Ruth 2:15 – “And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not:”
What did Ruth do? We see what happened after Ruth had a time of nourishment and fellowship. She got up: “And when she was risen up,” this is past tense – this is a word of action – Ruth “stood up,” and she left the table. She did not linger after the meal, there was still daylight, and she still had work to do. Jesus knew the shortness of the time to labor and used every moment, He said: “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” John 9:4. Ruth had been “sufficed” or “satisfied” and now she was energized! This wasn’t just labor for her own needs now, this was labor for Boaz! Ruth had been “sufficed” and now she was energized! This is what spiritual food and fellowship will do – We are strengthened and given a renewed purpose of heart!
What did Ruth plan to continue to do? Her purpose after she left that table of fellowship and nourishment was “to glean.” She may have sat down at that table weary and discouraged, but she rose up from that table with a renewed purpose of heart. She rose up to serve – to labor – to glean! I believe the order of importance of who she was laboring for changed after that meal. Now, she is laboring for Boaz – he is First. Next, she is laboring for Naomi – she is second. Finally, she is laboring for herself – she is last. That meal gave her a new vision and a new perspective on her labors in that field! She continued on, she did not give up, she did not go home. Boaz’s next words are said after he sees Ruth go back to glean. He sees her renewed purpose of heart and makes additional provisions for her to be blessed because of her willingness to labor. Think about those who are willing to walk miles to meeting to hear the Word, and now we have churches on every corner and transportation to take them to meeting and still many find excuses to not go to church. We labor and glean in so many ways for our Master, for our Boaz, and getting up and going to meeting is part of that willingness to glean. There is a cost in time and in setting aside personal desires but we will glean precious blessings, and take them home with us to nourish us afterwards.
What does Boaz do next to show his continuing, abiding grace? Boaz gives a command to his young men and he tells them what Ruth can do and what they cannot do. “Boaz commanded his young men,” without this command, these men might have discouraged or stopped Ruth. Without this command, Ruth would have gleaned only a small amount. Boaz knows her great need and he is willing to meet her need. He gives her permission to do something no one else can do. He takes away man’s restrictions and the law’s restrictions. This is pure grace, absolute grace, it is grace given to match her need! His command is two-fold; it concerns what she can do and what they cannot do.
Boaz says: “Let her glean even among the sheaves.” This is what she can do. What he is saying is: No man may stop her. The word “sheaf” can mean “a bundle” or “a handful.” The word can also mean “small heaps of cut grain.” The “sheaves” were handfuls or bundles of grain bound together. “Stalks of grain were gathered and tied into a bundle after harvesting. The reapers either gathered the cut grain into sheaves themselves or left it to be collected by the sheaf binder. The sheaves were then gathered into stacks and loaded into carts.” (Nelson Dictionary). By law Ruth was allowed to take up the stray stalks, those that were forgotten (Deut 24:19). Boaz makes allowances for Ruth’s ignorance, her eagerness, her zeal. He lets her gather more than what the law requires. He lets her glean where she is led, where her faith takes her. He lets her pick up whatever she finds, there are no restrictions! This is more than law, this is grace, for this gives her a greater blessing. That is what Grace does. “This was a privilege; for no person should glean till the sheaves were all bound, and the shocks set up.” (Clarke).
Boaz says: “and reproach her not.” This is what they cannot do. What he is saying is: No man may criticize her. The word “reproach” means “to wound,” it means “to make ashamed” or “to put to shame.” Boaz does not want Ruth to be ashamed in any way or hindered in any way. If they criticize her, they will be criticizing Boaz, for he has given his permission. They cannot see the heart of Ruth like Boaz does. Without restrictions and reproach, she will lay hold of what others cannot. This is what grace does for us, it opens up doors to untold blessings. This is the Lord’s promise to us and none can reproach us. We see this same admonition in the words of Jesus to those who would criticize Mary for anointing Him, their criticism was because they thought she had overstepped her place or the boundaries they thought restricted her. Jesus said “Let her alone,” “she hath wrought a good work” (Mk 14:6). He said she saw something they did not, and looked ahead to his burial. (Jn 12:7). Mary Bodie writes concerning this wonderful statement of Boaz: “reproach her not” – “But even this does not exhaust his grace. He is still concerned for her. Like his blessed Anti-type (Christ), he refuses to allow anyone to cast reproach upon the freedom of faith. “Let her alone” is always His admonition. We cannot trust our Boaz too much.”
Finally, I was meditating on what these “sheaves” represent in Boaz’s field. Remember they are small bundles of grain. I think they can represent specific portions of the Word of God, there are “sheaves” of Doctrine, “sheaves” of promises,” “sheaves” of ordinances, just to name a few. We are to glean from every part of the Word, and not just a single scripture here and there, but a series of scriptures bound together that for a specific truth. Paul writes: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). Therefore, let us gather all the sheaves without fear and in faith. Our Boaz, the Lord Jesus Christ, has given His permission!