So she sat down besides the reapers. He handed her roasted grain, and she ate her fill and had some left over. Ruth 2:14 JPS
Ate her fill – When we read this description of Ruth’s meal, we find connections to other stories about eating until satiated and having leftovers. We think of stories in both the Tanakh and the Brit Hadasha. Of course, the first readers of the story of Ruth would not connect this passage to a story about Yeshua, but we can because we have 2000 years of hindsight. Roasted grain is now gathered together with loaves and fish. Nevertheless, the first readers of this story undoubtedly connected the key phrase, tokhal va-tisba’, with stories of Israel in the wilderness and passages like Deuteronomy 6:11 and 11:15. Perhaps you can add other stories of satisfied consumption; stories that are recounted after Ruth’s experience.
Now that we have this background (and extension), we should notice the roles played by the characters in this drama. Ruth’s role is obvious. She is the stranger, the outsider and the one who receives life-giving blessing. The once-pagan convert to the God of Israel finds nourishment in God’s community among God’s chosen people. We may certainly identify. Of course, there is a major theological shift when we as Christians suggest that modern Jews need to come to our community, convert to our view of God and join the Church if they are going to find nourishment. It seems to me that we have it backwards, at least with regard to the parallels in this story.
Be that as it may, there is yet another important role player here who bears investigation. The second party to our drama is Boaz. Careful inspection reveals that Boaz plays the role of God Himself. It is Boaz who pronounces a blessing over Ruth (“May the LORD reward your deeds. May you have a full recompense from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have sought refuge!” v. 12). And it is Boaz who fulfills the very blessing he pronounced. Boaz does not wait for God to act. Boaz acts for God by providing precisely what he once wished for Ruth. Full recompense begins with his offer to eat and be satisfied. In fact, this is one of the themes of the book of Ruth. God’s blessings arrive on the hands of the faithful. We act for God when we do exactly what we wish God would do.
This theme raises some potent questions for our lives. How many times have you wished to see God’s goodness poured out on someone in need? And how often have you done what you wished God would do? Isn’t this exactly what James has in mind when he scolds followers who speak blessings but do nothing to bring them about (James 2:16)? The feeding of the five thousand began with bringing what was available. Yeshua didn’t manufacturer food from thin air. He multiplied what was given. Isn’t that lesson also a lesson about doing what we can do with what we have? In the story of Ruth, Boaz plays God. In the application of Ruth, we need to do the same.
Topical Index: ate her fill, tokhal va-tisba’, Deuteronomy 6:11, James 2:16, Matthew 14:17, Boaz, Ruth 2:14