Gleaning

 

Now Naomi had a kinsman [moda - person closely related to someone and having the right of the kinsman redeemer] of her husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field and glean [laqat – taking care of the needy by allowing them to pick or gather from the field] among the ears of grain after one in whose sight I may find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” So, she departed and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech. Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem and said to the reapers, “May the Lord be with you.” And they said to him, “May the Lord bless you.” Then Boaz said to his servant, who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” The servant in charge of the reapers replied, “She is the young Moabite woman who returned with Naomi from the land of Moab. “And she said, ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’ Thus, she came and has remained from the morning until now; she has been sitting in the house for a little while.”       Ruth 2:1-7

It appears no accident from the story that Ruth’s first gleaning was in a field owned by Boaz, a kinsman of Naomi’s husband and a picture of the coming Messiah as kinsman redeemer. A foreigner living in Bethlehem without a husband meant a difficult road to finding the quality of life without any special provision. It became more complicated since Ruth was a Moabite, and God had given Israel a prohibition that all Ammonites and Moabites never can enter the assembly of the Lord (Deuteronomy 23:3-6). God's provision for Ruth was Boaz, who took a particular interest in her when he said in Verse 8, “Listen carefully, my daughter. Do not go to glean in another field; furthermore, do not go on from this one, but stay here with my maids.”

Principles of Gleaning 

“When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. “When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow. “When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not go over it again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow. “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore, I am commanding you to do this thing.         Deuteronomy 24:19-22

The principle of gleaning was part of the Law of Moses, asking the landowner to leave a portion of their fields’ harvest for the poor. The Law suggests that the grain pulled up by the roots or cut down with a sickle was to be laid in loose sheaves. The fruit of the olive was obtained by striking the branches with long poles or shaking the tree. The grape clusters severed by a hook were gathered in the hands of the vine manager. Every forgotten sheaf in the harvest field was to lie, and the olive tree was not to be "gone over" a second time. The poor stranger would shake the trees for the remains and gather the gleaning grapes so that the hearts of the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow might be gladdened by the bounty of Divine Providence. Although “gleaning” may conjure up a romantic image of cloud-filled skies, tall sheaves of grain, and joyous peasant girls, the actual biblical custom was rooted in the practical necessity of caring for the poor and needy. The Mosaic law stipulated that owners allow needy persons to gather the grain that remained after the reapers had made a single sweep of their fields.

Seek First the Kingdom

"For this reason, I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you, by being worried, can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon, in all his glory, clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow, is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. "So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.   Matthew 6:25-34

Jesus spoke these words to the large crowd gathered on the Sea of Galilee when He taught about the quality of life in the kingdom of heaven, also known as the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus was teaching about His promise to take care of the believer’s basic needs, including food, clothing, and shelter when one prioritizes seeking the kingdom of heaven over devoting oneself to the basic details of life. This speaks directly to the principle of grace as opposed to works.

Gleaning, a Picture of Grace

Paul speaks of this principle in Romans 11:6: But if it is by grace [charis], it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise, grace is no longer grace. Spiros Zodhiates defines this grace as A favor done without expectation of return, the absolutely free expression of the loving-kindness of God to men, finding its only motive in the bounty and benevolence of the Giver, unearned and unmerited favor. When Boaz, symbolic of Jesus Christ, recognized that this Moabite woman, in need of support and protection, was in a position to provide support and protection. He gave her access not only to his fields but also to his servant’s water and other provisions. Ruth did not understand why she was receiving so much favor: “Why have I found favor in your sight that you should take notice of me since I am a foreigner?” Boaz explained to her: All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth and came to a people that you did not previously know. “May the Lord reward your work, and your wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge” (Ruth 2:10-12). Ruth was willing to trust Naomi and Naomi's God, which is the essence of saving faith.

An illustration of this principle is found in the story of Nahshon:


Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, was from the tribe of Judah. According to Jewish tradition, when the Israelites stood at the Red Sea and realized that the Egyptian army was quickly closing in on them, they panicked. While Moses prayed and everyone else tried to figure out what to do, Nahshon walked straight into the sea with complete faith that God would take care of him. Tradition teaches that when the water reached Nahshon’s nose, God told Moses to stop praying, to stretch out his staff, and to split the sea. And that is exactly what happened. Jewish tradition teaches that the sea didn’t part, and then the Israelites walked through it; rather, one Israelite stepped out in faith and walked into the sea, and therefore, it parted.

Although the fields suggest a pastoral setting appropriate for the great grandparents of King David, this is also the time of the judges, a period marked by disobedience to God and violence in the land, when there is a real danger that a woman may be molested as she gleans in the fields of Israel (Ruth 2:22). Yet Ruth proves her own words that your people shall be my people, and your God my God (Ruth 1:16) as she pursues hers and Naomi’s provisions according to the Law. Similarly, Boaz shows himself to be a godly man as he allows gleaning in his field and shows generosity to the foreigner in the land (2:8-16). Thus, the centrality of gleaning reinforces the covenantal relationship into which Ruth and Boaz enter.

You Did It to Me

"Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick or in prison and come to You?' The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'         Matthew 25:34-40

The above passage is part of the Olivette Discourse, in which Jesus revealed end-times events to His inquiring disciples. When the nations are judged, their eternal future will be determined by their treatment of God’s people. By receiving the love and benefits of God’s blessings, the righteous are predisposed to recognize the needs of others and come to their aid. God’s favor is never to be owned but stewarded by passing it on to others.

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