Ruth and Naomi are safe in Bethlehem. Now the task of day to day survival needs to be addressed. Ruth is ready for whatever it takes. She will be a tireless worker to bring food into their home.
The story of Ruth and Naomi has been spread about the community. Even the field hands know her by sight and reputation. This knowledge will come in handy for their future. Ruth is unaware of their story spreading. It is possible that Naomi had visitors who she shared it with. It is possible that someone from the caravan shared it when they came through. It is also possible that other Israelites came home after the famine and shared the story. However it got out, it was a glowing report of love. A story of dedication and one worthy of reward. That reward will begin today.
♥ ♦ ♥
Ruth and Naomi have made the home comfortable. There are still a few issues to deal with, like rethatching the roof in places and clearing and planting a winter garden. More pressing needs must take priority. Their food is nearly depleted and their money long gone. Fortunately it is harvest time and Ruth is willing to work. She only hopes Naomi is amenable to her suggestion. She will ask her tonight.
“Mother, ‘let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor’ (verse 2b).” Ruth holds her breath as she waits for Naomi’s answer.
“Go, my daughter” (verse 2c).
Ruth smiles at Naomi and bows her head. “Thank you mother. With the Lord’s help we will have bread again soon.”
Morning dawns and Ruth hurries through her morning chores so she can get to the fields. She does not know who owns any of them nor where their boundaries lie. She will simply follow the women and glean whatever she can. Ruth dons her sturdiest apron and kisses Naomi good-bye as she heads out the door.
It doesn’t take long for Ruth to spot reapers in the fields. There are groups working in many different areas. “The best place to start is right where I’m at” thinks Ruth. She enters the field directly in front of her and begins picking up stalks of grain that were left lying on the ground. She is following a group of women who are following the reapers. She is staying behind both groups so that no one will accuse her of taking from the harvest.
Ruth is a diligent worker. She keeps her eyes on the ground for any stalks left. She gathers any she finds into her apron and once it is full she brings it to the edge of the field where she weighs it down with a rock. She then returns to the field to hunt for more. There is so much ground to cover! Yet she does it with a song in her heart. She knows her labors will provide for Naomi and herself. Every stalk means a little less hunger.
As one group of reapers and followers rest, Ruth moves off to follow another. She is tired but determined to keep going. After her third apron full she rests for a few minutes herself. Just enough time to straighten the kinks in her back from bending over all morning. She looks at what she has gathered so far and says a silent ‘thanks’ to the Lord for directing her steps before returning again to her task.
Ruth’s efforts have not gone unnoticed by the others in the fields. Many of them recognize her from when she and Naomi came through town. They have heard stories of the two widows. And they know the Lord’s command to leave some grain for such as these in need. They are pleased to be part of the Lord’s plan in caring for her.
While Ruth is deep into her work, Boaz, the master of the field she is working in comes to see how his harvest is going. He exchanges greetings with his manager and looks about the field. He notices a young woman working all by herself. She peaks his curiosity. “Whose young woman is this” (verse 5b) he asks.
“’She is the young Moabite woman, who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab’ (verse 6b). She asked if she could glean after the reapers had finished. She has been at it all morning and has only taken one break all day. She is quite dedicated.”
Boaz nods his head and watches a little longer. Ruth continues her work unaware of the eyes following her. Once her apron is full again she goes to her pile at the edge of the field to deposit her latest gleanings. Boaz and his manager approache her there.
Ruth looks up at the stranger who addressed her. She can see his is a man of wealth as his clothes are not dusty from work and the man she spoke to this morning is standing behind and beside him. She nods her head in recognition of his greeting.
“My manager has told me how you approached him and asked permission to glean here. He has also told me how diligently you have been working. ‘Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn’ (verses 8-9).”
Ruth is awed and humbled by his offer. His offer is the difference between life and death for Naomi and herself. She never in her wildest dreams expected such kindness. She falls on her face, bowing to the ground before him. “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” (verse 10b).
Boaz’s heart is moved even more by her humble attitude. “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” (verses 11-12).
Ruth’s eyes brim with unshed tears. It has been a long time since anyone has sung her praises, outside of Naomi. She is a stranger in a strange land but feels more loved now than she did in her own home as a young girl. “Thank you for your kind words and your generosity. They have given me much comfort. You have extended to me provisions and protection as one would do for their own servant and I am not even that to you. I am truly honored by your kindness.”
Boaz leaves Ruth to her task and he goes back to looking over the progress for the day. When it is time for the midday meal, the workers from Boaz’s field lay their tools aside and gather together to eat and drink. The work is long and dusty. It is a welcome rest. Boaz notices that Ruth continues to glean while his workmen rest. Boaz askes his manager; “Did you notice if she brought a meal with her when she came?”
“No my lord. She came with nothing but her hands and a small waterskin about her waist.”
Boaz calls out to her. “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine” (verse 14b).
Ruth looks around to see who he might be talking to but there is no one else around. Everyone else is sitting together near the man. She points to herself with a question in her eyes?
Boaz smiles and nods and motions her forward with his hand. Ruth quickly empties her apron again and comes to sit beside the reapers. Their meal is simple but smells wonderful. A loaf of bread is offered to her and she takes a portion of it for herself. Boaz passes her some roasted grain. Ruth ate until she was satisfied. It had been quite a while since she had such a large meal before her. She can’t possibly eat everything she was given so she wraps the remainder of her meal in a cloth and leaves it beside her stalks of grain. As soon as she deposits her small package she goes right back to work.
Boaz secretly watched her as she ate and returned once again to her task. He is very pleased with what he sees. She is a worthy worker. He wants to do more for her. Boaz calls his manager over. “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her” (verses 15b-16).
The manager nods his head and walks into the field to speak with the men and women working there. He has them pass the word quietly as he does not want to injure Ruth’s pride. They all begin to be a little less thorough as they gather their stalks for their bundles. They try to keep this change from looking obvious as that would not go unnoticed by Ruth and she may think they are not through with the area.
Ruth is pleased she has been able to glean so much. She is careful to follow in the paths that have already been worked. The manager tells her that she may glean near the sheaves also. “There is much that falls free that must be left, least retying the bundles to include it we lose even more” he explains. Ruth nods her understanding and will glean the ground around the sheaves last each day so as not to impede their work.
The sun is descending behind the distant hills. It is harder to see as the light fades so Ruth decides to call it a day. She is hot and tired but grateful for all she has gathered. There is too much for her to carry back to her home so she decides to winnow it where she is. She removes her apron and stretches it out on the ground. She begins beating the stocks, a handful at a time, onto her outstretched apron. She spends another hour doing this before she is finished. She ties her apron securely and puts the small cloth with her left over midday meal on top. She then carries it home to Naomi.
It is nearly dark by the time Ruth arrives home. Naomi has been concerned because she was gone so long but when Ruth enters their home the smile on her face melts all of Naomi’s fears. Ruth brings her apron to the table and places it there for Naomi’s inspection.
“Mother, come see what I have gleaned today” she says excitedly as she unties the corners.
Naomi’s eyes go wide as she sees the amount of grain. “Where did you glean today?” she asks with excitement. “And where have your worked? BLESSED be the man who took notice of you” (verse 19a).
“I was very blessed indeed mother and the master of the field was very kind to me. The manager of the field told me the man’s name was Boaz. He even invited me to sup with them during their midday meal. Here, I have brought you what was left after my hunger was satisfied.” Ruth unwraps her second bundle and passes it to Naomi. Within lies roasted the grain and bread she had carefully saved.
“Oh daughter! This is enough for both of us. It will go well with the evening meal I have prepared.”
Ruth blushes as she realizes that Naomi had been waiting dinner for her. “I’m sorry for being so late in coming home mother but there was so much work for me that I lost myself to it.”
“There is no worry. Let us sit and eat this bounty and we can talk more afterwards.”
Ruth reties her apron and moves it to the side while the meal is set out. They bow their heads and give thanks to the Lord for all He has provided them this evening. What was once a meager meal now feels like a banquet to the two women. They can’t stop smiling and singing its praises as they eat.
As Ruth is washing up and Naomi is readying the fire for bed they continue to talk of the day.
“The man Boaz, whose field you worked in today is a close relative of ours. ‘May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!’ (verse 20b). He is one of our redeemers.”
“He also said to me, ‘You shall keep close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest’ (verse 21b). He has also told me that I may drink of the water the men have drawn and glean even among the sheaves.”
“It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, lest in another field you be assaulted” (verse 22b).
“I am very blessed by his generosity! I will be certain to do exactly as he instructs. Now as for the grain, I must find time to grind it into flour. I’m certain it will make the most wonderful bread!”
“Let me worry about that task my daughter. I need something to keep my hands and mind busy with you away in the fields all day” Naomi says with a smile and a gentle pat on Ruth’s hand.
Morning breaks and Ruth again hurries to the field of Boaz. She immediately sets about her task of gleaning. Today she has brought a crust of bread she saved from her evening meal. She doesn’t want to presume that Boaz will invite her to sup with him and the workers again. She stops only once again in the morning hours to refresh herself with water from the jars brought by the men. Without the waterskin around her waist it is easier for her to bend and twist.
Boaz arrives a little before the midday meal and notices Ruth in the fields again. When the midday meal break is taken Boaz once again invites Ruth to join them. “Come join us again today my daughter.”
“Thank you for your hospitality. I have brought something for myself if I am being an inconvenience to you” she says.
“You are welcome at this table every day. It is no trouble and we enjoy your company.”
Ruth bows her head and again sits with the women who follow the reapers. She is welcomed in their presence and they begin to share stories with one another. Ruth saves a portion of her meal again to share with Naomi in the evening.
With the midday meal completed Ruth and the women return to their tasks. Ruth is staying closer to the women and they are able to talk while they work. Ruth finds joy in their presence and they in hers. Work continues until evening and once the women end their day Ruth goes to what she has gathered and begins beating it out again into her apron.
The manager has noticed that Ruth works late into the evening preparing her grain to take home. He is concerned about her walking home alone. He brings this concern to Boaz. “It is not safe my lord for her to be traveling back and forth alone each night.”
“I agree. Speak to one of the families that live near her. Have them walk with her each night to see that she arrives safely.”
“My lord, she stays long after the gleaning to thresh out her grain. The rest of the workers have already returned home by the time she finishes.”
“Have one of the women volunteer to help her so she doesn’t have to tarry so long. I will repay the kindness they show to her.”
“It will be done as you say. For this night I will provide protection for her as she returns home.”
As Ruth is tying up her bundles the manager approaches her. “I have been asked to accompany you on your journey back into the city. I would like to see you safely returned to your home.”
Ruth is touched by this offer as she doesn’t know the city well or how safe it is in the evenings. “Thank you for your kindness.”
The next day proceeds much the same but as Ruth goes to prepare her gleanings for carrying home, one of the woman ask if she can help. “I see you toiling away so diligently I can’t help but offer a helping hand” she offers.
“It would make the work much quicker but I don’t want to delay you from your family.”
“This is not a problem as my husband is engaged in conversation and will be for some time” she says with a smile.
With the two of them beating the grain it is done quickly and Ruth has enjoyed the company during the task. “Thank you for your help. I will be glad to return home with light still in the sky tonight.”
The woman looks up and her husband notices they have finished. He walks over to join them. “Are you ready to leave my wife?” he asks.
“Just waiting on you my husband” she replies with a smile.
“Ruth, would you like to join us. We live very near the home of Naomi. We would be honored by your company.”
“I am exceedingly blessed by you this evening. May the Lord return the kindness you have shown me.”
Together the three of them walk home. Naomi is overjoyed to see Ruth return at a better hour and to have an escort as well. She offers the couple her thanks but has little more than a blessing to offer to express her gratitude.
This becomes the norm for Ruth’s days as the harvest continues: rising early in the morning, staying close to the woman who work in Boaz’s field, supping with them during the midday meal, threshing her grain with her new friend after finishing their day’s work, and walking home with this lovely couple. Ruth has surmised that the husband is not always engaged in talking but in waiting until Ruth’s work is finished before collecting his ‘waiting’ wife. Naomi grinds the grain into flour and bakes weekly gifts for Ruth’s new companions, who graciously accept them.
Sabbaths are a day of rest each week where Ruth and Naomi can enjoy each other’s company all day. There is much to give thanks for each Sabbath. Ruth has brought enough grain home that Naomi is able to trade for the simple staples they need for their lives. One of those staples wakes Ruth each morning with its cackling; their new hen.
Life is still hard. Ruth works from first light to late evening six days a week but she is happy. She can care for Naomi. Her love overflows on her every evening as she shares her day with her. She even talks Naomi into letting her braid her hair at least once a week.
(to be continued)
♥ ♦ ♥
Father God, thank You for all the people You placed in my life who have blessed me in some way. I pray I have been a blessing to others even half as much as they have been to me! I LOVE how Ruth’s simple acts of love, that she rendered with no expectation of reward, were spread all over town. She had a reputation for love. A selfless love. One that was rewarded by You. One that Your reward was sent through human hands.
Even if her love for Naomi had never been recognized by man, You still saw it. The praises of man should NEVER be my ultimate goal. My desire is to please You by caring for those in need. When I do it unto the least of these I do it unto You. Remind me of that daily Father.