The Promise of Redemption – Ruth 3

There was once a boy who took his newly made wooden boat down to a river. He carefully placed his new boat it in the water and slowly let out the string attached to the bow. The boy sat in the warm sunshine, admiring the little boat that he had built. Suddenly a strong current caught the boat. He tried to pull it back to the riverbank, but unfortunately the string broke and the little boat raced downstream away from the boy.

The boy raced down the riverbank as fast as his little legs could carry him but the little boat soon slipped out of sight. All afternoon he searched for the boat. Finally, when started getting dark, the little boy had to go home upset that he had lost his boat.

However a few days later on the way home from school, the boy spotted a boat just like his in a second-hand shop window. When he got closer, he could see that sure enough it was his!

The boy hurried into the shop and said to the manager,

“Sir, that’s my boat in your window! I made it!”

“I’m sorry son, but someone else brought it in this morning. If you want it, you’ll have to buy it for ten pounds.”

The boy ran home and counted all his money. Exactly ten pounds! When he reached the shop, he rushed to the counter.

“Here’s the money for my boat,” he said.

As he left the shop, the boy hugged his boat and said, “Now you’re twice mine. First, I made you and now I bought you.”

The story of Ruth is a bit like this story, is a story of redemption and we can see that for us in the church it is also an illustration of how we too are redeemed when we come to faith in Christ Jesus. God made us and then He purchases us with the blood of His Son Christ Jesus. God redeems, He literally buys back, us from our sin and into fellowship with Him through His Son Christ Jesus.

Introduction

Since I am blogging about chapter 3, let me just put some context around what has happened so far in the story of Ruth.

The story of Ruth is not only a wonderful love story but also a story of redemption and a demonstration of God directing the affairs of men and women. In other words we can see in the story of Ruth God’s sovereignty at work.

In chapter 1 there was a famine in Judah and because of this Elimelech and his wife Naomi relocated to Moab; a Gentile nation that was an enemy of Israel and Judah. They had two sons, Mahlon and Kilion who married Moabite women named Orpah and Ruth. But then disaster struck when Naomi lost her husband and then her two sons. Naomi was left a widow with her two widow daughter-in-law’s and said to them both this defining verse in chapter 1:9,

“May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”

Naomi wanted them both to find rest and security in another husband because she could not give security by herself.

Then Naomi heard that God had blessed Judah and the famine was over, so she decided to go back. However, only Ruth accompanied her while Orpah decided to stay behind in Moab and we saw that Naomi was bitter and resentful in her heart and mind, and even blamed God for her loss.

Ruth however had the greater faith in the situation, determined to not leave her mother-in-law and we see that this return to the land of Judah reminds us that we also need to return to God for our security. It is only in Him do we find that eternal security and it reminds us of that verse in Psalm 46:1,

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

Then in Chapter 2 we see that God blesses Ruth through the person of Boaz, whose field she gleaned. Boaz enquired about Ruth and rewarded her for her faithfulness towards Naomi. Boaz accepted her as one of his maidservants who also worked in his fields demonstrating his love for Ruth. We see that Ruth demonstrates humility and self-sacrifice towards her mother-in-law, Naomi by providing for her and doing what she asked.

Once Naomi realized that Ruth had been gleaning barley from the field of Boaz who was a close relative and who had shown kindness to Ruth, then her heart attitude changed. Naomi recognised that God was changing the situation and she saw that their redemption was near.

So we see that in chapter 2 God’s sovereign hand at work, running like a thread through the story, bringing Ruth into the field of Boaz and bringing Boaz back from Bethlehem to notice this lovely Moabite woman.

Naomi Conceives a Plan

So we see that the story progresses with Naomi proposing a plan to Ruth in order for Ruth to be married to Boaz. Naomi says,

“My daughter, I must find a home for you, where you will be well provided for.” Ruth 3:1b

Rather than being stereotypical Mother-in-law, Naomi has Ruth’s best intentions at heart. Naomi might well have felt responsible for what had happened, just as she seemed to indicate in verse 9 of chapter 1. Naomi here is showing that she is concerned with Ruth’s security and it is her desire to see her married.

So Naomi puts forth her plan:

“Now Boaz, with whose women you have worked, is a relative of ours. Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.”

It would appear that Naomi is either well informed or Boaz is known for his predictability because she knows where Boaz will be that night; at the threshing floor. Her whole plan hinges on Boaz being at the threshing floor and not anywhere else that night. Of course it’s not to say that there wouldn’t have been other opportunities if Boaz wasn’t there that night but needless to say there’s an element of risk in this plan.

We are not told if Naomi prayed about this plan but as a good Jew she would have done.

Now do we bring everything to God in prayer? Do we as it were, lay at God’s feet with all of our plans and desire His blessing upon them? Ephesians 6:18 says,

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

The emphasis here is that we should have an attitude of continual prayer to God. Our daily conversation with God shouldn’t be only at mealtimes and before bed. It should be a continual conversation not only for ourselves but also for ‘all the Lord’s people’.

God wants to hear us talk to Him. Through prayer we build upon our relationship with God. How can we know someone if we don’t talk to them?

So I’m quite sure that Naomi would have prayed to God to ask for His blessing on her plans and Ruth does everything that Naomi asks; further demonstrating Ruth’s love for her Mother-in-law and her humility. Let’s not forget that Ruth was a foreigner in Bethlehem and probably unaccustomed to the Jews customs and laws. Here Naomi is effectively asking Ruth to ask Boaz to be the kinsman redeemer and marry her.

Let’s just state what a kinsman redeemer is.

In Levirate Law the kinsman-redeemer is a male relative who had the privilege or responsibility to act on behalf of a relative who was in trouble, in danger or in need of assistance. In Israel, the kinsman redeemer might fulfil one of two roles:

  1. First, he might redeem a member of his family who had become a slave.
  2. Secondly, he might marry a close relative whose husband had died in order to deliver her from poverty and continuing the name of her dead husband.

Of course it’s this second case that is the one that was applicable to Ruth and in chapter 4, we see that this also perpetuated the genealogy of Elimelech in Israel.

So Ruth washed and perfumed herself and the Hebrew text doesn’t actually say that she changed her clothes, rather that she put on a large garment, perhaps it is the shawl that is used later when Boaz gives her six measures of barley in verse 17. This shawl was also used to disguise herself when she went quietly to where Boaz was sleeping so that she wouldn’t be recognised.

Ruth didn’t go to the threshing floor straight away but must have waited until everyone including Boaz was asleep in order to not be seen. Ruth is careful to not let her actions be misinterpreted as a sneaky illicit sexual advance rather, it is an act of commitment.

So Ruth uncovers Boaz’s feet and at his feet, settles down for the night.

Something then awakes Boaz at midnight. It was probably the fact that his feet were cold by this time because night time temperatures can drop to the mid-teens in Bethlehem in June; which is when the end of the harvest was.

For us this startling awake at midnight reminds us of that verse in Matthew 25:6,

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’”

This is the parable of the ten virgins and it reminds us that we need to be ready for the return of our redeemer and saviour Christ Jesus at any time.

Boaz’s Response

So Boaz is startled awake and is surprised to see in the gloom of the night somebody else at his feet. Since he doesn’t remember anyone else in that place with him when he went to sleep, he asks,

“Who are you?” Ruth 3:9a

Presumably in being startled awake, his movements also awoke Ruth or she had stayed awake, regardless of what happened, now is Ruth’s moment to ask Boaz to fulfil the role of the kinsman redeemer and so she says to Boaz,

“I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.” Ruth 3:9b

Ruth once again demonstrates her humility by saying that she is Boaz’s servant. She is appealing to his kindness which Boaz has already shown her and asking, in an allegoric way, for him to marry her. The phrase, ‘spread the corner of your garment over me’ is the same phrase that God uses about His beloved nation Israel in Ezekiel chapter 16. We read,

“Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your naked body. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine.

I bathed you with water and washed the blood from you and put ointments on you.” Ezekiel 16:8-9

This is God retelling the story of how he found, nurtured and entered into a marriage covenant with Israel. God does the same with us, His Bride, in that He takes us in our fallen state, washes us in the blood of His Son Christ Jesus and enters into a covenant relationship with us.

He makes us new, we don’t have to do anything to earn His favour or affection. God loves us just the way we are and all we have to do is come to Him as we are, then God will spread His wing, His protection, over us. Deuteronomy 31:6, which is echoed in Hebrews 13:5-6 tells us,

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

God will never leave us nor forsake us because He loves us, we are His own, we are under His wing, His protection and we shall never experience that eternal separation from Him. We read again in that wonderful Psalm, Psalm 91, of God providing protection to those who love Him,

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Psalm 91:1-4

Skip to verse 14,

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honour him.

With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

We understand that from these verses that the Lord will not let anything happen to us without His permission[1] and that we come under His wings of protection.

Now when the Jews today wear the tallit (tal-LEET) or the prayer shawl they are reminded of these very words in Ruth of Ruth asking Boaz to cover her with his garment. The tallit reminds the Jews of the commandments of God in the Bible and today some Jews are married under a large tallit, elevated on four poles as a marriage canopy[2], signifying the love of God covering the happy couple.

So Ruth, in vulnerability and humility, asks Boaz to spread his garment over her (to marry her) and Boaz responds,

“The Lord bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character.” Ruth 3:10-11

Boaz doesn’t take a moment to think about Ruth’s offer of marriage, immediately he is full of joy and blesses her. He makes note that she hasn’t run after one of the younger men in Bethlehem and she has therefore gone against perhaps the natural inclinations and has instead chosen to keep the family obligations as her priority. Even though as a Moabite woman she wasn’t bound by them.

And because of Ruth’s humility, faithfulness and noble character, Boaz promises to do what she asks. However, this story has an unexpected plot twist. There is another man who is a closer relation than he and therefore, in the laws and tradition of the Jews at that time, it is only right that Boaz should consult with him first before marrying Ruth.

And we see here that this situation reveals something of Boaz’s character too. Boaz has every opportunity to take advantage of the situation but he doesn’t. Boaz also states that there is already someone else who is a closer relative to Elimelech than him so he needs to inform them of Ruth’s marriage proposal. So we see that Boaz was a man of noble and righteous character who was the perfect match for Ruth.

Boaz asks Ruth to wait until the morning and then he will see to the matter. Boaz uses the phrase,

“….as surely as the Lord lives I will do it.”

This was in effect a solemn vow that he was making and it also indicates his determination in seeing the matter through to its conclusion. Ruth could rest at his feet safe in this knowledge and more than this she was safe where she was.

Ruth’s Return

So far Naomi’s plan has gone according to plan but could now come undone if Ruth is spotted leaving the threshing floor. So in the morning, before anyone else is awake, the Hebrew translation indicates that Boaz says to himself,

“No one must know that the woman came to the threshing floor.” Ruth 3:14b

His feeling was that no one must know that Ruth spent the night with him and misinterpret the situation. Under Levirate law if a man was suspected of having a sexual relation with a woman he would not have been allowed to marry her.

But before Ruth left, Boaz did not let his bride-to-be go empty-handed and gave her six measures of barley.

The Hebrew text just states, ‘six of barley’ but it must have been around six seahs, that is around 80 pounds, which was so heavy that Boaz had to place it on her using the shawl that she was wearing. The emphasis here though is that it was a bountiful measure and a demonstration of Boaz’s love for Ruth.

Upon Ruth’s return, Naomi must have been bursting to know how the events of the night had gone because the first thing that she asks is,

“How did it go, my daughter?” Ruth 3:16

Ruth recounts the events of the night and mentions the barley that she has brought back, which would have indicated to Naomi, not only Boaz’s intention to see that the kinsman redeemer situation was brought to a successful conclusion but also of Boaz’s love for Ruth.

We can see that Boaz’s bountiful gift of barley to Ruth was the perfect antidote to Naomi’s despondent statement in chapter 1:21a,

I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty.”

Now Naomi knows that her ‘empty’ days are over through this godly man Boaz and God’s bountiful provision.

Finally we see that Naomi knows that Boaz is a man of his word and will, ‘not rest until the matter is settled’. Ruth and Naomi both have to rest and wait upon the Lord for Him to work through Boaz for a successful outcome.

I’ve spoken about sitting at God’s feet and laying our plans before the Lord but do we then rest and allow Him to bring the matter to a conclusion or do we take matters into our own hands and force a conclusion?

Praying and pleading with God for something is sometimes easier to do than waiting upon Him for an answer. In our culture today we ‘OK Google’ or ‘Hello Siri’ for every answer and we can treat God the same. We expect an answer within our time frame not God’s.

Listening to God and waiting upon the Lord is as much His desire as talking to Him in prayer.

Summary

So what do we learn from Ruth chapter 3?

Well I think it is this;

  1. The big headline story of Ruth, is that it is a story of redemption. Just like that story at the beginning of the little boy who lost his boat and bought it back was an allegory of how God, who lost us to sin, and then redeemed us back with the blood of his Son Christ Jesus, is also like the this story of Ruth being redeemed through the righteous man Boaz.
  2. It is also a story of finding rest in this redemption. Naomi in chapter 1 wants both her daughter-in-law’s to ‘find rest in the home of another husband’ (Ruth 1:9) and then here in chapter 3 we see that Ruth rested safely at Boaz’s feet and at the end of chapter 3 we see that Naomi and Ruth have to rest until Boaz has concluded his work with the close relative.
  3. Finally we see that we need to bring all of our plans to the feet of God for His blessing and to wait upon Him for the answer. We too rest under His wings of protection, safe in the knowledge that nothing can ‘separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ Romans 8:39 Amen

[1] But more literally this Psalm will be fulfilled in the Messianic millennium reign on the Earth.

[2] The ‘chuppah’ (KHOOP-pah)

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