The story of Ruth is a tender one. This young widow came with her likewise widowed mother-in-law Naomi to Israel and began, through the hard work of gleaning, to provide for them. As a foreign woman from a cursed nation, Ruth could have easily been rejected or mistreated.
Instead, in God’s providence she was led to glean from the fields of Boaz. A relative of Naomi’s deceased husband, Boaz showed compassion to Ruth in providing more “easy pickings” from his fields. The subsequent appeal by Ruth for him to engage in the kinsman redeemer statutes from the Mosaic law (Lev. 25) so they could wed – and Boaz’ eagerness to fulfill it – not only warms the heart but encourages the soul. In the redemption Boaz brought to Ruth and Naomi, we see the merciful and protective love of God revealed in Christ. Like Boaz, Christ loved and redeemed an unlikely, unworthy bride. To eternally commemorate this story, God not only captured it in His holy Word. The book of Ruth ends by showing that Ruth became the great-grandmother of King David, from whom Christ came.
As we reflect on the compassion of Boaz for Ruth, certainly it was stirred by many factors. Boaz was clearly a godly man who knew he was to treat laborers, especially poor ones, with kindness (Lev. 19:9-10). Ruth’s devotion to Naomi as part of his extended family was noticed by him and moved him (Ruth 2:11). He also appreciated her desire to seek the God of Israel (Ruth 2:12). Ruth’s appeal to him to redeem her and Naomi out of their poverty and familial loss, at the sacrifice of pursuing younger men, touched his heart as well (Ruth 3:10). Ultimately the Lord put the compassion for Ruth in the heart of Boaz. Yet did He use another means in the background of Boaz as well?
For recall who was the mother of Boaz – Rahab. (See Matt. 1:5) In another incredible story of redemption, Rahab the prostitute was granted faith in the Lord and was spared in the destruction of Jericho. With her family, she came in among the people of Israel and ended up marrying Salmon, with whom she had Boaz. Undoubtedly then growing up, Boaz had heard dozens of times the miraculous story of his mother’s salvation. Knowing that his own Canaanite mother had been saved by the Lord and joined to the covenant people of God, surely this family history moved Boaz to compassion when he saw this immigrant lady before him and contemplated marrying her.
Do you see someone in your congregation that abounds in mercy toward others, far surpassing the efforts of most? You may not be just witnessing someone who is super obedient or exceptionally gifted. For ask a few questions about his or her past. Behind the scenes may be quite a story of how the Lord put this compassion in a heart. Then let this exercise cause you to contemplate again the remarkable grace God has shown you in Christ. The source for renewed compassion toward others in your own heart is not as far away as you may think.