RUTH: THE LINK FROM JUDGES TO THE KINGS OF ISRAEL
(Continued from No. 9)
"So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife: and when he went in unto her, the Lord gave her conception, and she bare a son (Ruth 4.13)."
In our previous articles from the Book of Ruth we have attempted to show the many details and various circumstances that led to Ruth following after Naomi, her mother-in-law, to Beth-lehem-judah from Moab. All these diverse details and circumstances we attributed to the predestination of God. Had they not been predestinated we would be confronted with calculating the astronomical odds of chance bringing to pass the purpose of God in our text at the heading. As before noted, Ruth and Boaz were to be the parents of Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David the King. Since Jesus our Lord is often declared in Scriptures to be the seed of David (Romans 1.3,4), we cannot believe our God would leave such vital matters to chance. Neither do we have to.
We hope now to describe some few of the many benefits or blessings Ruth received after coming home with Naomi. These benefits also, as were the events that brought her to Naomi's home, were ordered in the wise purposes of our God, but we shall for this article place most of our emphasis on the results rather than the plan. We find these benefits in Ruth, chapter 2. A complete exposition, while desirable, is not at this time practical.
"And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband's, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz (Ruth 2.1)." One circumstance we have only briefly mentioned is God's sparing the life of Naomi. Her husband and two sons died and were buried in Moab; their benighted sojourn ended there. Naomi, however, was spared their sad end, and clearly for good reason. Boaz, this mighty man of wealth, was a kinsman to the family through Elimelech directly, and through Naomi only by her being the wife of Elimelech. With all the family now dead but for Naomi it seems clear that she had been spared to lead her son's widow, Ruth, to the divinely appointed rendezvous; otherwise the poor young widow, Ruth, would have been left to shuffle for herself. It is very probable that Ruth, without the influence of Naomi, would not have considered going to Beth-lehem-judah if she had been left alone. The role of Naomi, laid out by the hand of God to bring Ruth to Boaz, who would "raise up the name of the dead (Ruth 4.10)," was just as critical as any other event, great or small; thus all the details were predetermined to assure Ruth's final arrival at the field of Boaz.
Boaz, as we have learned, was a mighty man of wealth. How, are we to suppose, in that time of near constant servitude and oppression of Israel did Boaz attain this position of prominence and wealth? And, moreover, how did Boaz attain the unique station to raise up the name of the dead, to gain such rare posture among the feeble families of Israel, if not by God? Not many years after this period Hannah, the mother of Samuel, was empowered to utter the very words that in part explains it all. "The Lord killeth, and maketh alive; he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up (I Samuel 2.6,7)." Surely the Lord had taken the lives (killeth) of Elimelech, Mahlon, and Chilion, effectively removing their names from the tribes of Israel. However, through Boaz He would also make their name to live again. The name of the family of Elimelech had been brought down to the grave, yet the Lord would bring it up again. (Notice bringeth down and bringeth up. See Psalm 139.8ff) As well do we see that the Lord had made poor this wandering family, yet would make them rich through Boaz. He had brought them low and then lifted them up to heights not imaginable. Dare any say this was no more than an afterthought with God?
Yes; despite the ravings of free willers, God removed the lives of Elimelech and his two sons and at the same time placed Boaz in a position to fulfill the part of a kinsman. As the name of the family had, under God's superintendence, gone down to the grave, even so, under the same superintendence, would God raise it up in Boaz having a son by Ruth, the eligible widow. Just as the Lord had sent a famine some years earlier, the event that moved the family of Naomi to travel to Moab, thereby making them poor, now He blessedly raises up (maketh rich) Boaz. All things necessary to qualify him for the part of kinsman were as surely put in place by the hand of God as were the stars of heaven fixed in their orbits. And, as we hope to shortly see, Boaz was tempered to be just the compassionate character to extend all necessary favors to Ruth in due time.
Ruth's new life
"And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter. And she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers: and her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech (Ruth 2.2,3)." It is not straining the text to say that had Ruth been as some widows (I Timothy 5.3-15) she might just as well have been content to live off of Naomi's generosity. Rather, having been the very woman God would bless to bear a son in the royal line of Christ, she was a diligent woman; one that would seek to labor according to good custom and practice. There is with Ruth no "Must I go?" but rather she pleads, "Let me now go." Surely the ways of God in preparing all His people is past finding out.
Moreover, Ruth seeks to glean after him "in whose sight I shall find grace." Even in that dark period of Israel's occupation of the land of promise "a great light shined in darkness." While many of Israel, Ruth's late husband included, paid little heed to grace, it was among the first words to fall from her lips in her new life. We need not explain to the enlightened family of God where the widow Ruth learned of grace. Glorious grace, the favor of God to His chosen people, and this Moabite stranger has already learned the word and its application.
"And she went, and came." Ruth went out, not having any guide but faith in being led to the source of grace, and she surely was not disappointed in her expedition. She not only went; she came. The path of this just one was as the shining light; it shined more and more... (Proverbs 4.18). Could we really expect more for Ruth's adventure at that time? Having grace as a goal, she surely would come to that expected end, and so she did.
"...and her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech." The word hap only occurs once in the Bible; it is here applied to Ruth. Most Bible readers know the word means accident or fortune according to Strong's Concordance, and we cannot, nor do we desire to, controvert the meaning. Does this then give the lie to all we have previously said concerning predestination? Not at all; it rather lends support to it. Ruth did not accidentally come directly to the field of Boaz, nor was it a matter of good fortune, as regards the purpose of God. The text says it was her hap; it was not another's. We may safely conclude that what was purely accident or fortune from the viewpoint of man, was as certain to transpire as if Ruth had gone directly to the part of the field belonging to Boaz. So firmly are we convicted that those dear saints of God that have been brought by mercy and grace to trust in Him alone for all the events of life regard all the haps of their sojourn to be ordered of the Lord that nothing more needs be added by us here. Ruth's hap was God's blessed will for her to go directly to the field of Boaz. So she did.
Boaz and Ruth together
"And, behold, Boaz came from Beth-lehem, and said unto the reapers, The Lord be with you. And they answered him, The Lord bless thee (Verse 4)."
All the events and circumstances in the lives of both Ruth and Boaz up to this time culminate at this point in the field of Boaz. This was precisely what all the heavenly preparations had come to; the appointed meeting of the future parents of Obed and ultimately our Lord Jesus Christ. Who, among the children of men, could have possessed either the power, wisdom, or will necessary to have brought these two together? Further, who could have even imagined that these two, in particular Ruth, belonged in the royal line of Christ's ancestors? It is not probable, had human planning or effort been involved, that Ruth the Moabitess would have been selected for this position of great honor.
But, if sufficient searching be done, there is little likelihood that Boaz would have been selected by anyone either. Boaz certainly was not the product of parentage we might think fitting for so honorable a mission in bringing the Son of God into the world. That his father was a person of some prominence we cannot deny; but what of his mother, from whose womb Boaz was to come? Was she a woman likely to be considered fit for prominence in the royal line? "And Salmon begat Booz [Boaz] of Rachab [Rahab]; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth and Obed begat Jesse. (Matthew 1.5)." Rahab, of Jericho, fame was the mother of Boaz. And what of the character of Rahab? She was, among other things, a citizen of cursed Jericho, a harlot (Joshua 2.1), and a liar (Joshua 2.4-6).
It is not our intention to disparage the woman, for she was, after all, a blessed recipient of the same grace that cleanses all redeemed sinners. What we are rather showing is, normal human reasoning would likely pass her by for some other more suitable maiden; one more adapted to our carnal reasoning. But God's ways - they are past finding out.
"Then said Boaz unto his servant that was set over the reapers, whose damsel is this (Ruth 2.5)?" It is worthy of considerable attention that Ruth was not seeking after Boaz, neither was she displaying herself for any consideration other than being accepted as a lawful gleaner. However, she did come to the attention of the master of the field, Boaz. Observe too that Boaz did not go to her directly, even though he showed more than a passing interest; he rather asked his appointed servant for information as to the circumstances of this new gleaner. Surely glimpses of our spiritual Boaz, Jesus the Lord, may be seen here. It was the master of the field, not the poverty-stricken stranger that did the first seeking. The ancient prophet declared this truth thusly: "...I am found of them that sought me not (Isaiah 65.1)."
The impeccable character of Boaz is evident in his earnest, but cautious question, "Whose damsel is this?" While the Scriptures abound with records of vile conduct by those in authority, Boaz shines as an exception to such unholiness toward those under their authority. Boaz did not act as did David when he saw Bathsheba on the roof-top, and committed a series of atrocities to gain her favors. Rather, he seeks to learn her identity before considering any other avenues. "Whose damsel is this?" surely speaks volumes about Boaz. We feel it as well speaks much of how God prepares His chosen vessels for their appointed end. Boaz, the complete man and master, was nothing more than the finished product of the eternal will of our all-wise God.
It is very probable that upon seeing this lovely damsel and learning her identity (Verses 6, 7) that Boaz was made to reflect upon the trials and rescue of his own mother, Rahab, who was herself a stranger and an alien until united to his father, Salmon. The knowledge of those things that befell his mother would surely have had some strong influence on him at this time, thus showing again how even our disposition in any given circumstance is fashioned by the wise appointments of God in the lives of even our kin. We are fully persuaded that none but rank free-willers and God-haters could deny the superintending government of our God in every detail of our lives. If this is not absolute predestination it is absolute nothing.
"Then said Boaz unto Ruth, Hearest thou not, my daughter? Go not to glean in another field, neither go from hence, but abide here fast by my maidens (Ruth 2.8)." What a wonderful figure of Christ does Boaz here portray. He speaks to Ruth first of all of hearing! It is the voice of her new master commanding her to hear! He owns her attention with, "my daughter." Just so, the first work of our Lord with us is His voice calling us to hear Him, and none other. (The sheep do hear; they know His voice, not intellectually, but spiritually, and they, from the first moment of hearing Him, can never follow another.) Then Boaz sweetly directs Ruth to "Go not...but abide here fast..." Two blessed injunctions: go not - abide. Those of the living family that have heard the Lord say "Abide in me" know much of how Ruth must have felt naturally that happy day. She was experiencing in nature just what the saints of the Most High experience in grace when the True Vine associates His branches with Himself by revelation. It must be noted, however, that with Ruth, she was directed to "abide here" while the Lord calls his branches to "abide in." The distinction becomes clear when it is remembered that as yet, at that moment, Ruth and Boaz had not became one by union, whereas when Christ spoke to the living saints they had been united from eternity.
After receiving other sweet instructions from Boaz, Ruth reacted in a manner consistent with the temperament God had given her for the occasion. "Then she fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger (Ruth 2.10)?" This was no wanton woman one would expect to find coming from an heathen land. Ruth had none of that arrogance found in many fallen women; she fell on her face; she bowed herself to the ground! No seducing gestures; no suggestive actions! Ruth acted in a fashion complementing the actions of those in the company of the Master of all fields, our Lord Himself.
It might be argued that all this proves nothing. "Many may have done the same if given the opportunity," our objectors will say. But may and if prove nothing. The facts are, this is what Ruth did, and if eternity was at our disposal to argue the point it could not be proved that Ruth could have done anything other than what she did. Neither could it be proved that others could have done the same, for they did not. May we be content to rejoice in the record and leave Arminian speculation to their tribes of followers. Does not the whole of the history of Ruth to this point clearly show that God had fashioned every detail of her ordinary life to bring her to this very extraordinary moment? If not another soul on earth feels so, this poor writer is moved to acknowledge the power, wisdom and purpose of God in prostrating Ruth before Boaz. She could have dislodged the very throne of God as soon as she could have done other than fall down before Boaz, for impending union of the two was ordained in heaven.
And what of the first words to humbly, and probably tremblingly, exit from Ruth's lips? Most will surely recognize them as being very similar to those they uttered when first they fell before our Lord and Master. "Why have I found grace in thine eyes?" Oh! Why? Why me, dear Lord, a fallen sinner from this sin-cursed land, have I found grace? Let those who trust in creature merits ponder the words of Ruth. Is there a trace of self assurance or sense of worthiness in this Moabite? None whatever. Ruth is astounded that the very one that possessed the field where she sought crumbs would stoop to show her favor. To even pause to acknowledge her was sufficient to cause her to marvel. Reader, do you see yourself here?
"Why have I found grace in thine eyes?" Is not this just what took place when God delivered Noah from his wicked surroundings and placed him in the ark, there to be secure from the coming deluge? Yes, as Noah found grace, so have all others designated to be spared. This Ruth saw at once and thus proclaimed, "Why have I found grace in thine eyes?" She knew her condition. She did not deserve favor, but nevertheless she found it and was astounded. While some few have falsely suggested that we should never question God, as Ruth did Boaz, we consider their suggestion fully out of place. It is not that poor sinners question God's authority, wisdom, grace or mercy, for none called by a divine calling dare to act so, but they most certainly do question "why me?"
"Why have I found grace in thine eyes?" Many an amazed sinner has tortured their minds with a why me, Lord, but to that curious inquiry it must be responded why not me? The question why me implies that maybe the Lord has seen more worthiness in us than we had imagined. Be assured; there is no worthiness or merit in a single son or daughter of Adam. We answer the query why me with one word: choice. God has been gracious to whom He will be gracious. Any grace, or lack of grace, sinners receive or do not receive, is based on choice - God's choice - and not because of the character, good or bad, either of them may possess. One example of this can be found in comparing Paul and Judas. Could Judas say, "why me" because he was a devil from the beginning? No; and neither could Paul say "why me" because he was called to be the mighty apostle to the Gentiles. We, like they, must say why not me for the matter is resolved in the solemn words of our Lord, "Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight (Matthew 11.26)." If we are called to trials may we be blessed to say and feel, why not me, for surely the Lord does all things well. Conversely, if we are called to rich blessings, such as Ruth felt herself to receive from Boaz, may we also be blessed to say why not me, for blessings and trials alike come from the hand of our all wise God. Why not me is only another way of saying, "Not my will, but thine be done."
We leave the subject for now with the anticipation that we may be blessed to return to it again. Being so blessed, the response from Boaz to Ruth's questions and their further companionship will be examined.
J. F. Poole
Volume 10, No. 6