Commentary on Ruth 2:1-23
Week 2: August 21, 2022
Preaching text: Ruth 2:1-23; accompanying text: Luke 6:36-38
Ruth 2: Gleaning and Hope
As the old adage goes, “A coincidence is a miracle in which God prefers to remain anonymous.” In the second act of this play, Ruth goes out to glean barley to sustain herself and Naomi, and “as it happened, she came to the part of the field belonging to Boaz” (2:3). Boaz is a pillar of the community (whose name is attached to one of the pillars of the Temple) who just happens to be related to Naomi’s dead husband.
God does not speak from burning bushes in this book; nor does God divide the sea. Instead, God acts through circumstance, and through the faithfulness of ordinary human beings. God’s hesed is embodied in human action. Boaz praises Ruth for her loyalty to her mother-in-law (2:11) and then enacts through his generosity the blessings of God that he calls down upon her: “May the LORD reward you for your deeds, and may you have a full reward from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge” (Ruth 2:11-12).
Naomi sees the astonishing amount of barley that Ruth has gleaned (something like 30 pounds), and finds out that it is Boaz who has helped Ruth. And it is only then that Naomi begins to move from despair to hope. She recognizes in this turn of events the hand of God and she is quick to name God as the source of blessing: “Blessed be he [Boaz] by the LORD, whose kindness (hesed) has not forsaken the living or the dead!” (Ruth 2:20).
The tide is turning. Emptiness is being filled. Hope is born. And it is an old widow (one who has seen more than her share of sorrow) who recognizes the hand of God in these seemingly happenstance circumstances. Perhaps it is often thus: Those who have had long experience of seeing God at work can recognize and name those times in our own lives when miracles begin to happen.