Meditations in Ruth : 14. Naomi’s Wisdom
Ruth 2:19 Her 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.
When Ruth arrives home in the late evening with all the grain, it is obvious to Naomi that she has been favoured. One does not normally manage to glean this amount of grain in one day. Something must have happened here, some man must have helped her in some way, hence her questions: “Her mother-in-law asked her, “Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!” (v.19a) There is clearly a story to be told here and she wants to hear it, so Ruth tells her where she had found herself and who whose field it was: “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.” (v.19b)
The moment Naomi hears the name she marvels at what has happened, who it was that Ruth found as her protector-provider: “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.” (v.20) Now we often say when teaching about how to go about Bible Studies that with the Bible it is important to understand the culture and Naomi has just used a phrase that needs explaining: “He is one of our kinsman-redeemers”
In the law of Moses we find, “If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel,” (Deut 25:5,6) and we also find, “If one of your countrymen becomes poor and sells some of his property, his nearest relative is to come and redeem what his countryman has sold.” (Lev 25:25) It is from these that we get the concept of the ‘kinsman-redeemer’, and this is going to become very significant in this story. The idea is to provide protection for the family or an individual who finds themselves in a poor situation. It not only involves land (as the second quote shows) but also includes widows (as the first quote shows). We may find this strange in the light of modern culture but the idea was to protect the widow by any unmarried brother of the dead husband offering to marry her. That is what we have here in the background of this story.
So Ruth continues telling Naomi what had happened to her (so far she’s only told that she ended up in the field of Boaz): “Then Ruth the Moabitess said, “He even said to me, `Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain.’ “ (v.21) Note the story-teller still describes her as “Ruth the Moabitess”, almost to emphasize the wonder of what is taking place, this alien being absorbed into Israel. Naomi is very much aware that as two women on their own they are very vulnerable and especially the younger Ruth when she is out working: “Naomi 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.” (v.22) Naomi realises that Ruth is likely to find special care being in the field of a relative. And thus the result of the story summarized is, “So 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.” (v.23)
It is very easy to take for granted the small details of this story and thus fail to realise all the components of it, if you like, that go to bring the end result. We’ve had Ruth’s desire to care for Naomi and herself by going out gleaning (v.2) and then we had what seems chance (or providence) – “As it turned out,” (v.4), then comes this godly employer (v.4) who it turns out is related to Naomi (v.1), who is obviously mindful of the law of caring for the poor (v.8) and is graciously protective of her (v.9), we have Ruth’s industry, working hard all day (v.7,17) and we have more of Boaz’s care drawing her into the family-workers group and providing for her (v.14-16) and now we have Naomi’s understanding and wisdom confirming Ruth in what she is doing. They may all be small things in themselves but they go to bringing about the end result of this story.
But isn’t that exactly how it is with ordinary, everyday life. Small things happen, so small we don’t even notice them probably, but one thing builds on another and another until a big result occurs. Many years ago I felt a need for a word processor and prayed for one and the money came. I started learning ‘Basic’ language to develop simple teaching programs and one day my older son, who was about 9 or 10, came in and I asked him would he like me to teach him Basic. He said yes and six months later I couldn’t understand the language he used. Years later he did a computing degree and runs his own web-design business. Talking with me he offered me a website and from that came all these studies which go to form a very large website resource. One small thing after another building up. Check out your own life and marvel at such things and thank the Lord for His hidden hand of guidance.