(Please read Ruth 3:1-18 in any version of the Bible. I have prepared these remarks with the NIV.)
A “job interview question” about three people at a bus stop, by Alvin Alexander, Aug 5, 2011
You are driving down the road in your car on a wild and stormy night. The weather is like a hurricane, with heavy rains, high winds, and lightning flashing constantly. While driving, you come across a partially-covered bus stop, and you can see three people waiting for a bus:
- An old woman who looks as if she is about to die.
- An old friend who once saved your life.
- The perfect partner you have been dreaming about.
You can pick up the old woman, because she is going to die, and thus you should save her first. Or you can take the old friend because he once saved your life, and this would be the perfect chance to pay him back. However, you may never be able to find your perfect mate again.<Retrieved on 7/16/15 from http://alvinalexander.com/blog/post/software-dev/job-interview-question-car-bus-stop-three-people.>
Marriages come about in all sorts of ways, don’t they? Today we’re continuing our look at Ruth and how her mother-in-law contrived to put Ruth into an arranged marriage.
The answer from the Bruce Willis character in “16 Blocks:” “I would give the car keys to my old friend, and let him take the old woman to the hospital. Then I would stay behind and wait for the bus with the partner of my dreams.”
Knowing that you only have room for one passenger in your car (it’s a really small car), which one would you choose to offer a ride to? And why?
Message: The love of God and the love of His people will always find a way to do the right thing.
- Naomi acted as a match-maker.
It is no disrespect of Scripture or Naomi to say that there is some kind-hearted manipulation in her. Ruth gleaned in the same fields for SEVEN WEEKS without any mention of marriage! So Naomi decided to take matters into her own hands. What may have motivated her to do so?
– Naomi cared about Ruth and believed she was too young to be a widow all her life.
– The family name and lands would not be saved for future generations except as Ruth remarried.
– Naomi does not want to be a beggar all her life, so she’s providing a home for herself as well.
There is a biblical precedent for a widow taking an assertive, proactive role in this matter of remarriage to save her family. In Deuteronomy 25:7-9, provision is made in the Law for a widow to demand that the kinsman-redeemer marry her. If he refused, she was permitted to shame him by taking off his sandal, striking him with it and spitting on him!
So Naomi took initiative and set the stage for a kindly suggestion of marriage. She instructed Ruth to:
– “WASH AND PERFUME YOURSELF.”
– “PUT ON YOUR BEST CLOTHES.” These words are also used in Ezekiel 16:9-13 to describe a bride preparing for her wedding ceremony.
– “Go to where Boaz is, but don’t let him see you.” Ruth was a familiar sight at the fields of Boaz, so she might easily go unnoticed.
– “WHEN HE LIES DOWN…GO AND UNCOVER HIS FEET AND LIE DOWN.” Now THIS seems odd to us. Let’s note first that Boaz’s presence on the threshing floor that night proves again his unpretentious character. He had celebrated fellowship with his workers and spent the night with them too.
A difficulty for interpreters is that these actions have sexual connotations elsewhere in Scripture. But let me assure you there is no such double entendre here. Based on the context, we know the relationship between Ruth and Boaz was innocent, in spite of how these words might be taken elsewhere. (It’s similar to the way our culture takes the meaning of innocent words and twists them: “sleeping together” connotes activities other than sleep. Watch an old movie and you’ll find out the original meaning of “gay.”)
– “HE WILL TELL YOU WHAT TO DO.” It’s important to remind everyone of the righteous character of Naomi, Boaz, and Ruth. Naomi is not asking Ruth to do anything illicit. She’s merely devised a way to get Ruth and Boaz together but alone. She trusted Boaz to do the right thing and that’s exactly what he did!
We’re not told what Ruth thought about all this. What’s important is that she obeyed her mother-in-law; “I WILL DO WHATEVER YOU SAY.” (6-7).
Later, after this contrived encounter was concluded, Ruth returned home and gave Naomi a full accounting (16-18). Naomi was content to think that she’d done all she could do and left it in Boaz’s hands. This expresses confidence about the character of Boaz and also trust in God; He can handle this.
- Boaz was willing, but there was one hitch before they could be hitched.
All of this caught Boaz in an especially good mood (7). In these cultures, times of harvest and sheep-shearing were often celebrated with feasts. These could be drinking parties, but there’s no reason to assume that Boaz was drunk; as with the “uncovered feet,” this language should be taken literally, not euphemistically. The text reveals the opposite of a drunkard just as it reveals the opposite of a lecher. Boaz’s behavior indicates an intelligent, moral, and respectful man as well as a sober man. This should not be understood as luck, but as God’s hand directing events.
Boaz was suddenly awakened (by cold feet?!) and startled to find someone lying at his feet. If you’ve ever been awakened by the sensation that somebody is watching you, you know how creepy that feels. If not, we’ve all had the experience of awakening to find one’s self uncovered and feeling for your sheet and blanket.
Ruth identified herself and made a very specific request that sounds a little odd in our ears; “ SPREAD THE CORNER OF YOUR GARMENT OVER ME, SINCE YOU ARE MY KINSMAN-REDEEMER.” The formal nature of these words may imply that she knew enough about Israelite customs to understand what all this signified. Or perhaps she’d been thoroughly coached by Naomi on the right words to say. Either way, this is a euphemism for marriage and, more generally, a plea for protection. The corner of a garment is likened to a bird protecting its young.
Boaz received Ruth’s statement with enthusiasm tempered by duty. He showed enthusiasm for the idea of marriage to her in verses ten to eleven.
– Boaz blessed Ruth and spoke kindly to her: “THE Lord BLESS YOU, MY DAUGHTER.”
– He appreciated her intention: “THIS KINDNESS IS GREATER THAN THAT WHICH YOU SHOWED EARLIER: YOU HAVE NOT RUN AFTER THE YOUNGER MEN, WHETHER RICH OR POOR.” This is a Sadie Hawkins kind of approach; Ruth had effectively asked Boaz to marry her. He was flattered and pleased that she had chosen him over younger men and without regard to material wealth.
– He complimented her: “AND NOW, MY DAUGHTER, DON’T BE AFRAID. I WILL DO FOR YOU ALL YOU ASK. ALL THE PEOPLE OF MY TOWN KNOW THAT YOU ARE A WOMAN OF NOBLE CHARACTER.” Boaz Said this to calm any fears Ruth might have about offending him with her assertive behavior. You know how sensitive men can be about being told what to do! In fact, he swears an oath, “AS SURELY AS THE LORD LIVES.” A WOMAN OF NOBLE CHARACTER is a phrase used in Proverbs 31:10 to describe the “ideal woman.”
Boaz was also a man who knew his duty as the Law defined it. He was obedient to the letter of the law (12-13). This is a refreshing attitude in any age! He knew of one who was nearer in kinship to Naomi and Ruth than he. By law, this man had the first choice of whether or not to redeem Ruth.
Let’s note that he did not send Ruth to this other man; that would have been awkward and potentially unkind. Instead, he insisted on going to speak to him on her behalf. Interestingly, the Hebrew word for widow means “one who has no voice.” Boaz volunteered to be Ruth’s voice in this matter.
The end of this passage leaves the reader with a bit of a “cliffhanger” and three more demonstrations of Boaz’s loving-kindness (13-15).
– Out of concern for Ruth’s safety, he required her to remain with him through the night (13-14). In the most civilized situations, gadding about in the middle of the night can carry some danger. This was NOT the most civilized situation.
– Out of a concern for her reputation, he required her to leave early, before anyone else saw that she’d been there all night. We must work to have a good conscience and at the same time a good reputation. Gossips are going to gossip, but we don’t need to give them any ammunition!
– Out of a concern for Ruth’s household, he generously gave her some more barley to take to her mother-in-law (15-17). The measure described here is close to what we saw Ruth glean in a whole day’s work in chapter 2. It was about as much as she could carry. Additionally, if anyone happened to take notice of Ruth in the morning, her carrying grain away would look like she’d had a purpose in being around the threshing floor; this was another way of denying the gossips anything to talk about.
In his sermon on Ruth 3, Pastor Ryan O’Bryan wrote:
“From the stories I’ve heard, many proposals don’t happen soon enough for one or the other person in the relationship! I heard a story of one guy who really put things off. He’d been going with a young woman for six years and still nothing by way of proposal.
“One evening, she decided she’d do something! They sat down at a favorite Chinese restaurant and were ready to order dinner. When the waiter asked the woman, “how do you want your rice?” she said ‘thrown!’”
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In verse seventeen Ruth quotes Boaz as having told her, “Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.” These are the last words of Ruth recorded in the book that bears her name.
As Pastor Peter Loughman wrote, these are the words that define this woman: “Ruth is a model of selfless concern for others. Ruth is the poster child of Jesus’ teaching: The greatest in the kingdom is the servant of all. Ruth is the living model of the New Testament truth: The last shall be first. Ruth is the personification of getting to the top by fighting your way to the bottom.”
<Retrieved on 7/16/15 from http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/from-zero-to-hero-peter-loughman-sermon-on-hardship-of-life-134755.asp.>
When you’ve reached the bottom, be certain, by faith, that love will find a way to get you back on top again.