Hannah Whitall Smith
I think that Ruth must have seen in this mother-in-law something of goodness or sweetness that had won her heart, and had made her believe that her mother’s God must be better worth serving than her own gods. At all events she said to her those beautiful words of loving allegiance, “Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: where thou diest, I will die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me,” i. 16, 17.
And when her mother saw that she was “steadfastly minded to go with her, she left off speaking unto her,” i. 18. “So they two went until they came to Bethlehem . . . and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest,” i. 19-22. What grace was here! Naomi left in a famine, but she returned in the time of harvest. And every backsliding soul that returns to the Lord always finds, as the prodigal did, a feast prepared for him.
But better blessings even than the barley harvest were awaiting these returning wanderers, and blessings it had not entered into their hearts to conceive of. Ruth had not thought of finding a bridegroom and a home of her own in the land of Judah. She had gone there because her heart was desolate and lonely in her own land, and the religion of Naomi had attracted her. But almost at once upon her arrival, she went out to glean, and her “hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz,” her “near kinsman,” ii. 1-3.
And so the souls, who turn their backs on the world to seek the Lord, even although very ignorant of all the blessings in store for them, find themselves soon gleaning in the field of Christ, who is our near Kinsman, and who, as Boaz did, “takes knowledge” of them, although they are strangers; and causes His servants to “let fall some handfuls of purpose” for them, that they may not go “to glean in another field,” but may “abide fast” by His people, ii. 8-13. Ruth had come to trust under the wings of the God of Israel; and no one ever yet trusted in Him and was confounded.
This it seems to me is the first experience of the returning sinner. He leaves, figuratively speaking, his father, and his mother, and the land of his nativity, as Ruth did, and comes unto a people which he has not heretofore known, ii. 11. Then he begins to glean, and gathers in from the Lord’s harvest fields spiritual food to supply his daily needs. And for a while the soul is satisfied with this.
But a time comes when a deeper want is felt. “Then Naomi her mother-in-law said unto her, My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee?” iii. 1. This expression, “seeking rest,” meant among the Hebrews all that is contained in the sweet tie of married life, a home, and a care-taker, and all the joys of wedded union. And the soul of the believer begins sooner or later to hunger and thirst after this rest in a realized union with Christ, of which the marriage union is so precious a type.
Very often some older Christian first urges the soul to press its claim for this, as Naomi did to Ruth. And where, as in Ruth’s case, there is the true spirit of teachableness and submission on the part of the Christian, who has comparatively lately begun his course, towards those who are further advanced, he will learn his privileges far more quickly, than if left to his own crude conceptions and limited knowledge.
In submission to the advice of Naomi, Ruth made her claim, using as her plea, “for thou art a near kinsman,” iii. 9. The kinsman’s plea was an unanswerable one among the Jews; and our Lord, in assuming the place of a kinsman, meant that we should have all the benefit of this plea. And His answer to us is always, like that of Boaz to Ruth, “And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest,” iii. 11.
Even the very boldness of her claim pleased Boaz. “And he said, Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter, for thou hast showed more kindness in the latter end than in the beginning.” At first she sought his gifts only, now she sought himself. The gleaner would be the wife. And just so it is with us. The work of Christ is our first knowledge; the person of Christ is our last. At first we are occupied with our needs, and come to the Lord simply to have them supplied. But at last we lose sight of the gifts in the Giver, and can be satisfied with nothing short of Himself. Our souls cry out for a personal Saviour. We want not only something to enjoy, and be thankful for, and use; but we want some One to love, and trust and serve. His manifested presence comes to be far more to us than His mercies. and nothing but a realized union with Himself can meet the craving of our heart’s hunger. Having Him, we realize that we shall have all things, and without Him nothing is valuable to us. We say, in the language of the hymn–
“Thy gifts, alas I cannot suffice,
Unless Thyself be given;
Thy presence makes my paradise,
And where Thou art ’tis Heaven.”