It was a happy providence that led Ruth to the field of Naomi's relative on her husband's side, a man of standing whose name was Boaz. Ruth2v1. It shows the difference a good, kind, man can make to the lives of others. Boaz illustrates how man at his best still retains something of God's image.

(A) Boaz noticed Ruth. Boaz asked the foreman of his harvesters, "Whose young women is that?" Ch2v5.

Boaz only noticed Ruth because he knew everybody else in his field. He wasn't the sort of employer who was remote from, and out of touch with, his work force. People mattered to Boaz. It would have been hard for Ruth if her presence had been ignored. It is humiliating to go unnoticed.

Some years ago the classy little close in which I live suffered something of a culture shock. One of the families in the close moved to Germany for a couple of years and their chalet bungalow was rented out. Four single young people moved in. It was bad! Traffic noise increased an hundred fold. All sorts of vehicles roared into our once quiet close. It seemed to me that engines were being revved up all through the night. The music the youngsters played wasn't to my taste although I was forced to endure it. The deep BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! of heavy metal bands is remarkably penetrating. One of the girls had a rockweiller that used to chew my rose bushes in lieu of human flesh that was doubtless its preference. However, the very worst thing about those youthful neighbours is that they totally ignored me. I would look up from repairing my roses as the young woman walked past with her rockweiller but could never make eye contact. I was never noticed - not even by the dog!

It is demoralising not to be noticed. I am glad that there are people in my church who always notice when someone is away and will give them a ring to find out what is wrong. Sadly as we get older we get noticed less - except when we are fumbling for money at a check out and holding everybody up. In my worst moments I feel that I am losing significance. In the end my death will be of no significance. Someone will just have the chore of clearing up. There are several funerals in Bury St Eds each month at which there are no mourners - just the clergyman, the organist and the undertaker are present.

I usually manage to cheer myself up by remembering that God notices. He is aware when even the single sparrow falls. Jesus says, "So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Mt10v31. The fact that God notices us gives us significance. Indeed he knows us so intimately that in the words of the Saviour, "Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered." Mt10v30. I love the story of the shabby, poor, disregarded, widow who apparently gave God so little. No-one took any notice of her!. Well, Jesus noticed her and said of the two mites she contributed to the temple treasury, "She out of her poverty put in all she had to live on." Luke21v4. Nothing we do in the name of Jesus will pass unnoticed.

(B) Boaz welcomed Ruth. Boaz said to Ruth, "My daughter, listen to me. ...... Stay here with my servant girls. Ch2v8and9.

There was a summer that I sorely missed my brother's golden Labrador. It died the preceding spring. Why did I miss the old dog? Because it used to give me such a welcome. My brother might be inspecting the Brockley Cricket Club wicket with his dog by his side; as I walked out to join him the dog would suddenly look up and come leaping and bounding to meet me. It would throw itself at me and slobber all over my face. It gave me a much warmer welcome than my brother did!

I am reminded of an incident that occurred in my student days. I had travelled from London to play hockey against Nottingham University. Almost as soon as I alighted from the coach I bumped into a Nottingham student whom I had known at school. "Johnny Reed! Johnny Reed!" he cried, and threw his arms around me. He was drunk! For many, many, years this was the one and only time I was embraced with warmth - by a drunk! I lived with perpetual disappointment. I yearned for a welcome.

One evening I was preaching in the small Baptist Union church in the neighbouring village of Whepstead. I climbed into the pulpit and looking down saw one of my old pupils in the congregation. The bronzed, blond, nineteen-year-old looked up and gave me a ravishing, generous, whole-hearted smile of welcome. I experienced a small but sweet stab of joy.

I have to say that in the last ten years of my teaching career I taught particularly friendly and affectionate young people who were not adverse to giving their old teacher the occasional hug of welcome. But why should I yearn for it so much and why should such a small thing produce such joy. It is because I am still in the far country... but I am going home.... home to my heavenly Father. I hope he will be pleased to see me. I hope it will be true for me: But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. Lk15v20. AV.

(C) Boaz adopted Ruth. Boaz said to Ruth, ".... I have told the men not to touch you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled." Ch2v9.

Boaz adopted Ruth into his family of workers. She came under his protection and shared in the privileges of his people.

I was on duty at school. It was a sunny, spring, day and I was enjoying walking round talking to cheerful children. Two little girls came up, "Mr Reed, there is a kitten trapped behind the wire fence." Now I strongly suspected that the kitten wasn't trapped at all and if left alone could take care of itself. However I went to investigate. There was the kitten: very small, very sweet, clear eyed and bushy tailed stuck between a thorny hedge and a tall wire fence. To tell the truth it did look a trifle confused. It wasn't long before a committee of small girls had gathered. They chirruped and twittered like a flock of excited sparrows. One of them said, "It's Emma's kitten." Emma soon arrived. Well I tried to help by pulling up the base of the wire whereupon the kitten scratched me! I then attempted to lever up the wire with a big stick. This frightened the kitten and it retreated into the thorn hedge. So did I then clamber over the 7-foot fence? No I did not! Emma went. It was her kitten. It was hers by purchase and adoption. She rescued it; held it safe and fussed over it. The little girls rejoiced. Great was there rejoicing all through their next lesson - which was Geography with me.

This incident reminds me of the story of the lost sheep. The shepherd searched for the lost sheep because it was one of his flock. All the sheep of his fold come under his protection. He has purchased them and great is the shepherd's rejoicing when he is able to rescue one of his own from danger. He calls his friends and neighbours together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' Lk15v6.

(D) Boaz rewarded Ruth.

We see in the story of Ruth and Boaz the hand of God who is no man's debtor. I love the way the AV puts it, And her hap was to light on the field belonging to Boaz. v3. God directed her steps to the field of Boaz. It is always a blessed thing to be aware of the working of Divine Providence in our lives. In my mid-forties I volunteered to run a day course for teachers in Suffolk on, 'Farming in East Anglia.' It involved me in an enormous quantity of work. After I had finished I was aware that it hadn't exactly done my career any good. No-one from the Suffolk Education Authority was there. However a rather flighty, frivolous, amusing, little man was present who didn't seem much of a Geographer. I noticed during a field visit that he was holding his map upside down! Five years later, after an absence from teaching for two years during which I cared for my father, I needed a job. I applied for a post at Debenham High School and was called for interview. The Head of Humanities who was on the interview panel was that same amusing, little man who had such trouble orientating his map. He remembered me! I got the job! I have always felt that it was a providence that I ended my days as a teacher in a school blessed by friendly, compliant, children. It was God's reward for honouring my parents.

Boaz was God's instrument to reward Ruth on many different levels:

    (a) He lavishes good things upon her.
    Boaz had a generous spirit and enjoyed making things easier for Ruth. Gleaning was not an easy task. It was hot, backbreaking, work. It was desperate work. If Ruth did not glean Ruth and Naomi would not eat. Boaz made it a day to remember by inviting her to drink from the water jars the men have filled. v9. It is significant that Ruth did not have much to eat in the lunch break. Shyly, she sat a bit apart from the rest. So Boaz said to her, "Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar." When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over. vs14. Boaz includes Ruth in the best part of the day. How jolly to relax after a hard morning's work and to share in a good meal with such excellent company.

    One late summer's morning I got up very, very, early and drove over to Athlington Hall in North Suffolk to meet up with Terry Harsant. We were going to drive Mr Haver's lorry down to Sussex in Southern England to pick up the camping equipment at the conclusion of Pioneer Camp - the Christian camp we both supported. We arrived on the eerily silent camp site about 8am. None of the rear guard was up. None of the equipment was ready to load onto the lorry. It took us all day to clear up and load the lorry. We set off back to Suffolk at about 6pm in a very gloomy frame of mind. We knew that at the end of the long journey we would have to unload the lorry. As we approached Athlington Hall we were dog-tired and very dejected. However we need not have been. Tom Havers had a work party waiting for us. He whisked us a way to the farmhouse kitchen where, in spite of the late hour, many, many good things were laid out on a huge table. We had not been forgotten. The food put new heart into us. Our spirits lifted. The Christian fellowship around that table was sweet. As at length I left to travel home the farm was bathed in silvery light from a full moon. My heart was as full as that moon as I just thanked God for remembering his servants and for lavishing such good things upon us.

    (b) He helped her to succeed in the work she was doing.
    Boaz said to his workmen, "Even if she gathers among the sheaves, 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." v15 and 16. Jesus said, "Blessed are the peace makers." That is what Boaz was. He was giving Ruth a sense of well being by facilitating her success at the task she had set herself. Furthermore he was helping her in a tactful and unobtrusive way.

    Success at work is a great reward. Very often we are helped to achieve this by encouragement. As a student in London I attended the church in Richmond where my grandfather had been pastor for so many years. From time to time, to please my mother, I visited two spinsters called the Miss Haddlers who attended Salem. They told me a little story that intrigued me. Their father was amongst the last of C.H.Spurgeons students. The Rev. Haddler got called to a small cause in Kent that met in a private house. It was decided to erect a church building. The gift that encouraged him the most was a cheque for 50 guineas from the illustrious Charles Haddon Spurgeon himself. I was pleased to be somehow linked to the great Baptist preacher through the real and continuing gratitude of those two old ladies.

    (c) He commended her loyalty to her mother-in-law.
    Boaz was generous with his praise. He said, "I've been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law." v11. The wholehearted, unreserved, commendation of a good man or a good women is a great reward. I wish I could look back on my life and recall a few instances where I received unqualified commendation. Sadly I cannot! It wont matter if in the end I hear those wonderful words, "Well done good and faithful servant!........ Come and share your master's happiness!" Mt25v23.

    (d) He was her reward.
    Boaz himself was Ruth's greatest reward. Ruth loved Boaz and eventually they were married. What joy there must have been at that marriage. I would always steal a glance at my mother during the singing of, 'The sands of time are sinking'. I would look over to her when she was singing verse 3. She sang it with a peculiar intensity of spirit and with tears in her eyes:

    The bride eyes not her garment
    But her dear bridegroom's face.
    I will not gaze at glory
    But on my king of grace.
    Not at the crown he giveth
    But on His pierced hand.
    The lamb is ALL the glory
    Of Immanuel's land.

The lamb is all the glory in Immanuel's land. He is our exceeding great reward.