International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday August 15, 2011
Purpose: To encourage generosity to those in need
Scripture Text: Ruth 2:8-18
Ruth 2:8-18 (NRSV)
(8)Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women.(9)Keep your eyes on the field that is being reaped, and follow behind them. I have ordered the young men not to bother you. If you get thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.” (10)Then she fell prostrate, with her face to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your sight, that you should take notice of me, when I am a foreigner?” (11)But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. (12)May the LORD reward you for your deeds, and may you have a full reward from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge!” (13)Then she said, “May I continue to find favor in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, even though I am not one of your servants.” (14)At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here, and eat some of this bread, and dip your morsel in the sour wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he heaped up for her some parched grain. She ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. (15)When she got up to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, “Let her glean even among the standing sheaves, and do not reproach her. (16)You must also pull out some handfuls for her from the bundles, and leave them for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.”
(17)So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. (18)She picked it up and came into the town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gleaned. Then she took out and gave her what was left over after she herself had been satisfied.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
This week's lesson gives us a couple of insights into how the needy should be treated and also how the needy should react to the situation they in which they find themselves. Ruth and Naomi were not to blame for the situation, but Naomi knew the best chance for survival was to return her homeland and to her family and friends in Bethlehem. Ruth had shown her devotion to Naomi and to Naomi's God, by vowing to go with her wherever she went and Ruth chose the God of Naomi over the gods of her mother and father in Moab.
If we look back at Chapter 1 of Ruth in verse 20 She said them, “Call me no longer Naomi, call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me.(21)I went away full, but brought me back empty; why call me Naomi when the LORD has dealt harshly with me, and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?” Interesting that Naomi seems bitter about something she blames on God, but notice she says “I went away full,'' a famine in the Bethlehem community was the reason for Naomi and her husband going to Moab. They probably left Bethlehem full of hope and promise, and trusting in their own ability and resources, never dreaming of the catastrophe that would cost so much. Naomi's confession that she had been brought back empty, (“but brought me back empty”) is an important confession. It has been said many times “When Christ becomes all we have, He is all we need.” Naomi was on the path of recovery, but she was not looking for handouts, she knew about God's law recorded in Leviticus 19: 9-10 (When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. (10)You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the LORD your God.) and in Deuteronomy 24:19 where is says (When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be left for the alien, the orphan, and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all your undertakings.) Naomi and Ruth qualified as both widows and aliens, and so they were entitled to glean.
Something you may not be aware of, today we still “glean.” Each year the Society of St. Andrew goes into fields that have been harvested and gleans those fields with volunteers and distributes those gleanings to food banks all over America. Last year they gleaned over 28 million pounds of potatoes and other produce with the help of 29,000 volunteers. (More information on the Society of St. Andrew can be found at http://www.endhunger.org/) Your class may want to look into helping in your area.
Boaz offers us an example of proper wealth management, He was wealthy, but he also had compassion for those working in his fields and he provided a safe environment for his workers, he was not afraid to eat with the help, something we do not find in today's society. Boaz was impressed with Ruth's compassion and caring for her mother-in-law, and he rewarded Ruth's diligence, but he did not just write a check, he allowed Ruth and Naomi to keep their dignity and at the same time he followed God's commandments. Ruth's labors and deeds were rewarded, and God used Boaz not only as a Kinsman Redeemer, but also a comforter and refuge where both Naomi and Ruth found favor.
Unfortunately today there are some aliens and needy that do not want to glean, and there are wealthy landlords that never give any consideration to the poor and needy. A community that follows God's commands works best when we, like Naomi, find ourselves, “empty” of our own riches and learn to let God be our provider, and a community that follows God's commandments.