Remember what has happened in Ruth so far:
Naomi was a wife and mother of two sons. Her husband and two sons all passed away leaving her a widow with two daughters-in-law. One daughter-in-law left and the other, Ruth, stayed with Naomi. They returned to Naomi’s homeland, Israel, where Ruth promises to take Naomi’s God and people as her own.
Ruth and Naomi are destitute in Israel and so Ruth takes on a role as provider of food for the household. She leaves the house every day to glean food from a local farmer named Boaz. The wheat farmer shows incredible kindness to Ruth. He not only allows her to glean but he also provides her meals and protection while she is working in the field.
Boaz provided for Ruth and Naomi, and in doing so he allows God to use him. The love and concern Boaz offers is an example of God’s own love for each of us. His love isn’t something we earn or we deserve. He gives it to us out of His own goodness. In chapters 3 and 4 we will see God provide a redeemer for Ruth and how Jesus’ sacrifice for us is His act as a redeemer for you and I.
1 Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you?
2 “Now Boaz, whose young women you were with, is he not our relative? In fact, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. ~ Ruth 3:1-2
Naomi would love nothing more than to provide a long-term solution for Ruth’s well-being. Not only does Ruth NOT have a husband to provide for her financially, but she and Naomi also have no way of continuing the family-line of Elimilech. There is no husband for either of them with which to have a son. I think of Abram who was promised a son and believed God’s promise.
For all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever.
And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered.
~ Genesis 13:15-16
The Lord had promised to Abram in (Genesis 13) that He would not only give him a son, but make the number of his descendants so vast they couldn’t be counted.
After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”
But Abram said, “Lord GOD, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”
Then Abram said, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!” ~ Genesis 15:1-3
Even in spite of the earlier promise, and having heard it directly from the mouth of God, Abram had doubt. Don’t we all?
I love this story from Mark, and I have prayed this prayer so often in my own life:
Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” ~ Mark 9:23-24
David Guzik says it so well:
“There is a difference between a doubt that denies God’s promise and a doubt which desires God’s promise. Abram wants to believe and is looking to God to strengthen his faith.”
Naomi knew the Word of God that tells us that He cares for His people, and she believed God’s promise and is looking here for God to somehow fulfill that promise.
3 “Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.
4 “Then it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you should do.”
5 And she said to her, “All that you say to me I will do.”
~ Ruth 3:3-5
This Hebrew God is all new to Ruth. She may be thinking that her mother-in-law is crazy, but nonetheless she trusts and obeys her. God loves to bring us to those places of putting our trust in Him! Those times become opportunities where God builds our faith. This is a chance for Ruth to see the God of the Hebrews fulfill His promises.
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
~ Psalm 37:4
Ruth was learning and growing in faith just as we do today when we trust God to work in our lives.
6 So she went down to the threshing floor and did according to all that her mother-in-law instructed her.
7 And after Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was cheerful, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came softly, uncovered his feet, and lay down.
~ Ruth 3:6-7
The threshing would be done at night after the long days’ work. Threshing required the thresher to use the wind to separate the grain from the chaff by throwing it up into the air over and over again, sifting out the junk and letting the grain fall onto the threshing floor. Boaz would have been exhausted from the days work, and then still worked into the evening to get the threshing done.
After this long day, Boaz collapses in sleep. He is so sound asleep that he never notices Ruth sneak in, uncover his feet, and laying down over his feet.
(We have a cat that comes into our bedroom at night and often lays at my feet and I don’t even notice. I’d like to think that if a strange woman came in and laid on my feet, I would notice. That’s how tired Boaz is!)
This would have been an incredibly submissive act on the part of Ruth and certainly one that required much faith. In this moment, she was completely putting her life into the hands of Boaz, and trusting that the advice of Naomi would not bring her harm or embarrassment.
8 Now it happened at midnight that the man was startled, and turned himself; and there, a woman was lying at his feet.
9 And he said, “Who are you?” So she answered, “I am Ruth, your maidservant. Take your maidservant under your wing, for you are a close relative.”
~ Ruth 3:8-9
We talked a little bit last week about the Hebrew law regarding strangers and how Boaz in showing kindness to Ruth was obeying the law. There was another Hebrew law given by God to Moses which allowed a close relative to ‘redeem’ another out of slavery or poverty.
Now if a sojourner or stranger close to you becomes rich, and one of your brethren who dwells by him becomes poor, and sells himself to the stranger or sojourner close to you, or to a member of the stranger’s family, after he is sold he may be redeemed again. One of his brothers may redeem him; or his uncle or his uncle’s son may redeem him; or anyone who is near of kin to him in his family may redeem him; or if he is able he may redeem himself.
~ Leviticus 25:47-49
We also find yet another Hebrew law which dictates how property is to be inherited within the family. Many of the inheritance laws that we use in the United States today that prescribe how property is passed down within a family were written based on this very Mosaic law.
And you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If a man dies and has no son, then you shall cause his inheritance to pass to his daughter.
If he has no daughter, then you shall give his inheritance to his brothers.
If he has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his father’s brothers.
And if his father has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to the relative closest to him in his family, and he shall possess it.’
And it shall be to the children of Israel a statute of judgment, just as the LORD commanded Moses.
~ Number 27:8-11
When a man dies, his estate passes first to his children, sons first and if no son, to the daughters.
No daughters then to his brothers.
No brothers, then to his uncles.
No uncles, then to the nearest relative in the family.
“This amounts to a marriage proposal from Ruth. This shows that this was not an inappropriate thing for Ruth to do towards Boaz. It was bold, but not inappropriate. Ruth understood this as she identified Boaz as her close relative (literally, you are a goel, a kinsman-redeemer).
Though deceased, Elimelech had the right to have his family name carried on and as goel, Boaz had the responsibility to do this for Elimelech. This could only happen through Boaz marrying Ruth, and providing children to carry on the name of Elimelech. Ruth boldly, yet humbly and properly, sought her rights.
Don’t lose sight of the larger picture: Ruth came to claim a right. Boaz was her goel, her kinsman-redeemer, and she had the right to expect him to marry her and raise up a family to perpetuate the name of Elimelech. But Naomi wisely counseled Ruth to not come as a victim demanding her rights, but as a humble servant, trusting in the goodness of her kinsman-redeemer. She said to Boaz, ‘I respect you, I trust you, and I put my fate in your hand.’ ”
10 Then he said, “Blessed are you of the LORD, my daughter! For you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning, in that you did not go after young men, whether poor or rich.
11 “And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman.
12 “Now it is true that I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I.
13 “Stay this night, and in the morning it shall be that if he will perform the duty of a close relative for you—good; let him do it. But if he does not want to perform the duty for you, then I will perform the duty for you, as the LORD lives! Lie down until morning.”
~ Ruth 3:10-13
Naomi and Ruth have recognized in Boaz a man who is honorable, loving, charitable, and kind. This kind of act was probably not something Ruth could have taken with other men in Bethlehem as Boaz even warned Ruth about them earlier in Ruth 2:8-9.
Boaz is honored that Ruth would choose him, an older man, out of all the men in the area. He recognizes that she is an honorable woman and is doing this out of respect and not out of greed or dishonor. Even so, Boaz also knows that there is another man, another heir to Elimilech, that is closer to his family line than he is. We know that Elimilech’s sons died, so this other heir may be a brother, uncle, or cousin. He honors that man’s right to claim Ruth first and in doing so he is trusting the Lord.
14 So she lay at his feet until morning, and she arose before one could recognize another. Then he said, “Do not let it be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.”
15 Also he said, “Bring the shawl that is on you and hold it.” And when she held it, he measured six ephahs of barley, and laid it on her. Then she went into the city.
16 When she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “Is that you, my daughter?” Then she told her all that the man had done for her.
17 And she said, “These six ephahs of barley he gave me; for he said to me, ‘Do not go empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’ ”
18 Then she said, “Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out; for the man will not rest until he has concluded the matter this day.”
~ Ruth 3:14-18
Even though Boaz and Ruth don’t do anything inappropriate that night, he doesn’t want Ruth to suffer in her reputation as honorable. He is sending her away while it is still dark out. In her return to Naomi, Boaz wants to show them both how much he cares for them. He does that by sending her away with lots of grain for them to share.
Naomi receives Ruth and recognizes the kindness show by Boaz toward both them. We recognize in this story the incredible picture of Jesus as our own redeemer. Check it out:
Jesus is our relative in that He was born as a son of Adam, of human flesh. (Hebrews 2:14)
Jesus calls us, the Church, His Bride. (Ephesians 5:25)
Jesus is wealthy as God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. (Psalm 50:10)
Jesus offers to take us under his wing as our protector. (Ruth 2:12 and Psalm 36:7)
Jesus provides us with every good thing including our daily bread. (Matthew 6:11 and James 1:17)
We are in poverty and in desperate need of a wealthy redeemer. (2 Corinthians 8:9)
Boaz becomes the great-grandfather of Kind David. Jesus was born in the family line of King David (of the tribe of Judah) to fulfill prophecy and to further reveal to us that he is God’s ‘kinsman-redeemer’ for each of us. What an incredible Savior we have!