14At 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. 15As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, "Even if she gathers among the sheaves, don't embarrass her. 16Rather, pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don't rebuke her."
17So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah. 18She 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.
19Her mother-in-law asked her, "Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!"
Then Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one at whose place she had been working. "The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz," she said.
20"The Lord bless him!" Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. "He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead." She added, "That man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers."
21Then Ruth the Moabitess said, "He even said to me, 'Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain.'"
22Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, "It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with his girls, because in someone else's field you might be harmed."
23So Ruth stayed close to the servant girls of Boaz to glean until the barley and wheat harvests were finished. And she lived with her mother-in-law. (NIV)
We now come to the second half of the third scene, Ruth working in the fields of Boaz for the first time. We pick up the scene at the midday meal and Boaz calls Ruth to come to a place where she can share in the meal for those connected with the harvest. Other gleaners would not have been invited to this place. We see in this first act, the character of Boaz. He has both seen the work of Ruth now and knows that Naomi is a relative and seeks to help.
Normally, all that is required by a landowner is to not reap the entire fields. We find this in Leviticus 19:9-10 “9When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God.” (NIV)
But we see that Boaz goes further than the law requires. He offers her food to eat while working. He tells his workers to make sure she can gather up more than they typically gleaners can. He makes sure she is not embarrassed in her work. And he makes sure she is safe. In these, we see him filling the part of the duties of a redeemer or “goel” in Hebrew. But even these things he did go beyond the responsibilities of the “goel.”
The “goel” or redeemer had certain duties. Theses obligations include: the duty to redeem the relative from slavery, if the latter had been obliged to sell himself into serfdom (Leviticus 25: 48-49); to repurchase the property of a relative who had had to sell it because of poverty; to avenge the blood of his relative who was murdereed; to marry his brother's widow in order to have a son for his brother, in case the brother did not have any son to pass his name on (Deuteronomy 25:5-6); and to receive the restitution if the injured relative had died (Numbers 5:8).
And since this is the first meeting between the two, we cannot really jump to conclusions that Boaz simply wanted Ruth. Boaz was struck by Ruth’s dedication to her mother-in-law and seemed to be honoring it by helping Ruth be a blessing to Naomi.
And this is the point that Naomi misses. When she returns to Bethlehem, she tells people to call her Mara, which means bitter. She has been with Ruth so long, that she cannot see the blessing that Ruth is. And when Ruth returns from working in the field, Naomi praises everyone but Ruth. She thanks God and she asks blessings on Boaz. But she has become blind to the blessing of Ruth who is by her side always.
And this is something that we all do at times. We miss the blessings of God that are right in front of us because we look to much at our circumstances compared to others. We cannot see that God is working in our lives to bless us in special ways. Even the worst situation has a blessing. I remember Corrie Ten Boom writing about the time her sister said they should thank God for the fleas in their barracks in prison. Corrie was sure Betsy was wrong about this, but later realized that the reason they had so much freedom in their barracks is because the German guards didn’t want to go into their barracks because of the fleas. We don’t always realize the various ways God blesses us. Ruth was a blessing to Naomi and she didn’t see it right away. This day, take time to list your blessings.
Blessings and Peace