Sacrificial Love that Gives
(Ruth 2:14–23 ESV) “And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.”
So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. And she took it up and went into the city. Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also brought out and gave her what food she had left over after being satisfied. And 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.” So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, “The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz.” And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by the LORD, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.” And Ruth the Moabite said, “Besides, he said to me, ‘You shall keep close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.’” And Naomi said to Ruth, her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, lest in another field you be assaulted.” So she kept 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.”
Last week we were looking at the examples of Ruth and Boaz living out loving-kindness. Ruth with Naomi, and Boaz in his care for them both, being God’s agent in providing for their needs. We saw that True Love desires the very best for others, it takes risks, and protects. This week we’re going to see more about true love, that hesed loving-kindness of God and how we can live that out. Our passage today has us looking at two scenes. First we’re going to see Boaz interacting with Ruth and his workers over the noon meal. In this we’re going to find our first point, The difference between sacrificial love and legalistic tithing.
Then after Ruth is done working in the field, she goes home and has an interesting conversation with Naomi. From that conversation we’re going to witness our second point, sacrificial love restores life.
Sacrificial Giving vs. Legalistic Tithe
(Ruth 2:14–17 ESV) “And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.” So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley.”
The morning of this work day has now passed, and the noon mealtime has arrived. Last week we saw Boaz breaking down the social barriers between himself and Ruth and his workers and Ruth. In verse 8, he addresses her as “my daughter”. Remember here that as a female immigrant with no men in her family, she is at the bottom of the social ladder, and as a clan leader, Boaz is closer to the top. But when he called to her in verse 8 and said, “my daughter” he brought her up that social ladder to stand right next to her. What we’re about to look at in this passage is Boaz literally putting his money where his mouth is. He has already told her that she is welcomed in his field, that she’s going to be safe there, and that she will have a sense of community there. But Ruth still feels like an outsider. She’s still the beggar on the edge actually scraping together what gets missed to try and meet an insurmountable need. I imagine them breaking for lunch, and Ruth keeps going. She came with nothing but an empty shawl and so there’s really nothing more for her to do than to continue to glean, and try to catch up to where the reapers are when they stoped for lunch. But Boaz invited her to come and eat.
The words for “he passed her roasted grain” here are literally Boaz gave her by hand grain. He didn’t ask someone else to do this servile work, he did it himself. He welcomed her into his community and stooped below her and became her servant, again, bucking the social trends. Christ did that for us. He became human kind for our sake to serve us and take our punishment.
Boaz didn’t give obligatorily, he gave generously. (Ruth 2:14 ESV) “And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over.” That’s what sacrificial giving does. Thats what some of you have done to help with our lighthouse expansion project, helping us to pay down the mortgage of the house we purchased last fall as quickly as possible. We are commanded to bring in our tithe into the storehouses, but there is a way to abide by the law that is not an art of love, and there is a way to let our obedience be an overflow of our love for the Father. Boaz knew the law and that he was supposed to let people glean in his fields, just like it says to in the law, but he goes above and beyond the requirement of the law and sacrificially gives. That’s the difference between legalistic tithe and sacrificial giving. Sacrificial giving says “it is my joy to give, even if it hurts my bottom line”.
Look then at what he does next. Ruth gets up having eaten all she can and having more left over. She wraps up her leftovers and heads back to the fields and then (Ruth 2:15–16 ESV) “Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.””
Boaz is such a good leader here. Ruth’s just left, and he huddles everyone else together. The other workers, the men and the women together, and he hatches a plot. He’s putting them all in together and expanding the sense of community. “Ok, here’s what we’re going to do, cutters, just get sloppy, you guys don’t miss a beat, but I want you to kind of let things go a bit. Leave the edges standing even a little bit more. Women, as you’re gathering what they’ve cut into sheaves, don’t gather everything, actually, even after you’ve collected in the sheaves, pull some extra out from the bundle and leave it for her. Don’t say anything to her, this is going to be fun. Lets make it so she gathers so much she can barely get it home! She’ll feel so blessed by this, we’re going to make God smile today, and we’re going to blow her away.
Boaz makes sure that his workers aren’t going to embarrass Ruth. The word here for rebuke her could also be translated cause her to blush. Don’t embarrass her. Let’s make this a game. How well can we do our job, and also make sure the shawl she brought is stretched thin its so full of grain?
These workers who a minute ago might have felt that Ruth was a moocher and a blight on society now are in on the play. They’re going to overwhelm Ruth with care. How many of us would like to be overwhelmed with care? That’s what this body is about. I remember a family in need that the church rallied around in a very difficult time. They found themselves in need of some pluming and light cabinetry work on their house. Their place wasn’t anything special, but a little TLC would have made things a bit better. All it took was one person. One person said, I want to make a difference here. I want to bless this family. That one person rounded up a few professionals and cast the vision for what could be in this family’s little home. Those professionals got a few volunteers and you know what they did? They fixed that small plumbing and cabinetry issue... by building them a new kitchen. Funds were gathered, time was donated, and they blew this family away with the generosity of the church.
Legalistic giving says I’ll do what I have to. Sacrificial giving says, it might hurt, but the joy is worth it. That’s what Christ did for us. That’s our example to live up to. “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” (Heb. 12:2–3 ESV) Boaz is doing that here and is another example of sacrificial giving.
Ruth then takes what she’s gleaned after putting in what sounds like a full 12 hour day. The sun has set now and I’d be ready to go home. Not Ruth. She still puts in more hours getting her gleanings down to just the heads. The winnowing will happen later.
“So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. And she took it up and went into the city. Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also brought out and gave her what food she had left over after being satisfied.” (Ruth 2:17–18 ESV)
Looking at the footnotes and commentary we see that her hard work and the generosity of Boaz through his workers has paid off. They accomplished their mission. Ruth take home about 3/5 of a bushel of grain, which according to one commentator would have been equal to about 2 weeks wages. 2 weeks in one day, that’s amazing! Granted, it was probably a 16 hour day by the time she got back to the house with that load, which would have weighed just under 40lbs. Ruth had to haul that 40lb load all the way back up the hill into the city Sacrificial Giving Restores Life
Next we see Ruth and Naomi having a conversation, lets read the last part of the passage together.
(Ruth 2:18–23 ESV) “And she took it up and went into the city. Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also brought out and gave her what food she had left over after being satisfied. And 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.” So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, “The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz.” And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by the LORD, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.” And Ruth the Moabite said, “Besides, he said to me, ‘You shall keep close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.’” And Naomi said to Ruth, her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, lest in another field you be assaulted.” So she kept 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.”
Now just as a reminder, the last time we saw Naomi, she gave her blessing to Ruth to go out and glean. Before that she went off on the people of the town. She was not happy with them. Perhaps I should say she was not pleasant. She renamed herself Mara, which means bitter, but she’s been in despair. She’s been in despair since her Husband died. She was driven further into despair when her sons died. We have a case of full onset depression here. But watch the change here. Ruth walks in and the first thing Naomi sees is this 3/5 bushel bundle in a shawl that Ruth is carrying. Ruth sets it down and hands over the leftovers of roasted grain from her lunch. Suddenly something has happened to Naomi. She is no longer appearing like a depressed person. She is suddenly peppering Ruth with questions.
We’ve all seen depressed people. Someone walks in and you might get a head nod. Maybe nothing for acknowledgement. But Ruth walks in with this load and suddenly Naomi is very interested. Where did you go? Where were you working? Who took notice of you? What’s his name? Then look at how the author drags this out, continuing to build the anticipation. “Then Ruth tells Naomi with whom she worked, and she said, ‘The name of the man with whom I worked is… Boaz.’”
Then Naomi rejoices and blesses Boaz in the name of the Lord. She says (Ruth 2:20 ESV) “May he be blessed by the LORD” She invokes the name of YHVH to bless Boaz by. Remember what we saw last week. Boaz did this for his workers. He was praying the very best thing for them, that the Lord would be with them. And here Naomi is doing the same thing. God shower your love on Boaz. Show him your love. The greatest act of Love that God could do for anyone of us to to be with us. There is no financial blessing, no prosperity that we could ask for that would ever come close to knowing and being with God. That’s what Naomi desires for Boaz. Naomi is distracted from her depression now. She’s not thinking any longer about how awful her life is. Look at what she says next. She has blessed Boaz in the name the Lord and then she’s describing the Lord with the last part of her statement. The Lord, WHOSE, (Ruth 2:20 ESV) “kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!”. Now I feel the necessity to hold Naomi accountable for what she said before, because this is a very different statement. Turn back to Chapter 1 verse 20. (Ruth 1:20–21 ESV) “She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”
What a turn around. Just like she turned from Moab and came back to Israel, here she’s turned from her bitterness and lament to see joy. God has visited not only Israel, Not only Bethlehem, but herself. And he’s don’t it through the generosity of the man named Boaz.
Then there’s this business of the Lord not forsaking the living or the dead. The living she is referring to is Naomi and Ruth. The dead is her husband Elimelech, and her sons. The Lord has remembered Naomi and Ruth in their plight, and he has not forgotten the men either, because God is fulfilling their role as provider and protector for both of them. All on his own. The Lord is sufficient. The Lord is capable to handle every situation we find ourselves in. He is sufficient to take care of our lacking wherever it may be found. He wasn’t hindered by the distance from Israel to Moab, He isn’t hindered buy the disobedience of Elimelech and Naomi, and he’s not hindered by a famine. He is sovereign over all things, and to prove it he triumphs over death too. A dead husband won’t stop him from making sure his kids get fed. And its the very tool he used to bring about our salvation. What an amazing God. Death looks like an end to us. It’s our greatest fear, but it’s just another tool in the tool belt of God, who used death to accomplish his most glorious act on earth so far, bringing unrighteous people into his presence and calling them righteous. He redeems us.
And God also causes others to be redeemers for his own purposes. Sacrificial giving restores life, and God placed Boaz here, at this time, for this purpose. That he would be the instrument of God to restore life to Naomi and Ruth. Naomi calls him a “close relative” and a “redeemer”. At the beginning of the book I talked briefly about the concept of the Levirate Marriage. This is the idea that if a woman loses her husband and is without child, then the bother of the husband would do the job of continuing the line for the namesake of the dead. Keep that in mind. Then we need to talk about the concept of the redeemer as it is put forward in the Torah. We understand redeemer as what Christ has done for us. He redeemed our lives when in sin we had a blood debt to God. Without Christ, our life is forfeit. But Jesus came as our redeemer to pay our debt for us. His life sacrificed on the cross is what makes our debt paid with God. That’s why we can come to God in faith and be in his presence, because for those who are saved, he no longer holds our sins against us.
In Leviticus, God said that he would not stand to allow his people to be in debt to one another. God had a plan for families in generational hardship, and that plan was that every 50 years all debts were zeroed out and land was returned to those whom owned it. Also, he established the position of redeemer, and that is basically any close relative who has means and is in the biological line. This redeemer would step in and pay off the debts of those who found themselves in hardship. This was about community life together and this accomplished a number of things. It protected the tribes, and it protected the people, it was a kind of reset. God was telling the tribes of Israel, you’re not in competition with one another. You are family, you take care of one another. There are various needs and various gifts. Use them all to glorify God. We see the same kind of picture in Acts. (Acts 4:34–35 ESV) “There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.” And again in Chapter 11. (Acts 11:29 ESV) “So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea.”
The point was for everyone to survive, everyone to make it. Those who had more served those who had less. It’s a lot like this body of believers today. We see this in our own body in a couple of ways that I want to highlight. First, each month we take an extra offering for our benevolent fund. This is an account reserved to help those who are in need in our body and in our community. God is making resources available or those who are in need.
We’ve seen this in action a few year ago, I’ve heard amazing stories of how God worked in peoples lived through the floods of the past. How Bubba and Wendy’s house was nearly destroyed by the floods, and this body came around them in this difficult time and their home was restored and not destroyed. And even as I say that you’re probably thinking of someone else, or some other circumstance where the benevolent fund has come into play to take care of needs. It is how God has designed us to care for one another. We are not supposed to do it on our own. This is counter cultural from the “American Dream” where one might consider themselves fully independent, and free from obligation to others. On the contrary, God reminds us over and over how futile it is to pursue this kind of living, but rather, we are to be in community relying on one another, living out the example with each other what we are supposed to be living out with God.
Ruth then follows up with the news that Boaz has committed to protect her. (Ruth 2:21 ESV) “And Ruth the Moabite said, “Besides, he said to me, ‘You shall keep close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.’” We talked about this protection last week. That love enters into a situation and takes risks as well as protects. That’s the commitment we see here. We also understand that the guarantee for protection lasts the entire harvest. This is very good news for Naomi and Ruth. If they continue to glean 2 weeks worth of wages, for the next 8 weeks, it is entirely possible, they could harvest enough grain to supply their needs for the next two years in one harvest season, and that’s just the barley and the wheat harvests.
Naomi hears this and is no doubt encouraged and sh reaffirms what Ruth has said about Boaz, with one slight modification. (Ruth 2:22 ESV) “And Naomi said to Ruth, her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, lest in another field you be assaulted.””
She recognized that the protection that has been offered is good, but she tells Ruth to stay close to the women, not the young men. An extra layer of protection for her dear Ruth as she is out in the fields. Perhaps she wanted to make sure that Boaz’s workers didn’t do anything naughty, perhaps she had something bigger in mind, but look at the humility we see from Ruth in the next verse.
(Ruth 2:23 ESV) “So she kept 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.”
Ruth is a strong woman, willing to do what is necessary. It would have been easy for Ruth to be a bit bitter here. What right does Naomi have to tell her how to be lining her life, when it’s Ruth after all who is risking her neck to make sure Naomi has something to eat. Ruth is the one who worked the 16 hour day out in the fields. Ruth is the one who gland all this grain, beat out the heads, carried it by herself back up the hill into the city. But instead of being prideful, Ruth takes a humble position, and is obedient to Naomi, and keeps close to the women for the rest of the barley and wheat harvests, fulfilling the covenant that she made before YHVH and Naomi, that nothing but death would part her from Naomi’s side. That’s what sacrificial giving does, it says whatever is best for you is what I’m going to do, no matter what it costs me. It isn’t about the cost, it is about serving others. Ruth is serving Naomi, and Boaz is serving them both. But one last thing, before we close.Look back at verse 14. “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” Boaz again breaks down the barriers. The powerful land owner has called out the beggar and welcomes her into his sphere. He calls to her and she responds. One sentence into our passage and we have this beautiful picture of the gospel. God calls us to himself. He says I want to be with you. I love you, I value you, and I want to see you have peace, and I want to serve you. Ruth, a single, female, foreigner, had nothing to do with this rick clan leader, and land owner. Yet Boaz calls Ruth into his sphere. What business do I, a sinner, have to be with the perfectly holy, all powerful creator of the universe? Absolutely none, -except that he calls me to himself. This is where our fighter verse this week took us. We started last week with (Ephesians 2:1–3 ESV) “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” And then the two most precious words in the Bible… (Ephesians 2:4–5 ESV) “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—”
Christ entered into our reality and served us the way that Boaz entered into Ruth’s world and served her.
(Ephesians 3:20–21 ESV) “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”