Now Naomi had a kinsman on her husband’s side, a prominent rich man, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, ‘Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain, behind someone in whose sight I may find favour.’ She said to her, ‘Go, my daughter.’ So she went. She came and gleaned in the field behind the reapers. As it happened, she came to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech. Just then Boaz came from Bethlehem. He said to the reapers, ‘The Lord be with you.’ They answered, ‘The Lord bless you.’ Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, ‘To whom does this young woman belong?’ The servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, ‘She is the Moabite who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. She said, “Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the reapers.” So she came, and she has been on her feet from early this morning until now, without resting even for a moment.’
The story of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz is a jewel of a story. It is dramatic and romantic. In a few short vignettes the key characters are conveyed to us with a depth of understanding that is timeless and transcends culture.
Today’s passage is a hinge point in the story. Ruth has cast her lot in with Naomi and they have arrived in Bethlehem. What next? How will they live? Will life take a turn for the better after the desperate heartache of chapter 1? What resources can they draw upon to make a new life for themselves?
Kinship was the social security system of their society, as it is for many societies around the world still today. I experienced this when I lived in Papua New Guinea. The benefits and obligations of kinship are paramount. How might Naomi re-connect into this network? Would she and her foreign daughter-in-law meet with acceptance or rejection?
Ruth goes gleaning, and the story presents us with a timely God-incidence. “As it happened, she came to the part of the field belonging to Boaz …” Ruth’s character and behaviour opens the way for this God-incidence to bear fruit. When Boaz comes to see how the harvesting is going, his servant gives an excellent report of Ruth’s hard work.
What encouragement and challenge is there here for us?
There is light at the end of the tunnel. Whether in our personal lives, or in our life as a church community, times of loss, struggle, want and hard decisions will, under God, begin to change for the better.
Returnees and refugees need recognition and space to make a new life.
Thank you Lord God, for the depth, drama and dynamism of human life. If our current situation is tough, help us to trust in your brighter future. If we are able to give recognition and space to foreigners today help us to do so, as we walk in the Way of Jesus, Amen
The Rev’d Dr Gwen Collins is a member of Avenue St Andrews URC, a retired minister and chaplain to the Moderators of General Assembly