Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble. The LORD will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies. The LORD will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing: thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness.
Psalm 41:1-3

And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband’s, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter. And she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers: and her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech. And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The LORD be with you. And they answered him, The LORD bless thee. Then said Boaz unto his servant that was set over the reapers, Whose damsel is this? And the servant that was set over the reapers answered and said, It is the Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab: And she said, I pray you, let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves: so she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house. Then said Boaz unto Ruth, Hearest thou not, my daughter? Go not to glean in another field, neither go from hence, but abide here fast by my maidens: Let thine eyes be on the field that they do reap, and go thou after them: have I not charged the young men that they shall not touch thee? and when thou art athirst, go unto the vessels, and drink of that which the young men have drawn. Then she fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger? And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore. The LORD recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust. Then she said, Let me find favour in thy sight, my lord; for that thou hast comforted me, and for that thou hast spoken friendly unto thine handmaid, though I be not like unto one of thine handmaidens. And Boaz said unto her, At mealtime come thou hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar. And she sat beside the reapers: and he reached her parched corn, and she did eat, and was sufficed, and left. And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not: And let fall also some of the handfuls of purpose for her, and leave them, that she may glean them, and rebuke her not. So she gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned: and it was about an ephah of barley. (Ruth 2:1-17)

“Handfuls of purpose” is an interesting phrase. It is so unique that a book under the title “Handfuls On Purpose” was compiled into 5 volumes. “Handfuls of purpose” is a deliberate act of kindness towards the poor and the destitute. It is a deliberate attempt to help the poor to get food even as Jehovah God has blessed those in material things. The passage here concerns Naomi who returned with Ruth her daughter-in-law after the death of her husband and her two sons. She was indeed very poor and needy in need of pity and help from others. She came back to her own land and property but she needed food on the table. In Israel a law is given to owners of lands not to forbid the poor and needy, including strangers, to help themselves to the harvest that are left over.

And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the LORD your God. And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:9&10; 23:22) When thou gatherest the grapes of thy vineyard, thou shalt not glean it afterward: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow. (Deuteronomy 24:21)

So under the law, the owners are to be generous with what the Lord has blessed them with. They have an obligation to taker care of the poor in the land. The poor and the needy need food and this is the way the Lord provides for them. The owners are required to leave some harvest behind, especially those that fell to the ground. Those that they fail to harvest are to be left to the poor, widows and the strangers. They are commanded not to oppress the poor and the fatherless including strangers.

Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren, or of thy strangers that are in thy land within thy gates: At his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it; for he is poor, and setteth his heart upon it: lest he cry against thee unto the LORD, and it be sin unto thee. (Deuteronomy 24:14&15) Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 22:21; 23:9)

In the Old Testament, there are laws forbidding the children of Israel to oppress others. Ruth certainly falls under the category of a stranger. She was not a Jew for she was from Moab. But she had faith in the God of Israel and that was why she followed her mother-in-law back to Israel. She trusted Jehovah God to be a just God who would take care of her and her mother-in-law. She had forsaken her country and her pagan gods and had come to trust in the true and living God. It was rather unusual for this woman to trust God for she had personally witnessed how Jehovah God “failed” Naomi by causing her to come to grief with the death of her husband and her two sons. Circumstances were not favourable for Ruth to trust in Jehovah God. How could she trust in a God who did not bless those who trusted Him? However, her unwavering faith led her to cling unto her mother-in-law and returned to Israel with her. Her faith in the true and living God was not based on favourable circumstances.

The children of Israel were supposed to conduct themselves in the right manner to have a good testimony before the other nations so that they might also believe in Jehovah God. Israel was supposed to be a kingdom of priest and a holy nation before God. They were supposed to be a light to the Gentiles so that the Gentiles might also come to know God and come under the commonwealth of Israel. Here was a good opportunity to show how good and gracious Jehovah God was though this was the same God who commanded Israel to exterminate the Canaanites but not everyone else. This man Boaz was indeed one such upright man to show forth the praise of Jehovah God. Boaz was a magnanimous man. He was rich but he had a big heart as well. It was common for rich man to oppress the poor but Boaz was a good man. The poor and needy were usually despised and often taken advantage of. But Boaz not only fulfilled the law by taking care of Ruth, he went over and beyond the law by providing handfuls of purpose for her. He saw her faith in God. He obeyed God by taking care of this pitiful widow from Moab. So he ordered his servants to deliberately help her and not to rebuke her even if she reaped among them, which was not provided for under the law.

In the Old Testament, a good man of faith is always a generous man. This is work of righteousness of a good man according to Isaiah 32:17: And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever. This work of righteousness will secure for him peace, quietness and assurance forever. A man of faith will trust in the provision of God. He will not be stingy. A good man is a man with a big heart. A good man is a man who will consider the poor. In contrast, a wicked man is a man who will despise the poor and indulge in the flesh.

This article is taken from a chapter in the book “Why The Rich Man Went To Hell” which may be downloaded via:

Why The Rich Man Went To Hell