The Invitation of Boaz to Ruth
"And Boaz said unto Ruth: At mealtime come hither, and eat of the bread, and dip your morsel in the vinegar." Ruth 2:14
The simplicity of the book of Ruth is extremely beautiful. It is full of instruction. It suggests as much as it directly teaches. A spiritual mind cannot help seeing shadows of Jesus in it. There is much in the conduct of Boaz that reminds us of him, and we love to be reminded of Jesus. We would rather be charged with finding him where he is not — than pass by and not see him where he is. The whole narrative is delightful; but there is something in the little incident referred to in the text, that is peculiarly touching. The kindness of Boaz, the modesty of Ruth, and the generous invitation given — are all beautiful. But we cannot confine our thoughts to the field of Bethlehem, they will ramble farther; and let them ramble, if in rambling they can meet with Jesus, or find food for the soul. But we must confine ourselves pretty much to the invitation. Let us,
First, glance at the PARTY invited. Ruth, the Moabitess. A poor Gentile, a descendant of the enemies of Israel. One who had no interest in the covenant of Abraham, or part in the promises. A stranger to the commonwealth of Israel. Just such an one as we were by nature. But Boaz looked upon this poor Gentile with pity, and lovingly invited her to his table. How like Jesus! We, like Ruth, were in the open field, strangers in a strange land, and Jesus, looking upon us, pitied us, and pitying sent a most free and generous invitation to us. Blessed be his holy name forever!
Ruth was but just come into the country, and knew nothing of its inhabitants, customs, or privileges — but by report. Ah, we remember when we were first attracted by our friend Naomi toward the land of Israel! We knew nothing of the peculiar characteristics, privileges, or enjoyments, of the Lord's people. All was new and strange to us. We felt ourselves to be strangers in a strange land; but it was in such circumstance that the loving invitation of Jesus reached us. Then he said, "Come unto me." He not only welcomed us to his field — but to his person. He sought our acquaintance, before we sought his. He looked upon us and loved us, before we loved him, or had any knowledge of him, and, Oh, the riches of grace! He brought us into the closest possible union with himself.
Ruth was a hungry soul. Her wants were many, and her resources small. She must glean — or starve. Just so we. Our souls were in need, we had an indescribable craving within, we needed more than any harvest-field could afford. Indeed no one but Jesus could satisfy our needs, and he, blessed be his name, he gave us permission to glean in the field of his Word, and more, invited us to come and feed with himself.
She was related to Boaz; but she knew it not. Just so with us. Jesus was near of kin to us, even our next kinsman; but we knew it not. We suspected it not. He was our loving Lord, who took our nature that he might marry our persons, make over his property to us, and so make us eternally happy in and with himself. Oh, blessed Jesus, how wonderful your love! How strange your grace! What infinite condescension was yours — to invite poor, hungry, homeless, heathen sinners to yourself, to eat of your bread, and to drink of the wine which you had mingled! Through eternity we shall never forget your love, or the field where we wandered, and the circumstances in which we were placed, when your gracious invitation reached us! We notice,
Secondly, the PLACE to which she was invited.The booth, or refreshment-room, fitted up for the reapers, where they were to rest from the noon-day heat, and take their food. And what is the church of Jesus now? Is it not a booth in a harvest-field, a refreshment-room for the Lord's reapers? Yes, here the hungry feed, here the weary rest, here the sick are tended, and here our Heavenly Boaz cheers and encourages his laborers. Church of Jesus, in you provision is made for the poor, the hungry, the widowed, and the stranger.
Here the reapers MEET — to converse with their Lord — to talk over their work — to renew their toil — to enjoy sweet and soul-refreshing communion with each other.
Here the laborers REST. Yes, at the Lord's table, in communion with the Lord himself, and in the exercise of faith in his Word, we find the sweetest rest. The weary laborer here renews his strength, revives his spirit, refreshes his soul, and prepares to go forth into the field of labor with renewed vigor and courage.
Here the hungry FEED. The Master's table is always well supplied. There is not only sufficiency — but variety. Every weary laborer is welcome. Every hungry soul may feed. Here it is that our Lord fills the hungry with good things. Here he makes his feast of fat things, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. No hungry soul was ever forbidden to enter this gospel refreshment-room, or frowned on by Jesus when he came. Over its doors you may see, inscribed in large capitals, "Whoever will may come."
Here PROVISION is made. Plentiful provision. Suitable provision. Our Boaz sees to it that there is plenty provided for his men. His refreshment-booth is always well supplied. His reapers are well fed.
And to this place, where the reapers meet, where the laborers rest, where the hungry are fed, and such plentiful provision is made — poor Ruth was invited; and to the means of grace, which answers to this booth, poor sinners are invited now. We now consider,
Thirdly, the SEASON."Come hither at mealtime." When the table is spread. Ordinance times are mealtimes. Then the Lord's servants bring out the prepared provisions, and set them before the Lord's people. The master graces the table with his presence. There is enough laid out for all, and a variety to suit each. Now the company collect together. From every part of the vast field, the reapers come; and from their different habitations and avocations the Lord's people come up to the feast. It is a pleasant sight in nature to see hard-working reapers resting, feeding, and recruiting their strength. But it is a sight far pleasanter to gee the Lord's people gather together to feed on the paschal lamb, and the bread of life who comes down from Heaven.
The master now takes his place at the head. The provider carves for his household. He helps each to his portion, and he helps all. Just so with Jesus. He always presides at his own table. We take every morsel from his hand. He divides to every man severally as he will.
He sees to it that each has enough. How blessed it is to receive our food from the hand of Jesus! His smile is the sweetest sauce. His presence makes every morsel pleasant.
The laborers feed in company. We have sometimes eaten our morsel alone. But we love to sit down with our brethren and sisters and feed with them. Company, if it be the right sort, makes the meal more pleasant. Oh, the privileges of feeding with Jesus! What enjoyment we often find when we sit down at the common table, and eat of the children's bread. Then we realize the communion of saints. How happy the little family, when feeding together at their father's table! Rest and refreshment are enjoyed. We rest while we feed — and feed while we rest. Thus we are prepared to resume labor, and our employment becomes our pleasure.
Often when mealtime comes — we are weary, faint, and sad; but the food that is provided for us, and the society enjoyed by us, revives our spirits, refreshes our minds, and stimulates us afresh. We sit down exhausted, and apparently worn out; but we rise to our employments like giants refreshed with wine. Oh, it is pleasant to be ready for mealtime, and to find the meal ready for us! Blessed are those who hunger in the field of Boaz, for they shall be filled! We come now,
Fourthly, to the INVITATION."Come hither at mealtime and eat of the bread, and dip your morsel in the vinegar." The invitation is from the master. He owns the field; he provides the food. He has a right to invite whom he will. He is wealthy, and can provide for any number. He is generous, and invites every poor, widowed, Moabitish damsel. He has a large and loving heart. He has boundless resources. Who can tell what is comprehended in the words, "the unsearchable riches of Christ!"
He "is rich in mercy," and will expend it on miserable sinners. He has "riches of grace," and he will glorify them in the most unworthy of his creatures. He has "laid up of his goodness for the poor." His preparation for the wants of the needy, wretched and miserable sons of men, is vast beyond the powers of calculation. He began to provide for our wants before we were created, and now he invites us to come and buy from him without money and without price. Oh, gracious, loving Lord — how wonderful your benevolence, to invite such miserable, depraved, and polluted creatures as we are!
The invitation is to come into the refreshment-room, not stay in the field, not sit down under the scorching sun — but come in as one of the household. My poor fellow-sinner, Jesus invites you to his ordinances, to sit down at the gospel table, to share with his people in all their privileges and joys. Stay not in the open field, hesitate not about coming in, look not at your tattered garments, be not discouraged by any thought of your base Moabitish origin. Jesus knew all about you when he invited you.
Are you thirsting for happiness, for peace, for everlasting life? That is enough. Jesus says, "If any man thirsts — let him come unto me and drink." Never mind though you are a stranger, though you feel you are not worthy to wash the feet of the lowest of his servants, he invites you, he says as he stands at the door of his own house, "Come hither at mealtime!" Come then, come simply because he calls you. To come, is now an act of obedience; to stay away, from whatever cause, is an act of disobedience.
He says, "Eat of the bread." The bread of life. Gospel provision is plain — it is bread — the stay and the staff of life. So simple that it will suit every age, and agree with every constitution. It is wholesome and will give you strength, courage, and confidence in God. It cannot injure anyone. It is made of the grain of wheat, unmixed with any coarser articles. It is plentiful. The poor starving prodigal, when he thought of his Father's house, remembered there was "bread enough and to spare." Just so here. No one will suffer from what you eat, there is enough. Millions have fed at this board, and millions more may come; there is not only enough, there is a redundance. There will be plenty left when all have partaken. You are welcome — as welcome as if it was your own table. It is grace, therefore it is free; but if you had paid double price for it out of your own pocket, you would not be more welcome.
"Dip your morsel in the vinegar." Vinegar was much used in the east, because of its cooling properties. There is always vinegar on the Lord's table. That vinegar is extracted from the sufferings of Jesus. Dip your morsel in the vinegar of your Savior's sufferings — and it will cool your heated frame, it will cool your burning lusts, it will cool your love to the present evil world. If your conscience is inflamed by the fiery law, or your spirits are heated by conflict with Satan — your morsel dipped in this vinegar will pleasantly cool and comfort them.
This vinegar gives a relish to the food. It
quickens our appetite, helps our digestion, and makes every morsel savory.
It is blessed to dip even our temporal mercies in this vinegar; and thus
"He sunk beneath our heavy woes,
To raise us to his throne;
There's not a gift his hand bestows,
But cost his heart a groan!"
Reader, are you a Gentle sinner? Rejoice in this, that you are welcome to the Jew's table. The Lord Jesus was a Jew, and salvation is of the Jews; but all the provisions of the gospel, once placed on the table of the favored Jew, by Jesus himself and his apostles — are now offered to you. To you, vile as you are, unworthy as you are — to you, Jesus says, "At mealtime come hither, eat of the bread and dip your morsel in the vinegar."
The invitations of the gospel are generous and free. Jesus sincerely invites you. He says, "All things are ready, Come." And when they neglect, or trine with the invitation, he says, "Compel them to come in, that my house may be filled." Jesus loves a full house. He rejoices to see sinners come. It will delight him to see you come. There are no conditions in his invitation, it is only "Come!" He never tells the sinner to look into himself, and see if he feels anything; nor does he direct the sinner to do anything. Ruth was not to go home and wash, and change her garments — but just as she was in the field, she was to come and eat of the bread. Just so, the sinner; he is to come just as he is; if his heart is hard as adamant, if his heart is cold as ice, if he has sinned ever so much, or ever so long — still he is to come. Come for a free pardon. Come for a perfect righteousness. Come for the sanctifying Spirit. Come for a complete and everlasting salvation.
Everything the sinner needs — is in Jesus; and all that is in Jesus — the sinner is welcome to receive.
Ordinance times are refreshing times. How many can attest
this? Millions of poor sinners have seen Jesus first at the table of his
ordinances. Here he hands the bread of life to the hungry, and the
cup of salvation to the thirsty. Here he smiles and speaks . . .
pardon to the guilty,
liberty to the captive, and
peace to the troubled.
Here he cleanses guilt from the conscience, gives the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.
Reader, prize the ordinances. Attend the ordinances. But be sure you look through every ordinance — to Jesus. It is not the ordinances — but Christ in the ordinances, which satisfies the longing soul, and replenishes every sorrowful soul.
Gleaners should sit down with reapers. Are you only a poor Ruth, gleaning a few ears in the field of Boaz for your sustenance? Fear not. When Jesus comes into the field he will notice you, and he will say to the reapers, "Let her glean among the sheaves, and pull out some heads of barley from the bundles and drop them on purpose for her." And he will come up to you by and bye, and will say, "At mealtime come hither, eat of the bread and dip your morsel in the vinegar." Go and sit down at the same table as Peter, James, and John sat. Go and sit down with the most honored servants of your Lord.
This is grace. True grace. This will glorify Jesus, more than it will honor you. Reapers and gleaners sit together in the Lord's house, for it is one of his own declarations, "You are all one in Christ Jesus." And again he says, "In Christ Jesus, there is neither Greek nor Jew, bond nor free, male nor female — but Christ is all and in all." Take your seat then at the table, eat of the bread, and forget not to dip your morsel in the vinegar. It will taste sharp at first — but it will excite your appetite, give a relish to your food, and add tenfold to your enjoyment of the feast. Oh, for grace to take every morsel from Jesus, and then to dip it in the vinegar of his sufferings; so shall we realize the truth of the poet's words —
"How sweet our daily mercies prove,
When they are seasoned with his love."
How sweet your invitations be —
But are they, Lord, for such as we?
We, who transgressors are, and vile,
And most unworthy of your smile?
Unworthy of your ground we tread,
The liquid drop, the crumb of bread;
Of sight, of hearing, feeling, taste,
Then much more of your saving grace!
But you did once a feast prepare,
And all around were welcome there;
Those who obeyed the festive call,
And those who would not come at all.
Yet though we all unworthy be,
Are we unwelcome, Lord, to thee?
For you invite us to come,
And find in you our blissful home.
We hail your invitations, Lord,
These are our welcome in your Word;
But higher praise is yet your due,
If you have made us willing too.