Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Studies in Ruth Chapter 2 (2)

Encircled by God's protection
The scene is set for Boaz. In Elimelech, Orpah, Naomi and Ruth we have seen pictures of ourselves. Today we come to look at Boaz. Boaz stands apart from the other characters. He is a picture of Jesus.

He is one of the outstanding characters of the Old Testament. But more than that, when Ruth arrives home and displays to Naomi the fruits of her day's gleaning and reveals in whose field she has been, Naomi exclaims, "That man is one of our redeemers". Boaz is a redeemer - a saviour like figure. Here again was provision God had made in his law for any Israelite who had to sell his land, or himself into slavery, that he could be redeemed by a near relative. The Redeemer was the one who paid the price, so that a relative could go free. He was the one who brought for them their inheritance in the Promised Land.

In this practice God is providing for us a picture of what Christ would do for us. We were slaves to sin. We had lost our inheritance. And Christ comes and pays the price so that we can be set free and he pays the price so that we can have our inheritance in the Promised Land of Heaven.

Boaz is a Redeemer. He is a picture for us of Jesus, and we see that reinforced in different ways in the text. He comes from Bethlehem, where the Great Redeemer would be born. His mother we learn from Matthew was Rahab - a woman who had a dubious history. Like Jesus Boaz would have known what it was like to have aspersions cast on his parents.

We see his Christ-likeness in his actions - in his compassion on the outcast, and the needy, the way he goes out of his way to meet Ruth at the point of her need.

And as we look at how Boaz takes care of Ruth we see not only are God's people blessed by the providences of God, but they are encircled by the protection of God

As we look at the passage we see the Great Redeemers protection of his people lived out in Boaz the Redeemer's protection of Ruth.

From Boaz's words to Ruth about where to glean, and his warnings to his workers evidently Bethlehem was not an idyllic little county town. It had its dark places, and to be a foreigner and a female was to be particularly at risk. And yet see what lengths Boaz goes to reassure this one who has placed herself under the care of Jehovah God, that she will be safe.

We see it in his words

Throughout the chapter Ruth shows that she is very aware that she is a foreigner. She has evidently introduced herself to the foreman on the job as a Moabite, Naomi's daughter in law. And what are Boaz's first words to her, v8 "Listen carefully my daughter" - what beautiful words of acceptance. See how he sweeps aside any doubts she might have about being accepted. "My daughter".

Our Saviour does the same for us, we are overcome with doubts and fears about our acceptance with God - we can be very much aware that we are foreigners and outcasts, and yet he comes to us and puts away our fears:

John 1:12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--

1 John 3:1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

Christ's words should bring comfort and a sense of the great wall of protection that is around us as we too live in a world where there are dangers, and where Satan is out to harm us and to cause us to stumble. They should comfort us when we feel particularly as no doubt Ruth did at times that she was a foreigner, and didn't belong. There will be times when we will wonder do we really belong. And part of the Lord's Supper is Jesus saying to us - you belong.

Boaz's words set Ruth in the right path.

V8,9 So Boaz said to Ruth, "My daughter, listen to me. Don't go and glean in another field and don't go away from here. Stay here with my servant girls. 9 Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the girls."

An invitation to stay in his field, and when the workers move on to another field, she is to follow them. In the mishmash jumble of patchwork fields she could easily find herself working in someone else's patch, where she wouldn't be so welcome. But Boaz tells her to be sure to follow his workers on to the next field.

He sets her in the right paths, paths that will be safe. How often our saviour does that for us. He lifts us out of our sins and sets us on a firm place to stand, he sets our feet in his ways, ways that are safe. He provides us with faithful examples in his word, and around us, and bids us follow them so that we will be safe.

And wherever we go in following the commands of our Saviour in his word we will be safe.

John 10:27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

Boaz protects her from harm. He instructs his men not to touch her. Perhaps her unease showed in her face, perhaps she had her own concerns about her safety. But Boaz assures her and sets her mind at ease.

V15, 16 As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, "Even if she gathers among the sheaves, don't embarrass her. 16 Rather, pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don't rebuke her."

Again his words guard her from danger. And you get the feeling from the general thrust of these words that Boaz was going to hold them personally accountable for the welfare of Ruth. His instructions here are to the all the workers, not just to the foreman. He wants them all to know that she is to be kept safe.

She is encircled by his protection.

Think how secure she must have felt, hearing Boaz give these commands. Think how grateful she must have felt towards Boaz. If Christ is your Redeemer then he has encircled you with his protection. His death protects you from the punishment you deserve from Father, Son and Spirit. His victory at the cross means you have been set free forever from Satan's grasp. His command and authority protects you from attack from Satan which you cannot by his strength withstand. He is present with you, His angels surround you - you are encircled by his protection. And although like Ruth we were from an enemy tribe, and we deserve not protection, when we like Ruth put our trust in God - we are encircled by his protection.

Hear Jesus' words
John 10:28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no-one can snatch them out of my hand.

Christ has paid. We are free. And although this life is a battle, nothing can overcome us, because he who is for us is greater than he who is against us.

And see how gentle his care is. See how Boaz goes out of his way to reassure Ruth, so our Saviour goes out of his way to reassure his people of his care for them. And he is gentle - Isaiah says of him "A bruised Reed he will not break, a smouldering wick he will not snuff out." Is that how you feel? Then be assured that your saviour cares for you in the same tender and gentle way that we see Boaz provide for Ruth here. Are you feeling stretched in every direction, or anxious about the future? Be assured your saviour will not let you be tested beyond what you can bear, but will provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

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