First‑Born From The Dead
Pt.2 Ruth and Boaz
Now of all the figures of the first‑born from the dead that the scriptures afford us, the most perfect of all is found in the Book of Ruth. It is with the delightful imagery of this book that we will close. In this beautiful little book we are instructed in the law of first‑born in all its detail. Its chief character is Boaz through whom our dear Lord himself is perfectly portrayed as the true first‑born kinsman‑redeemer. Ruth the Moabitess fills every particular of the true believer, faithfully demonstrating for us every step that the believer needs to take in the first‑born walk.
In returning with Naomi, Ruth demonstrates the Gentile’s faith in the covenant relationship that God had established through Abraham. She also marks the first step of faith of every believer, and from then on as she enters into the land of Israel, she marks out the steps that we must take if we are to enter into the first‑born privileges. At the same time by this walk of faith in the God of Israel and love towards Naomi, she makes it possible for Boaz to find her and fulfil his kinsman’s duties.
This gives us exactly the information we need. We see every duty we must perform, and, much more importantly, we see where these duties should end and, for our fuller instruction in spiritual things, that part which is exclusively the Lord’s.
By chance, the record tells us Ruth comes to the field of Boaz and seeks permission to glean. At the end of the day when the other gleaners depart, she "tarried a little in the house." (Ruth 2:7) We might think that she would have been glad to return home to Naomi after a long day’s toil, but not so. This one simple action is the turning point in her life. Boaz was not in the field that day but came to his house from Bethlehem. If Ruth had gone home and not "tarried a little in the house," he would not have seen her. Hearing of her kindness to Naomi, the wife of his kinsman, he determines to bless her. This is a crucial point also in our walk before the Lord as we glean in his harvest field. As we study his word and put into practice those covenant principles, what is it that catches his attention and marks us out for his special care? It is not sacrifice. It is the spirit of sacrifice that carries us beyond its letter. This is not always easy for us to detect, but there are simple tests that we may apply which will reveal to us our true standing in this matter.
How do we react when we find that we have been treated unfairly? Do we stifle the complaint? Yes, one hopes so. For instance, when waiting in line, do we find we resent someone pushing in before us but contain the impulse to retaliate? This is certainly sacrifice, but is it the spirit of the Lord? Or do we go a little bit further and make the incident an opportunity to witness to that true spirit of sacrifice that was the Lord’s, blessing those who curse, suggesting, for instance, that if their need is so urgent that we would be glad to let them go before us. This is just a trivial example, of course, but exactly what would mark us out as a "Moabitess."
Noting then the "damsel," Boaz makes inquiry of all the good that she had done to Naomi and begins to specially bless her. That first day gleaning in the field of Boaz she had been blessed in an "earnest" or foretaste of the riches of Boaz. Now this blessing is added to. She may now drink from the supply of water set aside for the reapers, she may eat with them at their table, and Boaz himself reaches out a "morsel of parched corn" (v.14) with his own hand. But more especially he ensures that the reapers let fall handfuls from the sheaves as they reap.
This is the witness of the spirit. When Ruth returns to Naomi that next night, Naomi recognizes that something extraordinary is taking place. So too if we, while being blessed in sharing the work of our Lord’s field, just take that little extra step into the spirit of true sacrifice, we will be led with Paul and those others he holds out as examples to "mark," into the deeper apprehension of the working of the spirit. As the writer to the Hebrews had to point out to those he wrote, "there remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God." (Heb.4:9)
This deeper aspect of the first‑born life is also perfectly mirrored in this beautiful little type. Ruth had really shown in all that she had done for Naomi that true spirit of sacrifice, but we must note that this had not, and never could, restore the heritage of Elimelech, Naomi’s husband. They were still poor, the inheritance was not theirs. This is a fundamental truth of the utmost importance to the prospective first‑born. It did not lie within Ruth’s power to obtain the blessed rest.
But there is a way in which we may be led to this rest and it is revealed to us in this wonderful Word, our antitypical Naomi: "Then Naomi her mother‑in‑law said unto her, My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee." (Ruth 3:1‑11) And then Naomi gives us exact and precise instructions as to how our rest in Christ can be achieved. "Now is not Boaz of our kindred...Behold, he winnoweth barley tonight in the threshingfloor. Wash thyself therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee, and get thee down to the floor: but make not thyself known unto the man, until he shall have done eating and drinking. And it shall be, when he lieth down, that thou shalt mark the place where he shall lie, and thou shalt go in, and uncover his feet, and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do...And she went down unto the floor, and did according to all that her mother‑in‑law bade her. And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of corn: and she came softly, and uncovered his feet, and laid her down. And it came to pass at midnight, that the man was afraid, and turned himself: and, behold, a woman lay at his feet. And he said, Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman. And he said...my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest."
Of the washing, anointing, and changing of garment we have no need to speak. These are familiar figures. But the instruction to us not to make ourselves known to our antitypical Boaz until he had finished the harvesting of the barley is a little obscure even though we are aware of the significances of the barley and wheat harvests.
The understanding of this most significant figure lies with the more familiar type of the first‑fruits of the harvests. Christ is the first‑fruit from the dead, as we read in 1 Corinthians 15:20. "Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept." Christ’s offering was symbolized by the first‑fruit offering of the barley harvest at Passover time, the Church’s offering by the wheat harvest at the time of Pentecost.
The account in Ruth has already confirmed that both harvests were reaped, so the fact that we see Boaz still winnowing barley indicates that this was the final work of bringing in the first harvest. Naomi’s instructions were quite plain: Ruth was to wait until this was done and that Boaz had both eaten and drunk and had lain down to rest. When she so does, she finds him "at the end of the heap of corn," (v.7) the work all done.
In all of this, so far, it is clear Ruth’s love toward Naomi and her God, her giving up of all things because of this love, her industrious labours in the harvest field, and especially her sweet character in respect to the house of Boaz, had been instrumental in bringing her to this point. But this was as far as she could go. The real source of blessing lay with the silent figure of Boaz.
This figure of Boaz at rest after the completion of his work is the entire basis of the first‑born inheritance. We have drawn it specifically to notice already but with the evidence of the type before us, we can now mark it out with certainty. We know that the Lord as the Logos in his office of first‑born of every creature with all the power invested in him, could not effect our change to new creatures. What is less obvious but implicit in the figures in scripture is that as first‑born of every creature he could not effect our prospective death to self either. He could become flesh and die for us and purchase the lost possession, but without the winnowing experiences by which even his faith was tested, he could not have been heir of the "first‑born from the dead" inheritance. "For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." (Heb.2:10)
The imagery of the "threshingfloor" wonderfully depicts the completion of the Lord’s perfect ministry and his joy and satisfaction in its completion. "Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work" (John 4:34) and "for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Heb.12:2) "Set down at the right hand of the throne of God," our Boaz has "eaten and drunk" and has entered into the "joy that was set before him," seated at rest in his Father’s throne. This is where Ruth found Boaz, "at the end of the heap of corn."
From the day she had made the momentous decision to leave all and follow Naomi, Ruth had listened to and carefully followed all the instructions of her mother‑in‑law. May the Lord grant that we have been as diligent. If we are serious about entering the "rest" that remains to the "people of God," Naomi’s final instructions to Ruth should be of the utmost interest to us: "And it shall be, when he lieth down, that thou shalt mark the place where he shall lie, and thou shalt go in, and uncover his feet, and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do." We have marked the place where he waits to bless us, at the end of the heap of barley. We wait to be blessed with Ruth when Boaz fills her "vail" with a measure of his harvest. But first we have the enigmatic instructions of our antitypical Naomi, to uncover the feet of the sleeping Boaz and lie quietly down.
It goes without saying that we need to understand the figure if we are to fulfil the reality. Happily the understanding comes easily to hand, for we have an abundance of scriptures—our Naomi—which brings this to us.
A concordance quickly reveals that the feet of Jesus is the place of blessing. References too numerous to mention here show supplicants at his feet make petition for help. This should not particularly surprise us. This was undoubtedly a customary form of supplication where the petitioner was in great need. The great difference with the petitioners at Jesus’ feet was that they were the recipients of miracles.
This uncovering of the feet of Jesus reveals a wealth of spiritual teaching but we only need the one, of the many citations, which brings out the significance of Boaz lying "at the end of the heap of corn." This is found in Matthew 28:9, the occasion where the women who had been to the tomb were hurrying back to tell the disciples that the body of Jesus had been removed: "And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him."
I have no certain idea why the women acted so. We have seen that kneeling at the feet of Jesus would not be an extraordinary thing itself and it would be feasible to understand them grasping him by the feet while so doing. The thing that is unique about this incident is that of all the many people that fell, knelt, and worshipped at, or washed, anointed, or kissed our dear Lord’s feet, these were the only ones who touched the feet of the risen Lord. This incident stands entirely on its own. All before had certainly received of the power of the spirit, miracles of health in mind and body. More than this: even life from the dead. But all this work passed away. Lazarus returned eventually to the dust. All that they had received was by the first‑born of every creature. The women kneeling and worshipping had taken hold of the feet of the first‑born from the dead.
Thanks to the wonderful typical teaching of the Word, we have been able to mark the place where our Lord rested after entering into the blessing of his finished work. Today as we have meditated together on the instructions of Naomi, we have found the place where he lies at the end of the heap of barley. We have uncovered his feet, and here we are now resting quietly like Ruth in the silence of the midnight darkness at the feet of the true first‑born from the dead. We wait for him to wake for we know that Naomi has told us that when he does, he will tell us what we must do to obtain our inheritance. What he will say to you in the silence of your heart, I cannot say. This is as far as the written word can take us.
The Lesson for Us
We have shared together the passing inheritance of the first‑born creature. We pass on from "those things which are behind," as did Paul, (Phil.3:13) and now "reaching forth unto those things which are before" as the apostle also directed, we can note his words elsewhere spoken on this matter to the Ephesian church: "If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus." (Eph.4:21)
What we have here then is a most wonderful and detailed description of the step that we should take as prospective first‑borns. By it we may discern exactly at what stage of the race for the prize we have attained and see before us every step that still needs to be taken. Have we left all to come into the covenant relationship of the people of God? Yes, but even here there will have been some like Orpah who first said yes and then went back. Have we gleaned in the field of the Word? Why yes, certainly, and undoubtedly returned to our Naomi to learn that it is the field of Boaz and to learn something of our first‑born inheritance. More difficult to affirm unequivocally is that we have continued a little in the house of Boaz, doing good to those who despitefully use us, returning good for evil, and even more actually overcoming evil with good—not just learning the Word of the Lord, but putting it into practice and living his life, abiding in his house.
This is what brings the "Moabite damsel" to the attention of Boaz who then sees how really serious she is in her care of Naomi. We know this is an important part in our walk in Christ. Only as he sees us putting his Word into practice is he able to bless us further. But perhaps this is so also, and we find new refreshing insights into his will for us, portions of his Word guiding us in difficult experiences. Perhaps we can see special providences in some trial, his hand, as it were, putting forth the "morsel of parched corn," bread of life touched by the fire of experience. All this, and the deepening understanding of the Word thrown down by the reapers at his command, is the growing witness of the spirit, but it is still only an earnest, not the final sealing. This is not measured out to us until we come down to the threshingfloor to see through the eyes of a "Moabitish damsel" her beloved, winnowing through the night.
"Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; despised and rejected…acquainted with grief:" bearing griefs, carrying our sorrows yet ignored, dis‑esteemed, "stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted." (1 Pet.2:23; Isa.53:3‑4) Boaz never rests, the flail[hand threshing implement] falls relentlessly, the golden store of grains fills the threshing floor. "Wounded…bruised for iniquities:" chastised for our peace, beaten, falsely accused, spat upon, mocked. Never murmuring Boaz toils until, as the last grain falls to the threshingfloor, we hear his words, "It is finished." (Isa.53:5; Matt.27:28‑30; John 19:30)
Still the Moabitess waits. The words of Naomi are clear. Boaz, his strength renewed, his heart rejoicing lies down at the end of the harvest store. The Moabitess walks quietly along the heap of barley towards her Lord marvelling at it, "able to comprehend with all saints...the breadth, and length, and depth, and height" of "the love of Christ." (Eph.3:18‑19)
We must wait patiently in "hope" with her if we are to receive a measure of the divine store of the love of Christ. "Patience, (brings) experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us." (Rom.5:4‑5) Christ speaks to us as we lie in supplication at his feet. "Fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest." (Ruth 3:11)
"Then he said, Bring the vail that thou hast upon thee, and hold it. And when she held it, he measured six measures of barley…and when she came to her mother in law...she told her all that the man had done to her. And she said, these six measures of barley gave he me; for he said to me, Go not empty unto thy mother in law." (Ruth 3:15‑17)
Naomi recognizes the sign. It is the seal of the overcomer, the second sealing, if you like, of the spirit. It is still an earnest of the reality in heaven, but a complete sealing, given to us while still in the flesh, a complete confirmation which all those who "love his appearing" recognize. But we are still in the flesh for the store in our veil of faith is just six measures. We must attend still to the voice of Naomi. "Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall." But Naomi recognizes the seal, "for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day." (v.18)