RUTH: THE LINK FROM JUDGES TO THE KINGS OF ISRAEL
(Continued from No. 10)
"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)."
Our last article concluded with Boaz and Ruth meeting for the first time. Ruth had gone out to "glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace (Ruth 2.2)." Nor was she disappointed. God led her directly to the field of Boaz as surely as He calls the sun to rise in the East. This is no bold assumption. It could not have been otherwise, for Ruth and Boaz were to be the parents of a son, Obed, who was to be numbered in the family of Abraham, David, and Jesus the Christ.
Ruth was still young enough to bear children and it is probable she was sufficiently attractive in appearance to draw to her the eye of Boaz. Her deportment and public conduct was also such that she would not repel prospective suitors. Despite years of grief and widowhood, coupled with the weariness of the recent journey from Moab, Ruth was yet ambitious and strong enough to set out to whatever field the grace of God would bring her. Thus she finds herself in a surprising, yet profitable, conversation with Boaz, the proprietor of the field wherein she began to glean. Faith of the least measure could not fail to see in all these seeming incidental events the very hand of God bringing to pass His will and purpose. It would not be amiss to say Ruth was fashioned by our heavenly Potter to be exactly what she was, and when she was, as well. This lovely vessel of mercy had been prepared, beginning in the mind and purpose of God, continuing on in her birth and existence in Moab, her removal to Beth-lehem, to that very day, in every detail to be perfectly suited for the affections of Boaz. There was not the least possibility of her failing to fully win his affections. Moreover, the record fully supports this view; she surely did win over Boaz.
Boaz did not, at that time, know Ruth, but he did know some few things about her - things that stirred him to inquire further. He had no sooner arrived at his fields than he asked his servant, "whose damsel is this?" The servant informed Boaz that she was "the Moabitish damsel who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab (Ruth 2.6)." Afterwards, when Ruth asked him why she had found grace in his eyes, this great master of the field apprises her of the extent to which his interest had carried him. The awareness Boaz had of Ruth's conduct and activities were unfolded to her in noble tones. "And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore (Ruth 2.11)."
When Naomi and Ruth returned to Beth-lehem from Moab it is recorded "that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi (Ruth 1.19)?" By simple calculation we learn that Boaz was not present among the crowd or he would not have asked about Ruth when she began to glean in his field. He may have known about her but he did not know who she was until informed. Boaz did not remain uninformed long though, for as mentioned above, he answered Ruth with, "it hath been fully shewed me, all that thou hast done..." indicating he was very well apprised of her character and decorum. There is nothing to indicate that the servant of Boaz "fully shewed" him all Ruth had done, and in the brief time between the conversation with his servant and his interview of Ruth, Boaz did not seemingly have an opportunity to converse with others at length about these events. If his trusted servant could supply only limited intelligence, how can it possibly be expected that the daily gleaners in the field of Boaz would be aware of much more personal data involving Ruth? So then, where did Boaz suddenly obtain such detailed information regarding this lovely Moabite maiden - the woman soon to become his wife and the mother of his son?
"The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord (Proverbs 16.1)." In the Old Testament we find numerous accounts of God revealing His will to those chosen for specific goals. Particular examples can be found in the lives of Abraham, Moses, David, Hannah, Elijah, Elisha, many of the kings and prophets and countless others. It should not be strange then to accept the evidence we have - the knowledge Boaz had relating to Ruth most probably came directly from God. And why not? Surely God had prepared the heart of this mighty man of wealth to feel affection and growing attachment toward Ruth. Can we believe God would predestinate the birth of Obed and leave all the necessary emotional inclinations of Boaz towards Ruth to his momentary whims? Moreover, when she asked why she had found grace in his eyes, Boaz had a ready answer of the tongue. He could tell her in positive language that "it had been fully shown him." The meaning of the word fully conveys to us the suggestion that God only could fully show Boaz these things.
"So what; do not young men and women meet all the time and fall in love?" the reader asks. Yes, indeed they do, and this is exactly why we go into such detail in this beautiful story. We hope to show that this is not simply an ordinary meeting of prospective lovers. The evidence has thus far been overwhelming. God predestinated and controlled the myriad events to the last detail that brought Ruth to Boaz and brought Boaz to desire Ruth. The calculated odds that all these details could simply fall together as random happenings and then accomplish what God could accomplish, with nothing more than His will, are beyond discovery. Although none can believe it but those blessed by God, the evidence is there for all to acknowledge. Every needful matter, great or small, significant or obscure, common or rare, was fitted by the eternal will of Him Who cannot do wrong to bring to pass the union of two total strangers from dramatically different backgrounds. For what? Among other things, so that this child Obed, of the royal line of Christ, might be born. Nothing could fail, and only predestination could insure the coming to pass of each event. And - it may be added - nothing did fail.
If it be admitted then that God brought this union to pass, just as He eternally predestinated it, why then would it be thought a thing incredible for God to do so in other cases? If in other cases, then why not all cases? Rather than this being a doctrine fraught with puzzling difficulties, this is sweet food for the soul of every heaven-taught child of the everlasting kingdom. This holy truth is a sure ballast for our little ship when we are tossed about on the troubled sea of life. Even the heathen king Nebuchadnezzer was compelled to attest to this universal rule of our most high God in matters great and small. Hear him - just as God taught him: "And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou (Daniel 4.35)?"
Balaam too saw as much when he would hire himself out to Balak and curse the children of Israel. It was soon enough made clear to him that God, and God alone, determines the course of all events, past and present, great and small, good and evil, and that there is no divination against the will of God. "God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good (Numbers 23.19)?" If then God is pleased to reveal such profound truths to the wicked of this world, how much more shall His elect be enlightened in these ways of eternal providence? And do not these truths afford us much comfort when contemplating such affairs as the weaving together the untold number of needful details to bring Ruth and Boaz together? Do they not afford us the same soul comfort when thought is given respecting all other unions of all other men and women? The Spirit-applied understanding of the predestination of all things both calms the troubled breast and fills the soul with humbling praise to Him Who doeth all things well. May He bless us to pause and say, "Oh, joy!"
Boaz told Ruth, "It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore." In our last article we mentioned that Boaz must surely have reflected on his own mother, Rahab, when encountering Ruth, the Moabite stranger. Like Ruth, Rahab too had forsaken her native land and dwelt among a people she had not known previously. Ruth, however, had lost even more. The husband of her youth was dead; her sister-in-law, Orpah, declined to sojourn with her and Naomi; her land of nativity, her gods, and her family were now but memories of the past. Besides all this, Ruth was reduced to gleaning among the sheaves in hope of daily bread. Surely all this affected Boaz. Clearly it did, but this must be examined a bit closer.
Why should we assume, simply because Boaz did become drawn to Ruth that her circumstances and character were the cause? Many a poor girl has been in similar straits and found no favor. Rather, they are often exploited. No! Boaz was drawn to Ruth, just as she was, because God had eternally willed it to be so. Lovely as it may be to ponder, this was no "one-in-a-million" deal Ruth happened to fall into. This was nothing other than the fulfillment of the path Ruth and Boaz were appointed to walk in, as expressed by Ryland:
Sovereign Ruler of the skies!
Ever gracious, ever wise!
All my times are in thy hand, -
All events at thy command.
His decree, who form'd the earth,
Fix'd my first and second birth:
Parents, native place, and time, -
All appointed were by him.
Simply stated, Ruth had asked a question: "Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger?" The answer of Boaz to this plain question was equally plain: "It hath been fully shewed me." Unless God had fully shewed Boaz, where could he have learned the many details he did to give this plain answer with such force and firm conviction? May we be blessed to raise our Ebenezer here, for surely, "Hitherto hath the LORD helped us" to see His predestinating hand.
"Then she said, Let me find favour in thy sight, my lord; for that thou hast comforted me, and for that thou hast spoken friendly unto thine handmaid, though I be not like unto one of thine handmaidens (Ruth 2.13)." The contents of this descriptive supplication abound with spiritual parallels well known to the children of God. Ruth begins her response pleading for favor. She does not plead in the manner of the Ashdod tongue. This is language the saints of God love to hear - all of them have used it themselves. We may well be wary of those who come among us with any other tune in their mouths. Those brought low, as was Ruth, can raise their pitch no higher than an humble petition for favor. There is nothing of justice or merit in their hearts or voices. "Favor, my Lord" is the anthem of the redeemed. May we ever rejoice in the clear sounds of the voice of truth, for it sounds forth the melodies of heaven itself.
"For that thou hast comforted me." Blessed it is when the pilgrims and strangers bound for the land of promise find comfort. Having once experienced the favor of Boaz, Ruth would plead for more, for she was thereby comforted. Likewise, when sheep are made to lie down in green pastures, they find the rod and staff of the good Shepherd to comfort them. Those like Ruth, travelers from a distant land, are greatly humbled when they are favored with comforts, but true comforts come only from Him whom the Lord has appointed to be our comforter. None of Ruth's fellow-gleaners could have spoken words of comfort to her soul that Boaz expressed had they employed the words of the combined languages of the world for days on end.
"For that thou hast spoken friendly unto thine handmaid." No harsh rebuffs; no terse commands from Boaz. Ruth is not staggered by a gaggle of "do this" and "don't do that" language commonly uttered by the ordinary taskmasters of this world. Boaz's initial words to the newly-arrived gleaner were warm, consoling, and inviting. The voice of Boaz also carried the feelings of his heart to Ruth's ear as clearly as a thousand pictures. It has often been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but who can deny the transporting feelings contained in just a brief but friendly comment? When our Lord speaks "peace be still" to our hearts we need not seek further evidence to be satisfied of the friendly gesture. This was the manner Boaz employed with Ruth, and to borrow from a current expression, "She got the picture."
"Though I be not like unto one of thine handmaids." Ruth was well aware she was different. She dared not compare herself to those of longstanding in the field of Boaz. Surely the Lord had adorned her with the suitable garments of a lowly and meek stranger. Neither was she ashamed of those garments or reluctant to confess her sincere feelings. She had no aspirations beyond the favors of the master of the field. Who, when reading this simple Bible story, can fail to see in Ruth the distinguishing marks of the work of grace? Few of the saints of God will fail to see in her confession much of their personal feelings as well. Like Ruth, those born of the Spirit know much more of what they are not than what they are. They know they are not like others and could not be if they desired. As the hymn pointedly expresses the inmost feelings of redeemed sinners:
I am a stranger here below,
And what I am tis hard to know;
Boaz further instructs Ruth, and his servants as well, concerning her welfare. Ruth finishes out the day gathering barley from among the sheaves and the handfuls of purpose. It is not difficult to believe she also gleaned considerable from her new-found store house of pleasant emotions. She had probably not experienced such feelings for many years. When the day was past, Ruth returns to the city and her mother-in-law, Naomi. We leave for another article the matters that passed between them upon Ruth's return. We expect, the Lord willing, to further amplify on the kinsman-redeemer and how Boaz fulfilled that position. Here we sum up briefly one aspect of the many events vital to the coming together of Boaz and Ruth, the parents of Obed.
All of the human family trace their progenitors back to Adam and Eve. Thus, if either Adam or Eve, or both of them, had, for whatever reason, died before bearing children, what must have become of us? The answer is simple yet fundamental: we would not, we could not, exist; not if our lineage began with Adam and Eve. It requires no spiritual wisdom to comprehend the consequences of any failure on the part of our first parents to bear children. None of us could have ever been born had there been a failure respecting the initial births in the human family. Happily, we learn from the Word of God that our heavenly Father had willed the certainty of the birth of every member of the human family. "And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth (Genesis 1.28)."
It is clear to us that there can be no real dispute here. If the development of the human family depends on the success of its first parents to bear children then there is also a vital dependence of equal proportion in every subsequent branch of the family that began in Adam and Eve. For example: had Esan succeeded in his plot to kill Jacob. then where would that leave those we call the twelve tribes of Israel? Answer: they could not have existed. The line of Jacob would have been cut off - interrupted and destroyed - even before it began. Even so if there was any interruption, of any sort, in either of the branches of Adam's family that produced Boaz or Ruth, the obvious consequences would be the impossibility of their births. What then of Obed? He could not have been born if a single link in the family chain was broken. So then all that God had purposed in Obed hinges on everything that could possibly affect his ultimate birth. On and on we might go into the infinite number of events either directly or indirectly involved in bringing this one child into the world. For our limited capabilities, the field is endless. Think of it! Only one so-called untimely death, for whatever reason, and the whole plan of God would be impeded. May He be praised that His glorious predestination secures the whole of these earthly events - from the first to the last. This is so fundamental it is difficult to think that anyone could question it, but they do - if not actually then by faulty deductions.
Volume 11, No. 1