This article is an exposition of Ruth 2.

Source: The Evangelical Presbyterian, 2010. 3 pages.

Faith in Action

The reformer Martin Luther once defined faith in this way: “Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace. It is so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.” Now, as we pick up our story again, at the beginning of chapter 2, there are at least three things that we need to notice about faith.

1. Stepping out in Faith🔗

Some years ago, my previous congregation went for a weekend away to a Christian centre in the Vale of Avoca, County Wicklow. One of the activities organised over the weekend that really stands out for me, was the ‘Zip-Line’. To get to this thing you had to climb up a telegraph pole, which swayed when you reached the top. Then holding on to a bar, you launched yourself off the top and shot down the line.

  1. Lack of Encouragement🔗

Now as chapter 2 opens we find Ruth making a similar step or leap of faith and she does so despite lacking any real encouragement. In v 2 we read, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favour.” And she said, “Go, my daughter” (ESV). Now Ruth doesn’t know what we know. She doesn’t know about Boaz who is introduced to us in v 1. All she knows is that they have to eat and rather than sitting around, she takes the initiative and steps out in faith, hoping that somewhere out there, there might be a landowner willing to allow her to glean in his fields.

Now it is interesting that it is Ruth and not Naomi who takes the initiative, and neither does Naomi offer to go with her daughter-in-law, even though she is well able to help. Perhaps she is so caught up in her sorrows right now, that she just can’t think about such things. Perhaps there is even an element of pride here. Naomi was once a wealthy citizen of Bethlehem and perhaps she can’t bring herself to glean in the fields with the other paupers. But either way, it is Ruth who, with no real encouragement, steps out in faith.

  1. Potential Dangers🔗

And she does so despite the very real dangers that await her. It is true that the Lord had made a provision for the poor, allowing them to glean in the fields, but not every landowner was happy to abide by the law. Also as a young woman on her own in the fields, Ruth is vulnerable. It is interesting that Boaz has to instruct his labourers not to touch her (v 9). But Ruth faces an even greater danger, because as soon as she opens her mouth and people hear her accent, they will know that she is a foreigner and worst of all, that she is from Moab (v 6). But she still steps out in faith and she is an example to us.

Sometimes in the Christian life we find ourselves at the top of the telegraph pole and there is only one way down, and at times like this we need the  ‘daring confidence’ that Luther spoke about. Yes, we can list numerous reasons why we should stay in our comfort zones, especially if no one is offering encouragement and apparent dangers await us, but sometimes we just have to step out in faith like Ruth, trusting that as we do so, the Lord will be there for us. It has been said that if you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat, Ruth does that here and we can too.

2. The Rewards of Faith🔗

So we have stepped out in faith. But what else can we learn about faith here? Well, secondly, we have The Rewards of Faith. The issue of bankers pay has been much discussed in recent months, especially the huge bonuses given to executives in the banks bailed out by the taxpayer. I will leave you to decide whether they deserve such rewards.

But as chapter 2 unfolds and Ruth steps out in faith, we find the Lord blessing this young Moabite convert. We see this in at least two ways.

  1. The Lord’s Providence in her Life🔗

In v 3 Ruth goes and starts gleaning and we read, “she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech” (ESV). What a stroke of luck! Ruth ends up in the field belonging to the ‘worthy man’ introduced to us in v 1. But there is another ‘lucky break’ in v 4, because Boaz arrives on the scene. Certainly fortune is smiling on this young woman, but whilst these events have an appearance of good fortune, this is really the Lord’s doing. Iain M Duguid writes, — “There were no angelic visions to direct her to the right field or voices from heaven to guide her. Nevertheless, as she trusted in the Lord, he directed her steps unwittingly to exactly the right location.”

Now as we think about our own lives, this is incredibly comforting, isn’t it? There are times when we have to step out in faith, despite everything that tells us to stay within our comfort zones, and as we do that, the way ahead may not be at all clear, but the Lord will guide us. Ruth doesn’t know what is going to happen and she doesn’t realise that the Lord is guiding her, but it is true nonetheless. She trusts him and he honours that by guiding her just to the right spot, at just the right moment. The Lord’s providence is amazing, isn’t it?

  1. The Lord’s Generosity🔗

We have already been given an indication of Boaz’s character in v 1, and as he speaks for the first time in v 4, it is significant that these are words of blessing. Here is a godly landowner, who obviously cares about his workers. Now Boaz is not swayed by the apparent racial prejudice of his foreman (v 6), but gives Ruth permission to glean in his fields, guaranteeing her safety. (v 8­-9) So the Lord has answered her prayers, but in actual fact he does far more. Boaz is clearly impressed with this young Moabite woman (v 12) and having fed her at mealtime (v 14), he instructs his young men to deliberately drop sheaves for her and by the end of the day she has gleaned ‘“about an ephah of barley.” (v 17)

Now can you see the Lord’s generosity? That morning Ruth was simply hoping to find a landowner, who would allow her to glean in his fields. Now the Lord grants that desire, but he also gives her a lot more besides. He brings her into contact with a godly, caring and generous man, who, unbeknown to her, has certain legal responsibilities towards Naomi and herself. To cap it all, this is also the beginning of a romance, because without realizing it, Ruth has just met her future husband. The Lord is so good isn’t he and he often exceeds our expectations.

Now of course Ruth’s experience doesn’t give us a blanket promise, where God always gives us the desires of our heart. It is interesting to note that Ruth’s desires are consistent with God’s revealed will, and we should not expect the Lord to give us what we want, if what we want is at odds with his Word. But with that qualification, the example of Ruth is tremendously encouraging. Stepping out in faith can be scary, but if our desires are godly and consistent with the Word, then we may well find that the Lord honours that step of faith and richly blesses us.

3. The Restoration of Faith🔗

So there is stepping out in faith and there are the rewards of faith. But as we close, notice that in the third place we have The Restoration of Faith. As Ruth struggles home with about an ephah of barley, Naomi is full of questions (v 18-19) and when she hears everything, she exclaims, — “May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living and the dead!” (v 20 ESV). Now our time is gone, but remember that Naomi returned home a bitter woman. She is angry at the Lord’s dealings with her and she is caught up in her own sorrows. But as her daughter-in-law staggers through the door, weighed down by the barley, the penny drops and at long last Naomi begins to see that the Lord hasn’t deserted her after all. Far from it. He has always been there for her, but now she sees it for herself and her faith is revived.

Now perhaps as you read this article, you are a relatively new convert to Christ and you are intimidated by the life of faith. Or perhaps you are an old soldier and because of various trials or backslidings, your faith has begun to wane. Perhaps you are even a little bitter, because of God’s providence in your life. Well, whatever your situation, like Ruth, step out in faith and you may just find that the God who has already richly blessed you in Christ (Rom 8:32), will far exceed your expectations and will shower his gifts of grace upon you. Amen.

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