The Fields of the Lord

By Stephen Terry


An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the LORD for ever: Because they met you not with bread and with water in the way, when ye came forth out of Egypt; and because they hired against thee Balaam the son of Beor of Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse thee. Deuteronomy 23:3-4


Naomi was a female Job.  Famine had driven her and her husband Elimelech with their two sons Mahlon and Kilion from the Promised Land.  Inhabitants of Bethlehem, they found no humor in this “House of Bread” having no bread.  Finding no relief among the tribes of Israel, they travelled to Moab.  There, south of the Arnon River, her husband died leaving the two sons to care for their mother.  They both married Moabite women and died themselves ten years later without children.  Naomi had married a man named “God is King” but where were the blessings from this God? Left to struggle with two foreign daughters, she found each day a sadness rather than a blessing. She must have felt abandoned by God, yet she did not lose faith in Him.

Naomi listened for news from over the Jordan, and she heard that things had improved.  Wanting to return to her home in Bethlehem, she remembered that the Lord had made provision for the poor to be supported from the gleanings in the fields. (Leviticus 19:9-10)  So she decided to return at harvest time when there would be a means for support.  Knowing that this was based on faith and not sure knowledge of what to expect, she decided to return alone.  She told her daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah to return to their Moabite families where they would surely be supported.  She could not guarantee that things would be well where they were going.  Orpah returned to her family, but Ruth refused.

After about a decade of living with her, Ruth had come to be closer to Naomi than her own family.  Nonetheless, Naomi knew that the prospects for a Moabite in Israel were not good.  God had cursed them for what they had done at Baal Peor, and surely would not bless these women if they returned with her.  Urging Ruth to return to her family, she was finally forced to submit to her daughter-in-law’s strength of will and her determination to bind herself to her mother-in-law’s fate.

Ruth had been converted from the Moabite gods to the faith Naomi carried in her heart. That faith now worked itself outward from Ruth’s heart to her’s in one of the most beautiful pledges in Scripture. “…whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17)  Perhaps at this moment, Naomi’s thoughts were like the words of Jesus so many centuries later: “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” (Luke 7:9)  Confronted by this faith, Naomi could not deny Ruth, and they both travelled to Bethlehem.

Naomi had shared her plans with Ruth, and Ruth eagerly volunteered to go gleaning in the fields to support them.  Not knowing the fields around Bethlehem, she ended up gleaning in a field owned by a relative of Naomi’s deceased husband, Elimelech.  This man, Boaz, when he came into the field from Bethlehem immediately noticed this young woman working hard in his field. Not recognizing her, he asked the field boss about her.  The man gave her a glowing recommendation.  Impressed, Boaz spoke to her and told her to only glean in his field, and he would take care of her. 

Since Ruth had probably heard about the attitude toward Moabites, she was surprised at this generosity from Boaz. She asked him why he was being so kind to her – a foreigner?  She had probably not been treated so well by others in Bethlehem.  Boaz told her that he had heard all about what she had done for Naomi.  He assured her of his favor and encouraged her to trust in his kindness.  Instructing the field hands to treat her kindly, he even invited her to the midday meal he provided the harvesters.  She spent the entire day in his field and with the help of the field hands she gleaned more than half a bushel of barley.

When Naomi saw how much Ruth had gleaned, her spirits lifted, and when Ruth shared with her from the meal that Boaz had provided she became even more excited. Naomi wanted to hear all about the day from Ruth, and when she heard that the man who had helped her was Boaz, she rejoiced.  She knew he was a close relative that could be a kinsman redeemer: a man who had the obligation to marry a widow and raise up children to her deceased husband.  Since Boaz had obviously been kind to Ruth, Naomi urged her to remain in his fields until the harvests were finished.  She feared that others in Israel might not act so kindly to a Moabite in their fields.  Ruth was happy to continue to work in his fields and continued to live with and support her mother-in-law.

Now why was Boaz so kind to a Moabite in his fields?  His father was Salmon. Salmon had married Rahab, the prostitute from Jericho.  From his father and mother he had learned that God’s blessings do not always come only to or through Israel.  Rahab was a Canaanite. God had condemned the Canaanites to death.  Yet, an exception had been made in her case.  She had been saved by her faith.  This is really the only way anyone can be saved.  Could Boaz have understood that before he met Ruth?  Was it the foundation to his own faith that allowed him to look at Ruth as more than just a Moabite who had been cursed by God over Baal Peor? Whatever Boaz’s understanding, he was willing to act as her redeemer.  One cannot help but wonder about what the other Israelites felt toward Boaz.  He was the son of a Canaanite prostitute and the husband of a Moabite widow.  But more importantly, what did God think of all this?

Boaz had a son by Ruth named Obed. This son would be considered Elimelech’s heir.  Obed was the father of Jesse, and Jesse was the father of King David.  It was through King David that the Messianic throne was established, and the ultimate heir, descended from God and David was Jesus.  The man named “God is King,” Elimelech, truly had a prophetic name. His family gave rise to the royal line that would bring forth the Messiah.  Though hundreds of thousands were among God’s people Israel, He brought forth the Messianic line through a Canaanite and a Moabite.  Many centuries later this Messiah would try to explain to the people that the only way into the kingdom of God was through faith. 

Almost two thousand years after the birth and death of Jesus, how are we doing? Whose fields are we gleaning in? Are we seeking the blessings of the Lord of the field through faith in His kindness? Are we willing to find shelter in Him so he can become our kinsman redeemer?  Do we have faith to come to Him boldly with trust in our hearts? Ruth knew she was a Moabitess and had nothing to recommend her to an Israelite, yet she trusted.  Do we understand our true condition, or do we feel that somehow we can make ourselves better than we are, more deserving of salvation from our Redeemer?

Ruth did nothing but submit to her redeemer, Boaz.  Yet until he redeemed her, she took care of those who depended on her.  Are we like Ruth? Are we caring for the needs of others until our Redeemer comes for us? Ruth’s knowledge of Torah did not recommend her to Boaz.  There is no record that how well she kept Sabbath recommended her to him.  There is no indication that she told him how much she felt that Moses was inspired in order to impress him. No. The only account in the book of Ruth is that she cared well for Naomi and this was what caught the attention of the one who would redeem her.  This is also what catches our Redeemer’s attention.


"But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.”

 "Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.'”

"Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'”

 "The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'”

 "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.'”

 "Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?'”

 "Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'”

"These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." Matthew 25:31-46