Godly men: A study of Boaz
It seems a little odd to take one of the few books of the bible that are named after women, and use it for a study of Godly men. The book of Ruth gives a few insights into what a loyal servant (Ruth) looks like, and a sweet trusting relationship between her and her Mother-in-law (Naomi). But perhaps the protagonist, whose character dominates the remaining chapters, is Boaz. The character of this Godly man oozes from every paragraph from his introduction in Chapter 2, through some important events in Chapter 3, and concluding with his legacy in Chapter 4. Let's take a look at the character of this remarkable man as evidenced by his words and actions.
He is introduced to us in Chapter 2, verse 4 "Just then, Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, "The Lord be with you!" (Ruth 2:4). What a wonderful introduction to any character - "The Lord be with you!" Boaz is showing up in the fields where his workers are busy in the heat of the day. He doesn't remain in his ivory towers, but shows up on the front lines and blesses his people. His crew offer the same endearment: '"The Lord be with you!" they called back' (Ruth 2:4). Verse 5 shows us that Boaz pays attention to the people, all the people, even the servants following the harvesters, and even the foreign servant girl following his servants - he notices the unnoticable: "Boaz asked the foreman of his harvesters, "whose young woman is that?"' (Ruth 2:5). Boaz greets Ruth with a cherished term "My daughter" and underscores the importance of his counsel (and thus her safety) with "listen to me" (Ruth 2:8). He offers wise counsel to Ruth"Don't go and glean in another field and don't go away from here." And he welcomes her into his place of safety "Stay here with my servant girls" (Ruth 2:8). He also proactively sets protective boundaries to potential perpetrators "I have told the men not to touch you" (Ruth 2:9). He is mindful of Ruth's needs and freely gives "And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled" (Ruth 2:9). He puts no expectation on Ruth to provide her own water jar, or to fill it herself - his provision of her most basic need is full. His generosity is so overwhelming to Ruth that she humbles herself "At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed, "Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me - a foreigner?" (Ruth 2:10). Boaz shows no superiority over Ruth in her posture of humility, instead, he immediately raises her up by crediting the favor she receives to her own self-worth: "Boaz replied, "I've been told all about what you have done"" (Ruth 2:11). Then he blesses her "May you be richly rewarded by the Lord" (Ruth 2:1). While it was his counsel, his protections, and his provisions that were brought to Ruth, Boaz understood that his harvest, his water, his workers' obedience to his call to not harm her, were all from the hand of God, and have been granted to him for the issuance of blessing to Ruth. He appropriately gives God the glory for Ruth's protection and provision the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge." Boaz is a humble servant of the Lord.
Boaz continues to extend kindness to Ruth when the workers take a break to eat. He includes her around the food and provides plentifully "At mealtime Boaz said to her, "Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar." She ate all that she needed and had extra to bring home (Ruth 2:14,18). Boaz teaches kindness, respect, and generosity to his men. He tells them "Don't embarrass her. Rather, pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don't rebuke her" (Ruth 2:15-16); this instruction to his men also enables Ruth in her task. After a hard day's work, Ruth goes home to Naomi and tells of Boaz's favor to her. Naomi recognizes the kindness in Boaz as his long-standing reputation "He has not stopped showing kindness to the living and the dead" (Ruth 2:20). In one short chapter, from our first introduction of Boaz, to seeing some brief interactions with those around him, his character exudes kindness, humility, generosity and a dozen more Godly attributes.
His heart recognizes the needs of others and his actions are a clear demonstration of his servitude towards God's people.
Chapter three provides a look into some deeper traits of man: what interactions with a woman might look like behind closed doors, and the handling of duty-bound negotiations. In both of these, Boaz's integrity and pursuit of righteousness dictate his actions. Ruth has been advised to prepare herself for a late night meeting with Boaz, one where she will announce, covertly, that she is 'available': "wash and perfume yourself, and put on your best clothes . . .. note the place where he is lying, then go and uncover his feet and lie down" (Ruth 3:3-4). Ruth heeds her Mother-in-law's advice. When Boaz is startled to awaken (3:8), he again blesses Ruth (3:10), and judges her presence to be an act of kindness, rather than an act of promiscuity (3:10). He does not indulge himself in sexual gratification (3:14), but instead, maintains honor. He promises Ruth that he will seek out the kinsman-redeemer in the morning and should the nearest kinsman refuse, then he will take Ruth (3:13). He warmly invites her to stay (3:13). Early in the morning they awake (3:14). He speaks wisdom to Ruth to steal away before rumors could potentially mar her noble character (3:14) and he sends her off, lavishly supplied with grain for herself and Naomi (3:15). When Ruth explains the nights' events to Naomi, including Boaz's mission to locate the kinsman-redeemer, Naomi again reinforces the long-standing reputation of Boaz as a man of integrity "Wait my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today" (3:18).
Chapter four follows Boaz through the process of honoring the Israeli law of kinsman-redeemer. Through the process he is seen as friendly, respectful, fair, and trustworthy. He is well-esteemed at the city gates, and after the process of redeeming is complete, the city officials bless Boaz abundantly (4:11-12). The story ends with the marriage of Boaz and Ruth, and a statement of the legacy that is left by this honorable servant of God and his noble and humble wife. Together, their posterity includes King David as their great grandson, who gave us so many of the life-sustaining psalms, including "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want" (Psalm 23:1), and his son, Solomon's, wisdom in the book of Proverbs "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your path straight" (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Consider . . .
The book of Ruth presents just 3 scenes from Boaz's life: (i) at the field with the harvesters where he first met Ruth and shared a meal with her (ii) at the grain pile where he slept and was awoken by Ruth, and (iii) at the city gates where he sought the kinsman-redeemer. In these 3 short stories of Boaz, over two dozen character traits of Boaz were evidenced. All positive, Christ-like characteristics. If you were caught on camera, unknowingly, in the same 3 locations as Boaz (with the hands-on workers where you work, in your bedroom at night with a woman, and at the local township office) how many character traits would you demonstrate through your words and actions? What proportion of those would be Christ-like?
Does your reputation precede you as Boaz's did? How would your sister-in-law, or next-door-neighbor, describe you? Does their appraisal reflect the real you? If not, why not?
What type of legacy do you want to leave behind? Is it there yet? If God were to end your life today, what would your legacy include? How different is that to the legacy you'd hope to leave? How might that change over the next ten years or so?