Meditations in Ruth : 10. A Good Man
Ruth 2:4,5 Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The LORD be with you!” “The LORD bless you!” they called back. Boaz asked the foreman of his harvesters, “Whose young woman is that?”
When we find a verse starting, “just then” it indicates a closeness to what has gone before. Ruth has “found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz” and he is “from the clan of Elimelech,” a relative of Naomi’s by marriage. Near the end of the day (as we will see later) “Boaz arrived from Bethlehem.” Timing? Coincidence? This all seems to happen very quickly.
We find he greets his men, “The Lord be with you.” It is the blessing of a spiritual man and a desire for their good. We are seeing a good employer. Do we realise that the blessing, “The Lord bless you,” is a statement of desire for God’s goodness to be poured out on the life of the person we are blessing, and it is a blessing in line with the general will of God; that is what His general intent is towards all men. But it is a mutual thing here: “The Lord bless you, they called back.” Now don’t take this for granted for some employers would arrive and immediately badger their employees to work harder. Speaking on industrial relations, author and radio and TV presenter Clive James once said, “I think it’s up to management and always has been. If the managers can’t manage to sort it out, preferably in advance, they should not be managing.” Boaz comes over as an employer-manager who has a good attitude towards his workers and subsequently, they towards him.
But then Boaz looks around what is going on in his field and spots Ruth gleaning there, so he has a quiet word with his foreman, “Whose young woman is that?” Now we might enquire in the same way today, but in their society, family relationships were all important. So often, in respect of men, a man’s name would be directly linked to his father’s name, for instance “James son of Zebedee” (Mk 1:19) and “Simon son of Jonah,” (Mt 16:17). When it was a girl she was identified as the daughter or wife of another. This wasn’t to diminish them but to exalt the family head, so we find, “Anna, the daughter of Phanuel,” (Lk 2:36), “Mary the wife of Clopas,” (Jn 19:25) and “Joanna the wife of Cuza,” (Lk 8:3) So when Boaz now enquires, “Whose young woman is that?” he is enquiring of her family background, no doubt wondering how she came to be there, because it would only have been the poor who would be there gleaning like that.
Note the reply: “The foreman replied, “She is the Moabitess who came back from Moab with Naomi.” (2:6) The story of Naomi’s misfortunes has obviously spread and is well-known and likewise Ruth and her origins are clearly well known. But note the emphasis, “the Moabitess who came back from Moab.” Because of their historical background Israel were always very conscious of who they were and who others were (or weren’t!) Ruth is not an Israelite. No, we need to examine the Law of Moses to see what an appropriate attitude towards foreigners might have been.
Right from the outset, before entering the Promised Land, the Lord had warned, “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same.” (Ex 34:15,16) Getting ready to take the land, Moses reiterated this: “Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods.” (Deut 7:3,4) This was not a racial issue so much as an issue about spiritual purity.
To balance this, though, there are often references to ‘the alien’ living in their midst, e.g. Ex 12:48,49 – being able to partake in the Passover, Ex 20:10 – keeping the Sabbath applying to the alien in their midst, Ex 22:21 – not mistreating the alien. Thus there are laws providing for ‘the alien’ or ‘the foreigner’ who has come to be part of Israel. Earlier in Joshua of course, Rahab eventually joined and became part of Israel and indeed of the Messianic tree! That bears looking at: “Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.” (Mt 1:5,6) Boaz’ mother had been Rahab and she is one of the four women included in this male family tree – to make a point!
So Boaz is quite a remarkable man. He is a good and godly employer, he is someone whose father married a Canaanite who transferred to Israel (and therefore ceased to be part of the prohibition against such people) and also indicates awareness and concern as he enquires after Ruth. Perhaps because of who his mother is, he is more open to receive this Moabite woman, or perhaps it was simply that he knew the Law and knew it made provision for such people. Whatever it is, he is open to become part of this ongoing story.
Now before we finish this particular meditation we perhaps need to observe more fully that Boaz was a good and godly man and able to fit into the will of God. No doubt God will work in our circumstances regardless of us, but the New Testament does indicate that He wants us to co-operate with Him and work with Him in bringing about His will. That is far more preferable. So here is the question: are we like Boaz, open, good, and godly and available to bless others around us, whether they come from our family (the church) or are aliens (seeking unbelievers) or, for that matter, those who have not yet shown that they are seeking? If we can say yes to this, then we are those who can co-operate and work with the Lord to bring about His will on earth. When we pray, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” (Mt 6:10) are we available to be those who will participate in bringing it about?