Ruth 3
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
If Ruth was unselfish, so also was Naomi. The mother-in-law acted towards the young Moabitess as if she had been her own daughter. In seeking a husband for her daughter-in-law Naomi followed the customs of her country and her age. (Our English custom is intermediate between the French custom, according to which the husband is provided by the negotiations of the parents, and the American custom, which leaves daughters to select for themselves.) The case before us was not an ordinary one. For whilst marriage was almost universally looked forward to by Hebrew youths and maidens, there were very special reasons why Naomi should seek a husband for Ruth. As is implied in the text, Naomi desired that her daughter-in-law might find in marriage with Boaz -

I. A HOME, which should be a rest from her wanderings.

II. A PROVISION, which should deliver her from the misery and the temptations of poverty.

III. HAPPINESS, which should compensate her for the sorrows of her widowhood.

IV. PIOUS COMPANIONSHIP, which should be a relief from long friendlessness. Lessons: -

1. Parents should take thought for their children, and not leave them to choose companions and friends and life-associates by chance. Nothing could be more disastrous than such neglect and thoughtlessness.

2. Marriage should be thought of with deliberation and prayer, both by the young, and by their parents or natural guardians.

3. Those who have found rest and prosperity in marriage should not omit the duty of gratitude and praise for the care and direction of Divine providence. - T.

Shall not I seek rest for thee? How natural. We cannot ever be with those we love. Marriage is God's own ideal, and it is the happiest estate if his fear dwells in our hearts.

I. THERE IS NO EARTHLY REST LIKE THE REST OF HOME. Judges, warriors, statesmen enjoy the honors of life, and are conscious of pleasure in promotion and distinction, but their biographies tell us how they turn to home as the highest joy of all. Yes! Nothing can compensate for the loss of a happy home, and we should seek in every way to make it a refreshment and a delight by doing our best to promote its peace and purity.

II. THE EARTHLY HOME IS A PARABLE OF HEAVEN. Our Savior touches our hearts at once when he says, "My Father's house," and when he speaks the exquisite parable of the prodigal son. No analogies of city or temple are so powerful in their influence over us as the analogy of home. - W.M.S.

Boaz is an example of a thorough man of business. He was wont himself to see to it that the land was well tilled and well reaped. He was personally acquainted with the laborers. He even noticed the gleaners. He watched the reaping. He superintended the winnowing. He slept on the winnowing-floor, to protect his corn from the designs of robbers.

I. A RELIGIOUS MAN IS BOUND TO ATTEND TO THE CALLING HE EXERCISES. Whether a landowner, a farmer, a merchant, a tradesman, or a professional man, he ought to give his attention to his occupation, and not to neglect his own business to be a meddler in that of others. His business is thus more likely to prosper, and his example to younger men will be influential and beneficial.

II. AN EMPLOYER OF LABOR IS BOUND TO STUDY THE WELFARE OF HIS SERVANTS. The present state of society is very different from that in the time of Boaz. Society is less patriarchal, and more democratic. But there is still room, both in the household and in commercial and agricultural and manufacturing life, for the exercise of wise and kindly supervision over those who are employed to labor.

III. DILIGENCE IN BUSINESS PROCURES A MAN MANY ADVANTAGES. It is foolish to despise wealth, though it is easy to over-estimate it. From the narrative it is clear that the wealth of Boaz enabled him to secure a charming and virtuous wife, gave him great consideration amongst his neighbors and fellow-townsmen. If a man neglects the opportunity of acquiring property in order to pursue learning, or to do good, he deserves respect; but if from sloth and heedlessness, he is despised. Wealth is good if it be used for good purposes- for the education of children, for the encouragement of learning and virtue, for the well-being of the people at large. - T.

Behold, he winnoweth barley tonight. A world-old process this, the winnowing of the chaff from the wheat. Customs change, and commercial life increases and creates ever new demands; but the agricultural life is still the basis of all. You may make new threshing-machines, but you must still have bread. It may be winnowed by steam or hand, but it must be winnowed. A pleasant Eastern sight: work done in the cool of the evening - "tonight."

I. WORK IS EVER ASSOCIATED BY GOD WITH HIS BLESSINGS TO MAN. We must plant and dig and reap. God sends the sunshine, the sweet air, and the shower. If a man will not work, neither shall he eat. A paradise of idlers would soon be a Gehenna indeed. No curse can come to a nation so sad as this: "Abundance of idleness was in her sons and her daughters."

II. WORK IS NEVER UNDIGNIFIED OR TO BE DISDAINED. A gentleman is gentle in his work - not because he does no work. It is a false pride that dislikes handiwork. Many of the diseases which darken the brain come from the unwise neglect of physical exercise. What is sweeter than the fragrance of the upturned soil? What is more beneficent than the law of labor, which calls forth the exercise of body, mind, and spirit?

III. WORK OF WINNOWING IS A DIVINE WORK ALSO. God uses his tribulum in our history, and the tribulation-work produces experience, patience, hope. When we are mourning over some sorrow or loss, it is the bruising flail of God's correction. And this comes at all seasons of life, even in the evening of the day. For we shall need chastisement even unto the end. What a doom is that "without chastisement." - W.M.S.

Ruth was not Naomi's daughter, yet she acted, and with good reason and great propriety, as though she had been such. What holds good, therefore, of the relationship described in this book holds good, a fortiori, of the relation between parents and children. In modern society the bonds of parental discipline are, especially among the working class, lamentably relaxed. Christian people should, in the interests alike of patriotism and religion, do all they can to strengthen these bonds. The text affords us a beautiful example of filial obedience.

I. MOTIVES to filial obedience. Gratitude should lead the child to obey the parent, to whom he owes so very much. The constraint should be the sweet constraint of love. Reason should lead to the reflection - The parent has experience of human life, in which I am necessarily lacking; is not a parent's judgment far more likely to be sound than is a child's, or even a youth's? Divine legislation commands children to obey their parents. E.g. the fifth commandment, under the old covenant; apostolical admonitions, under the new. The example of the Holy Child, Jesus!

II. The ADVANTAGES of filial obedience. Usually, obvious temporal advantages ensue upon such a course. This is proverbial and unquestionable. The satisfaction of a good conscience is a compensation not to be despised for any sacrifice of personal feeling in this matter. The approval of God is most emphatically pronounced upon those who honor and obey their parents. And this is usually followed by the confidence and admiration of fellow-men. Lessons: -

1. Expostulate with the disobedient.

2. Encourage the obedient. - T.

There is brightness and pleasantness in the view this passage gives us of a harvest-time in the vale of Bethlehem. Poets and painters have interpreted the heart of humanity in the pictures and the songs in which they have represented "the joy of harvest." Boaz, the mighty man of wealth, was not only rich and prosperous - he was happy, and free from the moroseness which sometimes accompanies riches; he was generous, and free from the miserliness and penuriousness which often grows with prosperity; he was considerate, and observed and recognized individual cases of need.

I. IT IS RIGHT TO PARTAKE OF THE BOUNTIES OF GOD'S PROVIDENCE. Gluttony and drunkenness meet with no encouragement from this, or from any other portion of Scripture. But no countenance is given to asceticism God "daily loadeth us with benefits;" he giveth not only seed to the sower, but "bread to the eater." We should eat, drink, and give thanks to him who "openeth his hand and satisfieth the wants of every living thing." Sincerity and thoughtfulness should accompany the daily blessing and breaking of bread. Christ "came eating and drinking."

II. IT IS RIGHT TO BE HARPY AND MIRTHFUL WHEN GOD HAS DEALT BOUNTIFULLY WITH US. There is mirth of a kind attending the carousals and the debaucheries of sinners. This mirth is hollow, and will soon be succeeded by regrets. But when God's children sit at their Father's table and partake of his bounty, what more natural and just than that they should rejoice and sing aloud of his goodness? These gifts and "all things" are theirs!

III. IT IS RIGHT TO REST WHEN DUTY HAS BEEN FULFILLED AND TASKS ACHIEVED. Some zealous Christians seem to think all repose is sinful, as manifesting indifference to the magnitude of the work to be done. But God has made the body so that it needs rest, the mind so that it needs relaxation. The quality of the work will not suffer, but will gain, by timely and moderate repose. - T.

A blessing comes appropriately from a senior; a father blesses his son, a venerable patriarch his youthful colleague. Boaz was an elderly man, and it seems appropriate that, addressing Ruth, the young widow of his kinsman, he should use language of benediction: "Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter!"

I. BENEDICTION PROCEEDS FROM A BENEVOLENT DISPOSITION. It is the opposite of cursing. Sometimes language of benediction is used when there is no spiritual reality behind it. In such cases it is a mockery, a counterfeit of benevolence and piety.

II. BENEDICTION IMPLIES PIETY. Belief in God, and in God's willingness to bless. There is a looking up to God on behalf of him who is to be blessed. Without this the language of blessing is meaningless.

III. BENEDICTION IS THE ACKNOWLEDGMENT THAT FROM GOD ALL GOOD MUST COME, COMBINED WITH THE DESIRE AND PRAYER THAT HE WILL BE GRACIOUS. It is the hallowing of our best affections; it is the making real and personal of our most solemn religious beliefs.

IV. BENEDICTION, IF HARMONIOUS WITH GOD'S WILL, SECURES GOD'S FAVOR. It is a wish, but a wish realized; a prayer, but a prayer heard and answered in heaven. - T.

The circumstances of the narrative read strangely to us. But one nation and one age cannot fairly apply its standards to another. Nothing is more certain than that the conduct of Naomi, of Ruth, and of Boaz was perfectly correct, and probably Ruth's proceeding was wise and justifiable. Upon her character no breath of suspicion rested; she was, in the language of the text, "a virtuous woman."


II. HER VIRTUE WAS APPARENT IN HER OBEDIENCE TO HER MOTHER-IN-LAW. Instead of taking counsel of her own comparative inexperience, she listened to the advice of the sage and prudent Naomi.

III. HER VIRTUE WAS ACKNOWLEDGED BY ALL HER ACQUAINTANCE. "All the city of my people doth know." If there had been anything in the conduct of the poor, friendless young foreigner inconsistent with virtue, it would not have been hid. She escaped calumny.

IV. HER VIRTUE LED TO AN HONORABLE MARRIAGE AND POSITION IN ISRAEL. "A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband." We can believe that Ruth verified the beautiful description given in Proverbs 31. - T.

A virtuous woman. Here is the crown of all beauty. What a renown is this of Ruth's. No jeweled necklet, no Eastern retinue, can give such attraction as this. We may have women of genius, and we admire genius; we may have women of scientific attainment, and God has given no lack of intellectual endowments to women, but we must have virtue. Let the history of later Rome tell us what the loss of this is.

I. NO LIFE IS HIDDEN. "All the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman." Every history stands revealed. Concerning Nehemiah, we read of the testimony given in time of national trouble: "There is a man in thy kingdom in whose heart is the fear of the holy God." And so this simple-hearted Ruth, who had not tried to make herself attractive to the young men, poor or rich, who had been modest in manner and heroic in conduct, left the impress of her character on the city.

II. NO LIFE CAN BE RELIGIOUS THAT IS NOT VIRTUOUS. We may, indeed, have virtue of a kind, a morality of respectability, without religion; but we cannot be religious without morality, for religion does not consist in ceremonies however impressive, or days however sacred, or opinions however sound; but in a life of consecration to God, and of obedience to all the sanctities of the moral law. There may be a religion of emotionalism merely; but blessed as it is to feel the true, we must live it out as well in common life.

III. NO POWER IS SO PERMANENT AS THAT OF HOLY LIFE. Character lives in others. We do not die when we pass from earth. Ruth lives today. It would be interesting to know how many have been led even in this age to devoutness and decision by the remembrance of her conduct and the exquisite pathos of her words. The little "city" of which our text speaks has passed away, but wherever the word of God is known and read, there Ruth reproduces herself in the history of others. The very name has become a family name, and is honored by constant use in every generation. - W.M.S.

The situation in which Boaz found himself was very singular. All that he had heard and all that he had observed of this young Moabitess had impressed him favorably. His language and his conduct show that Ruth had made an impression upon his heart. And it was honorable to him that it was so. Her youth, her beauty, her misfortunes, her industry, her cheerfulness, her filial devotedness, her virtue, her piety, all commended her to the judgment and the affections of the upright and conscientious Boaz. And now, with the most perfect modesty, and in the presentation of an undoubted claim upon him, Ruth offered herself to him as his lawful, rightful wife. What hindered him from immediately complying with her request, and taking her to his heart and his home? There was one impediment. Another had, if he chose to exercise it, a prior claim. Another had the first right to redeem the field of Elimelech, and to espouse the heiress, and raise up seed to the departed. And until this person - the nameless one - had exercised his option, Boaz did not feel at liberty to act upon the suggestion of his heart.

I. PERSONAL FEELINGS ALWAYS INCREASE THE URGENCY OF THE CLAIMS OF SELFISHNESS. "By nature and by practice" men seek their own interest. But experience shows us that strong emotion increases the danger of our yielding to such impulses.

II. WHERE PERSONAL FEELINGS ARE CONCERNED THERE IS NEED OF WATCHFULNESS AND PRAYER. It is so easy to wrong others for the sake of our own gratification, that it is well to question the arguments and pleas by which our interests are commended. Boaz must have been tempted, in the circumstances, to say nothing about the nearer kinsman, but quietly to accept the proposal of Ruth.

III. TRUE PRINCIPLE, AIDED BY THE POWER OF RELIGION, WILL ENABLE A MAN TO DO THE RIGHT, EVEN THOUGH HIS OWN INTERESTS AND HIS OWN FEELINGS ARE OPPOSED TO SUCH A COURSE. Boaz gained the victory over himself, and consented to abide the issue of an appeal to the nearer kinsman, although he risked thereby the loss of Ruth. Many of the highest illustrations of the nobility possible to man turn upon some such situation, and the course which honor and virtue prescribe is the course in which true and lasting happiness will be found. - T.

In all history woman has held a place of regal influence. Not by intruding on the sphere of man, not by acting as if there were no Divine providence in the more delicate physical constitution of woman which incapacitates her for the strain of hardest toil; but in the ideal of "home," in which she is to be the "abiding" one, filling it with the charm of quiet influence and the sacredness of self-sacrificing love.

I. HERE IS A STRANGE CONJUNCTION OF TERMS. "Virtuous" comes from the Latin vir, which means a man. What then? Is a woman to be like a man? Does it mean a manly woman? In one sense it does. For "the man" is taken in the Scripture as the type of humanity in its best estate. "Show thyself a man," says David to Solomon. It means all that is pure, and brave, and true, and good. Thus "abominable" means something ab homo, to be designated as "away from a man;" something altogether alien to his nature. A virtuous woman is a woman who has strength of resistance to evil, strength of devotion to God, strength of patience and endurance in the path of obedience.

II. HERE IS THE POWER OF INFLUENCE. "All the people of my city (or, at the gate) doth know that thou art a virtuous woman." Certainly. "They that be otherwise cannot be hid." What a lesson that is! Character tells everywhere. You may not note the current running, but place your boat upon it, and you soon see it. So it is with a good life - it bears others in its current. We are all known. Men and women are judged at their true worth even in this world, and even the wicked respect the upright and the just. It was said of Nehemiah to the king in a time of trouble, "There is a man in thy kingdom in whose heart is the fear of the holy God."

III. HERE IS THE SECRET OF NATIONAL GLORY. It was so in Rome when they could speak with pride of the Roman matron, and it has been so in every nation under heaven. A Divine judgment was needed to purify this nation after the days of Charles II. Had it not been a time of judgment, the nation, as Charles Kingsley says, would have perished. Let the young be taught modesty even in dress and demeanor. Let all that is "fast" be frowned upon and made unfashionable. The grace that Christ gives is humility with the fear of the Lord. - W.M.S.

Boaz was "a mighty man of wealth," and Naomi and Ruth were poor, widowed, friendless, and comparatively strangers. All through the narrative Boaz appears as thoughtful, liberal, unselfish, honorable, munificent. He is an example to those whom Providence has endowed with wealth.

I. WEALTH IS GIVEN TO THE RICH not for their own sake only, but FOR THE SAKE OF OTHERS. Men are not the owners, but the stewards, of their possessions. How imperfectly this truth is recognized! The only way in which we can give to Christ is by giving to his people.

II. GENEROSITY SHOULD BE PROPORTIONATE TO THE MEANS OF THE GIVER. Both his means absolutely and his means relatively, i.e. considering the claims upon him by virtue of his family, his position, &c.

III. GENEROSITY SHOULD BE PROPORTIONATE TO THE NEEDS OF THE RECIPIENT. Those should have the preference who are old, crippled, and helpless; the widow and the orphan.

IV. GENEROSITY SHOULD BE UNOSTENTATIOUS AND SYMPATHETIC in its spirit., Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth." Hardness of manner may spoil beneficence. "Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind." - T.

Naomi showed in her whole conduct not only tender feeling and sympathy, and sincere piety, but much shrewdness, foresight, tact, and knowledge of human nature. When there was anything for Ruth to do she was forward in urging her to action. But she knew that there is always a time to wait, as well as a time to work; and she reminded Ruth that now events must be left to others - indeed, must be left to God!

I. The OCCASION for sitting still. According to some, the belief that God works is inconsistent with the obligation to work ourselves. The whole idea of the religious life, as apprehended by some mistaken minds, is to do nothing, and to leave God to do everything. And some, who do not go so far as this, still are blind to the privilege of being "workers together with God." When we have done our part, then is the time to sit still. The workman has first to labor, then to rest. The day of toil comes first, and the night of repose follows. When we can do no more, then is the time to sit still. Ask yourself whether you have or have not this reason for refraining from effort. We sometimes come to the end of our ability; we have done our part, and for us nothing now remains to do.

II. MOTIVES which should induce thus to sit still. We have to consider that in certain cases to do otherwise would be utterly useless. In these cases it is a waste of power to make further effort, and a waste of feeling to allow anxiety to distress the heart. Thus any other course would be injurious, would destroy or disturb our peace of mind. And there are occasions when to be quiet is to trust in the providential rule and care of God. So it was with Ruth at this conjuncture. The example of Christ should not be overlooked. There came a time when he was silent before his foes.

III. The BLESSING which follows sitting still.

1. Peace of heart. "Rest in the Lord."

2. Strength. "Your strength is to sit still." "In quietness and confidence shall be your strength."

3. If God will, prosperity. "He shall give thee thy heart's desire."

4. In any case the glory of God, who desires that his people should do his will, and leave results to him. - T.

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