Sermon #9                                                           Ruth Series


     Title:          “Handfuls of Purpose”

     Text:           Ruth 2:15-16

     Readings:   Mark Henson

     Subject:               The Typical Significance

                        Of The Beginning Of Barley Harvest

     Date:     Tuesday Evening ― August 17, 1993



The title of my message tonight is “Handfuls of Purpose.” Let’s read the text together (Ruth 2:15-16).


“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.”


In the Old Testament, under the Mosaic law, gleaning was one of the rights of the people. The farmer was forbidden of God to reap the corners of his fields. If he, by some over-sight, mistakenly left a bundle of wheat in his field, he was not allowed to go back and pick it up. It was to be left for the widows, the fatherless, and the poor in the land. The same thing was true of their orchards and vineyards.


In this second chapter of Ruth, we see this law of gleaning being fulfilled. The things recorded in this chapter are written for our learning and for our admonition. Indeed, all that is written in the Book of Ruth is intended by God the Holy Spirit to show us the goodness, grace, and glory of Christ, our Kinsman Redeemer. As we have seen in this Book…


·       Ruth represents all who are saved by the grace of God.

·       Boaz represents the Lord Jesus Christ, our Kinsman Redeemer. ― He is the owner of all things. All the fields of this world belong to him. ― He is the Master of all things. As Boaz was master in his house, so Christ is Master in his house, the Church. Everything is subject to him. And he is the Master of the universe. We obey him willingly; but all things obey him absolutely (John 17:2).

·       The field in which Ruth gleaned represents the Word of God.

·       The young men, the reapers, represent those who preach the gospel of Christ.


Proposition: As Boaz commanded his young men to let fall some handfuls of purpose for Ruth, even so, the Lord Jesus Christ commands his servants, those who preach the gospel, to let fall some handfuls of purpose for chosen sinners.


Divisions: In these two verses, we have instruction by example for both sinners who are seeking the Lord and preachers who are serving him. In our text...

1.    Seeking sinners are compared to gleaners in a field.

2.    Gospel preachers are compared to reapers.

3.    The preaching of the gospel is the scattering of handfuls of purpose, the purposeful distribution of bread gathered from the Word of God.


Seeking Sinners


I.       Seeking sinners are like gleaners in a field.


The old writers and preachers used to talk about sinners, sensible sinners, seeking sinners, and saved sinners. I do not care much for those distinctions, as a general rule. Sinners are sinners. But the distinctions do serve a useful purpose.


·       A sinner is a person under the wrath of God, lost and ruined in his sin, but utterly unaware of his sinful condition (Rom. 5:12).

·       A sensible sinner is a sinner awakened to know his lost condition, a sinner under conviction, a sinner who knows that he is lost and needs Christ.

·       A seeking sinner is one who knows he needs Christ and is seeking him.


He feels his need of Christ, seeks him earnestly in his Word, in his house, by prayer and supplication, and will find him (Jer. 29:11-14). Like the four lepers of Elisha’s day, they have resolved not to perish if life can be had (2 Kings 7:3-4). Like the Syrophenician woman, such needy souls will not cease seeking the Lord God in Christ and the mercy they need from him until they have found him and obtained mercy (Mark 7:24-30).


·       A saved sinner is one who has come to Christ, one who trusts Christ as Lord and Savior, one who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ.


When Ruth came into Boaz’s field, she came as a gleaner seeking bread (vv. 2-3). As such, she is a picture of a sinner seeking the Lord in the house of bread.


A.  She was a Moabite.


She was the cursed offspring of a cursed race; and she knew it. She had no rights, except the rights of a stranger to glean in the fields. That is exactly our condition by nature. We are the cursed offspring of a cursed race (Rom. 5:12; Eph. 2:1-4). We have no rights, but the right to pick up what God has left for sinners, the right to glean in his field.


B.  She had been reduced to a very low and poor condition (2:10).


She was once very wealthy, married to Mahlon, daughter-in-law to Elimelech. Like her, all Adam’s sons and daughters were once very wealthy. “God created man upright!” Before the fall, our father Adam possessed all God’s creation and ruled over it. God gave man everything, even a righteous nature. But, like Ruth, fallen man is reduced to abject poverty (Eph. 2:11-12).


·       She was poor.

·       She was hungry.

·       She was in desperate need of help.

·       She humbly took her place among the poor.


C.  Though she was a poor Moabitess, Ruth had resolved to seek and to follow the Lord God of Israel (1:16-17).


Blessed is that sinner who has been taught by the grace of God something of the abject poverty of his soul before God. Poor, hungry, and in desperate need of help, he will humbly take his place in the dust before the throne of grace, seeking mercy (Heb. 4:16).


I can but perish if I go,

I am resolved to try;

For if I stay away I know

I must forever die!


Perhaps He will admit my plea,

Perhaps will hear my prayer;

But if I perish, I will pray

And perish only there!


D.  Notice also that Ruth had a very high opinion of Boaz’s handmaids (2:13).


She knew she was not like his handmaidens, but she wanted to be. And those who seek Christ have a very high opinion of God’s people. They know they are not like the children of God, but they want to be. They want forgiveness, righteousness, and acceptance with God. They want to be found in Christ, accepted, at peace with God, possessing eternal life.




II.    Gospel preachers may be compared to reapers.


A.  Christ himself shall come as a Reaper (Rev. 14:14-19).


B.  Our Master uses his servants as reapers. Preachers are reapers in two ways.


1.    They reap the wheat and bind the tares of this world (Matt. 13:30; 2 Cor. 2:14-17). The preaching of the gospel is God’s ordained instrument both for salvation and condemnation.

2.    They gather the wheat, the bread of God’s Word, prepare it for his people, and feed them with knowledge and understanding (Jer. 3:15).


Every gospel preacher is responsible to feed the Lord’s sheep. Those men who are called of God to do this great work are uniquely gifted and qualified by God for the work to which they are called (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9).




III. In keeping with the story before us, the preaching of the gospel is the scattering of handfuls of purpose, the purposeful distribution of the bread gathered from the Word of God.


Notice that Boaz gave his young men four strict commandments regarding Ruth. I take these to be four strict commandments from Christ to every man who preaches the gospel.


A.  First, he says, Let her glean, even among the sheaves.”


I take that to mean that Gospel preachers are not appointed by God to guard and protect the Word of God, giving it out in bits and pieces, as they see fit. Everything in the Book of God is profitable to his elect (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Let needy sinners glean anything they want “even among the sheaves.”


B.  Second, Boaz said, Reproach her not,” or “shame her not.”


How sad that any preacher should need to be told that, but many do. It is not the business of gospel preachers to chastise the Lord’s children, but to comfort them (Isa. 40:1-2). As the man of God proclaims the gospel of God, when it is applied by the Spirit of God, it convicts, corrects, chastens, and comforts the people of God.


When we set up standards and tell sinners they must meet those standards or forever perish, we are guilty of reproaching and shaming them, setting up barriers between them and Christ. This must not be done! There are no pre-requisites to faith in Christ!

·       Not Experience!

·       Not Doctrine!

·       Not Emotions or Feelings!

·       Not Repentance!

·       Not Knowledge!


The issue is “whether ye be in the faith,” not your evidences of grace. The fact is, a spark of faith may exist (and often does) in an ocean of unbelief.


C.  Third, Boaz said, And let fall also some of the handfuls of purpose for her!


I take that to mean that gospel preaching is to be plain and simple. “Handfuls of purpose” are purposefully left for specific people, with specific needs. They are left, not by the preacher’s whims, but by the Spirit’s direction. True preaching is personal, purposeful, and passionate. God can make stones preach, but he uses men to preach to men. Only men feel what men feel. We are to scatter the Bread of Life with purpose, but by the handfuls!


·       Handfuls of Promises! ― Promises for Saints! ― Promises for Sinners!

·       Handfuls of Doctrine! ― Sovereign Election! ― Effectual Redemption! ― Free Justification! ― Certain Perseverance!

·       Handfuls of Christ! ― His Person! ― His Work

·       Handfuls of Grace (Eph. 1:3-14, 15-23; 2:1-10)




·       The Farmer who walked 50 miles to hear Thomas Manton ― “There was nothing in it for me.”

·       The Preacher who was Suddenly struck Blind


D.  Then Boaz repeated his first command using stronger word ― Rebuke her not.”


God’s people do not belong to their pastors, teachers, elders, or visiting evangelists. They belong to God. They do not belong to me, but to him. It is not my place or yours to chastise his children. Yes, sometimes the faithful pastors and teachers must reprove and rebuke; but they must do it with all longsuffering and patience.


Illustration: You’d better be careful how you treat my children.


Boaz’s reapers understood that they were responsible to care for, protect, and provide handfuls of purpose for Ruth. They understood that she was distinctly the object of his love; and they treated her accordingly.


Application: “So she gleaned!”