Several years ago, a Florida airboat tour captain was charged with feeding an alligator. But the circumstances of his “crime” were quite unusual. When he was hanging a fish he had caught over the side of this boat, a 9-foot alligator attacked and bit off his hand. The judge in the case no doubt enforced the letter of the law rather than the spirit!
In today’s reading, we see that Boaz is quite different than that Florida judge. He was a man, who followed the spirit of the law, not the letter.
Under Mosaic Law, Boaz was not bound to the unusual terms of the gleaning agreement that Ruth requested. But rather than enforcing strict propriety, which would have favored him rather than Ruth, Boaz went so far as to instruct his field workers to deliberately leave more grain behind for Ruth to glean. His generosity led to a heavy, thirty-pound sack of grain for Ruth to carry home to Naomi (v. 17). When compared to the average one- to two- pound daily wage of a hired worker, Ruth’s harvest was unusually large.
Naomi used a particular word to describe Boaz’s striking kindness. In Hebrew, the word is hesed, which describes the bounty of God’s love. Translators sometimes translate it as mercy, love, loyalty, loving-kindness, and steadfast love. What’s clear is that Boaz is a source of God’s hesed in the lives of Ruth and Naomi. As one commentator explains, “God’s hesed is the centerpiece of the Ruth story, as it should be. The entire book zeros in on the weighty question of whether God’s hesed will run out for Naomi.” Our saving God uses Boaz to be the conduit of generous and faithful love that keeps two widows from starvation.
Apply the Word
We should take quite literally what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ in a broken world. When the hungry need food, when the grieving need consolation, and when the poor need defending, God loves them through us! Further, we love Him by showing love to them (see Matt. 25:31–46)!