Every time I preach on the book of Ruth (which I have done a few times), I almost always hear this general response from the ladies in the congregation, “I love the book of Ruth! It’s my favorite story in the Bible.” I agree, it is a fabulous account and it has all the key elements to making a great story. It has conflict, tension, surprise, extraordinary characters or character behavior, controversy, mystery, and suspense. If you recall I likened it to a Hallmark Channel movie, because quite honestly the theme of the story would translate into a great romantic movie.
Two weeks ago, we began our four-part series in the book of Ruth titled “Redeemer of the Ordinary”. In the introductory message we looked at chapter one and saw how the stage is being set for the remainder of the book. Our main female characters Naomi and Ruth both lost their husbands and now Naomi (Ruth’s mother-in-law) decides to go back to her homeland in Judah. Ruth insists on going back to Judah with her mother-in-law as she pledges her loyalty to Naomi, her God, and her people. Naomi returns in bitterness, and Ruth is determined to return with her to love and care for her mother-in-law during these troubled times.
In chapter two I talked about God’s providence in Ruth. Providence is the Lord’s working in and through His creation and His creatures to bring about what He has planned. We see throughout this story how God is working in and through his people. Naomi urges Ruth to go out and glean in a field and Ruth does so obediently. In her gleaning she catches the eye of Boaz and he shows her favor and grace as he allows her to glean from his fields. This obscure love story that is plopped between Judges and 1 Samuel is a story about God working in the details to bring His will to pass and in doing so we also get a glimpse of redemption (which we will talk more about today and next week). God is working in this story to show how he directs things for His glory and for His will to be done.
So far, we have witnessed Ruth’s intense loyalty to her mother-in-law. She refuses to just let her leave Moab alone and go back to her homeland and die a bitter old woman. She is fiercely loyal to her as she gives up everything (friends, family, and faith) to be with her mother-in-law. She is radically obedient as she does all Naomi asks her to do. She is genuinely humble as she meets her future redeemer, finds grace and favor in his eyes. Now, today we are going to see that Ruth is audaciously bold as she appeals and ultimately proposes to Boaz, her kinsman redeemer.
The tradition of a marriage proposal is one that has been established for a long time. If you are a romantic, then you are probably one of those people who loves to hear about or watch on Youtube a thoughtful and creative marriage proposal. You may be that person who cries when you are just a witness to the proposal and not actually the recipient. Over the years people have put a lot of thought, money, and creativity in their marriage proposal. Traditionally speaking the man offers a proposal of marriage to a woman in which she accepts or rejects the proposal.
The reason I bring up proposals is because we have come to the part in our romantic biblical story where this newly established relationship between Boaz and Ruth is about to go to the next level as marriage lies on the horizon.
Ruth 3:1- 7
We do not have a lot of understanding about the customs for marriage in ancient Israel at this time and this account in Ruth 3 is the only detailed account in the Bible. This petition or proposal was probably an Israelite procedure since Naomi had to explain to Ruth what she had to do. It certainly does not follow, what we would consider a modern day traditional proposal or arrangement since it is Naomi telling Ruth to be the one who appeals to Boaz and not vice versa.
Vs 1: “Shouldn’t I find rest for you, so you will be taken care of?” Naomi knows the life she and Ruth will have as widows in the world. The life of a widow would be a hard life and Naomi wants to ensure that Ruth has an advantage in life and marriage would set Ruth up for a life that would be contrary to the life of a widow.
Vs 2: Naomi now introduces the next logical step as she informs Ruth that Boaz is a relative, or as other versions of the Bible say a “kinsman”. If you recall a kinsman is a person related, even though somewhat distantly, to someone and he received by law privileges and obligations for all members of the family. It was the right of the “kinsman” to receive the inheritance of a family without heir.
“winnowing barley on the threshing floor.” This is the process grain is separated from the husks by animals walking over them. Once that was done the mixture was thrown into the air and the wind would blow the chaff or husks away and the heavier grain would fall to the ground.
Vs 3: Ruth is instructed to clean up, put on some perfume, and don her Sunday bests. Having prepared herself in this way, Ruth is to go down to the threshing-floor but not to make herself known to Boaz. She is to let him finish his meal before she does anything.
Vs 4: “When he lies down” Once the winnowing is completed the wheat would need to be guarded. On this evening Boaz was going to keep watch over the harvest throughout the night.
“Uncover his feet and lie down” Now this act has become controversial in a few circles because some believe this is as a euphemism for something inappropriate. Some say it should be interpreted as “uncover his waist.” There isn’t much evidence to support this.
However, it is generally believed that by Ruth uncovering the feet of Boaz he would be awakened by his feet becoming cold. The position she took at his feet was also a lowly one, and perhaps represented Ruth as a petitioner. Ruth’s actions can be interpreted as a humble petitioner seeking Boaz’s protection and marriage.
Once she does this Boaz will tell her what she should do.
Vs 5 – 7: Ruth is obedient to her mother-in-law and she did as she was told.
Ruth 3: 8 – 13
Vs 8 – 9: It is implied that Boaz was asleep for a while before he was startled awake. Something woke Boaz up and it scared him. I think we all know that feeling of being abruptly awoke by something and having that feeling of terror that follows.
Boaz’s sudden startled awakening reminds me of the evenings in Wisconsin when I would be fast asleep in bed and Carrie would abruptly shake me awake in the early hours of the morning to inform me there was a bat flying around inside of our house or in our room. My heartrate was accelerated, my mind was foggy, and I was disoriented, and it took a moment to realize just what was going on at the time.
I am sure Boaz felt this way as well… He could have been thinking, Is there a thief on the threshing floor trying to steal his wheat? Was it an animal coming to attack? Or was someone coming to inform him of some bad news?” But when he awoke and turned, he noticed a woman lying at his feet.
He asks, “Who are you?”
Ruth replies who she is and What is clear is that Ruth is not taking anything for granted. Still at this moment she acts humbly in the presence of Boaz.
“Take me under your wing, for you are a family redeemer.” Ruth uses an expressive metaphor and asks him to take her under his wing. This metaphor is used similarly for taking in marriage. The taking under his wing over a widow is a way of claiming her as a wife is attested among Arabs of early days, it still exists among some modern Arabs.
Now, when we look at what is going on this is a very bold act that Ruth does. She was a foreigner, a widow and coming into the presence of a noble man is a courageous and bold act that certainly could have gone wrong for Ruth. This is why the act may seem aggressive, but it was in reality a humble lowly servant petitioning and a reminder to Boaz that he is a kinsman and she has the right to be where she is at the moment.
Vs 10: “May the Lord bless you, my daughter.” Ruth is not left hanging in doubt as Boaz responds in a beautiful way and calls down a blessing upon her. He also is thankful that she has not followed the natural inclinations in seeking a younger man in marriage, but she has shown a responsible attitude to the family in looking to her gō’ēl or kinsman redeemer as her husband. Boaz mentions that she is showing kindness in this act because nobody would have batted an eye if she went out and chose a young rich man to marry. It was within her rights to do so. But her act of kindness shows that she is not only committed to Boaz, but to Naomi as well.
Vs 11: “I will do for you whatever you say” Boaz pledges his commitment to Ruth because her noble reputation is well known among the people of the town. It is probable that he tells her not to fear because he may have in mind the legal proceedings he was about to initiate (marriage). Ruth should not be afraid that her Moabite origin or anything else would be used against her. Everyone in the city knew her virtue and her virtue would prove to be sufficient. One commentator translates, “all the people in my town know that you are a woman of noble character.” As “all the city knows thee for a bride worth the winning.”
Vs 12: “there is a redeemer closer than I am” Boaz acknowledges that he is indeed a redeemer, however, there is one other redeemer in the family who is nearer of kin than he is. This news could certainly be a game changer for Ruth. She may be wondering if Naomi knew this information and maybe got her calculations wrong or the more likely scenario where Naomi knew of this other kinsman, but Boaz was the one likely to take action over the other.
Vs 13: Boaz tells Ruth to spend the night and in the morning, he will sort things out. There is no point in her going out this late in the evening, so he suggests Ruth stay the night where she will be safe. He then says that he will talk to the other kinsman and if he wants to take the place of Boaz then he will accept this, but if the kinsman refuses then he will fulfill his duties as a kinsman redeemer.
Ruth 3:14 – 18
Vs 14: There were obvious reasons why it should not be made known that Ruth had slept there that night. There is no suggestion that there was any inappropriate behavior going on here, but Boaz knew that if people saw a woman leaving in the morning they would assume or perceive that something inappropriate was going on.
Vs 15: Boaz did not regard that it would be proper for his prospective bride to return from her night’s adventures empty-handed, so he gave her six measures of barley wheat. We are not sure of the exact amount or the significance of this amount, we just know it was a generous portion.
Vs 16 – 18: Naomi asks about what happened and Ruth tells her. Naomi tells her that all will be fine, but in the meantime, they must be patient and wait as Boaz takes care of the matter with the other kinsman.
There is a lot going on in this chapter. Some of it seems a bit obscure and some comes across as romantic. But as we look at this account, we can start to understand why the story is one that God wanted told throughout the ages. In the practical sense of this story we can learn that when we enter the presence of the LORD, we do so in…
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I currently live on the Gulf Coast of Florida with my beautiful family. The Lord has blessed me with over 25 years of full time ministry. He is and has been faithful.