At mealtime Boaz said to her, ‘Come here, and eat some of this bread, and dip your morsel in the sour wine.’ So she sat beside the reapers, and he heaped up for her some parched grain. She ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. When she got up to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, ‘Let her glean even among the standing sheaves, and do not reproach her. You must also pull out some handfuls for her from the bundles, and leave them for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.’
So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. She picked it up and came into the town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gleaned. Then she took out and gave her what was left over after she herself had been satisfied. Her mother-in-law said to her, ‘Where did you glean today? And where have you worked? Blessed be the man who took notice of you.’ So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked, and said, ‘The name of the man with whom I worked today is Boaz.’ Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, ‘Blessed be he by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!’ Naomi also said to her, ‘The man is a relative of ours, one of our nearest kin.’ Then Ruth the Moabite said, ‘He even said to me, “Stay close by my servants, until they have finished all my harvest.”’ Naomi said to Ruth, her daughter-in-law, ‘It is better, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, otherwise you might be bothered in another field.’ So she stayed close to the young women of Boaz, gleaning until the end of the barley and wheat harvests; and she lived with her mother-in-law.
This is a very familiar scene–a woman working in a strange land in order to provide for her family. Ruth is an economic migrant. Those leaving homelands due to war, climate change, and persecution will resonate with her story.
In previous verses Ruth has declared her loyalty to Naomi. With this declaration, Ruth takes responsibility for Naomi, and their family bond is deepened. The survival of her family becomes her driving force. Together they journey from the land of famine to a land of hoped-for-abundance.
In Bethlehem Boaz notices Ruth. He doesn’t simply allow her to glean in his field; he makes sure she is safe, is fed, and has more than enough to feed Naomi. Ruth works diligently for her mother-in-law.
While Ruth has hope, Naomi is lost. By her own declaration she returns to Bethlehem a changed and bitter woman. What can bring hope back to this bitter and broken woman? God, working through Ruth and Boaz, enables hope to be reborn in Naomi.
As we face changing economic circumstances, we may hear tales of people struggling to make ends meet. They are people like Ruth who ask ‘How can I provide for my family?’ We may find ourselves in the midst of strangers who have travelled far from their homes to make a better life for their families. There will be people like Naomi who are hopeless and broken, naming themselves ‘bitterness.’ As we encounter them and listen to their stories, I wonder how God will use us, like Ruth and Boaz, to bring hope to their lives?
These short verses remind us that by working together, God can use us in surprising ways to create places of healing and hope in our troubled world.
God of Hope, help us hear your voice. Help us see your people. Use our skills and our relationships to bring hope to broken lives and love to a bitter world. Amen.
The Rev’d Martha McInnes, Minister, Cardiff and Penarth Pastorate