Ok, here we go. We reach fever pitch today in this love story involving Ruth and Boaz. And, as we’ve seen, this love story mirrors in so many ways the love story playing out in the spiritual world between God and his people. Boaz, like Jesus, is the Prince Charming, capable of bestowing favor on the hopeless widow from Moab. Like Jesus, he knows about Ruth and seeks her out when she has no clue who he is. And, like Jesus, Boaz’ kindness begins to soften her heart towards him. Today, we watch Ruth discover that Boaz is far more than she thought. He’s not just a nice guy. He is, like Jesus, so much more. And it leads to this incredibly risky step that will determine what the rest of her life will be. Let’s pick up the action in chapter 2, verse 17.
Ruth 2:17-19 - So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. And she took it up and went into the city. Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also brought out and gave her what food she had left over after being satisfied. And her mother-in-law said to her, "Where did you glean today? And where have you worked? Blessed be the man who took notice of you.”
So, Naomi sees this enormous amount of grain Ruth lugs home—probably about 50 pounds—and she knows two things. Ruth is some kind of specimen, because that’s a lot of weight! She also knows Ruth didn’t get all that from just working hard. Someone had to make it possible.
Ruth 2:19-20 - So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, "The man's name with whom I worked today is Boaz.” And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, "May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!" Naomi also said to her, "The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.”
It’s pretty clear Ruth has no clue as to who Boaz is. She didn’t purpose to head to his field, hoping to meet him or anything. She’s just wandering around, hoping to find some food, doing the best she can. And out of nowhere, Boaz shows up. Ruth’s lot like us before we met Jesus. We had no clue that Jesus was actually very much aware of us and had plans to seek us out. Ruth goes on:
Ruth 2:21-23 - And Ruth the Moabite said, "Besides, he said to me, 'You shall keep close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.'" And Naomi said to Ruth, her daughter-in-law, "It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, lest in another field you be assaulted." So she kept close to the young women of Boaz, gleaning until the end of the barley and wheat harvests. And she lived with her mother-in-law.
Some good advice here from Naomi. You’d be smart, Ruth, to hang out as close to Boaz as you can get. He’s a redeemer. He’s related to me. He can, should he choose, use all of that wealth and influence to change our lives for the good. And Ruth buys in. Boaz continues to make it easy for Ruth to gather grain. We don’t know whether they had more chats over lunch as they did that first day when Boaz suddenly arrives in the field. All we know is that Ruth purposed to stay as close as she could, just in case Boaz decided he was interested in more than just seeing that she and Naomi got some grain.
Ruth 3:1-5 - 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.”
And, like every great romantic epic, here comes the crisis that threatens to separate our lovebirds. Yeah, the harvest is all but over. The final stage of the harvest is underway--winnowing time. And when that’s over, Ruth will have no excuse to be on Boaz’ property, no reason to be in close proximity to this person who could bring that “happily ever after” conclusion we all want in a great love story. So, what to do?? Because “staying close” hasn’t gotten the job done. Boaz has not shown any willingness or interest in being more than just a nice guy who ensures Naomi and Ruth get some grain to eat so they don’t starve to death.
Naomi comes up with this desperation move. Boaz and his team will be finishing up the winnowing—separating the grain from the chaff. And when he’s done and the grain all gathered into the barn, a huge celebration will occur. After that Boaz will literally sleep at the foot of the grain to keep anyone from robbing him. Ruth, you go then, when he’s asleep, uncover his feet and lay down at his feet. He’ll surely wake up when his feet get cold, and when he does, you just do what he tells you.
And Ruth’s got to know this is a huge risk. A single woman, out alone, after dark? And a Moabite to boot? She’s already aware that she’s at risk for being assaulted. And what if Boaz gets angry. We might not be allowed to glean in his fields next year, and then how will we get food? But desperate times call for desperate measures, and Ruth agrees to this crazy idea.
Before we move on, this really does paint a nifty picture of the cross for us. Our Jesus figure, Boaz, has separated the wheat, the good grain, from the chaff. He would burn the chaff but bring the good grain, those who have come to Him for salvation, into his barn and protect it. This is what the cross does for us. It’s where Jesus has made possible the rescue of everyone who would ever come to him in faith. The hard work is done, and He can rest, knowing it’s all secure. And it’s at this point that Ruth comes to Boaz.
And Naomi tells Ruth to get prettied up. Why? Because Ruth is not just curious. She means business. And that’s how we come to Jesus, too, not just on Christmas and Easter like many people. But desperate and serious about Him taking us for His own. And she’s going to lay at Boaz’ feet, in desperation, serious, and in submission, knowing he is her only shot. She uncovers his feet, and she waits, hoping against all hope that this ends well, that he won’t think she’s like the Moabite women of old who only wanted to seduce and lead men to worship false gods.
Ruth 3:6-9 - 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.
Note those last two words—your servant. She’s referred to herself a few times this way earlier, and she does it again here. And this is how we come to Jesus. We are not his equals. And if we want Him to save us, it comes down to our recognizing that Jesus is King, and we are servants. A lot of people approached Jesus in the the New Testament, and many of them left disappointed that it required this level of commitment to get salvation.
Ruth 3:9 - Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.”
And then this precious little verse. This is where Ruth departs from the game plan outlined by Naomi. She doesn’t wait for him to tell her what to do. Instead, she blurts out this sentence. And what’s she’s asking for is for Boaz to take her as his wife. She wants not even one second of ambiguity about her intentions. She has no intention of having Boaz think she’s there to seduce him.
Ruth 3:10 - 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.
Of course, her first kindness was committing to take care of Naomi when their husbands died. And as grand as that we, Boaz is even more impressed that she didn’t go after some young hunk.
Ruth 3:11-13 - 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.”
Now, put yourself in Boaz’ place. A young woman whom you’ve helped and been nice to suddenly shows up at your feet in the middle of the night proposing marriage. I mean, you’ve not even been dating! What do you do? Immediately accept the offer? I think not. So, this tells me a little something about Boaz. He probably has fallen in love with Ruth, and she doesn’t even know it. But he figured, “Hey, I’m kinda old for her, and she’d never want me anyway. She’s going to have her choice of guys.” It’s just me, of course, because we don’t have this recorded in Scripture, but I suspect Boaz really wanted Ruth as his wife—he was just to afraid to pursue her in that way for fear of rejection. Why else would he jump at the chance to make it happen so quickly?
And into this perfect ending is thrown the monkey wrench. Boaz would love to marry her, but wait, there’s another relative who has dibs. Boaz commits to going and see if he can work this all out.
Ruth 3:14-15 - 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.
This is a great verse, not only in our story of Ruth and Boaz, but in our story of God and us. Boaz, confirming his intention to marry Ruth and his commitment to working everything out with this other relative, gives Ruth a down payment from all his wealth as a good faith gesture that he’s coming back for her. This is similar to the down payment Jesus gives us that He’s coming back for us. Check out Ephesians 1:13-14. It tells us the the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance in Christ until we actually acquire possession of it.
Ruth 3:16-18 - 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.”
And there you have your role spelled out in your salvation and your eternal life, your happily ever after. Absolutely nothing. You just wait. Jesus went away to deal with that payment required by our sin. He’s risen, seating at the right hand of God the Father. He’s preparing a place for us, and He’s coming back for us so we can be with Him where He is. And while we’re waiting, we have the Holy Spirit, not only to empower us to live the life of Jesus down here, but as a constant reminder that Jesus is coming back for us.
Next week, we get to see if Boaz can pull this off. Since Jesus didn’t fail, there’s a good chance we’re headed for a happy ending!!