Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, ‘My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you. Now here is our kinsman Boaz, with whose young women you have been working. See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing-floor. Now wash and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing-floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, observe the place where he lies; then, go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do.’ She said to her, ‘All that you tell me I will do.’
So she went down to the threshing-floor and did just as her mother-in-law had instructed her. When Boaz had eaten and drunk, and he was in a contented mood, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came quietly and uncovered his feet, and lay down. At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and there, lying at his feet, was a woman! He said, ‘Who are you?’ And she answered, ‘I am Ruth, your servant; spread your cloak over your servant, for you are next-of-kin.’ He said, ‘May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter; this last instance of your loyalty is better than the first; you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not be afraid; I will do for you all that you ask, for all the assembly of my people know that you are a worthy woman. But now, though it is true that I am a near kinsman, there is another kinsman more closely related than I. Remain this night, and in the morning, if he will act as next-of-kin for you, good; let him do so. If he is not willing to act as next-of-kin for you, then, as the Lord lives, I will act as next-of-kin for you. Lie down until the morning.’
So she lay at his feet until morning, but got up before one person could recognize another; for he said, ‘It must not be known that the woman came to the threshing-floor.’ Then he said, ‘Bring the cloak you are wearing and hold it out.’ So she held it, and he measured out six measures of barley, and put it on her back; then he went into the city. She came to her mother-in-law, who said, ‘How did things go with you, my daughter?’ Then she told her all that the man had done for her, saying, ‘He gave me these six measures of barley, for he said, “Do not go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.” ’ She replied, ‘Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest, but will settle the matter today.’
This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about a panhandler who stopped a man and asked him for some money to buy something to eat. The man replied, “I’ll tell you what I can do. Seeing as I’m on my way to the pub, how about I buy you a drink?” The homeless man proclaimed, “But I don’t drink. I’m just looking for money to get something to eat.” “Well, how about a couple of good cigars I’ve received from my latest business trip?” The homeless man replied, “Sir, thank you but I don’t smoke either. I only want something to eat.” “How about we head to the track and I’ll place a bet on some horses? I received a tip and you and I can split the winnings.” The homeless man again protested, “I really appreciate your generosity but I don’t gamble either. I’m just looking for some food to eat!” Sensing the panhandler’s growing frustration, the man finally said, “Okay, I’ll tell you what we’re going to do. Come back home with me tonight and my wife will make us some dinner. I would really like her to meet you.” The homeless man started to feel a tad suspicious and said, “Do you really think she wouldn’t mind a man of my low stature sitting at your table for dinner?” “Doesn’t matter. She needs to know what happens to someone who doesn’t drink, smoke, or gamble.”
Oh boy, we’re in the thick of it now! Clearly that man was oblivious to the actual needs of the panhandler, offering him poor substitutes instead. And all for what? To suggest a correlation between homelessness and the resistance to vices? Well, we know that succumbing to vices often leads to ruin, perhaps even homelessness, so the man’s suggestion is absurd at best. But a man will try anything to fool his wife…
Say what you will about the man’s morality, he was nevertheless awfully generous. Indeed, I imagine some would eagerly take him up on his offers of drink, smoke, or gambling, especially considering their unfortunate circumstances. Why worry about food if given the opportunity to escape in vices? Regardless, the man was generous in the variety of what he had to offer and generosity is at the core of our reading for today. In fact, it’s at the core of the entire book of Ruth, one of the overarching themes as Intern Sarah suggested last week. God’s abundant generosity is revealed over and over again in both the characters and story of this tightly woven book of scripture. God’s mercy is continually shown in situations that are often devastating. Naomi and her husband and two sons could have been devastated by the famine that had afflicted their land. Yet God enabled them to flee the land albeit to hostile neighboring land. The people of Moab could have rejected Naomi and her family but again God enabled them to establish themselves in the foreign land. Naomi’s husband died but her two sons kept providing for her for another 10 years. The sons took Moabite wives and roots were beginning to grow. Naomi’s sons were taken from her and she could have been left destitute with no husband and sons in a foreign land. Once again God enabled Naomi to return home with the help of her daughter-in-law Ruth. Over and over again, God showed abundant mercy to Naomi in protecting and guiding her.
And then the narrative shifts to Ruth. There is a variety in the generosity of God and what He has to offer. God isn’t limited in showing mercy to Naomi alone but extends it to Ruth as well. And rightly so! The cards had turned and now Ruth was the woman in a foreign, hostile land without a husband or family to provide for her. She could have easily been devastated by her own situation yet God, in his abundant mercy, provided for her as well. God led her and Naomi to the fields of a wealthy, generous landowner named Boaz. Oh, and it just so happened that Boaz was single and open to the possibility of marriage! What are the odds?! Well, pretty good considering the abundant generosity of God! God’s mercy extends far and wide to each and every one of us. Why shouldn’t it extend to Ruth as well?
This is where we pick up in the narrative with God enabling Ruth and Boaz to “connect” in a rather biblical way. Ruth came to Boaz in the evening and before she scurried home in the morning unnoticed, Boaz offered six measures of barley to share with Naomi. Again, God’s abundant generosity was revealed through Boaz. First it was revealed through Elimelech in fleeing the famine. Then it was revealed through Ruth in her returning with Naomi to Judah. Then it was revealed through Boaz in his providing food and opportunity for Ruth and Naomi. Our God is a generous God!! Our God is a gracious and merciful God! Our God is an attentive and faithful God! These two women had multiple situations that could have devastated either of them yet again God faithfully and generously provided for both of them.
Say what you will about God’s guidance and direction in our lives, there’s no denying his generosity. Our God is a good and gracious God. God uses people and situations to reveal his generosity and grace and mercy. Believe it or not, God uses US to reveal his generosity and grace and mercy. God wants US to be generous and gracious and merciful to those around us! Why else would He give us the wisdom of scripture? Recall the wisdom of Proverbs, “a generous person will be enriched, and one who gives water will get water.” (11:25) We know the joy that comes from giving! We know that we receive far more when we give than when we receive. The joy is exponentially greater in giving than in receiving! And elsewhere in Proverbs, we hear, “whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and will be repaid in full.” (19:17) I love the structure of that statement! Who thought you could lend to the Lord? Doesn’t God have everything?! Well, in helping the unfortunate we are helping God and God doesn’t forget our help. No, God helps us and loves us all the more! Why wouldn’t we want to generously help others knowing God repays us tenfold?! There is great truth in Paul’s words to the Corinthians, “the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” (2 Cor. 9:6) God repays tenfold, all the more reason to sow bountifully!
So as we continue along our journey through the book of Ruth, let us be mindful of God’s generosity in grace and mercy. God abundantly shares with each of us! Be mindful of it and thankful. Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.