"And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, 'Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.' And she said to her, 'Go, my daughter.'" (Ruth 2:2)
As the sun rose, she hoped. Despair was not hers, not today. Here confidence melted the morning dew. Ruth turned to her mentor, her mother-in-law, her companion in life. Let me go to the field to glean, she said. I want to find someone who will let me gather the leftovers of the harvest.
Why make such a request? Why head to the fields with an expectation any right-minded farmer would ever allow anyone, whosoever, wherever, to gather food, for themselves and no other, for free?
Ruth was new to Israel. She lived during the time of the judges, a time when everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25). God’s people lived as though they were not at all governed by God’s law. Self-will ruled the day. People did not search the Scriptures. The norm was to follow the dictates of the heart, not the word of God. But Ruth was new. When she read Deuteronomy and saw how Israelites were to, after reaping their harvest, leave a little for the fatherless, the foreigner, and the widow, she felt she qualified (Deuteronomy 24:19). She thought she'd like to go out to the fields and see who would obey the word of the Lord. Send me, she said to Naomi.
Call this youthful optimism, if you must, but remember that Ruth was successful in her quest. She thought someone might obey, and someone did. Boaz extended grace to the girl from Moab. She found a law-keeping man.
Let Ruth’s hope shine on your weary heart. When God’s children walk around saying, even if just within their own hearts, no one will obey God, they usually find what they are looking for. When the expectation of radical restoration and conversions evaporate, they rarely occur. When the prophet Habakkuk’s voice begins to overtake your own, the voice that says, “the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth,” then all we'll see is what we’ve expected (Habakkuk 1:4).
But Ruth felt differently. She had hope. She believed — she was new after all — that one of God’s people might heed the dictates of God’s law.
Do not dismiss this spirit as the naivety of the newbie. It is the perspective of the mature saint. Paul, years into a life serving God’s people, said, “since we have such hope (of permanent transformation provided by the New Covenant), we are very bold” (2 Corinthians 3:12). To him, the New Covenant, that God fulfilled the law in Christ and came to live inside us to change us from the inside out, is radical enough to produce a sweeping change in a believer’s life. He had that hope, the kind Ruth had, and he did not lose it.
What about you, pastor? Mentor? Small group leader? Counselor? Have you lost your Ruthian hope? Do not allow despair a moment’s traction. If God can work in the period of the judges, he can work in your era as well.