Arlen L. Chitwood
Gleaning in Boaz’s Field (2)
So Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain” . . .
Then she left, and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers . . .
So she gleaned in the field until evening, and beat out what she had gleaned . .
So she stayed close by the young women of Boaz, to glean until the end of barley harvest and wheat harvest; and she dwelt with her mother-in-law. (Ruth 2:2a, 3a, 17a, 23)
Naomi and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest, with the wheat harvest to follow. In Israel during those days, barley would normally have been planted first during the previous fall and harvested first during the spring, with wheat planted and harvested later than barley. And, as previously seen (ref. chapter 5 of this book), this entire sequence from the book of Ruth provides deep spiritual lessons relative to Christians and the harvest in which they presently find themselves engaged.
Barley,” normally ripening and being harvested first in Israel, would form the type of sheaf of grain that the priest waved before the Lord on the feast of First Fruits. And, as the previous Passover was associated with death (Christ died as the Paschal Lamb on this day), the feast of First Fruits was associated with resurrection (Christ was raised from the dead on this day).
Then, “wheat,” within this overall thought surrounding death and resurrection, would be associated with both, for a grain of wheat planted in the ground — dying (John 12:24) — cannot bear fruit unless there is subsequently a springing forth from the ground of that which is living.
That is, beginning with the barley harvest, the one working in the field is to labor during the time of harvest in connection with that associated with resurrection alone. He is to conduct his labors within the scope of the activities of the new man alone, reckoning the old man to be dead and in the place of death (shown through the Red Sea passage in the type, and baptism in the antitype).
Then, this continuance of death during the harvest is dealt with in the subsequent wheat harvest.
The old man, as Ishmael, is, in reality, very much alive, though he is to be reckoned as dead and kept in the place of death. And, for this reason, “wheat” is seen as part of the harvest as well.
There must be death following resurrection (shown by the wheat harvest following the beginning of barley harvest). But, though death must occur (a person must lose his life to save it [John 12:25; cf. Matthew 16:24-26]), the thought of resurrection must continue within this picture of the harvest (shown by the continuing barley harvest, as well as the wheat harvest itself [as previously seen, if fruit is to be borne, a springing forth — a resurrection — must follow the death referred to in John 12:24]).
A springing forth, a resurrection, in connection with the new man in this respect is a truth established very early in Scripture — established within God’s restorative work in the first chapter of Genesis. In this opening chapter, a bringing forth, in the manner seen in John 12:24, is connected with God’s work on the third day — the earth, which was being restored, bringing forth on this day (vv. 9-13). And, occurring on the third day, the thought of life or resurrection is connected with this day, establishing a first-mention principle.
(Note that Christ was raised on the third day, as Jonah in the type [cf. Matthew 12:39, 40; Luke 24:21]; and all of God’s firstborn Sons [Christ, Israel, and the Church (following the adoption into a firstborn status)] will be raised up to live in God’s sight yet future on the third day [the third millennium, dating from the same time as Christ’s resurrection — from the time of the crucifixion; e.g., Hosea 5:13-6:2].)
Thus, resurrection is seen connected with the third day in Scripture, beginning in the opening chapter of Genesis; and resurrection is later seen connected with the feast of First Fruits, the third of seven festivals forming the prophetic calendar of Israel.
The significance of the third day in Scripture is why Joseph is seen dealing with his brethren in connection with life on “the third day” in Genesis 42:17, 18, why Moses wanted to take the Israelites “three days journey” into the desert before he offered sacrifices to the Lord in Exodus 5:2, 3, why both “the third day” and “the seventh day” are used in Numbers 19:11, 12 relative to a person being cleansed from defilement brought about through contact with a dead body (the third day would date back to the time of the crucifixion, and the seventh day would cover the whole spectrum of time, as seen in Genesis 1:1-2:3), and why Esther stood in the king’s presence relative to the deliverance of the Jews on “the third day” in Esther 5:1.
(In Moses’ deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, the things connected with Israel’s calling [as God’s firstborn son, who was to realize the rights of primogeniture in another land, within a theocracy (Exodus 4:22, 23; 19:5, 6)], were associated with a three-day journey, sacrifices to the Lord, and a rest. Only through a separation from Egypt, shown by the three-day journey, could the Israelites properly offer sacrifices unto the Lord and realize the rest set before them, a “rest from their burdens” [cf. Exodus 5:2-5; Ruth 3:1, 18; Hebrews 4:1-9].
And the rest in view [as the significance of the third day] was also originally set forth in the opening chapters of Genesis, establishing another first-mention principle in these chapters. The rest in these opening chapters occurred on the seventh day — the Sabbath. This foreshadowed the earth’s coming Sabbath, which would occur at the full end of six days [6,000 years] of restorative work, or on the third day [the third 1,000-year period] dating from the time of Christ’s crucifixion.
The Pharaoh of Egypt during Moses’ day had other thoughts about the Israelites’ three-day journey, their sacrifices to the Lord, and the rest that they were to enter into. The Pharaoh wasn’t against their offering sacrifices to their God, but he wanted them to do it in the land of Egypt, among the Egyptians, short of a three-day journey. And the Pharaoh wanted them to continue serving him rather than seeking rest.
So it is with the Lord’s servants today. Either they find themselves laboring in the field in connection with things surrounding both a three-day journey [pointing to resurrection] and a rest [pointing to the earth’s coming Sabbath], or they find themselves laboring in the field in an opposite fashion [in a manner separate from the things surrounding both a three-day journey and a rest]. The former will result in fruit-bearing, but not so with the latter.
The man of flesh — as the world and the demonic powers presently ruling this world [Satan and his angels] — can be very religious [cf. Acts 17:22, 23; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15]. And they don’t mind a Christian being very religious as well, as long as he doesn’t go “very far away” and carries out his worship among those of the world, through whom Satan and his angels presently rule [Exodus 8:25, 28; cf. Daniel 10:13-20].
The line though is drawn when the Christian desires to go the full three-day journey [away from the things of the world, walking in resurrection life] and look toward the rest out ahead. This is the time when the attack will come from all directions, in different ways — not only from those in the spirit world but from among many in the vast number of worldly-minded Christians who haven’t gone “very far away” and are quite content to intermingle with those in the world in this respect.
Those in the demonic world understand the three-day journey and the rest, and that’s why they attack Christians who seek to follow Scriptural guidelines. They know that Christians aspiring to realize the inheritance and rest set before them are, in effect, seeking to one day occupy regal positions in the kingdom of Christ that they presently hold in the kingdom under Satan. And, as Satan, they will do everything within their power to retain their present positions and prevent this from happening. Thus, the spiritual warfare rages for those Christians who have experienced the full three-day journey and look toward the rest out ahead.
But Christians who haven’t gone “very far away,” and are often very religious, invariably don’t understand the three-day journey and the rest; and, in reality, that is why they join the attack. The mind-set of Christians seeking to follow the Spirit’s leadership in this overall matter is foreign to their way of thinking, for it is opposed to the ways and practices of the world, which they follow. And, as a consequence, they find themselves opposing that which is being taught and practiced.
In short, if Christians want to be attacked from all sides by everyone concerned, all they have to do is follow Scriptural guidelines in the matter of Christian living, the harvest at hand, etc. But if they desire, on the other hand, to live in harmony among all concerned, then all they have to do is the opposite.
It is losing one’s life [soul] or saving one’s life [soul] during the present time, with the inverse of that being true during that coming day.
And the whole of that which occurs in this respect is why suffering always precedes glory in Scripture. Suffering will result from obedience in the Christian life. Christians following Scriptural guidelines in their lives will invariably experience suffering; but that will not necessarily be the case for Christians who choose not to follow these Scriptural guidelines.
Note how the matter surrounding suffering is succinctly handled in two New Testament epistles:
Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. [2 Timothy 3:12]
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;
but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. [1 Peter 4:12, 13])
Present Activity in the Field
The time covered by the barley harvest and the wheat harvest in Ruth chapter two presents a picture of the Christian in the race of “the faith” during the present dispensation. The Christian is seen gleaning in the field belonging to the One whom Boaz typifies.
A “field” is used in Scripture to typify the world (Matthew 13:38; cf. Genesis 37:15), “gleaning” in the field has to do with bringing forth fruit while in the world, and “the length” of the gleaning (from morning until evening, from the beginning to the end of the harvest) has to do with a never-ending work, extending throughout the dispensation.
A Christian is to set his sights on the goal out ahead, and he is to be busy throughout the course of the dispensation, in his Master’s field. And, relative to the harvest, he is to concern himself with one thing. He is to concern himself with that which is provided for him to glean, not with that which is provided for another to glean.
Boaz, “a mighty man of wealth,” took note of Ruth gleaning in his field, inquired of her, instructed her to not glean in any other field, and then instructed his workers in the field to purposefully leave sheaves of grain for her to glean. In this respect, Boaz provided that which Ruth was to glean, giving his workers instructions that it was to be left specifically for her.
All Ruth had to do was glean that which the workers, at Boaz’s instructions, had left for her to glean. And Ruth gleaned in Boaz’s field after this fashion from morning until evening, from the beginning to the end of the harvest (2:4-23).
And so it is with Christians bringing forth fruit today. The Lord of the harvest has provided for each and every Christian. Christians are to simply wait upon the Lord to provide and they are then to glean that which has been provided for them to glean. It is through this process — waiting upon and looking to the Lord — that fruit is to be borne in a Christian’s life.
(But, again, note that it is the new man alone — the man of spirit alone — who has any connection with this gleaning process, looking forward to an inheritance and rest out ahead. The old man — the man of flesh — must be reckoned as dead and left in the place of death. He has nothing to do with the harvest, the inheritance, and the rest.
The importance of this cannot be overemphasized — a truth set forth in the book of Ruth that must occur at the beginning of the harvest, apart from which proper work cannot be performed in the field during the time of harvest.)
1) The One Gleaning
Ruth described herself as a stranger, whom Boaz had singled out as one in whom he had taken particular interest. And Ruth further described herself as being different than Boaz’s handmaidens, among whom she was told to abide (2:10, 13).
A) A Stranger
Ruth referring to herself as a stranger would be a reference to her past — a “young Moabite woman” (2:6), alienated from Israel and the God of Israel. But Boaz recognized her as no longer alienated in this respect. Boaz recognized her as now having a family relationship with both Israel and the God of Israel (vv. 11, 12; ref. chapter 2).
This, of course, would foreshadow the past and present position that Christians taken from among the Gentiles occupy in the antitype. At one time, they were “strangers…without God in the world.” But, “now in Christ Jesus,” those who at one time were “far off” have been “brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:12, 13).
And, on the basis of Christ’s shed blood, this has been brought to pass through a work of the Spirit — a work peculiar to the present dispensation, which began on the day of Pentecost. An individual is immersed in the Spirit, placing him positionally “in Christ.” Then, “in Christ,” the individual becomes “Abraham’s seed,” because Christ is Abraham’s Seed.
The Christian, through Christ, acquires an association with Israel. He, as pictured in Romans 11:13-24, was cut out of a wild olive tree and has been grafted into a good olive tree.
The Christian, in this position, is no longer “without God in the world.” He, through being identified with Israel, now has God. And, as Boaz recognized Ruth in the field in this respect, God recognizes the Christian in the world in this same respect. Ruth past and the Christian present was/is in a position to glean in the field and bring forth fruit during the time of harvest.
Ruth looking upon herself as different than Boaz’s handmaidens (2:13), taken contextually, would again refer to her past Gentile heritage, to the fact that she had been brought into a family relationship through a means other than natural birth, different from the way in which the handmaidens had been brought into this relationship. A secondary teaching could perhaps be seen in the antitype through dealing with faithful and unfaithful Christians, though, contextually, that is not the subject at hand.
The book does not deal with two classes of Christians in this respect beyond chapter one, beyond the last mention of Orpah. The book, beyond this point in the opening chapter, deals solely with the faithful in the antitype. Thus, it would be out of line with the context to see the difference between Ruth and the handmaidens in verse fourteen as a reference to faithfulness and unfaithfulness among Christians.
Israel, in the antitype, had rejected the proffered kingdom. And God called into existence an entirely new nation — one which was neither Jewish nor Gentile — and has offered to those comprising this new nation the same thing that had been offered to, spurned by, and taken from Israel (cf. Matthew 21:43; 1 Peter 2:9, 10).
Those comprising this new nation who have received the message are like Ruth in the type. They are members of the family; but, though grafted into the good olive tree, they are different than the natural branches that have been broken off. They have accepted the message, not rejected it as the broken off natural branches (the natural seed of Abraham) had done.
And, for this reason, they are the ones now seen as being allowed to bring forth fruit in relation to the kingdom (Matthew 21:43). They are the ones being shown grace in Christ’s eyes in this respect and being allowed to glean a provided harvest in the field (Ruth 2:15, 16).
2) Time of Gleaning
The time of gleaning is during the present dispensation, during the time in which the Spirit is in the world calling out a bride for God’s Son. And the Spirit has been provided with an entire dispensation — lasting 2,000 years — to acquire the bride.
Accordingly, the book of Ruth presents truths surrounding particular facets of this present work of the Spirit. The book of Ruth deals centrally with Christian faithfulness and the end result during the time of harvest, not centrally with unfaithfulness and the end result.
The book does begin by showing both sides of the picture, showing the attitude and activities of both Ruth and Orpah as they began a journey toward another land with Naomi. But, after the book relates a sharp division between the two (Orpah who separated herself from Naomi and turned back, and Ruth who remained with Naomi and continued the journey), matters continue with Ruth alone. Orpah, who left Naomi and turned back, could have no part in that which Ruth was about to experience.
Thus, Orpah could have no part in that seen beyond this point in the book and is, consequently, not mentioned again. And with the book centering on the activities of Ruth in this respect, the book provides a wealth of information surrounding guidelines pertaining to Christian faithfulness and the end result of faithfulness. Suffice it to say, unfaithfulness is not dealt with in this book beyond the beginning of the journey toward another land, beyond the things seen in the first part of chapter one. Faithfulness alone is the subject dealt with throughout the remainder of the book.
Then the length of time in which Christians, typified by Ruth, are to be busy in the Master’s field after this fashion is stated in a simple and concise manner. It is “until even” on the one hand, and it is “to the end of barley harvest and of wheat harvest” on the other (2:17, 23). It is a present work that is to continue until the end of the dispensation.
3) Method of Gleaning
One of the most difficult things for Christians to do in the harvest, though one of the most important, is to simply wait upon the Lord to provide. It is the Lord of the harvest who supplies that which Christians are to reap, which He supplies in His time. And Christians must wait upon the Lord to make known and reveal that which He has for individual Christians to gather and work with in the harvest.
Note the words of Isaiah 40:31 with respect to waiting upon the Lord:
But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
Or, note the complete panorama of the matter as set forth in 2 Timothy 2:10-12. The context (vv. 4, 5, 8) clearly reveals that Paul’s gospel (having to do with present and future aspects of salvation, not past) and matters pertaining to regality are in view:
Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal [Greek: aionios, contextually, ‘age-lasting’] glory.
This is a faithful saying: for if we died with Him [that which is shown by baptism, and by the loss of the soul], we shall also live with Him [that which is foreshadowed by rising from the waters of baptism, and by the salvation of the soul].
If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him [relative to patient endurance, i.e., if we do not patiently endure], He also will deny us [relative to His reign, i.e., we will not reign with Him].”
The complete picture has to do with dying to self while walking in resurrection life, as one patiently endures under trials and testing, waiting upon the Lord of the harvest to provide throughout the time of harvest. If a Christian allows these things to occur in his life in this manner, Christ, in turn, will allow that Christian to have a part in His coming reign. That Christian will come into a realization of the salvation of his soul during the coming day of Christ’s glory and power.
However, the inverse of that is also true. If a Christian doesn’t deny self, walk in resurrection life (which he can’t do if he doesn’t deny self), and patiently endure under trials and testing, that Christian will lose his soul and have no part with Christ during the coming day of His glory and power.
In the type, Ruth was told to keep her eyes upon “the field.” And Boaz instructed his men to “let grain from the bundles fall purposely [sheaves from the bundles] for her; leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her” (2:9, 16).
The time of harvest is that simple to grasp and understand. The Christian, walking in resurrection life and patiently enduring under trials and testing as he waits upon the Lord of the harvest, is simply to keep his eyes upon the field. He is to be alert, and he is to watch; and the Lord of the harvest will, Himself, provide that which is to be gleaned by the waiting Christian.
The Christian is not to become impatient and run ahead of the Lord, seeking to gather in and work with something outside the scope of that which the Lord has for that person. Rather, he is simply to wait. He is to “wait upon the Lord” to supply that which the Lord has for that person and wants that person, not someone else, to reap.
Again, this is one of the most difficult things that Christians find about the Christian life. They too often find themselves listening to some well-meaning but ill-informed Christian telling them that they should be out doing something. And, rather than simply waiting upon the Lord to find out what the Lord wants them to do, they find themselves running ahead of the Lord, seeking to do that which another Christian has told them that they should be doing.
In so doing, they find themselves working in the wrong realm (entering a door that they themselves have opened) when they should be waiting for the right realm (waiting for the Lord to open the door for them). And the end result can only be confusion and chaos introduced into the Lord’s plans and purposes for the lives of the individuals involved.
A Christian must wait upon the Lord, remaining attentive and keeping his eyes open as he waits. There is no other way if the harvest is to be realized from a correct biblical perspective.
B) Working With
Another thing relative to the harvest stands out in the text — something of utmost importance and significance. Ruth, after she had gleaned in the field throughout the day, “beat out what she had gleaned,” leaving “about an ephah of barley” (2:17). That is, she didn’t confine her work to just one part of the task — gathering the grain that had been left for her. Rather, after gathering the grain, she worked with that which she had gleaned, removing the grain from the stalk. She worked with that which she had gleaned until the valuable part alone remained.
And so it is with Christians today. They are not to confine themselves to just one part of the task. They, for example, are not to cease their work following the proclamation of the message of salvation by grace through faith. Rather, once a person has been saved, they are then to continue their work with that which has been taken from the field. They are then to provide instruction concerning why the person has been saved. They are then to proclaim all the various facets of the message surrounding the coming glory of Christ. And they are to provide this instruction until a certain revealed time.
Remaining within the framework of the type, they are to reap stalks of grain from the field. Then they are to continue the harvest, working with that which has been gleaned from the field. And they are to continue this work until that which is worthless has been separated from that which is of value. They are to continue this work until individuals have been brought from immaturity to maturity (from a gnosis to an epignosis understanding of the Word), until they have been grounded in “the faith” (Ephesians 4:11-15).
Note how Paul conducted his ministry along these lines (cf. Acts 20:20-32; Colossians 1:1-29). And note Paul’s command in 2 Timothy, along these same lines:
But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (4:5)
The word “evangelist” (Greek: euaggelistes) means, a proclaimer of good news. The word is not used in Scripture in the narrow sense in which it is often used in Christendom today — one proclaiming only the good news of the grace of God. Scripture uses this word in a much broader sense.
Timothy, being told to “do the work of an evangelist,” was simply being told to proclaim the good news. What good news was he to proclaim? The context itself has to do with the good news of the coming glory of Christ (cf. 3:15; 4:1, 7, 8). Thus, contextually, this facet of the good news would be foremost in view.
But there is another facet to the good news — a preceding facet — the good news of the grace of God. And the command to Timothy could not preclude this facet of the good news, though the context deals with the other.
In other words, if Timothy was dealing with the unsaved, he was to proclaim the good news of the grace of God. He couldn’t proclaim anything else to them, for they were still “dead in trespasses and sins.” They were incapable of spiritual discernment (1 Corinthians 2:14).
But, once they had “passed from death to life,” he was no longer to proclaim the good news of the grace of God to them. Such would be meaningless, for they had already heard and responded to this message. He was then to proclaim the good news of the coming glory of Christ, for now they could understand spiritual truth (1 Corinthians 2:9-13).
Either way though he would be doing the work of an evangelist. That is, he would be proclaiming good news, whether relative to the grace of God or the coming glory of Christ.
And placing this within the framework of the type in Ruth chapter two, the same person proclaiming the good news of the grace of God to the unsaved is then to proclaim the good news of the coming glory of Christ to those responding. And he is to continue the latter until the wheat has been separated from the chaff, else the Lord of the harvest Himself will have to make this separation at the judgment seat.
(In the preceding respect, there is often a non-biblical distinction made between an “evangelist” and a “pastor-teacher,” as seen in Ephesians 4:11. In actuality, their message is the same. It involves both the gospel of the grace of God and the gospel of the glory of Christ.
The difference in their ministries would lie more in the fact that a pastor-teacher has a flock entrusted to him, which means that the emphasis in his ministry would undoubtedly fall more into the latter category than the former. But the fact remains. Both the evangelist and the pastor-teacher are to proclaim the whole of the good news, with circumstances determining where the emphasis is to be placed.)
Dwelling with Naomi
Very briefly, attention should again be called to the fact that Christians, during the time of the harvest, must dwell in the antitype of that seen through Ruth dwelling with Naomi during this time (2:23; ref. chapter 2). “Naomi” typifies Israel in the account, and Naomi is seen instructing Ruth in two realms: (1) relative to the harvest, and (2) relative to preparation for meeting Boaz on his threshing floor at the end of the harvest (2:2, 19-3:4).
The thought of the wild olive branches grafted into a good olive tree receiving instruction in these two realms, emanating from Israel, would be a reference to instruction received from the Word of God. The Spirit gave this Word in time past through Jewish prophets (Psalm 147:19, 20; Romans 9:4; 2 Peter 1:21); and the Spirit uses this Word alone as He leads Christians into a knowledge of the truth (John 16:13-15), allowing Him to then lead them in all matters pertaining to faith and the spiritual walk (Romans 8:14; cf. vv. 13, 18-23).
Christians coming into mature knowledge of the truth — moving from a gnosis to an epignosis understanding of the Word — is fundamental and primary. Only through such mature knowledge can they come into an understanding of the various things about the harvest and that which lies ahead.