Shadows of Peace
Updated: Dec 13, 2021
December 5, 2021 | Redeemed | Shadows of Peace| Ruth 2:1-23
John Cutler Senior Pastor
Last week, in the first chapter of Ruth, we were introduced to Naomi and family and very quickly saw her situation go from bad to worse to downright hopeless. Despite her loss and her displacement in a foreign land, we saw God providing glimmers of hope, through a companion in Ruth, her widowed daughter in law, the news that she could return home, and the blessings of harvest time that meant a possible future for her in Bethlehem.
Naomi had lived in the land of Moab for 10 years, and during that time, she has been widowed, bereaved of both sons, and left with two daughters in law. Upon hearing that God had ended the famine that caused her family to leave the land God had given them and go into a foreign country, she decides to go home. After trying to persuade her daughter in laws to return to their parents and leave her to her bitterness, one of them, Ruth has pledged her undying devotion to her and to her God and has returned to Bethlehem with her.
Now, Naomi may be home, but there is still plenty of uncertainty for these two widows. So far in the story, there has been no sign that things will get significantly better for them. They needed something else, they needed sustenance, safety, security, and a sense of belonging. In essence, I believe, what they needed to find was peace.
By peace, we are not just talking about the absence of war, or harmony between individuals, though those things are certainly included in this New Testament word. But there must be more to it than that. When Jesus says, ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you’ he isn’t talking about absence of war, or even harmony between individuals. In fact, he promises that neither of those things will be fully realized until his second coming. You see, the word peace can also imply things like security, safety, prosperity, and happiness.
Without these basic needs being met, there is no peace, only struggle. Let’s dig in and see what Naomi and Ruth find when they return to Bethlehem.
The discovery of peace began with finding a field of favor.
Ruth 2:1-3 (ESV) 1 Now Naomi had a relative of her husband's, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. 2 And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” 3 So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech.
Remember how I told you last week that one of the beautiful aspects of this book is that we see God’s hand moving in the everyday matters of life. No angel directs Ruth’s path, no voice from heaven tells her to stop in this field, God simply providentially provides the perfect place for Ruth to happen upon.
Even the language, the author uses here highlights this. Literally- (as chance chanced or happened to happen)
We might say, as luck would have it. The author is highlighting how unlikely this would happen and illustrating the truth of Proverbs 16:9 ‘(ESV) 9 The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.’
Ruth set out trusting God in faith that she would find a place to glean, and God provided one, and not only that, the very field that would put her in contact with the character introduced at the beginning of the chapter, Boaz, a worthy man, who was connected to her new family.
Ruth 2:4-7 (ESV) 4 And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The LORD be with you!” And they answered, “The LORD bless you.” 5 Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” 6 And the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, “She is the young Moabite woman, who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. 7 She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.’ So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest.”
The second divine appointment is that God brought Boaz, the land owner to the fields to check on the harvesting progress. In this encounter we can now see evidence of the statement that Boaz was a ‘worthy man’ by his greeting to his reapers, his intimate knowledge of who his workers were, and his immediate concern for a foreigner gleaning the edges of his fields.
Ruth has found a place where she can, because of God’s provision, glean and gather wheat to provide for herself and her mother-in-law. So she has set herself to work. The manager is obviously impressed with this foreign widow’s work ethic. Ruth, through God’s providential provision and her willingness to work, found the sustenance she needed to address her and Naomi’s physical needs.
The discovery of peace continued by finding a sense of security.
Ruth 2:8-13 (ESV) 8 Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. 9 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.” 10 Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” 11 But Boaz answered her, “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. 12 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!” 13 Then she said, “I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.”
Boaz lets her know she hasn’t just found a place to work for the day, she has found a place where she can continue to glean without fear and with her basic needs met. He essentially takes responsibility for her by providing his fields for her to glean, his young men for protection, and his young women for companionship.
The significance and graciousness of this isn’t lost on Ruth. She asks him why he, being a Jewish man, would take notice of an insignificant foreigner. His answer reminds us of her oath in chapter 1.
Ruth 1:16-17 (ESV) But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”
The most beautiful part of his answer is in verse 12 where he sums up her decision to cling to Naomi, ‘2 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!”’
To be under the winds of God is a term used in scripture to describe the picture of putting your trust in God, in the way a young chick would get under the wings of its mother to find shelter and safety from danger. The Psalms are full of this kind of language describing God’s people seeking refuge in God. Jesus himself uses this figure when he laments over Jerusalem ‘Matthew 23:37-39 (ESV) 37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 38 See, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
In Boaz she has found health, personal security, emotional security, and financial security. She has found not just sustenance but security.
The discovery of peace concluded by finding a basis for belonging
Ruth 2:14-16 (ESV) 14 And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. 15 When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. 16 And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.”
To eat with someone, to be invited to one’s table is to belong, to be welcomed, but to share in their food, there is an intimate societal bond when we break bread together. To sit down at a meal with someone is a human ritual where relationships are made and grown.
Ruth set out hoping to find some field where perhaps there was a righteous Jewish owner that would follow the law and leave his fields the way God commanded, and praying that the workers would not take advantage of a lone foreign girl with no real rights in Bethlehem.
Not only did she find a field of such a man, that man showed up, displayed great kindness in providing safety for her, and not only that, then he went above and beyond and gave her a seat at his table beside, not just servants, but from the same delicacies he himself ate.
Around this meal, she must have felt, since leaving Moab, the first sense that she might belong somewhere. Acceptance, trust, friendship, more than she could have ever imagined for a widowed foreigner.
It’s amazing how God has led her to the perfect place to find the things that would bring peace in the midst of her struggle.
Ruth 2:17-23 (ESV) 17 So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. 18 And she took it up and went into the city. Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also brought out and gave her what food she had left over after being satisfied. 19 And 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 man's name with whom I worked today is Boaz.” 20 And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by the LORD, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.” 21 And Ruth the Moabite said, “Besides, he said to me, ‘You shall keep close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.’” 22 And Naomi said to Ruth, her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, lest in another field you be assaulted.” 23 So she kept 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.
17 So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an (eefa) ephah of barley. 18 And she took it up and went into the city. Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also brought out and gave her what food she had left over after being satisfied. 19 And 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.”
This introduces a new element to the story. Naomi points out that God has not just led them to a man who displayed kindness, not only did Ruth find all of the wonderful aspects of peace we have talked about, but God had also led her to one of their kinsman redeemers. A kinsman redeemer, under certain circumstances had a responsibility to intervene in the lives of their kinsmen. They were obligated to buy back relatives if they fell into debt they could not pay and had to sell themselves into slavery, and under certain circumstances, they had an obligation to marry widows of his brother and raise up a child for his brother who had died childless.
Here is our first hint that there may be something beyond just the deficiency needs met in Boaz, but that is for next week.
This part of the story ends with, ‘so she kept 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.’ Couldn’t we sum that up by saying, and she found peace in Bethlehem?
For Ruth, finding Boaz led her to find peace. This is a type or shadow of Christ in the Old Testament.
Boaz was the element that led Ruth from just a glimmer of hope to finding peace. Finding him led her to find peace. In a similar way, Jesus promised that those who find him, they will find peace.
That he will be their sustenance, not just for this life but he is the bread of life that leads to eternal life.
That he is our safety, that by the Spirit, he will be with us, that he will keep us, that he will walk with us, and all the tribulation cannot touch us because he has overcome the world, so we can take heart. That he has overcome death, sin, and the grave, victory is his and ours through him.
That we belong, that we are sons and daughters of the Heavenly Father, co-heirs with Christ, who will one day sit at the table of the wedding feast with our Lord.
And just like the best part of Ruth’s story lies ahead of her, the best part of our story is ahead when this peace that we experience like a shadow will be fully realized. When we will no longer struggle with sin, the flesh, and the world, when we will be like he is in perfect peace, that is why the season of Advent makes our hearts sing ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel.
For in his first arrival the angels declared “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”, in his spiritual arrival in the hearts of men He declares, ‘my peace I give you’, and in his final arrival, when the trumpet sounds, as the prince of peace, He will say ‘come, inherit the kingdom prepared for you’.