We left Naomi at the end of chapter 1 declaring her bitterness and sorrow.
“Don’t call me Naomi (pleasant)” she told them. “Call me Mara (bitter), because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me and the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me” (Ruth 1:20-21).
But in chapter 2 Naomi finds a kernel of hope.
Ruth and Naomi arrived in Bethlehem at the time of the barley harvest–probably around April. The two widows had no family or source of income, but Ruth saw an opportunity. Harvesting occurred in three stages. First men went through the field, cutting the grain with sickles and piling the stalks of grain at the edge of the field. Women would then tie the grain into bundles so that it could be transported to the threshing floor. The final stage was gleaning–going back through the field to collect any grain that was left after the harvesters had finished. But the Old Testament law instructed the people not to reap to the very edges of the field or collect the gleanings. The edges and gleanings were to be left for the poor and foreigner to collect (Leviticus 19:9-10). Ruth was both. And so Ruth went out with Naomi’s blessing to glean behind the harvesters. “As it turned out she was working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelek” (Ruth 2:3).
As it turned out. The text phrases it as if it were an accident or coincidence. But it was God’s providence at work. God had led Ruth to the field of a relative who would honor all she had done for Naomi and who would treat her kindly. But Boaz was not just a relative or a kindly neighbor. Boaz was one who could serve as a kinsman-redeemer–a relative who was supposed to step in and rescue family members from difficulties.
Boaz recognized that Ruth had sought refuge with the Lord. He honored her service and took steps to ensure her safety. At mealtime Boaz invited Ruth to dine by his side, serving her bread and roasted grain–enough to satisfy Ruth and allow her to bring leftovers back to Naomi. Boaz also went beyond the law’s requirements by telling his servants to let her glean among the sheaves and drop extra grain for her to find. By evening Ruth had gleaned an ephah of barley–enough food for a week and a half–from her one day of labor.
When Ruth arrived home, Naomi saw the amount of grain she had gathered and recognized that someone had aided her daughter-in-law. Ruth told her whose field she had gleaned in, and Naomi instantly recognized what Ruth had not. Boaz was her husband’s relative and their kinsman-redeemer. God had not abandoned them. God had led Ruth to their redeemer.
We’re going to explore the role of the kinsman redeemer more in part 3, but I believe this is was what made Naomi turn the corner toward hope. Yes, she had lost much. But God had not brought misfortune on her. God had brought Ruth and Naomi a redeemer. The Lord had led them to the one person who could provide for them, ensure Ruth’s safety in the harvest field, redeem them, and grant them a future. God was at work, sheltering the two widows under his wings (Ruth 1:12).
And we have a redeemer. When it looks like all is lost, when it seems that hope is gone, look up. God has given us a redeemer, and his name is Jesus. We are not alone. We are not abandoned. God is still at work, exercising his divine providence in the midst of our circumstances. Put your hope in your redeemer.
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