Bethlehem is true to its name, "the House of Bread," and its white harvest fields speak of the plenty there must be where God's blessing rests. The time of harvest and ingathering is one of joyous labor. It is the crown of the year, — "Thou crownest the year with Thy goodness." All the long patience of the husbandman is at an end, and his care now is but to reap the fruits of his labor. "The valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing."
God's harvest is without doubt a time of special joy to Him, as He sees the results of divine care and patience in the world. Spite of the unbelief of men, the malignity of satan, and the slowness of heart even in His own, there is fruit to His praise. Nor is it necessary to divorce the thought of the seed sown, the Word, from the fruits gathered in, souls saved and conformed to that Word. Our Lord does not separate them, and as a matter of fact, it is the Word that produces saints: "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God that liveth and abideth forever" (1 Peter 1:23). How precious is the thought that every child of God will be conformed to that Word through which he has been begotten, and thus also to Christ who in the perfection of His person is the embodiment of all that the word of God is. So we think of the harvest time as the season of gathering in the souls who have been brought under the saving power of the word of God. At the same time, we do no violence to the figure when we apply it also to the full grace that is in the Word for souls, and above all to Christ Himself, "the old corn of the land," who as we have said, in Himself has all the fulness of the Godhead.
Thus we are introduced to but one person at Bethlehem, Boaz, who is the lord of the harvest and the dispenser of bounty. His name, "in him is strength," reminds us at once of the One of whom he is the type. He is "a mighty man of wealth," or valor, as the word more naturally means; for He has reached His place as the Lord of the harvest, and the bountiful Giver through the conflict in which He was the Victor over the "strong man." He has reached the place of wealth through the path of poverty — laying aside the riches that were His by right, in order that He might have associated with Himself those objects of His love and grace. This also reminds us of His long patience and the "travail of His soul," when He poured out His soul in tears and shed His blood that there might be fruit for God in a lost world. Surely to Him those words of the Psalm could apply in a special way, "He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing His sheaves with Him" (Ps. 126:6).
Thus in Boaz we see the Lord in resurrection, after His toil and suffering, entering upon His joy, and the One in whom is everlasting strength. He is of the kindred of Elimelech, for our Lord took hold of the seed of Abraham and is not ashamed to call them brethren. His relation to Elimelech also recalls what Israel should have been to God, but which she lost, for Elimelech is dead. Here is One, however, who in His life ever manifested the relation to God which Israel failed to do, but who in grace went into the death and judgment which Israel deserved. He is thus ready to maintain the relation forfeited by them, and in resurrection to make good what they had lost.
This is beautifully brought out in Isaiah. Jacob was God's servant, but he proved unfaithful and had to be set aside; then the true and perfect Servant is presented, the One who in life and death always did God's will and is now exalted; then a remnant will turn in faith to this Servant, and finding forgiveness through Him, will themselves become the servant of the Lord, and the seed of a holy nation, which will finally be brought back to its proper allegiance and subjection to God. All will come through the kinsman, who we shall see is the Redeemer. But we must return to our narrative.
The scene is a beautiful and attractive one even in a natural sense. The relation between Boaz and his reapers is all too rare in a world where selfishness in the master and suspicion in the servant are the rule. This must ever be the case where God is left out, and the gulf between "labor and capital" will only widen till the reign of grace be established in the hearts of men. How futile are labor laws and efforts for universal prosperity, when the root of the evil — the sin and selfishness of man's heart — is not reached. It never will be reached until He come of whom Boaz is the type. Then there will be the greetings we have here, "The Lord be with you;" "The Lord bless Thee."
What a flood of memories must have well-nigh overwhelmed Naomi as she gazed on those familiar fields! When she last saw them her life was bright with hope; now all was changed. No doubt she looked through her tears at all the joy and abundance before her, but which had for her passed to come again no more. How sad to the widowed heart is the joy to which she must ever be a stranger. No wonder then that she makes no effort to better herself. Memory was busy, and doubtless for the present employed all her time and thoughts.
Doubtless there will be, as we have been seeing, this sense of desolation on the part of the remnant of Israel. For them there will be no joy, and all the abundance of God's house will but intensify their sense of poverty, and thus, in His mercy, deepen the work so needful in their souls. Whether for Israel, or the wandering saint, there must be a deep work in the soul if God's restoring mercy is to be enjoyed. This is often forgotten by the Lord's people, and the "hurt" is healed slightly. It is good to be in the house of affliction, and a proper preparation for the house of feasting. So Naomi's sorrow and her silence is natural and proper.
But with Ruth it is different. She represents, as we have seen, the faith in the remnant, which makes no claim of right, but comes to glean in the fields of divine mercy. Hence she is called the Moabitess here, her gentile origin debarring her from all legal claim to any portion in Israel. And yet God had made provision for just such. "When ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger" (Lev. 23:22). Here are the crumbs which fall from the Master's table, and which will prove for Ruth, as for the woman of Canaan, an abundance for all her need.
This passage, coming between the feast of Pentecost and that of Tabernacles, would suggest just this widowed state of the remnant, which must precede their time of joy, and the fulness of blessing when "every man shall dwell under his own vine and fig tree." Pentecost signifies the blessing of the Church associated with Christ in resurrection. When the Lord has taken her to Himself as His heavenly bride the widowed remnant of Israel will appear as one who has forfeited her rights, but whose faith as in Ruth, will begin to glean according to the special provision of the mercy of God.
Naomi gives her consent to Ruth's gleaning and thus is identified in all that happens to the younger woman. How blessed it is to know that the brokenhearted desolation and the budding forth of faith are thus identified before God. Faith looks through the tears of penitence, and both are one in God's sight.
It is all grace, and Ruth realizes that her gleaning is to be in the fields of him in whose eyes she shall find favor. It is always a mark of an unbroken spirit, or one but partially restored, when this lowly sense of absolute unworthiness is lacking. Oh, how we rob ourselves when we maintain a high place and a bold attitude. Grace is for the lowly only, whether sinner or saint, and there can be no enjoyment of it without the broken heart which God will not despise.
We see how everything is ordered of God, not by Ruth. She does not know in whose field she is gleaning: "Her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz." Humanly speaking, it was Rebekah's hap to be at the well when Abraham's servant came in search for a bride for his master's son; it was the hap of the woman of Samaria to meet the Stranger from Judea, who had such words of life and grace to tell her. But we know that what is man's "hap" is God's purpose, the purpose of love of Him who sees the end from the beginning and plans it all. His eye was upon Rebekah, and He made her go out to the well the first to meet the servant of Abraham. He constrained the woman of Samaria to go where she would meet the Son of God, and have her life transformed by the message He brought her. He knows and He draws each of us, at the appointed time and in the appointed way, to the place of blessing. How wonderful are His ways, and what love there is behind what seem to be the merest incidents. God is absolutely sovereign. All our blessings are from Him alone. The work of grace, from beginning to end, is His. Therefore to Him alone is all the praise.
5. Recognition and Encouragement.
The presence of a stranger is soon noticed by Boaz, whose question to the chief servant brings out Ruth's identity. She is described as the "Moabitess," a name that would at once mark her out as separate from the daughters of Israel; but along with that which declares her alien birth is mention of a faith which has led her to follow the widowed Naomi back to the land of Israel, in preference to returning to the house of her father with its false gods. In addition the servant tells of the desire on her part to glean, and of her diligence in the lowly task with its small remuneration (vers. 5-7).
Israel, as we have already seen, having forfeited all rights to a place before God in her own righteousness, must realize that she is nothing but a Gentile. When she turns to God, she must be willing to be described as a Moabite, a Gentile. Thus Jerusalem is described by the prophet in the pleading with the defiled and guilty people: "Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite" (Ezek. 16:3, 45). Samaria and Sodom are called her sisters, no more corrupt and guilty than she. When restored, it will be in association with these whom she had despised, and the effect of learning her own moral condition will for all time prevent her from that haughtiness which had marked the days of her assumed superiority over the nations. There was indeed a superiority of position, but where the grace of it is despised, circumcision becomes uncircumcision. The apostle dwells upon this in the second chapter of Romans, where, quoting from the prophets, he declares that God's name was blasphemed among the heathen through the sins of Jews (Rom. 2:17-29). Isaiah had addressed the leaders of the people as "rulers of Sodom" (Isa. 1:10).
Had the people but entered into the thought of God, and accepted their true condition when in mercy they were laid hold of, there would have been no need to learn the lesson through bitter shame. For in connection with their entrance into the land at the first, when they were to offer the basket of first-fruits, this confession was put into their lips: "A Syrian ready to perish was my father" (Deut. 26:5). But prosperity and the evidence of God's special favor made them forget that all was of grace, and as a result in bitter sorrow and humiliation they will have to learn again the lesson. "Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee; know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou halt forsaken the Lord thy God" (Jer. 2:19). So that the repentant remnant, with the first glimmer of faith, will not resent being looked upon as Gentiles, without a claim upon God. "Moabite" will properly designate them.
Applying it to the soul seeking for the first time the mercy of God, the designation is no less appropriate. It reminds us how the Gentile centurion disclaimed all worthiness that the Lord should even enter under his roof, or, as we have just seen of the Syrophenician woman who does not refuse the name of "dog". How opposite to all self-righteousness is this lowliness which takes the lowest place.
But she came to glean, to get that which will satisfy her hunger, even if but little more than sufficient to prevent starvation. Faith while disclaiming all worthiness or right, has come toga something, nor will it lightly take a refusal. How the woman, oppressed by her adversary, and with a heartless judge to deal with, emphasizes this importunity of faith which takes no denial. We will remember, too, that the widow there figures the remnant just as Naomi and Ruth do here (Luke 18). But faith is the same at all times, and whoever has set himself to seek the Lord's face will take no refusal. The necessity of the case compels to earnest perseverance, and this is in itself the pledge that the desires will be granted, for are not those desires themselves the proof of grace at work in the soul?
It is never wise nor right to occupy the soul with its own frames even when they are the product of the Spirit of God, but may we not remind ourselves that this lack of earnest purpose is the principle cause of so much superficial work? Earnestness that will glean with but small results, that will continue all day in the fields gathering little grains of blessing — such earnestness will reap far more than its expectations. Alas for the shallow convictions, the halfhearted desires, the feeble exercises of soul! We need not be surprised at the vast number of empty professions which like the seed upon stony ground, soon wither away, "wherewith the mower filleth not his hand; nor he that bindeth sheaves his bosom." And even where grace has wrought, and there is but partial response to it, what feebleness of testimony and walk result, what world-bordering with all its attendant shipwrecks! May the Lord give more earnest seekers like Ruth.
This poor stranger girl, shrinking from every curious glance, and feeling most keenly her isolation, need not think she is unnoticed. Boaz at once marks her, and his enquiries tell of his true interest. Nor let us forget for a moment that the eye of our Lord falls at once upon each poor soul who is seeking for help. Joseph detected at once his brethren when they came down into Egypt at the time of famine to buy a little food for their hunger, and though he did not make himself known to them till after all needed exercises of soul had been gone through by them, yet he has seen and known them. So will it be at the very moment when the remnant turns to God, and so is it in the case of each soul. He sees, and He knows. What a comfort is this, and how it explains the fulness of grace, as we look back upon the Lord's ways with us in bringing us to Himself. He was thinking upon us when we least thought of it, and even before we turned to Him, He had turned in mercy to us. He knew and could distinguish the touch of faith from all the thronging and pressing of the careless crowd. Trembling soul, His eye of love is upon thee now.
But grace can never rest till it makes itself known, and so from looks and questions of interest, Boaz comes to words with the poor stranger. "Hearest thou not my daughter? Go not to glean in another field." The first word is not only one of welcome for whatever she may have already gleaned, but the positive command to continue where she had begun. Disciples may try to send away the seeking soul, but the Lord, never. No matter how apparently unsuccessful, with the consequent discouragement; no matter how long the seeking has continued, the first word is, "Go not to another field." Many are the temptations to do this, both for the seeking soul now, and for the remnant in the coming day. How the enemy would allure away or drive away the soul from the word of God, the fields of grace. There are other and easier ways of getting peace; reformation, happy feelings, religious professions — thousands of substitutes are offered for the simple way of God. Or the soul is terrified, there is no hope for one so guilty and hardened, the day of grace is passed, why throw away even the few days that remain of life in futile efforts to get what never can be ours? Ah, who that has been under exercise of soul can forget how many and often were the temptations to go to some other field. And how cheering is this word from the Lord of the field to remain where we are, to get nothing except from Himself.
We remember too what fearful inducements will be held out to the remnant, and the threats if they do not comply. When Jerusalem was besieged and apparently on the eve of capture by the Assyrians, the taunting Rabshakeh not only threatened the trembling people, but held out special inducements if they would yield to his master. But neither threats nor persuasions could move them from their loyalty to their king. In the latter days the bulk of the nation will have accepted the rule of the wilful king, all human prudence will dictate the same to the feeble few who are at his mercy. The great emperor whose image must be worshiped, it will be argued, will be the only one to acknowledge, for does not certain death threaten all those who fail to have his mark in hand or forehead? But thank God, faith will ever hear the one word of Him whom she may but dimly know, and refuse to go to another field.
May it not be well too for us who know and love our blessed Lord to remember the folly of going elsewhere than to Him and His word for our food or help? Many alas of His own forget this, and bitterly have to regret wasted days of gleaning in what must ever be but fruitless fields for the child of God. How much that is plead for as needed change and recreation is but a snare to draw us away from One in whom we are to find "all our rest and pleasure."
"Fast by my maidens". There are others besides ourselves engaged in the fields of grace, and rare indeed is it when the soul cannot have help from those more advanced than itself. Ruth is to follow those connected with the household of Boaz, and enjoy the immunity from all molestation which his authority imposed. When the seeker in the Song of Solomon asks where her loved one feeds his flocks, and where they rest at noon, for she fears to turn aside to any other flock, the answer is similar: "If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents" (Cant. 1:7, 8). If there be but few in the narrow way, we can find sufficient companionship with that few. And while faith cannot imitate, it can follow the faith of those who love Christ. It is always dangerous when a soul loses taste for real fellowship with those who have a heart for the Lord.
Already, too, the tender pity of Boaz provides beyond what she can glean. She has need for drink as well as grain, and to that he now invites her: "When thou art athirst, go unto the vessels, and drink of that which the young men have drawn". His servants are for her need too, their labor for her refreshment. How the ministry of the water of life, intended for the people of God, is also for every seeking soul, and how often does the stranger get a refreshment without which he would have fainted with despair. Well does our Lord know this, and often does He invite the thirsty soul — in all ages and dispensations — to come and drink. "Ho every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters" (Isa. 55:1). "If any man thirst let him come unto me and drink" (John 7:37). "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Rev. 22:17). Divine mercy would never refuse the water, so long as there is a soul that will have it. Only when in the eternal abode on the other side of the "great gulf" will the cry be unavailing for a drop of water. How this aggravates the guilt of those who despise the offers of grace and the pleadings of love.
Such grace, so unexpected, moves Ruth to deepest gratitude, and falling at his feet, she asks why he should show such kindness to a stranger like herself. His reply shows how familiar he is with her history, which he interprets as far more than filial kindness to her bereaved mother-in-law. She has come to find shelter under the protecting wings of the God of Israel, and her devotion to Naomi cannot be separated from that.
And has not the heart often asked a similar question of our Lord? He has manifested some special thought of us, given some refreshing to our thirsty souls, and we wonder why it should be so. Is not His answer to be found in the fact that He has marked our path, and seen the beginnings of that faith which He now rewards. Nay, is not the faith itself the fruit of His own sovereign grace, and is He not but setting the seal upon His own divine work? He knows those whom He has drawn to Himself.
Ruth beautifully illustrates that lowliness which is the mark of a young faith: "Let me find favor in thy sight, my Lord; for that thou hast comforted me, and for that thou bast spoken to the heart of thine handmaid, though I be not like unto one of thine handmaidens". Like Mephibosheth, when David showed him grace, she was humbled. She did not doubt the grace, much less did she refuse it, but she confesses her utter unworthiness. True humility does not doubt. How strange it is that it has been thought the mark of a lowly mind to question the sincerity of the grace that has been shown. Of course it is not put in that way, but the result is the same, God is doubted and the soul is unblessed. Let such treatment be called by its proper name, not humility, but the most contemptible form of pride, which would wear the garment of poverty to establish its claim to riches.
Humility confesses its unworthiness, but emphasizes the grace of God by accepting with thankful heart what He so freely offers.
We see now how she illustrates the principle "to him that hath shall more be given," though Boaz was but continuing his previous kindness. Grace leads the soul along by blessing. So she is now offered food, and wine, and parched corn, as much as she will.
Our Lord never leaves a seeking soul to hunger, and in the provision for Ruth's refreshment we see His hand of bounty, even for one who little realizes the fulness of His grace. She is welcome to dip her morsel in the vinegar, to receive along with her feeble apprehension,her bit of bread,the strength and refreshment suggested in the wine. Have we not in like manner, in the days of the beginnings of our faith, brought our little mite of truth, our little glimpse of Christ, and found it made delicious and strengthening by the sense of a love which we did not bring? Surely that wine must speak of Him whose love is "better than wine," and who cannot have any near Him but He makes them know something of that love.
"And she sat beside the reapers." Food and rest must go together, and our Lord will have none take their food like the beasts, standing. The first command for the multitude who were to be fed was that they should sit down. What a foretaste of the gospel itself, which invites all who labor and are weary to come to Christ for rest; and what a foretaste of that eternal rest at the marriage supper of the lamb, where each will be "the disciple whom Jesus loved," with our heads upon His bosom.
But of this Ruth knows nothing, nor of the relation she is soon to hold toward this kindly man. It is simply the shadow of what is to be. But though a stranger and an alien, no distinction is made between her and the reapers. They are gathering in the golden grain and adding to the wealth of their master, while she, practically a beggar, is the very picture of poverty. But there can be no difference in such a presence. Grace obliterates all lesser distinctions, because it emphasizes the one man's nothingness and God's fulness. All other distinctions are lost sight of in that presence. There the richest is poor and the poorest is rich. It is not merely, "The rich and the poor meet together, the Lord is the maker of them all" — which levels distinctions in the presence of the Creator. It is, "this Man receiveth sinners and eateth with them." All who partake of His feast are sinners; pharisees have no place there, nor would they have it. How sweet too it is to see that service gives no place nearer than grace. The feeblest babe is as welcome as the oldest, most faithful and most successful- servant. Let us remember this as we gather about our Lord, and let it silence all thought in our heart of any right of nearness beyond that which grace gives to all who are the Lord's alike.
"And he reached her parched corn." She gets food from his own hand. The heart of our Lord is not satisfied till He Himself is ministering to the soul. How He longs for this personal contact, not satisfied merely with feeding, but passing the food from His own hand to the needy one. No doubt many have known what this means. It is touching to see what it is that is suggested by the parched corn. Corn is the figure of the person of our Lord, of His perfect humanity. It is what He was in His life here, in all the lowliness that brought Him to earth for man's need, to be the bread of life. But in order that He might be our food He had to die; so the fire must pass over the corn, reminding us of that fire of divine judgment which fell upon Him in our place. It suggests also the delight of God in Him even in His death. It was a sweet savor to God. More than this, the parched corn was part of the first fruits (Lev. 2:14), and as such recalls our Lord in resurrection, "the first fruits of them that slept." Thus from His hand we get the reminder of His person, His work and His resurrection. Dear brethren, how He yearns to impart these precious things to our souls!
Who could fail to enjoy such open-hearted bounty? So we find Ruth profits by it: "She did eat, and was sufficed and left (thereof)." There is an ascent marked here: she ate, but she might only have eaten what would have stayed the pangs of hunger for a little. She was sufficed: all her hunger was satisfied and she wanted no more. This would have suggested the sufficiency to meet her individual case, but beyond her need, there was a sufficiency for the needs of others; she left. We are reminded again of the multitude fed by our Lord, of whom it is said, "They did all eat and were filled and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full" (Matt. 14:20). This is the way of grace; there is always an abundance beyond our need, no matter how great that may be.
Still is she pursued by the kindness of Boaz, all unknown to herself. He commands his servants to let her glean wherever she will, even among the sheaves, without reproach. The natural thought for a gleaner would be afar from the reapers. She would only glean the ground where they had been, and from which all the sheaves had been collected. It would look like presumption for a gleaner to follow too closely, a presumption very likely to meet a sharp rebuke. But this is all anticipated and guarded against. She is to go where she will, even among the sheaves, and gather wheat which could hardly be considered as left yet.
How like grace is this. There is no hard line behind which the needy seekers are to keep, fearing to draw near lest they might pick up some comfort which is not intended for them. Let the reapers remember this, in trying to check souls that are seeking. Let them glean: there is no limit. The whole field of grace is before them, the whole word of God, through which they may hunt at will for all they can get. All true food is for them, all they can find. What a precious thought it is that we can welcome the soul to search the entire word of God and make his own all that he finds there. To be sure there are scriptures which apply to Israel, and others which refer to the Church, but wherever he finds Christ as food for his soul, he is welcome to Him. The trembling one may say, "This is a precious thing I have found, but it applies to believers, and I am not sure I am that." Ah, glean where you will, even though it be among the sheaves: it is no presumption. A faith that gleans, is a faith that has the right to appropriate.
More than this, well knowing her need and her possible reluctance, Boaz charges his men to let some handfuls of grain fall on purpose for her. This is very beautiful, and shows the loving thought of our Lord. Have we not found just such handfuls of comfort, little suspecting whence they came? We have found some precious assurance, some view of God's love and grace. We say we found it, but it was let fall on purpose for us. The word of God is full of such handfuls of grace left on purpose for the needy soul. How many a word has brought its message of blessing, which has apparently been left almost at random. He could not be hid, for a certain woman" had a need which He alone could meet. That word "for" we might say was dropped on purpose for any one who doubted in the least the Lord's willingness to bless. "Go tell my disciples, and Peter." Why those added words unless the risen Lord had in mind others who false as Peter, need his encouragement? Why are such lovely gospel pictures to be found scattered over the Old Testament history, between the denunciations of the prophets, enclosed in some Levitical ordinance, unless the Lord of all grace has let these fall of purpose for the timid gleaner? The historian may say the Bible is an unsatisfactory book, because it fails to give as full a narrative as would satisfy his curiosity; the scientist says it is not sufficiently explicit in matters upon which he desires to be informed. But, when did needy gleaner ever turn to its pages and not find just the word for himself? How it declares the heart of God, that He has scattered from end to end of His Book handfuls of blessing, messages of love and grace.
Nor is it a niggard supply; handfuls are strewed everywhere, an abundant supply. We will ever find that the amount is measured not by the supply, but by the faith of the gatherer. As with the manna, he that gathered much had nothing over. He gathered according to his need. Had the capacity been greater, the supply could never have been exhausted.
May we not gather a lesson for servants and ministry in these handfuls let fall of purpose? Do they not suggest that in all ministry there should be a word for the simplest and the poorest? No matter how high the theme, nor how wide the range of the subject that occupies us, there should ever be room for the heart of God to express itself. The gospel will be our eternal theme of praise; let us weave it into all the truth of God that is ministered to His people. It keeps one's own heart fresh and tender, while many a weary one has received the message intended for it through these handfuls of blessing let fall apparently at random. May the Lord give us the wisdom of His own love.
So the gleaner keeps on till set of sun, gathering here a head of grain and there a cluster of heads, with varying success, but ever adding to her store. It seems slow work and tedious; she may be tempted to discouragement, but it is all gain. At last the day is over, and she gathers up her little hoard, beating it out. It was about an ephah of barley. It seemed a small amount to one accustomed to fulness and plenty, but not to the poor gleaner. Of how much more too was it the foretaste. But of this she does not even dream. It is enough that her present need has been supplied.
There is instruction in the fact that she beats out the grain she has gleaned. Her labor is not ended when the fields have been traversed all day. She must now get the grain out of its enclosure and have it ready for food. In spiritual things it is to be feared that this beating-out process is too often neglected. It is not enough to gather the word of God, and to see intellectually its meaning, or even its applicability to ourselves. It must be made practically our own, be prepared for our food, so that it can be assimilated. How much exercise and diligence of soul this suggests. It need hardly be said that the word of God contains no chaff in the sense of having anything worthless in it; but it must be transferred, as it were, from the general to the personal. For instance, this case of Ruth must be applied to ourselves. One might understand both literally and spiritually all that we are endeavoring to learn here, and yet not "beat out" any of it for his own soul.
We are told that the sluggard roasts not that which he took in hunting. He may be very zealous in scouring the fields for game, and when it is caught his interest is gone, and his hunger unsatisfied. It is not likely that a hunter would impress us as being a sluggard: it requires considerable energy to go afield and spend the day in search of game. And yet Scripture describes such a man, if he fail to make use of that which has cost him so much, as a sluggard. He gets no food, and like Esau, he returns from his hunting faint with hunger, ready to sell his birthright for any mess of pottage that offers itself.
This beating out means much prayer and much meditation. It is not a thing to be passed over lightly, nor taken for granted. How many impressions to say nothing of the knowledge of the word of God pass away like the morning cloud and early dew, simply because they are not followed by the exercise of soul here suggested.
Thus we leave Ruth, with her little measure of blessing, doubtless little realizing how much was in store for her, and how the present blessing was a pledge of more and greater. So surely as the Lord has begun to give, will He continue till our fulness of joy shall express itself in fulness of worship.