“So Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, ‘Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favor.’ And she said to her, ‘Go, my daughter.’ ” Ruth 2:2
When God gave directions to Moses about how the nation should function once it was settled into the land of Canaan one of the things he gave instructions for was how to provide for the poor, the widows, and the orphans. A part of those instructions were directions on how they were to harvest their fields of grain.
When a land owner went out to harvest his fields he and his workers were only allowed to pass over the field one time. If they missed some grain they were not allowed to make a second pass so that they could go back and get it. They also weren’t permitted to harvest into the corners of the field. Any grain left after the first pass and the grain in the corners was to be left for poor, the widows, and the orphans who would follow after the reapers gleaning the wheat and barley that had been left by the workers as they had harvested the fields.
There were similar kinds of instructions pertaining to the grape vineyards and the olive orchards and with these and other instructions God endeavored to make sure that some provision was made for the poor.
One of the things I like about these instructions is that both the landowners and the poor had responsibilities in fulfilling God’s instructions for the care of the poor. The landowner was to make sure that access was permitted to the fields and that grain was left for the gleaners but he was not required to do the gleaning or threshing for the poor. The poor may not have a field of their own to harvest but they weren’t helpless when it came to meeting their need for food. They had time, and strength, and ability; and they could go into the fields to bring in their portion of the harvest.
Ruth and Naomi have returned to Bethlehem in time for the barley harvest and following the barley the wheat would be ready to harvest. The Bible doesn’t tell us how Ruth knew about God’s instructions for harvesting the fields but it’s apparent that she did know and she asks Naomi for permission to go out and glean and Naomi tells her to go.
Ruth and Naomi weren’t helpless when it came to facing their need for food. They would work and they would see how God would bless their efforts and fulfill their needs.
There are many things in this world that we need and God is ready to bless and provide for those needs but he also wants us to take responsibility and to be a part of his provision. The truth is our abilities are part of God’s blessing for meeting the needs in our lives. While we may at times need the help of others, and even a miracle from God, to get us through the difficulties, we’re rarely completely helpless and God calls us, just as he called the poor, the widows, and the orphans in the days of Ruth and Naomi, to be a part of his blessing and provision for us.