Ruth 3.1-18 Hope in Petition
July 22, 2012 Series: Hope | The book of Ruth
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Ruth 3:1–3:18
Intro: From Bitterness to Hope
We are in the third chapter of the story of Ruth, one that takes place during the time of Judges. And like the book of Judges, the first chapter of Ruth was full of hopelessness. Starving families felt forced to move away from God and His people, fathers and husbands died, no babies were born, and one mother and two daughters, all widows, are left to fend for themselves. One of the daughters, Orpah—whose name means gazelle—runs home to her pagan people and their pagan gods. The other daughter, Ruth—whose name mean friend—remains committed to her mother-in-law Naomi, and her God. Naomi leads her back to Bethlehem where she asks her community not to call her Naomi—meaning God is sweet. Instead, she wants to be called Mara—meaning bitter—saying, “I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty.” By the end of chapter 1, God’s involvement feels bitter and the future looks hopeless.
In the second chapter of Ruth, God’s invisible hand is revealed as working in countless ways to bring about his plan for redemption of Ruth, Naomi, and the world. Relocating a family away from God and His people (to what he thinks will be life in a pagan land) finds only death; gleaning laws written for the fatherless, sojourner, and widows in mind (like Ruth); a man raised by a faithful harlot, “who just happens” to be very old, single, and respected all converge to create an environment where Ruth and Boaz could meet and, eventually, fall in love. What was tragedy upon, God transforms into grace upon grace for Ruth, for Naomi, for Boaz, and ultimately everyone who would trust Jesus. By the end of chapter 2, hope has returned for Naomi and what was ‘God hates me and has dealt bitterly with me,” as become, “His kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!”
Chapter three reveals the power of a little hope.
v. 1-5 Released to Plan…and Dream
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? 2 Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. 3 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. 4 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.” 5 And she replied, “All that you say I will do.”
No Hope and Inaction
While a little hope is a powerful thing, someone without hope is often paralyzed. At the end of chapter 2, Naomi was hopeless. She felt everything, including God, was against her. Her bitterness blinded her to the graces that were all around her, including Ruth and what we learn are several kinsman redeemers that live in the city. Her hopelessness led her to a depression that prevented her from dreaming, planning, or doing anything. After the death of her sons, while in Moab, she worked the fields. At the beginning of chapter two, it almost sounds like she can barely get out of bed to do anything beyond mustering enough energy to allow Ruth to go glean. Without a little hope you easily become a victim, and victims never see beyond the moment. But without hope for the future, without a vision for what could be, without dreams, there is no action. There is only management of the day to day and a survivalist mentality that is unpleasant, uninspiring, and uneventful. All we need is a little light, a little dream, a little hope.
A Little Hope and Action
We can see what a little hope does to Naomi—it transforms her. She begins to make elaborate plans to get Ruth married. She again identifies Boaz as their relative, identifying his role as a Kinsman Redeemer. Built into the law of God is hope for those who lose everything. Basically, a blood relative known as a kinsman redeemer was to step in to rescue in certain situations (probably explained to Ruth):
1. Property: Redeem property that had to be sold by impoverished relative for money 2. Slavery: Redeem a person who had to sell themselves into slavery3. Execution: Redeem by killing, for the murder of a clan relative 4. Restitution: Redeem as recipient of restitution for a deceased clan member wronged 5. Lawsuit: Redeem as representative and assistant in a lawsuit 6. Young Widow: Redeem the wife of a deceased clan relative to continue name7. Old Widow: Redeem a clan widow facing old age w/o anyone to care for
But Naomi’s plan to get Boaz to marry Ruth is pretty radical. I don’t know what is more difficult, understanding why THIS is the plan, or why Ruth goes along with it. God’s providence, the fact that he is involved in our lives guiding and directing all things, does not mean we don’t make plans. On the contrary, it means we make radical plans. Radical plans for God are some of the most inspiring and hope-filled things there are, whether they are for individuals, for families, or for churches. And God’s providence allows us to answer the question, “How is this going to all work out?” with a VERY CONFIDENT—I haven’t a clue—but I am motivated and driven by faith in God! Proverbs 16.1-3: The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. So the great plan is for this good looking young girl to get herself pretty and perfumed up, go down to where old man Boaz is sleeping off his harvest celebration, uncover his feet and cuddle up next to him. Then just wait for him to tell you what to do next. Where is this going to lead? Moab was conceived the last time a man laid down with a young woman after drinking.
v. 6-8 A Hope-filled Act
6 So she went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had commanded her. 7 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. 8 At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet! 9 He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.”
Hope and Risk
Courageously, Ruth follows the instructions, approaches a sleeping Boaz, uncovers his feet, and quietly lies down next to them. At midnight, something startles Boaz (?) so that he turns over to discover every single guys’ dream—a beautiful young woman lying next to him. He is shocked and we wait to see his reaction as there are some many ways this can go wrong. As much as Boaz has shown favor, Noami’s plan has placed both Ruth and Boaz in a very precarious position. Boaz could reject her, mock her, accuse her, he could even take advantage of her. Ruth, for her part, could be rebuffed, abused, and potentially lose all of the protection and relief that Boaz has offered at this point. One way or another, this relationship will be changed—it will never be the same after tonight. She risks all the material benefits of the world he has created for her, to just get him. For the most part, we do not have the courage to be radical in our faith or risk failure because we have a MISPLACED HOPE. When you take risks in HOPE of getting God, and not just his stuff, there is no such thing as failure. Matthew 6.31-33 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Hope in God’s Word, specifically about the law of redeemer, leads her to take initiative—to act on God’s promises.
Hope and Petition
And we see that she is not Naomi’s puppet but a willing participant, Ruth strays from the script and makes a bold request. I want you to spread your wing (or skirt) over me. Boaz had used the same phrase in describing Ruth’s commitment to Naomi, and the only other place in Scripture is when God uses the same words to describe his own relationship to his people. Ezekiel 16.8. 8 “When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord God, and you became mine. The scene is sexually provocative, easily misconstrued, but her bold request is made carefully clear. I don’t want to just have sex with you—this is not about some momentary pleasure or temporal relief; I want your protection, your love, your life-long commitment. Her HOPE in Boaz is so great because Ruth realizes, without his redemption, she essentially has nothing. This is what our HOPE in Jesus is supposed to look like. When know you have BIG NEED, you have BIG HOPE—that is all you have. But when you know the BIGNESS of the REDEEMER—you have BIG FAITH-FILLED petitions. C.S. Lewis in his sermon entitled "The Weight of Glory" says: "If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong but too weak. We are halfhearted creatures fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mudpies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."
v. 10-15 Boaz’s Hope-filled Response
10 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. 11 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. 12 And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I. 13 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.” 14 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.” 15 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.
Boaz is moved by her “second kindness”. The first kindness was forsaking her first family to commit to Naomi and her family. Her second kindness is forsaking all of the younger more attractive men for boring, but godly, Boaz. Her calling, her mission, her desires, and her decision-making are not driven by something as superficial as personal preferences. Let’s be honest, that is how most of us make major decisions—where we live, where we work, who we marry, even what church we go to. Ruth has not simply evaluated what “best aligns with what she wants” out of all the available options; she endeavors to act in accord with trusted counsel, God’s Word, and providential opportunity.
Do not be afraid
There isn’t an answer right away and begins his response by calling her “my daughter” [uh-oh]. He basically says… may you be blessed….what a kind gesture….[DRAMATIC PAUSE]…..then he finally calms her fear-filled heart, “DO NOT BE AFRAID…I will save you.” His response is just as radical as her request, vowing before the Lord to redeem her. But then, there appears to be a little “hiccup” in his plan. Things may not end the way Ruth had envisioned. Boaz reports that there is another man. We see the Boaz is also one whose actions are NOT driven by personal preference—he has respect for the law of God—and he is not willing to compromise God’s Word even if he can justify the “blessing” it would appear to create. The goal for both Ruth and Boaz is redemption—so much so that they will risk their own comfort, own plans, even their own happiness for what is a picture of the gospel.
Conclusion: V. 16-18 The Return
He instructs her to sleep there for the night and acts to protect her from potential scandal by sending her home with barley. 16 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, 17 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.’ ” 18 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.”
Hope and Timing
Ruth returns home the next morning and Naomi is looking for the ring—are you engaged? Ruth reports all that happened and emphasizes the six measures of barley he gave her was for Naomi—we see NAOMI’s emptiness beginning to be filled up by God. And the last verse of chapter 3 reminds us that faith in God’s providence sometimes means we act, and sometimes it means we don’t. In the beginning of the chapter, driven by a renewed hope, Naomi seized the opportunity and instructed Ruth to act. And act she did. Her plan was radical, and it required a radical faith and a radical hope. Now, she tells her daughter to WAIT. Sometimes ACTING for the LORD is the hardest and most radical thing we must do in the moment. Sometimes WAITING on the LORD is the hardest and most radical thing we must do.
Hope and Love
In the end, what we have is a love story between a young widow and a man. But, as I said before, this is in truth a love story that pictures God and His people. What moves me more than the actions, or lack thereof, of these characters is the motivation behind what they do. Naomi was not obligated to find Ruth a husband. Ruth was not obligated to follow her radical plan. Most importantly, Boaz was not obligated to marry Ruth.
What we truly have here is a picture of how God relates to us—he loves us though he is not obligated by anything outside of himself to do so. And, this also demonstrates how his children are to relate to him. We don’t obey God out of fear of what he might do to us if we don’t. The promised redemption of the gospel, the unconditional, undeserved, willful love of Jesus Christ changes our motivation. As Tim Keller writes, …when you are deeply in love and sure of the other person’s unconditional commitment to you, there is a kind of fear motivation. But it is not primarily fear for you — that you may be rejected and hurt —but fear for the other — that he or she will be dishonored and hurt. The love of God motivates us toward a love FOR God. And a love FOR God moves us to live radically, give generously, and love graciously.