GODLINESS OPENS OPPORTUNITIES Ruth’s interactions with the community during her first season in Bethlehem highlight humility, politeness, respect for authority, sensitivity to needs around her, and persistent effort at contributing what she could to alleviate the needs. The interactions opened opportunities for her to step into the life for which she is known today. As we discuss in a subsequent bible study, the events that happened during this time led to Ruth marrying Boaz, becoming the grandmother of David, therefore, a grandparent in the lineage of Christ. Ruth’s Godliness opened opportunities for fulfillment of a grand blessing in her life.
This installment of our study series on Ruth focuses on events that occurred during the first season after her arrival in Bethlehem. Her interactions with mother-in-law Naomi and with family relative Boaz highlight the value of humility, politeness, respect for authority, sensitivity to needs around her, commitment to doing what she could to alleviate the needs, and persistent diligence at accomplishing her task.
Ruth and Naomi arrived in Bethlehem during barley harvest. Having been away for a long time, they likely faced economic hardship because they did not have any farm to harvest. Ruth recognized their hardship and determined to do what she could to alleviate the condition. With the approval of her mother-in-law, she decided to go gleaning (i.e., picking grains leftover from regular harvesting) in any farm that would accept her. She was accepted at the first farm she applied, which happened to belong to Boaz, a close relative of Naomi’s husband. Boaz did not only welcome her in his farm but also offered her protection and preferential gleaning access, because of her humility, politeness, positive work habbit (diligence and persistent effort), and his prior knowledge of her positive interactions with Naomi.
Ruth and Naomi arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest [Ruth 1:22]. They did not have any farm of their own to harvest and likely faced economic hardship because of being away from the community for a long time. Ruth requested permission from her mother-in-law to go and glean for leftover grains wherever they will let her: “Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favor” [Ruth 2:2]. Gleaning, i.e., collecting leftover crops from a farm after normal harvesting, was allowed for and promoted as part of a welfare system. Israeli law required farmers to leave behind whatever they were unable to pick through the normal harvesting process. The leftovers are for “the poor and the stranger” [Leviticus 19:10] or “the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow” [Deuteronomy 24:21].
Therefore, a person acknowledges himself or herself as poor by going gleaning. Ruth showed humility by acknowledging poverty and taking steps to do what she could to alleviate the condition. As we discuss in a previous bible study under Value of Humility, humility conveys a message that a person is available and willing to provide or accept assistance as needed. The availability and willingness are motivated by a desire to provide for a need and are insensitive to the status of the provider or receiver. Ruth proceeded to do what she could to provide for her family and did not mind that the activity might imply an acknowledgment of poverty.
Christ taught humility as the greatest virtue, presented a child to personify humility, saying “whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” [Matthew 18:4]. Therefore, when Ruth offered to get into an activity set aside for the poor in order to provide for her family as she could, she announced her availability and willingness to provide or accept assistance as needed. She announced herself humble.
Politeness and Respect for Authority
Ruth asked her mother-in-law for permission to go gleaning, in recognition of her authority as head of household. Also, when she arrived at a farm to glean, she asked for permission from the farm foreman: “And she said, ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves’” [Ruth 2:7]. Furthermore, she bowed down in respectful appreciation of Boaz after Boaz granted her gleaning access and protection in his farm [Ruth 2:10]: “So she fell on her face, bowed down 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?’”
As we discuss in a previous bible study under Civil Rights and Responsibilities Part 2 of 2, respect for authority is part of God’s mandate and a key aspect of individual responsibilities. People in authority positions (such as president or prime minister, king or queen, governor, clergy, teacher, supervisor, parents, head of household, or any person in a position of leadership) serve as God’s channel for preserving and propagating natural order. Therefore, we honor God when we respect human authorities [Romans 13:1–7; 1 Peter 2:13–18]. Ruth respected the authority of her mother-in-law, the farm foreman, and farm owner Boaz. Each of them approved her request and in addition supported her effort as they could.
Sensitivity to Needs
and Commitment to Doing what She Could
Ruth recognized her family’s need, determined what she could do to alleviate the need, and proceeded to do it. Different aspects of what she needed to do required permission from someone in authority, and she secured permission as necessary [Ruth 2:2–17].
As we discuss in a previous bible study under Love through Compassion, responding to God’s call to compassion means a person recognizes a need and the needy, cares about the needy, commits to doing what he/she can to address the need, and perseveres until successful. The needy is any person that has a need that God has placed in your path (i.e., you are positioned to provide for the need). In this case, the needy was her family (Ruth and her mother-in-law). Therefore, Ruth responded to a call to compassion by being sensitive to their need and committing to doing what she could to provide for the need.
Her responding to this call to compassion took her to Boaz’s farm and provided opportunity for her to meet Boaz and take a step toward fulfilling a grand blessing. Any time you respond to a call to compassion (recognize a need, care about the needy, and commit to doing what you can to alleviate the need), you could be taking a step toward receiving God’s intervention in your life. Ruth took such a step by recognizing her family’s need and committing to doing what she could to alleviate the need.
Diligence on Task
Ruth gleaned with persistent diligence after the farm foreman cleared her to glean. She wasn’t under any external obligation to perform well, but she worked diligently to gather what she could before the end of the day. Her diligence began to yield dividend by about midday when Boaz returned to the farm [Ruth 2:5–7]: “Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, ‘Whose young woman is this?’ So the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered and said, ‘It is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. And she said, “Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.” So she came and has continued from morning until now, though she rested a little in the house.’” The foreman’s report about Ruth’s politeness, humility, and positive work habit (after observing her for only about half a day) conveyed a positive impression of Ruth to Boaz.
Furthermore, he already had positive impression of her based on earlier information from another source regarding her interactions with Naomi. He was told about Ruth’s compassion to Naomi that she demonstrated through her commitment to remain a member of her family, live in Bethlehem with her, and worship the same God [Ruth 2:11–12]: “And Boaz answered and said to her, ‘It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.’”
Boaz accepted Ruth to glean in his field and offered her preferential gleaning access and protection among his workers [Ruth 2:15–16]: “And when she rose up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, ‘Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. Also let grain from the bundles fall purposely for her; leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.’” Boaz accepted her and offered her what he could because of the positive information he received regarding her work habit and attitude toward other people. Ruth’s Godliness radiated positive impact on Boaz.
Summary of What We Learned
Ruth’s interactions with the community during her first season in Bethlehem highlight humility, politeness, respect for authority, sensitivity to needs around her, and persistent effort at contributing what she could to alleviate the needs. The interactions opened opportunities for her. She found herself in Boaz’s farm, where she was granted protection, preferential gleaning access, and opportunity to interact with several members of the community including Boaz.