Ruth 2:14, "And Boaz said unto her, At mealtime come thou hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar. And she sat beside the reapers: and he reached her parched corn, and she did eat, and was sufficed."
This morning, the world is full of people who either relish their position of authority or aspire to rule in ways that they currently do not. Some people simply refuse to talk to people that they believe are "beneath them." When I was in college, it was always interesting to watch the PhD professors interact with other doctorates as opposed to the "rest of us." Generally speaking, they valued the opinion of their peers and fellows above anything they would have heard from the smaller peons below them. On one of my last business trips, I had the opportunity to lunch at a cafe near the conference location, and several PhDs from the nearby college came in. Based on their appearance and manner, it was quickly apparent exactly who they were. After briefly overhearing some of their conversation, I asked if I could join them as I had an interest in their subject matter. They agreed, and even though I "held my own" in the conversation with them, they asked as I was leaving, "Where did you study?" After answering their question and admitting that I was no doctorate, they quickly went back to talking amongst themselves, probably deleting anything I had said from their memory banks.
The book of Ruth is a glorious picture of the redemption of the people of God through the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. By the 4th chapter, the illustrations, types, and shadows have built and heightened to the point of clearly identifying Boaz – in shadow – with Christ, while identifying us in the form of Ruth. However, nestled right in between the story of sorrow from the 1st chapter and the redemption story in chapters 3-4, we find a beautiful scene that shows Ruth's fellowship with Boaz thereby illustrating our fellowship with Christ. The scene in chapter 2 is most indicative of Christ's interaction with the church, and it is in that framework that we will focus our thoughts this morning.
Sometimes in my personal studies of Scriptures, I get to a verse that I know I have read dozens of times and yet something jumps out so clearly like it never has before. Such times make you wonder, "How did I never see that before?" Our study verse this morning is one of those for me. Until recently, one of the simplest expressions had gone unnoticed. Consider the phrase "And she sat beside the reapers." Such a simple thought, but let us put it in perspective for a minute. Through the course of the 1st chapter, we learn many things about Ruth, but what would be most important to the common, everyday Jew? Though she displayed a gracious spirit in the opening of this book, the regular Jew would think 2 things about her: 1. she is a stranger from Moab, 2. she is a widow. Two more desolate circumstances could not be found in Israel. They already had a poor opinion of strange nations, and being a widow in those days was a destitute condition indeed. If there was such a thing as "low man on the totem pole," Ruth fit into that category.
The reapers worked for Boaz, but even they were "above" Ruth in the common perception of culture and daily living. Yet, our verse tells us that Ruth was able to sit with the reapers when she ate. First of all, Boaz was not required to feed Ruth (she did not work for him), but in addition to that, he was certainly not required to give her a spot at the table with the workers. Yet, according to his mercy, he provided a place for her right there with his workers. Friends, we stand by nature as destitute widows from a strange land, and yet our Lord has made us room at the table with the reapers. No matter how poor you might feel to be, the Lord has provided a place that we can go and put our feet under His table. Consider the service in the house of God. Is there any more important person there than anyone else? Oh, perceptions might declare there are, but in God's sight there is no respecter of persons in the assembly. Just as the parable of the vineyard in Matthew 20 shows us, the labourers all receive a penny no matter how long they have served.
Christ compares His apostles and ministry to reapers in John 4:35-38, and though the ministry may labour longer in the vineyard and the field, feeding time is equal for all. Ruth sat with the reapers and enjoyed the bounty just as much as they did – she was sufficed (received enough). Sometimes there is a tendency among some to think that the ministry holds some higher place than others do, but the Bible refers to the office as a work and responsibility. It is not to be seen as a position of worship, but rather, an office worth respecting. Every now and then, I will hear a statement that makes me slightly chuckle to myself. Sometimes the way people reference ministers, you would think that ministers are more than normal, everyday people. Having grown up with a minister as a father and trying to be a minister now myself, I can assure anyone that they are regular people with problems like everyone else.
On a few rare occasions, I have heard expressions that did not make me chuckle but rather weep inside as people uttered sentiments about how a church would not go on without the minister. Friends, the church is bigger and more resilient than any man, minister or otherwise. Should no reapers have been at that table, Boaz was still able to feed Ruth, and though the situation is not ideal, the Lord can still provide to the church in the absence of the minister, and many times in absence of the minister's faithfulness. As I have said before and hope to die saying to the Lord's people in His church, "You can make it a whole lot better without me than I can make it without you."
One last statement in this precious verse that we hope to examine is "and he reached her parched corn." In the context, there is only one singular male form discussed: Boaz. So, in the verse, the "he" is Boaz that reaches to get corn for Ruth. Consider again the mercy of this man. He has already blessed her above measure for her place and position, but now he personally gives her corn from his own hand. Translating to today's world, the point is both beautiful and inescapably clear. When engaged in service in God's house with our feet all pressed up under His table – His banner over us being love – He reaches personally to bring us food. When the preaching comes forth in power, Peter declares that it is with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. (I Peter 1:12)
Has there ever been a time in church history where "forsaking the assembling of yourselves together" is more rampant and commonplace? I wonder. What would happen if every church across this land started a free Friday and Saturday night movie service by showing the latest films in their buildings? Would their attendance increase? I would likely think so. What if all our churches ran ads and had banners saying that God's hand would come down from heaven with food? Would our attendance increase? It would for one service until folks discovered that they could not see anything with natural sense, and yet friends, that is precisely what happens in God's house. His hand reaches and brings us food to eat and be sufficed. It saddens me to see people view the absence of God's house as some light thing when in Hebrews 10 Paul gives it strong marks of condemnation such as "trampling under foot the blood of the Son of God." Yet, our absence also shows lack of awe and respect for His hand bringing us food personally. Ruth was no doubt humbled by Boaz's continued and heightened acts of kindness to her. May our hearts stay kindled with the thanks and love for the continual kindness that our Lord grants to us through His fellowship with us in this old world.