have hoped for. Remember her vulnerable position: a foreign widow woman who did not know a soul in Boaz’s field comes and dares to seek the leftovers…and she is not rebuffed! She is welcomed.
The Church has often failed to welcome the outsider into the family of God. At times we have not been Boaz to Ruth. In Larry Eskridge’s fascinating history of the Jesus people, God’s Forever Family, he passes on one such example. Many of the Christians who were ministering to the hippy kids on the streets of San Francisco in the 1960’s turned to established churches in an effort to get them to help reach and house these oftentimes homeless and drug addicted youth.
One woman’s response to a request to house one of the hippie kids that they were trying to get off the street spoke volumes of the attitudes of many conservative church members. Evangelical Concerns board member Ed Plowman remembered that after he had made the request, the woman just stared at him in disbelief and blurted out: “Pastor— THAT between my clean sheets?”
How heartbreaking! What a tragedy the Church’s failure to welcome the outsider in is! That was not Boaz’s posture toward the foreigner Ruth. More importantly, that is not God’s posture toward us, who are naturally outsiders to the Kingdom of God. God does not shame us and reject us. God opens the door of the Kingdom to us through Jesus.
In Hosea 2, the Lord God speaks of a day of ultimate restoration when He will save His people and when forgiveness will conquer. The wording is fascinating.
21 “And in that day I will answer, declares the Lord, I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth, 22 and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel, 23 and I will sow her for myself in the land. And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’”
“I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’”
This is why I said earlier that I am unapologetic in presenting Boaz as a type or a foreshadowing of the Lord Jesus, for this is precisely what Boaz does: he says to “Not My People,” “You are now my people!”
This is what Jesus does for us. He opens the door to the outsider and to the foreigner, to the stranger and to the person in the back of the crowd who feels unworthy to be present. Jesus is in the business of spotting Ruths and welcoming them in. This is what grace is: welcoming the outsider in.
Boaz offered Ruth protection and security against those who would harm her.
But he did not stop there. Boaz next extended to Ruth his personal protection against any threat of harm.
9b Have I not charged the young men not to touch you?
This is a revealing and unsettling thing for Boaz to say. It implies, of course, that without his edict the young men would have possibly harassed or assaulted Ruth. This likely reveals a number of dynamics at play in the cultural setting of the story of Ruth: the status of women in this culture, the status of foreigners in this culture, and the status of the gleaning poor in this culture. To be a woman was risky enough because of the low view of women that many had at the time, but to be a foreign poor woman gleaning the fields of another was an extremely precarious position to be in. While the rights of gleaners were spelled out in the law, it is easy to imagine how tensions might arise between the paid field laborers and the poor seeking to gather up what was left behind.
Ruth, then, was in a profoundly vulnerable situation. It is therefore all the more moving that Boaz the landowner extended to her his protection. Daniel Block makes the fascinating observation that “Boaz is hereby instituting the first anti-sexual-harassment policy in the workplace recorded in the Bible.” He is correct. By identifying Ruth with his young women and by warning the young men not to harass her, Boaz brought her under his care and his mantle of protection, a most welcome gift indeed.
This, too, is the nature of God’s grace: it draws us under His protective wings. Boaz will invoke this very image a bit later in our text, but before he invoked the image he enacted the reality. He offered the protection that he prayed for. In doing so, He was a type of the protecting Christ.
In 1 Peter 5:8, Peter wrote, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” We, too, need protection!
There is a telling scene in Luke 22:31-32a in which Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”
Here we see Jesus acknowledging the pernicious intentions of the devil against the people of God but also His intention to stand with us and for us. In Matthew 22:37, Jesus proclaimed his desire to gather unrepentant Jerusalem under his wings “as a hen gathers her chicks.”
Make not mistake: the Lord Jesus offers you spiritual protection from the enemy who would destroy you. He loves His people and He will see us through to the end. He does not promise the avoidance of pain, but He does promise that He will never abandon us and that our inheritance is secure through His blood and resurrection.
Biblical grace is protecting grace, grace that assures the people of God that they will not be left alone before the vicious wiles of the devil.
Boaz went beyond mere provision to excessive generosity.
And grace is lavish grace. There is an interesting final gift that Boaz gave to Ruth, though it may not seem lavish on the face of it.
9c And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.”
Boaz saw Ruth. Boaz welcomed Ruth into the company of his people. Boaz offered Ruth his protection. And Boaz capped it off with an act of lavish generosity. He informed her that she too was welcome to drink the water from the vessels the young men would fill.
There are good reasons to see this as a surprising kindness. Customarily, women drew water for men and foreigners drew water for Israelites. In telling Ruth to take water with the Israelites that was drawn by his young men, Boaz was removing yet another occasion for Ruth to experience stigma and shame.
“What an interesting touch,” Hubbard observes, “a foreign woman who customarily would draw water for Israelites was welcome to drink water drawn by Israelites. Further, coupled with his granting of permission, the gesture marked a very generous, unexpected concession.” Katharine Doob Sakenfeld further notes that “although we do not know any details of the customs surrounding gleaning, it is quite likely that this was a special privilege not usually granted.” Furthermore Daniel Block sees this as “indeed extraordinary.”
Water is a glorious luxury to those who are thirsty. It is even more so to the thirsty one who has no inherent right to the water. It was an act of grace, this invitation to drink with his people. That Ruth recognized it as amazing grace can be seen in her moving response.
10 Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since 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 to 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 The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” 13 Then she said, “I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.”
Boaz’s words revealed the foreshadowing nature of his own offer of grace: “The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”
It is as if Boaz said, “I have shown you grace, yes, but God will complete the gift. He will give you a full reward.”
In response, tellingly, Ruth said, “I have found favor in your eyes…”
In bringing the attention back to Boaz, Ruth was not neglecting the goodness of God. Instead, she was recognizing that God’s goodness had already begun in and through Boaz’s treatment of her.
It is a powerful moment.
Church, hear me: the grace of God is a seeing, accepting, protecting, blessing grace! And it is found in Jesus.
In John 4, Jesus also spoke to a woman about her need for water.
13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Behold the lavish grace of God! We hope for crumbs and God gives us a feast in Jesus. We hope for a sip and God gives us a never-ending spring of water in Jesus. We simply want to crawl through the door of heaven and sit contentedly in the back corner but God gives us a room and a home in Jesus.
The grace of God! The amazing grace of God in Christ!
 Shane Clairborne, The Irresistible Revolution (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), p.245, fn.1.
 R.C. Sproul, Holiness (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1998), p.127.
 Robert L. Hubbard, Jr., The Book of Ruth. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988), p.156.
 Arthur E. Cundall and Leon Morris (2008-09-19). TOTC Judges & Ruth (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) (Kindle Locations 4023-4024). Inter-Varsity Press. Kindle Edition.”
 Eskridge, Larry (2013-05-31). God’s Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America (p. 39). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
 Daniel I. Block, Judges, Ruth. The New American Commentary. Vol. 6. Gen. Ed., E. Ray Clendenen. (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 1999), p.660.
 Robert L. Hubbard, Jr., p.160.
 Katharine Doob Sakenfeld, Ruth. Interpretation. (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1999), p.43.
 Daniel Block, p.660.