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  • Writer's pictureElijah Blalock

Reflections on Ruth 2:14

Updated: Jan 18

Bread and Cup

At mealtime Boaz told her, “Come over here and have some bread and dip it in the vinegar sauce.” So she sat beside the harvesters, and he offered her roasted grain. She ate and was satisfied and had some left over. Ruth 2:14

Ruth is a particularly disadvantaged woman. She was a young, childless widow in a culture where women depended on men. She was a foreigner living away from all of her family. But most interestingly, she was all of this by choice. When her husband died, she could have remained with her family in her native land of Moab and sought a new husband, but instead, she chose to follow her deprived mother-in-law back to Israel. Her loyalty to Naomi cost her dearly.

But if you know the rest of the story, you know that she meets a man named Boaz, a relative of Naomi with rights to redeem her family's land and the widowed Ruth. You'll know that Ruth's hard work to provide for her mother-in-law catches Boaz's eye, and with a little matchmaking by Naomi, Ruth and Boaz are married, a son is born, and the family is redeemed from poverty. It's a beautiful story of loyalty, love, and redemption, and we hear echoes of Christ all throughout.

As I was reading Ruth with some students, the verse quoted above caught my attention. I thought I'd share some thoughts.

A Warm Welcome

Ruth had been gleaning in Boaz's field. The Law of Moses had made provisions for the poor, allowing them to pick up the scraps left behind in fields by harvesters. Given that this was during the time of the Judges, in which the Law was frequently disregarded, we don't have any reason to believe that the poor were often allowed to do this. That Ruth was in the field gleaning would have immediately identified her as poor. To make matters worse, when Boaz asked his servants about her, they identified her as a foreigner. And yet, Boaz didn't drive her away. Instead, he told her where to glean and that she would be fully protected while doing so.

So far, this is an admirable act of charity, but verse 14 takes it to another level. Boaz invites her to his table with his harvesters. He allowed her to share in the meal as though she was a hired worker. She was doing nothing for him. In fact, she was gleaning his crops to take to her own home; he was losing a profit because of her! But still, Boaz welcomes her to the table. And not only is she fed, but she is given so much that she has some left over.

This is a heartwarming story far. We see Ruth's hard work and loyalty repaid with hospitality and generosity from Boaz, and we get a glimpse at the beginning of their relationship. But I sense that there is something more significant going on in the story. I think we see a cryptic foreshadowing of Christ, and particularly of the Lord's Supper. Allow me to make my case.

More Than Just Bread

Two details in this verse caught my attention. First, Ruth was invited to dip bread in vinegar sauce. Bread and sauce were a staple, and were certainly present at last supper. In fact, Jesus identifies his betrayer as the one "dipping bread in the bowl with me." (Mark 14:20) Second, Ruth "ate and was satisfied and had some left over." Consider the narratives of Jesus feeding the 5,000 and 4,000. They each note that the crowds ate, were satisfied, and had leftovers.

Now, if that's all there is to it, this is a major stretch, but this isn't all there is to it. The last supper and the feeding of the multitudes echo two major Old Testament stories that have a lot to do with bread: the Passover and the manna in the wilderness. The Passover was an annual meal that commemorated God redeeming Israel out of slavery in Egypt (interestingly, the same word for redeem is used to describe both Boaz and God). On the night of the first Passover, the Israelites ate unleavened bread, because they were going to be driven from Egypt so quickly they would not have time for their bread to rise. In addition to a sacrificial lamb, the Israelites would eat unleavened bread every year to remember their redemption (See Exodus 11-12). The meal became a symbol of redemption.

Next, right after being freed from Egypt, Israel found itself in a wilderness with no food. God provided a mysterious substance called manna that the Israelites could make bread with. However, the people were only to gather just enough for their families. Any leftovers would rot by the next morning. Israel was totally dependent on God to provide fresh manna every day. The only exception to this was the Sabbath. The day before the Sabbath, the people would gather twice as much manna, and, by God's power, it would not rot the next day (See Exodus 16). Moses tells us the spiritual significance of this: "He humbled you by letting you go hungry; then he gave you manna to eat, which you and your ancestors had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." (Deuteronomy 8:3) The bread taught Israel to depend on God, and that God would faithfully provide. But what God provided for their bodies with the manna was pointing to a deeper and more fundamental need: we need God's Word. Without the Word of God, we starve, physically and spiritually.

Now, consider Jesus. On two occasions, he miraculously provides bread to a hungry multitude in the wilderness. The connection to the manna in the wilderness is obvious, but whereas the Israelites could not collect leftover manna, the disciples collected and abundance of leftover food. Jesus is offering something more than Moses. Listen to the conversation that comes after the feeding of the 5,000: "'What sign, then, are you going to do so that we may see and believe you?' they asked. 'What are you going to perform?  Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, just as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.' Jesus said to them, 'Truly I tell you, Moses didn’t give you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.' Then they said, 'Sir, give us this bread always.' 'I am the bread of life,' Jesus told them. 'No one who comes to me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in me will ever be thirsty again.'" (John 8:30-35)

We should remember that John introduces Jesus as the Word in John 1:1. The bread that Moses provided and even the bread that Jesus had just provided left the crowds hungry again. No physical bread can ultimately satisfy. What we need is the Word of God. Jesus is the Word of God, and therefore he is the bread of life. Whoever has Jesus will never hunger again but has eternal life. So, we see Jesus fulfilling the wilderness story: just as God provided bread for Israel in the wilderness and highlighted their need for his word, so too Jesus provides because he is the Word. Our ultimate need is not bread, but Christ.

But what about the Passover and the redemption theme? Jesus is already making that connection for us. He goes on to say, "So Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life in yourselves.  The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day,  because my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.  Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven; it is not like the manna your ancestors ate—and they died. The one who eats this bread will live forever.” (John 8:53-58).

At the first Passover, a lamb was sacrificed, and its blood was spread over the doorways so that the angel of death would pass over the Israelite homes. The lamb died to secure Israel's redemption. Jesus was betrayed during the Passover. The last meal he shared was a Passover meal, but instead of centering the meal around the lamb, he took the bread and the cup and made them symbols of his body and blood. A new and greater redemption had arrived, and he would be the Passover lamb. Just like the last great act of redemption, this one would also be commemorated with a meal: bread and wine as Christ's body and blood.

What happens when we take the Lord's Supper? Of course, we remember what Christ did for us, but this isn't like remembering any other historical event. When we preach His Word, Christ is present with us by the Holy Spirit to make the preaching powerful to bring God's grace to us. In the same way, Christ is with us in the Supper, uniting us to Himself by grace. Of course, we don't mean that the bread and cup are literally his physical body and blood. But Jesus truly does invite us to his table, and when we come in faith, we receive his body and blood in a spiritual way (1 Corinthians 10:16). So, what happens at the table? We do remember what Christ did, and we do look forward to his coming, but we also enjoy his presence with us right now, as he feeds us and fellowships with us. Our greatest need is Christ, and at the Supper, we receive him in a special way.

If you're still reading, the upshot is this: bread is really significant in the Bible. Bread in the Old Testament prior to Ruth symbolizes God's redemption and provision. In the New Testament after Ruth, bread becomes a symbol of Christ, who redeems and provides for us. The importance of the Lord's Supper is not that we get a bite to eat. It's that we have fellowship with Christ at his table.

The Redeemer's Table

Now, what's all that got to do with Ruth? Boaz is a redeemer. He foreshadows Christ by rescuing Ruth and Naomi from their poverty. How does he do that? By giving himself to Ruth in marriage. Boaz would have been noble enough just to let Ruth glean. He would have provided poor women with a supply of food. But instead, Boaz went above and beyond and invited Ruth to his table to feast and fellowship with him. Boaz did not know it at the time, but this gesture of fellowship would lead to a marriage, and that would redeem Ruth and Naomi. What they ultimately needed was not bread, but Boaz himself.

Let us consider ourselves to be like Ruth and Christ to be like Boaz. We are poor and afflicted. We have nothing to offer and can do nothing but beg for scraps. What does Christ do? He invites not merely to gather the scraps but to dine at his table. It is not enough that we are fed; he must speak to us and have fellowship with us. Perhaps we thought that the best we could hope for was some minor provisions: bread, water, a home, and the like. But what does Christ give us at his table? He gives us himself. He offers us his own body and blood which he shed to make us his bride. He turns us from poor afflicted widows like Ruth to a bride adorned with her wedding dress. We gain the most precious thing of all: Christ himself.

Christ is a better Boaz. Boaz did not know what he was doing at the time besides that it was a kind act for a needy woman. Christ knew. He knew that he would redeem us, and he knew what it would cost, and yet the cost did not deter him. What a wonderful redeemer we have in Christ! The next time we come to his table, let us come in humility and joy. We come as needy sinners, but we are given riches immeasurable! We get to feast with Christ together with his people! We are no longer slaves of sin and death, but are the beautiful bride of Christ! In Him, we have all we need, so let us celebrate and feast together with him!

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