July 22, 2010 David Balzer

Ruth 3: The God of Redemption

We’re in the third week of a series of 4 on Ruth.

Before we launch into chapter 3, let’s get up to speed on where we’ve been.

Last week we looked at chapter two. Naomi and Ruth arrive back in Bethlehem from Moab. They’d lost everything there. Husbands, food and home. Naomi tries to get Ruth to stay behind. “There’s no way I’ll have any more sons who can marry you. And then you can have some kids. Not going to happen.”

But Ruth refuses to leave Naomi. “Where you go, I’ll go. Your people are MY people, and YOUR God is MY God.

And so they arrive back in Bethlehem. Naomi went away FULL, and came back EMPTY. Her name means sweet, but she reckons she should be called BITTER instead. All Naomi and Ruth have is each other. That’s the end of Ch1.

But by the end of chapter 2, things are looking promising. They’re just in time for the barley harvest. A six week window of opportunity. If things go well, they could set themselves up with enough food to last for a while.

Ruth heads out to the fields to GLEAN. To pick up the leftovers after the reapers have been through.

As luck would have it, she ends up on the farm of one of Ruth’s relatives.  His name’s Boaz, and he’s a good catch. A man of standing. He loves God, he’s rich, he looks after his employees well, he’s kind, AND he’s single.

They meet for the first time. And things go well. He seems to LIKE her. Despite Ruth being all hot and sweaty. Old work clothes on, hair in a mess. Boaz shows her respect, and kindness and generosity. Serves her lunch, warns off the farm hands, sets her up with some friends, even sends her home with some desert for Naomi.

Ruth comes home from the field that first day, tells Naomi all about it. At which point Naomi says, “Boaz is my close relative, one of our KINSMEN-REDEEMERS”.

The well-off, established, experienced man-of-the-world. Who’s job it was to make things right. To look after family. To do whatever needed to be done to protect, and provide and restore and redeem the family. And they could even MARRY the widows of brothers who died to make sure the family line continued, and to look after the widow.

What a coincidence that you’d end up there! He’s JUST THE BLOKE who can help us.

And so Ruth continues in the field, working at her part-time job, waiting for Boaz to make his move. To show an interest in her. To offer to do MORE than just look after her SHORT-TERM needs.

Sure, she’s happy with the food and the company. But that’s not going to solve the long-term problem. Of a family, and a heritage.

And time’s ticking away. The harvest lasted for about six weeks. After that, there’ll be no reason for her to keep hanging around Boaz. Naomi wants something to happen, Ruth wants something to happen. WE want something to happen.

After all, Boaz is the kinsmen-redeemer. He’s a good catch. Is he going to make his move?

Weeks go by. Each day, Naomi asks Ruth if she’s seen Boaz. Did he SAY anything? Did he DO anything?

So, what is Ruth going to do? Weeks go by, and nothing from Boaz.

What some Christian girls TODAY do, is they lower their standards. They widen their field. Can’t find a Christian guy to go out with. That guy at WORK seems to show an interest. He’s not a Christian, but does that really matter? It can’t be TOO bad if I go out with him. Can’t really do much harm, can it? After all, it’s not like I’m going to MARRY him!

But Ruth’s not going to DO that. She doesn’t run off back to Moab. To the sexually immoral and idolatrous people she grew up with. She’s committed to Naomi and her people. She’s committed to God. And so she’s going to wait for HIS TIMING. HIS providence. His protection.

1. Naomi’s Plan (v1-4)

And so we come to ch 3. And Naomi decides to put a plan into action. Harvest time’s nearly over. The clock’s ticking. She can’t wait for Boaz to make his move. She’ll have to provide him with SOME ENCOURAGEMENT. Normally it would be Ruth’s FATHER’S job. To arrange an introduction, and put a proposal together. But there’s no Dad around. The closest thing Ruth’s got is a mother-in-law.

And so Naomi cobbles together a plan. Look at verse 1

(Ruth 3:1 NIV)  “One day Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not try to find a home for you, where you will be well provided for?”

She tells Ruth, verse 3, to get a makeover. Wash, and put on your best clothes. Head off to the day spa. Get pampered. Put on your favourite perfume. Some killer heels.

After all, Boaz has only ever seen you hot and sweaty in your work clothes. SHOW him you’re not just one of the blokes.

And then here’s where it gets interesting. She’s to go to Boaz. Dressed to impress. Everything designed to knock his socks off. Don’t try to sanitise this! It’s no sombre and sterile business deal! It’s a MARRIAGE PROPOSAL that Naomi’s got planned. Well, at least it’s a proposal that BOAZ propose.

It’s the end of the harvest, and Boaz is down at the field having a huge party with all his workers. V3.

Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there UNTIL HE HAS FINISHED EATING AND DRINKING.

I like that. Wait until he’s got a full stomach, and he’s feeling relaxed. This is advice from a MARRIED woman. She knows the way men work. She’s BEEN married.

If there’s a bloke who’s not showing much interest, don’t go up to him BEFORE he’s eaten, and give him THE TALK. “I just want to know where our relationship is at. I though you were interested, but then you didn’t phone, and I don’t know what to think. What DO you think?”

Let me TELL you, if he’s hungry, what he’s PROBABLY thinking about is a big juicy steak and a cold beer!

This is good advice. SO FAR. Naomi continues v4.

{4} 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.””

I’ll BET he’ll tell you what to do!

There’s some debate about whether this is good advice or not. Wait until the guy you’re interested in has had a few drinks, he’s good and relaxed. You’re all dressed up, that great perfume on. When he lies down to sleep, sneak into the bed, and wait for him to tell you what to do.

At the very least, it’s RISKY. ESPECIALLY if you don’t know the bloke well. But I suppose Boaz has a good reputation, and he’s a member of the family. So perhaps Naomi’s showing her TRUST in God and in Boaz. And that he just needs a bit of a kick start.

Perhaps this is the best Naomi can come up with since Ruth’s FATHER isn’t around to organise the introduction PROPERLY.

I want to suggest it’s one of the places that DESCRIBES something that happens. Rather than PRESCRIBING what WE should do. It’s probably not advice I’d give to a young single Christian girl who wants to attract the attention of a bloke.

Whatever we decide, that’s what happens. Ruth does as she’s told. Because she’s the UNDERCOVER OPERATIVE.

2. The Undercover Operative (v7-9)

Verse 7. The action turns to Boaz. He finishes dinner. He’s had a few glasses of wine, and he’s in good spirits. It’s been a great harvest. The first after years of famine. There’s reason to celebrate.

He lays down to sleep. Guarding the grain heap.

And then Ruth makes her move. She tiptoes over, and sneaks under the doona. THE UNDERCOVER OPERATIVE IS ON THE CASE.

Imagine Ruth? Put yourself in her shoes. Wide awake! Sleep the furthest thing from her mind. Lying there, stiff as a board. Scarcely daring to breathe. Self-consciously holding the covers up under her chin.

She stares up at the night sky. Strange stars in this part of the world. “What on earth am I DOING here? I could be home under Mum and Dad’s roof. In my own bed. But I’m here in Israel. About to offer myself to some man I hardly know!”

She shakes her head in disbelief! All she can hear is the quiet breathing of Boaz. The man who holds her future in his hands. “What on earth am I DOING here?”

Perhaps she even got sick of waiting. Perhaps she gave Boaz a shove. It’s what Caron does when she “SAYS” I’ve been snoring. I don’t believe her, of course. I’ve never heard it!

Or perhaps her toes were getting cold. Not enough room under the doona when one person hogs most of it. So perhaps she gave the blankets a pull.

I’d say she must have done something. Because in the middle of the night, Boaz wakes up SUDDENLY. Something STARTLES him. The RSV is a bit quaint, but it expresses the idea pretty well

(v8) “and BEHOLD, a woman lay at his feet”

Now there’s lots of things I’d THINK of doing or saying if I found a strange woman under my covers in the middle of the night….. But Boaz chooses the simplest. “Who are you?” he says.

3. The plan goes wrong (?) (v9)

Now it’s here that the story starts to deviate from what Naomi said. The plan starts to go wrong. Or does it? Remember that Naomi didn’t tell Ruth to say ANYTHING. Just that Boaz will TELL HER what to do.

But listen to what Ruth does. She makes a REQUEST of Boaz. Verse 9.

“I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.”

Ruth HASN’T done what Naomi said. And so we think, “Hang on a minute! What’s going on here? What’s Ruth on about?”

“I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.”

And what we notice, or we WOULD if we read Hebrew, is that the word for “GARMENT” is the same word for “wing” in Chapter 2 verse 12. What Boaz prays that God would do for Ruth.

(Ruth 2:12 NIV)  “May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose WINGS you have come to take refuge.””

Ruth’s saying “Spread your wing over me”. She’s chosen to take refuge under God’s wings. And she’s asking BOAZ to protect her under HIS wing.

Boaz has PRAYED that God will reward Ruth. She’s being protected under God’s wings. And now, she asks that Boaz would protect her under HIS wing.

HOW can Ruth be protected under God’s wings? Humanly speaking, by being protected under Boaz’s wings.

One of the ways God’s purposes for his people are worked out/ is when they behave in godly ways towards each other. As they, in a sense, ANSWER THEIR OWN PRAYERS. And deal with kindness and generosity and love to people who need it. Because that’s the way God’s dealt with THEM.

Is that how WE’RE dealing with each other? And with those around us?

So Ruth wants to be under Boaz’s wing. But it’s more than just a figure of speech. In those days, when a man covered a woman with his cloak, it was a signal of intention to marry. It showed that she was under his protection. And so Ruth’s request was a proposal of marriage. Or at least a proposal that Boaz propose.

And that’s the way it was taken by Boaz. He’s obviously flattered by the attentions of the younger woman. Verse 10.

(Ruth 3:10 NIV)  “”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.”

She could have chased after younger men, but she obeyed her mother in law, and came to Boaz. It’s this loyalty that was better than her first display. When she left her family and country and came with Naomi to Bethlehem!

And here we get the answer to why Boaz has been a bit slow. Not because he wasn’t interested. Naomi and Ruth were getting impatient, wondering when he’d call. But he hadn’t made a move because he thought SHE wasn’t interested in HIM.

We find out before long that he’s a man of action. He’ll do whatever it takes for the marriage to happen. And he’ll do it TODAY. So it’s not because he can’t be BOTHERED. He just thought Ruth was out of his league.

So single girls, don’t assume a guy not interested just because he’s not knocking you over with offers. Most of us blokes PRETEND we’re confident, but we’re not really. So perhaps he just doesn’t think he’s in your league.

And Boaz, once he realises what Ruth’s thinking/ he’s pretty chuffed with the attention.

10 “The LORD bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier:

There’s that word again. Kindness. HESED. Covenant faithfulness. Loving kindness. Same word used about God’s kindness in his dealings with Ruth and Naomi. Same word used to describe how Ruth treats Naomi. And how Boaz treats Ruth.

In that sense seems like they’re WELL-SUITED. In fact, if you look at v11, we find out she’s actually got a REPUTATION for being the sort of person who shows this sort of behaviour.

“Everyone knows that you are a WOMAN OF NOBLE CHARACTER.”

It’s the same phrase that described Boaz when we first met him. Ch 2 v1. A man OF STANDING. Iysh gabor hayil –MAN of GREAT / STANDING. And here we’ve got Ruth described as an iyshah hayil. A woman of standing.

They’re well-suited. They’re what Paul in 2 Cor 6:14 calls EQUALLY YOKED. He says there, to Christians, “Don’t be UNEQUALLY YOKED with UNBELIEVERS”.

Boaz and Ruth are WELL-MATCHED. One might be old, rich, and Jewish, the other might be young, poor and Moabite. But they both love God, they’re both of noble character, well thought-of, and they both treat people with KINDNESS.

God wants you to marry someone you’re EQUALLY YOKED with. You can both travel along life’s journey TOGETHER. Not one dragging the other along in God’s direction. Or constantly reminding them to pray, or to live God’s way. God’s design is for a couple to be walking together, both loving God, both encouraging each other. That’s the BEST sort of partnership.

And, despite their differences, despite the barriers, it seems like that’s what Boaz and Ruth have got.

4. Boaz’s Plan (v11-15)

And Boaz is pretty pleased. He’s glad to help. And he takes charge. “I’ll do it!” But there’s a spanner in the works. Verse 12

(Ruth 3:12 NIV)  “Although it is true that I am near of kin, there is a kinsman-redeemer nearer than I.”

The course of true love never runs smooth. There’s some obstacles to be cleared first. There’s a CLOSER relative to Naomi than Boaz. And HE’S first in line to play the part of the kinsman-redeemer.

What if this OTHER BLOKE steps up to the plate? Is the love story going to be ruined? What if this OTHER RELATIVE keeps our two lovers apart? What if he ruins all of Naomi’s careful planning? What’s going to happen?

But perhaps we should be confident that Boaz is going to sort it out. He’s that sort of guy. Remember, he’s a man of standing. A good catch. He’s going to do what kinsmen-redeemers DO. Fix problems. Get the job done. He’ll do whatever it takes to make sure Ruth is looked after.

And he’ll do it QUICKLY. V13. Don’t worry your pretty little head about it. Just lie down and go to sleep.

(Ruth 3:13 NIV)  “Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to redeem, good; let him redeem. But if he is not willing, as surely as the LORD lives I will do it. Lie here until morning.””

Don’t go home now. Too many drunk farmers out and about. Town’s too far away. I’ll look after it. FIRST THING in the MORNING. I’ll sort it.

So early next morning, before anyone can tells who’s who. Boaz loads her up with barley, and she goes back to Naomi. Just like in Ch 2. FULL. BUCKETS OF BARLEY! ANOTHER present for the future mother-in-law. Remember, fellas, this is good advice. Make sure you don’t just impress the girl. But impress her MUM, TOO.

Naomi excitedly asks her how things went, She probably didn’t get a wink of sleep. And Ruth fills her in. Naomi’s buzzing. Verse 18. (Ruth 3:18 NIV)  “Then Naomi said, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today.””

The story’s not finished yet, but we have the same quiet confidence that Naomi has – that things are going to work out alright, don’t we? The same confidence in the loyalty and trustworthiness of Boaz. The same confidence that God’s sovereign hand is controlling these events. In fact we can’t wait to read on, and find out how Boaz IS going to settle the matter. We might be a little worried by this other relative – but not too worried!

For Naomi, it was a risky plan. Ruth could have been harmed. Or had her reputation ruined. But Boaz, and God, have both rewarded Ruth’s kindness and faithfulness, by showing HER kindness and faithfulness.

So what do we do with Ruth 3?

The Old Testament refers to God a lot as “Redeemer”. We don’t use the word much these days, but the basic idea is about BUYING BACK. It describes the way God acts to buy us back to himself.

In Exod 6, God says to Moses

(Exo 6:2-8 NIV)  “I am the LORD. {3} I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, … I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant. {6} “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I WILL REDEEM YOU with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. {7} I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. {8} And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.'””

The people are in the Promised Land because of God’s redemption. Every law he gives them is about how to live IN RESPONSE TO THAT REDEMPTION. Every relative who redeems a family member reflects the redeeming acts of God.

More than that, every act of a kinsman-redeemer REMINDS Israel of GOD’S gracious redemption. And every act BRINGS ABOUT more of God’s blessing.

God’s blessing in the land means freedom, justice, land, children.

All the things kinsmen-redeemers go about PROVIDING. Freedom, justice, land and children. Showing kindness and faithfulness to family. This is the purpose of the story of Ruth and Boaz.

Ruth is a picture of Israel – the stranger brought from another land. And Boaz is a picture of God and his covenant faithfulness who spreads his wing over his bride.

WE’VE been brought from the same destitute position as Ruth – poor and helpless foreigners, without hope- into a rich family relationship. Rescued by God who loves us, and pays a rich price for us.

5. Jesus – OUR Kinsman-Redeemer (Gal 3:13-14)

But there’s MORE. As we look at this story with New Testament eyes, through the lens of Jesus. As we look with Gentile eyes, we see the parallels even more clearly.

Because JESUS is OUR kinsman-redeemer. A great great great grandson of Boaz. A man just like us – one of our kin! Who willingly paid the price to set us free.

Paul describes what Jesus did like THIS in Titus 2:14

Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to REDEEM us from all wickedness and to PURIFY for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

He bought us, purified us. Punished in our place. That we could be forgiven. Jesus is our Boaz. We, the church, are Ruth.

And here’s the KEY POINT in the story of Boaz and Ruth. The bit that really REEKS of Jesus.

Boaz didn’t HAVE TO DO IT. Didn’t have to look after Ruth. It was a closer relative’s obligation. That’s the crucial point in the story. There was no expectation on Boaz.

Why did he do it?

GRACE. UNDESERVED FAVOUR. KINDNESS. He LOVED Ruth.

Same with Jesus. Nothing about US that deserved rescuing. All of us / sinners and rebels. But he did it because he LOVED us. At any time, he could have pulled out of the plan. Taken himself down from the cross. But he went there because of his obedience to God, his desire to see him glorified, and because of his love for us.

A few verses on in Titus, Paul says THIS about God’s action in sending Jesus. And what it had to do with US. Titus 3.4.

4 But when the KINDNESS and LOVE of God our Savior appeared (in other words, when JESUS appeared), 5 he saved us, NOT BECAUSE OF RIGHTEOUS THINGS WE HAD DONE (he didn’t HAVE to), but because of his MERCY.

He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us GENEROUSLY through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been JUSTIFIED BY HIS GRACE, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

Boaz, the kinsman-redeemer, will save Ruth, and give her a FAMILY.

Jesus, OUR kinsmen-redeemer, saved us so that we might become HEIRS. That we might receive a family. That we might become part of a family FOR EVER.

1. If you DON’T know that, then why not accept his offer? Let Jesus be the kinsman-redeemer who rescues YOU. Sets YOU free. And makes you AN HEIR?

It’s as simple as doing what Ruth did to Boaz. ASK. You don’t even need to dress up. Ask Jesus to rescue you. To forgive you. To make you part of his family.

2. And if that’s something you DO know, then you need to live in RESPONSE to that. Just like Israel. They responded to God’s redemption by redeeming each other, by dealing faithfully and lovingly and sacrifically. That’s how we are to treat each other. To stand by each other. To support. Care. Go the extra mile.

To use God’s redemption as our motivation. And Boaz’s motivation as our example. We are the people of God who work out God’s purposes as we deal faithfully with each other. Let’s make that our prayer. And our desire. And our goal.

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