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RUTH THE BRIDE
Ruth 3 & Ruth 4
"The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing" ( Zep_3:17 ).
Gleaning, as we have seen, is the great subject of the second chapter. Rest is the theme of the last two chapters. In the opening verse of chapter 3, the word is used in connection with Ruth, "My daughter shall I not seek rest for thee." In the closing verse it is used in connection with Boaz, "The man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day."
There is doubtless an orderly progress in the truths presented in the four chapters of the Book of Ruth.
In Ruth 1 , Ruth sets forth the faith, love and devoted energy. of a newly converted soul.
In Ruth 2 , Ruth presents a picture of the growth in grace by which the believer makes spiritual progress.
In Ruth 3 , Ruth is seeking the rest of heart that will alone bring satisfaction to the believer.
In chapter 4, the story of Ruth closes with the rest secured, setting forth the way that God's rest is reached for Christ and the believer.
Gleaning in the fields of Boaz, and receiving blessings from the hand of Boaz, however happy and right, will not give full rest and satisfaction to the heart either of Boaz or Ruth. Nothing will give rest to the heart but the possession of the one that is loved. Hence, in chapter 3, Ruth is seeking to gain Boaz, and Boaz is working to possess Ruth. Love can never be satisfied with gifts, however precious; it must have the giver.
In his former dealings Boaz had shewn marvellous grace to Ruth. He had put at her disposal his fields, his corn, his maidens, and his young men. He had given her water from his well, parched corn from his table, and handfuls let fall of purpose. All these blessings, however, had not satisfied her heart. They had indeed won her confidence, and drawn out her affections. But once the affections have been won nothing but the possession of the Person who has won them will satisfy the heart. This is equally true whether in Divine or human relationships. The grace and gifts by which Boaz kindled the affections of Ruth would not in themselves satisfy these affections. It is the possession of the Blesser not the blessings that gives satisfaction to the heart.
Thus it is in the Lord's ways with believers. He so deals with us that we are brought to see that He is greater than all the blessings He bestows. Happy for us when we learn that blessings in themselves cannot satisfy. Christ alone can satisfy the heart.
Was not this the great lesson that Peter had to learn in Luke 5 ? The Lord bestowed a great temporal blessing upon Peter. He gave him the biggest catch of fish he had ever had. It was a blessing beyond the capacity of nets and boats to contain, and yet in that very gift the Lord so revealed Himself to Peter that He became greater in Peter's estimation than the blessings He had given; for immediately afterwards we read, he "forsook all and followed Him." What! left the fish that the Lord had given? Yes, he left all - nets, boats, and fish - and followed Him. If ever there was a catch of fish that Peter had a right to keep, it was the catch of fish the Lord had given. But he forsook the blessings to follow the Blesser.
So with another humble believer, Mary Magdalene. She had been completely under the power of the devil, for the Lord had cast out of her seven demons. She had been greatly blessed but her heart had been won to the Blesser. Thus at the empty tomb, when the disciples went away to "their own home," Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping. Blessings were not enough for Mary; she could find no rest in this world without Christ. With Him she was happy, without Him she was desolate.
In like manner the Lord dealt with the man who was once a blasphemer of Christ and a persecutor of the saints. Grace reached and blessed him in such manner that Christ became greater to him than all the blessings that Christ could give. His desire is expressed in the words, "that I may know I Him," and again, "that I may win Christ." He is not content to know all the blessings to which Christ has given Him a title; he must know the Giver of the blessings. He is not content to win heaven at last, but he must win the One who has made his heaven secure.
Alas! how slow we are to learn that Christ, and only Christ, can satisfy our heart's desire. At times we seek rest in our spiritual blessings. Our efforts are directed to keeping bright in our souls the joy of conversion, and the sense of the blessings we have received. But right as it is to be in the joy of salvation, all such efforts are doomed to failure. We cannot (and God never intended that we should) enjoy the blessings apart from the Blesser. Every blessing that we have received is set forth in Christ, and can only be enjoyed in company with Christ.
Others seek satisfaction in a busy round of service. Would that we were all busy in the Lord's service; but if pursued with the object of finding rest, we shall only find, like Martha. that we get distracted rather than find rest. Service is good but it will not satisfy the heart.
Others again seek some passing satisfaction in the vain things of this passing world, only to find that the more we surround ourselves with the things of earth the more we increase our cares, rather than find rest of heart. The prophet truly says. "Arise ye and depart; for this is not your rest; because it is polluted" ( Mic_2:10 ). Again we say, Christ alone can Satisfy the heart.
Thus from one cause or another we are compelled to admit that as Christians we know little true satisfaction of heart. Saved indeed every true Christian is, but it is one thing to be saved and quite another to be satisfied. Saved by the work of Christ we can only find satisfaction in the Person of Christ. The measure in which we are enjoying the company of Christ is the measure of our rest and satisfaction. Full and complete satisfaction will only be known when that great day dawns of which it is said, "The marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready." In a mystery this great truth passes before us in the closing portion of the beautiful story of Ruth. The first two chapters have told us in picture how love for Christ is awakened. The last two chapters will tell us how love is satisfied.
First let us note the instruction that Ruth receives from Naomi (vv. 1-5). Ruth learns the secret of rest in order that it may be well with her. First Naomi engages her thoughts with Boaz, telling her who he is, and what he is doing. She says, "he is of our kindred." She says as it were, "He is ours and we have a claim upon him." And we can say that Christ is ours, for has He not become flesh and dwelt among us, and died for us, and as risen He calls us His brethren? He can say to Mary, "Go to my brethren, and say unto them I ascend unto my Father and your Father; and to my God and to your God."
Further, Naomi tells Ruth what he is doing: "Behold he winnoweth barley tonight in the threshing floor." And, if we may so say, all through the long dark night, our Kinsman, our Boaz, has been winnowing barley. The Lord Jesus is not occupied with the chaff today. He will deal in judgment with the chaff in a coming day? but at this moment He is occupied with His own, "He is winnowing barley." In other words He is sanctifying the Church, in view of presenting the Church to Himself not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing. The Lord on high is engaged with His own in view of the coming day.
Having reminded Ruth of her claim upon Boaz, Naomi proceeds to instruct her as to the suited condition for the company of Boaz. Realising that we are of Christ's kindred that we belong to Him and He is for us we shall surely desire His company. The conscious sense of His presence, however, calls for a suited condition of soul set forth in picture by Naomi's instructions to Ruth, when she says, "Wash thyself therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee."
The first necessity to "wash thyself" - carries our thoughts to the feet washing of John 13 . John must first have his feet washed before he can lean on Jesus' bosom. Feet washing must come before heart resting. The Lord had to say to Peter, "It I wash thee not thou hast no part with Me." Part in Him we have through His work, but to have part with Him to enjoy communion with Him in the home to which He has gone we must have our feet washed, and in this alas, we are so often careless. We allow the defiling influences of the world to creep in and drag our affections down to the things of the earth. Neglecting feet washing the defilements increase until our minds are so clogged, and our affections so dulled that communion with Christ becomes a rare or unknown thing. Let us heed the Lord's warning words, "If ye know these things happy are ye if ye do them. " It would not have been enough for Ruth to accept the instruction to wash; she must carry it out. So too, the good of John 13 does not lie in the knowledge of the truth but in its practice.
But more is needed: having washed, Ruth is to anoint herself. It is not enough to cleanse the mind from defiling influences, but we need to remember the Apostle's exhortation, "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are noble, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there by any praise, think on these things." Washing is negative; it removes defilement. Anointing is positive, it leaves a sweet odour. Not only do we need to have our minds and affections cleansed from defiling influences, but to have them occupied with the things of Christ that there may be about us an odour of Christ that is suited to the company of Christ.
Following the anointing, Naomi says, "Put thy raiment upon thee." Does not this speak of the fine linen which is the practical righteousness of the saints? If the eighth verse of Philippians 4 speaks of the anointing, does not the following verse give us the answer to the raiment - the practical righteousness? There the Apostle says, "Those things which ye have both learned and received, and heard and seen in me do." The keyword in Php_4:8 is "think"; the keyword of verse 9 is "do". Had we a deeper sense of the loveliness of Christ should we not covet with more earnest desire His company and the conscious sense of His presence? And such desires would lead to more exercise that our thoughts and affections, our words and ways, might be kept from all defiling influences, and engaged with that which is suited to Christ.
Having become suited to the presence of Boaz, Ruth's course is plain. She is to lie down at the feet of Boaz and listen to his words, as Naomi says, "He will tell thee what thou shalt do." Does this not carry us in thought to that lovely scene at Bethany described in Luke 10 , where we read of Mary, that she "sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word." Is not this the great lack today! In the hurry and bustle of life there is little time for being alone with the Lord to hear His word. Nevertheless the Lord says it is the "one thing needful". May we hear the voice of the Lord through Naomi, and like Ruth answer, "All that thou sayest unto me I will do." Thus "washed", "anointed", and clothed may we sit in His presence and hear His word.
Having reached the moment when Ruth is found at the feet of Boaz the story is naturally more concerned with what Boaz does. He works to satisfy the desires that his love and grace have raised, but he will also work for the satisfaction of his own heart. All this brings before us the far deeper mystery of Christ and His desires for His Church. Nothing will satisfy His heart but having His saints with Him and like Him. His love must have the company of His loved ones. We are going to heaven because love wants us there. It did not satisfy the heart of the father to remove the rags from the prodigal son and meet his needs: he must have him in his own company suited to his presence, with the best robe, the shoes on his feet, and the ring on his hand. Nor does it satisfy the heart of Christ to deliver us from judgment and clear us from our sins, but He must have us with Him and like Him.
It was with this end He gathered souls around Him as He passed through this world, for when He called the twelve it was first of all that they should be "with Him" ( Mar_3:14 ).
It was for this He prayed when He said, "Father I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am."
It was for this He died, that "whether we wake or sleep we should live together with Him" ( 1Th_5:10 ).
It is with this end that He serves His people today, washing our feet that we might have part with Him. It is this end that He has in view when He puts one of His saints to sleep, to depart and be "with Christ."
And when at last the Lord comes into the clouds to call us home, it is to receive us unto Himself that where He is we might be also, "for ever with the Lord."
This then is the blessed truth that we learn at His feet. Not only that we want Him, but that He wants us. Small wonder that we should want Him, but an everlasting wonder that He should want us. Mary learnt at His feet that He can dispense with all our service but He cannot do without ourselves. "I am my Beloved's and His desire is toward me," is the great and glorious truth that we learn at His feet. And so Ruth tells us of this same truth for at the feet of Boaz she learnt not only that she longed for Boaz but that Boaz longed for her. And having learnt this she can "sit still" and wait for Boaz to finish the thing (v. 18).
Deeply significant is the way that Boaz takes to secure rest and satisfaction for his own heart and the heart of Ruth. There is what he does with Ruth, followed by the work He does for Ruth. In chapter 2 he wins her affection; in chapter 3 he gives her holy boldness to gratify the affection he has won.
First, having refused all others and followed Boaz, she is assured of blessing, "Blessed be thou" (v. 10). Second, he removes every trace of fear from her heart, saying, "Fear not" (v. 11). Then she is assured that every hindrance to the fulfilment of all his purpose will be overcome (vv. 12, 13). In the meantime he richly supplies all her need. He gives her six measures of barley. When she sought her own blessing she obtained one measure of barley (2: 17); when she sought Boaz himself she gets "six measures of barley." But still it is only "six," not seven, the complete number. No amount of barley can give complete satisfaction.
Thus it is that the Lord acts with His own today. Is there not a special blessing for those who have learnt the great secret that the Lord wants us for Himself? Does not this remove all fear, give us holy boldness, and assure our hearts that no hindrance can stand in the way of the fulfilment of His purpose for us? In the meantime He meets our every need and thus enables us, like Ruth to "sit still" in the knowledge that He will not be in rest until He has finished that which He has begun. "He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" ( Php_1:6 ).
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Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Ruth 3". "Smith's Writings". https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany