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Grace Notes

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"HANDFULS OF PURPOSE"
by Philip Owen

            Probably only those familiar with the King James Version of the Bible will understand or recognize the significance of the title of these paragraphs. The words come from the Book of Ruth, which quotes Boaz commanding his servants to “let fall also some of the handfuls of purpose“; that is to “purposely pull out for her [Ruth] some grain from the bundles and leave it that she may glean” (2:16, NASB).

            Few acts recorded in God’s Word express the richness or tenderness of God’s grace as do those words. The Mosaic law required that land owners leave a little grain standing at the edges or in the corners of their fields so that the indigent could harvest it and stave off starvation. That in itself was a wonderful expression of grace. Ruth, a widow without resources, might freely go into a stranger’s field with a scythe or, more probably, a knife and cut off the heads (in this case) of barley to make bread. In a typical field, she might expect the barley that was left standing to be scarce, the heads of grain often less full and mature than those in the middle of the field, and therefore requiring considerable effort to harvest.

            Enter Boaz. He instructs his servants to allow Ruth to “glean even among the sheaves” (v. 15)—an unheard of generosity. The servants would have done the laborious work of cutting down the stalks of barley and tying them together in bundles, prepared to be gathered for winnowing.  In a field that had been harvested, a gleaner was also free to pick up any grain that had been carelessly or accidentally dropped by the harvesters. In essence, Boaz said, “Don’t confine Ruth to the corners and edges of the field and don’t make her walk over multiple acres to pick up a loose stalk here and there. Let her stand beside the sheaves you’ve harvested and scoop up off the ground copious amounts of barley that you’ve deliberately dropped for her benefit.” “Handfuls of purpose.”

             True believer, Boaz typifies the One who loved us and gave himself for us. We are daily the recipients of handfuls of purpose. Have you ever examined the New Testament passages pertaining to riches? If so, you will have seen what many have noted: references to natural wealth or those who are naturally wealthy in the New Testament consistently include a warning. But having acknowledged that fact, it is imperative that we also recognize that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is our Boaz, dropping rich handfuls of purpose around us daily.

            Scripture commends to us “the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7; 2:7); it tells us that our God is “rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4); it extolls “the riches of His glory” (Rom. 9:23; Eph. 3:16) from which storehouse, He bestows gifts on us. Even before we were saved, we were the recipients of “the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience” (Rom. 2:4). And we came to Him for salvation with the assurance that He is “abounding in riches for all who call on Him” (Rom. 10:12). The fact that we so little understand and appreciate His blessings is due, of course, to our carnality, but also to “the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God” (Rom. 11:33). Paul warns us believers “not to fix . . . [our] hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17). Then he assures us that we have been regenerated and are being renewed “by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Tit. 3:5, 6).

            So, believer, are you gleaning where your Boaz has purposely dropped the grain? God is providing us with “unfathomable riches” (Eph. 3:8). God has provided us with a salvation replete with holiness, deliverance from and victory over sin, love, joy, peace, and contentment. If you and I are not experiencing those riches, it’s not because Boaz has not dropped them but because we have not, by faith, picked them up. In humility, recognizing and acknowledging her need, Ruth had to go to Boaz. Our riches are to be found only in Christ Jesus. Are you gleaning in His field?

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