Rth_2:4. And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The Lord be with you. And they answered him, The Lord bless thee.
EVERY season suggests to us some appropriate considerations: and even the most common incidents of life are capable of affording us very important instruction. Certainly, at first sight, a man’s intercourse with his reapers would not promise much for spiritual edification: but the address of Boaz to his people, and their reply to him, were altogether so different from what is usual in our day, that we shall find our time not unprofitably employed in the investigation of them.
Their mutual address is the first thing to be considered—
It may be understood in a two-fold view;
As a friendly salutation—
[It seems probable that, if not at that time, yet in after ages, this kind of address was common in the time of harvest [Note: Psa_129:7-8.]. But, as used on this occasion, it deserves peculiar notice; both as expressing great condescension and kindness on his part, and as evincing much respect and gratitude on theirs. Boaz, it must be remembered, was “a mighty man of wealth [Note: ver. 1.]:” and therefore any notice from him might be deemed an act of condescension, and more especially this, which conveyed to their minds such a sense of paternal love. And their reply argued a becoming feeling of filial respect. Into how many fields might we go, before we heard such greetings as these! How much more frequently might we hear complaints respecting the work, on the one part; and murmuring concerning the wages, on the other part! Notwithstanding the superior advantages we enjoy, and the higher attainments which, in consequence, we might be expected to make in every thing that was amiable and praiseworthy, how uncommon an occurrence should we deem it, if we chanced to witness such greetings in the present day! The true picture of modern life may be drawn in those words of Solomon, “The poor useth entreaties; but the rich answereth roughly [Note: Pro_18:23.].”]
As a devout benediction—
[From the piety evinced by Boaz, we may well suppose that these benevolent expressions, on both sides, were not a mere customary form; but a real desire, in the bosoms of them all, for their mutual welfare in reference to the eternal world. How lovely was the address, how suitable the answer, in this view! It is remarkable, that the Apostle Paul begins and ends almost every epistle with prayers and benedictions, expressive of his love for the souls of men. And such ought our correspondence to be, even when the main subject of our letters refers to temporal concerns. Such, too, should be our daily intercourse with friends and servants, in the house, or in the field. Who does not admire this interview between persons so distant in rank, yet so allied in spirit? Let us, then, cultivate the spirit here manifested: for, verily, if it universally obtained, we should enjoy almost a heaven upon earth.]
The next point for us to consider, is, What instruction we should gather from it—
We may learn from it,
That the blessing of God is our chief good—
[This, under any view of their expressions, is evidently implied. The wealth of Boaz, if he had possessed ten thousand different estates, would have been of no real value without the blessing of God; and with that, the men who laboured in reaping down his fields were truly rich. It is the light of God’s countenance which is the only solid good [Note: Psa_4:6.]: “In his presence is life; and his loving-kindness is better than life itself [Note: Psa_30:5; Psa_63:3.].”]
That religion then appears in its true colours, when it regulates our conduct in social life—
[It is in vain for a man to pretend to religion, if in his daily converse with the world he do not manifest its power to transform the soul. What is the knowledge even of an angel, without love? What the faith that could remove mountains? What the zeal that could give all our goods to feed the poor, or even our bodies to be burnt for Jesus’ sake? We speak advisedly when we say, that in the full possession of all these excellencies we should be no better than “sounding brass and tinkling cymbals,” if we were not under the habitual influence of love [Note: 1Co_13:1-3.]. Know ye, Brethren, that your religion must be seen, not in the church or in the closet only, but in the shop, the family, the field. It must mortify pride, and every other evil passion; and must bring forth into exercise “all the mind that was in Christ Jesus [Note: Php_2:4-5.].” Try yourselves by this standard: see what you are, as husbands or wives, parents or children, masters or servants. See whether you possess the courtesy of Boaz, or the respectful love of his reapers. It is in this way that you are to shine as lights in a dark world. It is in this way that you are to put to shame the specious pretences of politeness, and the feigned humility of those who are candidates for earthly honour: your courtesy must be the genuine offspring of Christian benevolence; and your whole deportment, a visible exhibition of your Saviour’s image.]
And now, not as a master to his servants, but as a father to his children, I say, “The Lord be with you!” And may there be in all of you a responsive voice, imploring the blessing of Almighty God on him, who truly, though unworthily, seeks your welfare.