The Counsel of Naomi

Lloyd Cain

Naomi, the mother-in-law of Ruth, had a great impact as the mentor of the younger woman. In chapter one, Naomi gave advice concerning leaving the far country. In this situation her protégé was so impressed with her adornment of the doctrine that she wanted to be with Naomi’s people and to know her God. The testimony of Naomi’s life was much more powerful than that of her lips. In chapter two, Naomi counselled concerning laboring in the field. In chapter three, she counseled concerning lying at the feet of Boaz. She also commanded regarding looking for a finished work in the words, "Sit still my daughter until thou know how the matter will fall." In 4:16 she enjoined, by her example, concerning loving in the family. As we meditate on her counsel, we can say in the words of David, "Blessed be thy advice and blessed be thou" (1 Samuel 25:23).

But we cannot here take up all her words but will instead occupy ourselves with the counsel, "It is good my daughter that thou go out with his maidens, that they meet thee not in any other field." (2:23). In the Septuagint, the word for "other," as in 2:8 is not another of the same kind but "another of a different kind." This tells us that both Boaz and Naomi believed that the field of Boaz was unique - it was different in its character from any other field.

Our purpose here is to connect the field of Boaz with the expression in 1 Corinthians 3:9, "Ye are God’s cultivated field," and thus reinforce some vital truths concerning a local church and its distinct character as separate from all that is around. We want to ask Naomi, "What are the distinguishing features of the field of Boaz?"

It Was Distinguished By Its Government

In the field of Boaz we see that it was governed by the Unnamed Servant who was set over the reapers (2:5), and by the sensitivity of Boaz to the Scriptures. The opportunity for Ruth to glean was the result of Boaz’ reading and implicit following of Leviticus 19:9, 23:22, and Deuteronomy 24:19. We could also say that it was governed by the sayings of Boaz, who as the mighty man of wealth, and in his willingness and ability to be the kinsman redeemer, typifies the Lord Jesus. Turning to the New Testament church, and seeing the Book of the Acts as the Footsteps of the Flock, we notice three aspects of government. In Acts 1:15-22, we see Peter’s pattern of searching the Scriptures to determine the mind of God and his subsequent implicit and immediate following of the discovered precepts. Peter was a ‘chapter and verse’ man. It is critical for us to note also that in Acts 15:1-2, the evangelists had related their experiences. Peter stands up and by his own experience in the home of Cornelius, attests to the experience of Barnabas and Paul. Then James gives the final test. After listening intently to the relating of the experiences, he says, "To this agree the Words of the Prophets," thus showing that he also is a ‘Man of the Book’ and that every experience must stand the test of the final arbiter - The Scriptures.

The early church was also governed and guided by the Spirit of God. For example, in Acts 13: 1-5, we see the sovereignty of the Spirit in the separating of Paul and Barnabas "to the work whereunto I have called them." Equally, His sovereignty was displayed in the leaving behind of other teachers to feed and care for the flock. The point we are making is that the Holy Spirit was the Superintendent of the primitive church. They were sensitive to His leading. A third aspect of government in the early church was in the divinely raised-up shepherds, for in Acts 20:17-38, Paul exhorts the elders to "Take heed.. .to all the little flock, among which the Holy Spirit has set you as overseers, to shepherd the church of God." No paid pastorate existed but these elders were equipped of God to provide for and protect the church that had been purchased at so great a price.

It Was Distinguished By Its Guidance

Guidance differs from government. We can imagine how the Unnamed Servant would be constantly leading the reapers as they labored in the field. Chapters 12-14 of the first Corinthian epistle show us the working of the Holy Spirit and outline for us the principles for progress, profit, and public participation. A number of times in the Acts, we see the Holy Spirit and His leading of the servants (Acts 16:6-7, 10; 18:21). We must today recognize the sovereignty of the gracious Spirit and ensure that He is not grieved or quenched in the church of which we are a part. (Ephesians 4:30, 1 Thessalonians 5:19).

It Was Distinguished By Its Gifts of Grace

It is interesting to see in this chapter on laboring in the field, the spheres of service of the various ones. We have noted the sovereignty of the servant in his government of the field. We look now at the role of the reapers, the ministry of the maidens, and the yoke of the young men. Could we ask the reader to now make a detailed study of 1 Corinthians 12? In that chapter the Holy Spirit is the giver of the gifts, even as we read, "There are diversities of gifts but the same Spirit. There are differences of spheres of service but the same Lord." We see the universality of gift in 12:7; the sovereignty of the Spirit in 12:11 and 12:18; and the reason for the variety of gift in 12: 14-18. There can be no complacency in 12:15; no contempt in 12:20; no competition in 12:22; and no calloused absence of care in 12:25-26. Ruth was not a reaper. She could never do what they did. But she could fill her sphere. One of the highest commendations given by the Lord Jesus is that which he gave the woman in Simon’s house, "She hath done what she could..." (Mark 14:8). No more will ever be asked! No less should ever be proffered! Let us each analyze our sphere of service within the local assembly. Have I determined my gift? Am I developing my gift? Am I accepting of my gift and sphere? Am I giving it my all? Can we offer less in the church which He has purchased with the blood of his Own?

It Was Distinguished By Its Godliness

"Have I not charged the young men that they shall not touch thee?" (2:9) There was a high standard of behavior in the field of Boaz. Likewise, because the local assembly is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 6:16), there must be personal godliness for "Holiness becometh Thine house 0 Lord for ever" (Psalm 93:5). As we study the Corinthian letter again we see that the local church can be defiled by doctrine in 3:10-20 and by moral failure in 5:1 -13. In a letter written that the recipient might know "how it is necessary to behave in the house of God...", Paul charged Timothy to "Keep thyself pure" (1 Timothy 5 :22). Are we protecting our own purity? Are we protecting the purity of others? This is not legalism nor is it asceticism. It is a call to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God..." (Romans 12:1) We are not our own. We have been bought with a price and our bodies are instruments, not for gratification but for the glorifying of God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Ruth wanted to be like the young women in the field of Boaz. How great it is today in the local church when young women can be role models and whose dress is not sexually provocative in a corrupting, defiling world which has made materialism and sensuality its gods.

It Was Distinguished By Its Gratification at the Supper

There was a supper in the field of Boaz. "At mealtime, come..." was the gracious invitation of the redeemer. It is so in the local church for the Footsteps of the Flock again show us that "On the first day of the week, the disciples came together to break bread" (Acts 20:7). The timing was significant. "At mealtime come." The bread was given and the parched corn that had gone through the fire was received directly from his hand. There was not an equality in the field for the reapers would have gotten so much more than Ruth but there was equality at the supper for "she sat beside the reapers. "She did eat and was sufficed." What a beautiful picture of the Lord’s Supper being carried out each Lord’s Day in remembrance of Him and in His presence! Do we place a high value on the Lord’s Supper and on its weekly observance? Do we come with something in our hearts? Is the fire of worship burning? In the decline of an assembly, the first things that likely are forfeited are the doctrine of headship and the devotion to the Lord displayed at the breaking of bread.

It Was Distinguished By Its Gleaning and Gathering

The gleaning and the gathering are a picture of the believer’s reading, studying, and meditating upon the Word of God. We are to be the people of the Book. Ruth, the gleaner, was to follow the gatherers. They would be going through the field consecutively. She also gleaned consistently - "in the field until even." There were no lapses. She gleaned with concentration; "Let thine eyes be on the field...." She progressed for she went from the gleanings to the "handfuls of purpose." She shared with her mother in law what she had gleaned. Can we apply this to our personal and our assembly lives? Do I have a system for feeding my soul on the Scriptures? Am I nourished up in the words of faith and thus able to "set these things before the brethren?" (1 Tim. 4:6). Do I "beat out that which I have gleaned?" This beating out is a picture of meditation, the lost art of feeding one’s soul upon a passage as the Holy Spirit reveals the riches of the Word. Are there gatherers within the local assembly who labor to the point of weariness in the Word and teaching? (1 Tim. 5:17). Paul said to the Ephesian elders, "I commend you to God and to the Word of His grace which is able to build you up (Acts 20: 32). This was all they had and all they needed. One of the greatest needs among local assemblies is the lack of gleaners and gatherers who are capable of feeding the flock of God. Can you begin today?