God’s wonderful handfuls on purpose

Brenda Cannon HenleyBy Brenda Cannon Henley
Verse 16 of the Book of Ruth, Chapter 2, is where we find the phrase, “And let fall some of the handfuls on purpose for her, and leave them, that she may glean them, and rebuke her not.” This was spoken by the wealthy landowner, Boaz, to his workers, concerning the maiden, Ruth. This book is the eighth in the Old Testament of Scripture and has long been a favorite of mine because I love the story it tells. My beloved boss for a long number of years, Dr. John R. Rice, wrote in the Rice Reference Bible, “The book is named after the heroine of the story — Ruth. This book tells an individual story which took place during the time of the judges. It is a beautiful and important true story, because Ruth, a Moabitess, became the great-grandmother of David and so she is in the ancestral line of the Lord Jesus, as was Rahab the harlot, another gentile woman. The time period involved in the Book of Ruth is ten years according to Ussher, a historian of the time.”

The first time I heard a sermon preached from this Scripture, my heart was pricked to the core and I was delighted to learn the truth that God loves His children so much that He cares when they struggle, have hurting hearts, are misunderstood, maimed, gossiped unfairly about, and treated poorly. He often sends handfuls on purpose, with different blessings for different people, to bless and help us. Most of us today do not need more grain, which is representative of the food source of that time. We have groceries or can get them and we are likely not truly hungry. Most of us do not know what real hunger is and cannot have empathy for those that are.

I also like it so much because the underdog wins and I have always been a fan of seeing the under appreciated, under paid, and under loved come out on top. My pastor, and another of my employers for many years, often referred to himself as “a dark horse,” from an illustration of an old black farm horse that had been misjudged and went on to be an acclaimed hero that won race after race. He wasn’t slick from the dust of the fields, his tail and mane weren’t braided, and he did not have a colorful blanket, but he could run. Boy, could he run when given the opportunity. I always want to bring out this story and that of Rahab, Mary Magdalene, and others who were not supposed to win, but did. I especially want the superficial, superior, and spoiled Christians to know that God is not a respecter of persons and that just because you and your four do it one way does not mean others are required to follow suit.

Boaz instructed his workers to leave “handfuls on purpose” of the growing grain in his vast fields so that Ruth could glean enough for both she and her mother in law, Naomi, for whom she was caring, to have enough food to eat. Normally, and especially in those days, the workers were carefully told to gather all of the wheat that was there so that the threshing floors would be filled to overflowing and the landowner would make more money. It was very unusual for them to be told to leave some of the precious grain for this unknown woman to get easily. Perhaps they talked among themselves and wondered exactly who she was, what her goal or game was, and why their boss wanted to help her.

Perhaps your heart has been pricked, as mine was, not only to study this book out in detail, but also to determine why Boaz was so generous, what came of his blessing to Ruth, and how God was working to complete His amazing plan for the ages through these unlikely people.

And, just perhaps, when someone we know or meet, gets a big handful on purpose straight from the hand of God, our hearts won’t be bitter and cold so that we might rejoice and be happy for the recipient rather than being envious and cruel.

May God bless us and may we live in such a manner that we can expect and enjoy his handfuls on purpose when they come our way.

Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788, or


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