The third scene is Ruth is exciting (Ruth 2). It is a major turning point in the narrative of the lives of Ruth and Naomi – two destitute widows who return to the “house of bread” in search of provision, blessing, and favor. It is a major turning point in the lives of these two women who bear the painful burden of infertility having no family through which to perpetuate the family name and family lands. It is a major turning point in the lives of these women because in scene 3, we are finally introduced to hope – hope in the form of a man named Boaz. Let’s call him Mr. Right.
God’s Plan for the Genders: Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Mr. Right is a real catch indeed. The text itself describes him as a wealthy landowner (2:1) and related to Naomi’s husband (2:1,3) – two key qualifications for serving as the source of Ruth’s hope. But Boaz’s qualifications to become Ruth’s Mr. Right run deeper than external circumstances (economic means, status, and clan member). As Scene 3 unfolds, we discover that Boaz is Ruth’s Mr. Right because he is a godly man, matching Ruth’s virtue in every way. Boaz is a godly man who trusts in God for provision, protection, and preservation.
Consider the following:
- Boaz directs attention to Yahweh in his greeting to his field workers (2:4);
- Boaz demonstrates Yahweh’s hesed by going above and beyond Mosaic Law in granting Ruth protection (2:8-9a), provision (2:9b, 15-16), and hospitality (2:14); and
- Boaz trusts in Yahweh to preserve His people, specifically to preserve Ruth under the shadow of His wing (2:11-12).
Boaz provides us with a clear picture of biblical manhood, not merely due to his good deeds, but because of His character. His character reveals a man seeking to properly bear the image of God in which he was created – namely to function as the Creator’s gracious sub-regent over creation both reflecting the Creator and direction attention to the Creator (see Gen. 1:26-28, 2:15). So the true essence of manhood rests not in gender or physicality alone, although that certainly is part of the equation, but in function and character as well.
Ruth, too, provides us a clear portrait of the purpose and beauty of God’s gendered creation. Ruth demonstrates to us a picture of biblical womanhood that is both possible and rewarding.
Consider the following:
- Ruth demonstrates the heart of a servant by choosing service over idleness (2:2,7b);
- Ruth demonstrates the spirit of a servant by not presuming upon her right to glean in the fields (2:2,7a); and
- Ruth demonstrates the posture of a servant by seeking favor (2:7b, 10, 13).
In the same way that Boaz’s manhood is not grounded in his gender alone, Ruth’s true womanhood is not based solely on her biological makeup. Rather, we see that biblical womanhood and true femininity includes a demeanor, a disposition that God deems as good (Gen. 2:18). Ruth is a true 1 Peter woman – 1 Pet. 3:3-4 says: “Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel – rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”
We can see that Ruth and Boaz are a well-suited match. Their virtuous character mirrors each other and reflects the hesed of God.
God’s Favor for Ruth: Boaz as the human agent of God’s favor
And Boaz proves himself to be Ruth’s Mr. Right by lavishing her with unmerited favor. In showing Ruth such extravagant favor (grace), Boaz becomes God’s agent of redemption in the lives of these two widows. In fact, I titled this lesson, A ‘Favor’able First Impression, for this very reason. We discover that the concept of ‘favor’ acts as a giant pair of bookends, beginning the scene (2:2) and ending the scene (2:20). But it in the middle of the scene we discover some theological truths concerning God’s favor toward Ruth and God’s favor toward you and me.
Boaz shows Ruth such extravagant favor because of “all that she had done” (Ruth 2:11-12), referring to her faithfulness to Yahweh. Ruth chose the unfamiliar over the familiar. Ruth chose faith in the God of Israel over faith in the gods of Moab. Her past faithfulness has been reported to Boaz, and he perceives the type of woman she is by per past deeds and probably by her present activities.
So, does Boaz merely show Ruth favor due to her good deeds? I think the second half of verse 12 provides us with a clue: “The LORD repay your work, and a fullreward be given you by the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.”
The implication of verse 12 is that God will reward Ruth because she has sought refuge under his wings.” The word picture here paints a young bird seeking the protection of its mother. It is the same word used in Exodus 19:4 in which Yahweh boasts to the nation of Israel: “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself.”
And by the time you get to the Psalms, the wing imagery is clearer still. Consider Ps. 57:1 which is a prayer of rescue written by David as he fled from Saul. It says: “Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, For my soul takes refuge in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge …”
The biblical authors clearly viewed God as their sole source of protection. He rescued them with his mighty wings. He sustained them with his mighty wings. And it was by His wings, that He brought His people to himself. In the Old Testament, their works did not obtain God’s favor – although their works did determine the measure of blessings they obtained from the Lord – rather they obtained grace and favor when their heart was turned toward God.
And so we see in Ruth, that her faithfulness to do good things is a reflection of her faithfulness to Yahweh. In choosing the unfamiliar over the familiar, in choosing faith in Yahweh over faith in Chemosh, Ruth has sought refuge in God alone, the God of Israel, the only God powerful enough to reward her with favor/grace. And she has found a far superior refuge than the refuge offered by her family. Ruth, an outsider, a foreigner, will be repaid favor from the Lord – through the agency of Boaz -because she has come to the Lord seeking His provision and protection.
God’s Preservation for the Future: God’s providence preserves His People
Yet, in Boaz’s prayer we also see an another aspect of God’s providence. God’s providence doesn’t solely mean he sits on a majestic throne governing all creation. Rather, God’s providence also encompasses an element of preservation. God not only governs his creation, but he preserves his creation. Namely, He preserves His people. Colossians 1 speaks of the Lord sustaining His creation – including the environment (Ps. 65:9-13), plants and animals (Ps. 104), and all humanity (Job. 34:14-15; Acts 17:28). He is continually aware of creation’s needs and has established a created order whereby all those needs might be met. But we see among those who are God’s chosen people – those who have a covenant relationship with Yahweh – there is special preservation including: eternal life; deliverance from enemies (Ps. 138:7; 143:11); and basic needs (Matt. 6:25-34). God is powerful enough to preserve his people and seeks to sustain His creation based upon his “intimate knowledge of them.”
And we see in Boaz’s blessing over Ruth the concept of God’s providential preservation of His creation. God will preserve Ruth. And although Boaz does not know it, God indeed, has a great work of preservation in store for Ruth. And in her shrewdness, Naomi is the character who puts the puzzle pieces together and discovers that it through Boaz that God might indeed preserve them and the name of Elimelech. In Ruth 2: 20, Naomi calls Boaz a close relative (lit. a go’el) or a “kinsman redeemer” – he is a blood relative who is obligated by Mosaic Law to fulfill certain roles to protect and perpetuate a family. Some of these roles include:
- redeem the name of a deceased brother through bearing his progeny (Gen. 38:8; Deut. 25:5-10);
- redeem (avenge) the wrongful death of a family or clan member (Gen. 4:1-6)
- redeem any family lands that might have been sold due to poverty (Lev. 25:25). 
As we will find out, Boaz will fulfill two of these three roles on behalf of Ruth and Naomi. He redeems Elimelech’s land by buying it back Naomi (Ruth 4:9), and he redeems Elimelech’s line by bearing his progeny with Ruth (Ruth 4:13-14). So, the significance of a go’el acting on behalf of Ruth and Naomi showcases God’s providential care for His people whereby he orchestrates life circumstances to preserve them and to allow them to participate in his redemptive plan for all humanity. In acting as a go’el to Ruth and Naomi, Boaz becomes God’s agent of favor on these two women and the rest of the world. Boaz’s redemption of these women goes beyond a rescue mission to save two women from poverty and oppression to a cosmic rescue mission to preserve the line of the promised Messiah, the “seed” of David!
And so embedded in this love story between Ruth and Boaz we find a beautiful portrait of redemption. And although the book of Ruth is not an allegory of the redemptive work of Christ, we can still appreciate the book’s continuity with the overall trajectory of Scripture – the redemption of man accomplished by a powerful and providential God.
Consider Isaiah 43:1: “But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!”
I hope you are encouraged today that the same Almighty God, El Shaddai, who created the earth and preserves it, also preserves you!
The same God who arranged provision and protection for Ruth through a redeemer, also arranges provision and protection for you through a redeemer!
The same God who offers the shadow of His wing as a place for Ruth to take refuge, also offers the same shadow of His almighty wing to you!
If you have a relationship with God, you can draw underneath the shadow of His wing. If you seek the Lord’s refuge, like it says in Is. 43:1, the Lord will say to you: “You are mine.” Are you the Lord’s? Have you sought his refuge alone?