Handfuls Of Purpose

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There’s a scene in the book of Ruth in which Ruth is gleaning in the field of Boaz and Boaz instructs his men who are harvesting the field to leave some “handfuls of purpose.”

Of course, to get the impact of that statement you need to read the entire story of Ruth who left her native country and traveled back to the land of Israel with her mother-in-law. As two widows, they were blessed by the mercy shown them by Boaz.

It’s interesting to compare translations of the scene above in which Boaz gave the order to bless Ruth who was gleaning in his field, following the harvest team, picking through what was left behind.

Ruth 2:15–16 (KJV) — 15 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: 16 And let fall also some of the handfuls of purpose for her, and leave them, that she may glean them, and rebuke her not.

Ruth 2:15–16 (ESV) — 15 When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. 16 And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.”

What a display of grace! There was nothing that Ruth did that obligated Boaz to show such kindness. Granted, as a relative of Naomi’s deceased husband, Boaz would act as a near kinsman redeemer, but this act of kindness to Ruth was truly unmerited favor.

As you read the account in the book of Ruth, there is a display of God’s providence in establishing the line of David which would also be the line of the Messiah, but the account is also a depiction of how God treats His people with “handfuls of purpose” all the time.

It’s important to understand that everything we have in life is a gift from God, including the salvation we enjoy in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:8–9 (ESV) — 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

1 Corinthians 4:7 (ESV) — 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

1 Corinthians 1:30–31 (ESV) — 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Understanding the principle of unmerited favor mounded upon us by God through the Lord Jesus Christ should cause us to be grateful and to follow close to Him as He grants us “handfuls of purpose” all the time.

Think about how Jeremiah described it in Lamentations 3:

Lamentations 3:19–23 (ESV) — 19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! 20 My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. 21 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

How did you feel when you awoke this morning? Were you grateful for God’s mercy and His faithfulness in never changing and providing for you over and over?

Consider the “handfuls of purpose” with which He has blessed you with provisions in life in food, shelter, transportation, etc. Consider the “handfuls of purpose” with which He has blessed you with relationships in the local church as well as the uniqueness of your own family. It is a good practice to answer the question posed by Paul in 1Corinthians 4:7, “what do you have that you have not received?” Answer NOTHING. Even though you may have worked, and you feel you have earned what you have, remember God’s reminder to Israel:

Deuteronomy 8:18 (ESV) — 18 You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.

Thankfully, as we consider the gracious way God deals with us, James also reminds us that God does not change, which only adds to the blessings we receive as we consider the source.

James 1:16–17 (ESV) — 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Next time you feel like nothing is happening in life and you feel a bit down, consider the picture of Ruth in the field of Boaz gleaning what she could in the harvested field only to find “handfuls of purpose” along the way. So too God leaves “handfuls of purpose” as He cares for us and provides for us each day. May we, as with Ruth, have a likeminded humble attitude in being willing to pick up, be grateful for, and use what God leaves for us each day.


Bob Brubaker

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