In the intro post to the Ruth series, we began to examine the setting, plot, and characters. In Ruth chapter two, the storyline continues as we are introduced to another character, a good man named Boaz. He was described as a worthy man (2:1): a man of substance (both materially and morally). Boaz was single, a potential redeemer, and a man of mercy and justice. Boaz was welcoming and we must have the same posture when loving others. We have a picture of what God’s love is like through this story and it’s much different than the love portrayed in a movie or stage production. Boaz lavished kindness on Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, who recognized that he could be a redeemer for them if he were to marry Ruth. In Boaz’s hospitality, we have a strong missional application – We are to love people as God has loved us, in response to His. Biblical love contrasts worldly love.
Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you? Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do.” And she replied, “All that you say I will do.” So she went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had commanded her. And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down. At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet! He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” And he said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I. Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.” So she lay at his feet until the morning, but arose before one could recognize another. And he said, “Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.” And he said, “Bring the garment you are wearing and hold it out.” So she held it, and he measured out six measures of barley and put it on her. Then she went into the city. And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “How did you fare, my daughter?” Then she told her all that the man had done for her, saying, “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said to me, ‘You must not go back empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’ ” She replied, “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today.” - Ruth 3:1-18
In previous chapters, Naomi was focused on herself and now we see her looking out for Ruth. What happens when we get our eyes off ourselves and focus on serving others? As we see evidenced throughout history, God works to prepare people for mission. Naomi cared greatly for her daughter-in-law. She desired to see her married with children. Ruth was modest (almost to a fault) so Naomi stepped in to do for her what she could not. In looking back to the beginning of chapter two, Ruth takes action to provide for Naomi and herself (2:2). Naomi now takes initiative as she devises a plan to find security for Ruth. Ruth conducted herself respectfully toward Naomi, and so it was out of gratitude she desired rest for Ruth by way of marriage.
Naomi knew Boaz was a wise and honorable man. And although the plan she devised looks suspicious to us, she was aware of the customs and laws of the day. She knew those laws much more so than Ruth (Deut. 25:7-9). God works in revealing the needs of his people and Boaz was Naomi’s close kin, so in this way she was also protecting the lineage after Mahlon’s death. Naomi knew Boaz to be a God-fearing, religious man. She also knew Ruth to be a woman of Titus 2:5. Ruth was a woman of too much sense and too much virtue to promise as she did in 3:5 if there was any evil intent. Boaz was a wise manager of his affairs. He encouraged the servants and watched closely to prevent careless mistakes. He had some of the character traits as his father, Jacob, who was a plan, common sense man.
It’s in chapter three that we see a contrast in the world’s understanding of love with the biblical understanding and though it may seem odd that Ruth went so directly to Boaz, it was considered an appropriate custom at the time. Ruth made it known that she had come in the night to be under his protection. She was appealing to Boaz as the kinsman-redeemer to guard and protect the future. Can you think of a time God placed you in a situation where he asked you to step out boldly for Him? We see that God works through Ruth’s boldness. Boaz knew it was not a lustful or sinful act. Unlike many love stories today, their honor was maintained. Boaz praised Ruth for her boldness, protected her reputation by sending her home before light, and provided for her in the short term with grain and in the long term as her redeemer. For Boaz, it would be a decision that affected the legacy of Elimelech and his family.
Ruth was honorable to Naomi but also the family, due to her presence and desire to continue the line in marriage instead of seeking elsewhere (3:10). Boaz knew of a man nearby who was closer in kinship (v. 12-13). Boaz would do his part if the other kinsman refused. Boaz dismissed Ruth with a gift of grain to present to her mother-in-law. Ruth explained to Naomi the situation at hand. These outpourings of kindness would likely have stirred up Ruth’s own feelings toward Boaz. And yet, Naomi advises Ruth to be patient. The ball was in his court, so to speak. Fretting would accomplish nothing. How can you trust God with the details of your life? Naomi advised Ruth to sit and wait (because of Naomi’s trust in Boaz) to be sure she was taken care of. When no more action can be taken and nothing remains but to wait patiently for God to work out His will, do you allow doubt or worry to creep in?
Many of us find ourselves in less than ideal situations, and have a tendency to blame someone else for why we are there. Ruth did not even mention Naomi, though she very well could have. She merely made a request aligned with her rights given in Leviticus. And later, God would provide for her a way to find rest and provision through marriage. Have there been times in your life when you thought God would work things out one way, but He resolved them in a completely different way?
As Believers, our relationships are not by chance. That may sound like a bit of a stretch but if we believe everything we do and everything we have is for His glory, the people in our lives are for a purpose. We are where we are, with whom we are for a purpose. What would change for you, your attitudes and interactions, if you lived believing this to be true? How would your friendships and relationships change if their goal was to honor God for His own glory?
For further study, read: Genesis 19; 38:1-30, Judges 21:25, Hosea 9:1, 2 Samuel 12:20, Proverbs 31:31, Rom 10:9; 8:23, Ephes 5:28-33, Luke 11:13
*Sources will be listed in the last post of the series.