We’re taking a little pause this Sunday, being Faith Commitment Sunday, to re-examine a part of the story of Ruth that we’ve already covered but now from a slightly different angle. Several weeks ago we looked at this passage under the heading “Love Protects,” but there is another strong theme within this story that we didn’t really touch on, and that is the great truth that “Love Gives.” Hesed love rests in the abundant provision of the Lord and responds to that provision with radical, sacrificial generosity. We see this truth surfacing throughout the whole book of Ruth, but especially in this part of the story in Ruth 2.
First, we’re called to rest in the Lord’s abundant provision. The narrator wants us to read chapter 2 in light of the circumstances laid out in chapter 1, specifically the circumstances of famine, hunger and poverty. We meet Ruth and Naomi when they are living on the edge of a knife, barely able to make it, having to split up their small struggling family in order to survive (a practice still very common in communities of poverty today). So it is with astonishment that we come to find Ruth and Naomi by the end of chapter 2 well fed, satisfied, with more than enough (2:14,17-18). The narrator is making a powerful statement about how abundantly the Lord provides for his people in the face of our apparent lack. Even in our affluence, many of us still believe the lie (your pastor included!) that there is simply not enough. This lie often prevents us from being generous with our resources, not believing that we will have enough to meet our basic needs. But the truth of God’s abundant provision rings out not just here but in all of Scripture, calling God’s people to trust enough in God’s provision to freely give of what we have to others, knowing there will always be enough, indeed there will be much “left over” (2:18).
Second, in this story we see how people respond to the Lord’s provision: through radical generosity. There was a Mosaic law in ancient Israel that required landowners to leave the corners and edges of their fields uncut when they harvested (see Leviticus 19:9-10). Additionally, the law required landowners to comb the field only once, leaving behind the uncut grain and missed scraps for the poor to collect – the orphans, widows, and foreigners. Being a righteous man and full of integrity, Boaz was accustomed to regularly keeping the rule. However, when a barren, foreign widow showed up in his field asking for permission to glean, Boaz did something remarkable. Not only did he grant Ruth permission to glean in his field, he encouraged her to glean among the harvesters, to work where gleaners were not normally permitted and where newly cut grain lay in abundance. In fact, he then went even further beyond what was required and instructed his hired workers to pull out grain themselves for Ruth to gather (2:16). Ruth ended up bringing home on the first day of work what amounted to a half a month’s wages. Such was the generosity of Boaz. He went way beyond the rule to give at great sacrifice to himself.
Ruth also gives radically and generously in this story. There was absolutely no expectation that Ruth accompany Naomi back to Israel. Indeed, Naomi insisted that Ruth return home. Her sister in law Orpah did the right, sensible thing by returning to her own people in Moab. Yet despite this expectation, Ruth went far beyond anything that was required of her and gave everything she had to her mother in law. She was so committed to see another flourish that she sacrificed all she had for Naomi’s good. Again, Ruth went way beyond the rule to give sacrificially and generously to another.
Both Ruth and Boaz could have just kept the rules and done what was sensible. But instead of doing what was expected of them, they chose to go far beyond the rule to radical, sacrificial generosity. That is the nature of hesed love. It is love that knows no limits–giving to the point of costly risk, always looking for new and generous ways to give.
On this Faith Commitment Sunday, we rest in the abundant provision of the Lord and respond with the radical generosity of love. This is the great truth of the gospel that Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 8:9: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”
In preparation for worship, will you consider how you’ll respond to the generous provision of the Lord by planning for your own financial commitment to our church in 2019? We’ll take some time in our services this Sunday to make those commitments together.
Our weekly worship guide can be found here.
8 So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me.9 Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.”
10 At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She asked him, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?”
11 Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. 12 May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord,the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”
13 “May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord,” she said. “You have put me at ease by speaking kindly to your servant—though I do not have the standing of one of your servants.”
14 At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar.”
When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over. 15 As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, “Let her gather among the sheaves and don’t reprimand her.16 Even pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.”
17 So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah. 18 She carried it back to town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered. Ruth also brought out and gave her what she had left over after she had eaten enough.