Ruth: From Ruin to Redemption | Act 3: The Perilous Proposal | Dec 11, 2022
Good morning! If I have not had the pleasure of meeting you my name is John and I serve Mission Church as the Senior Pastor. I am honored and humbled to be with you this morning… especially as we continue our current sermon series through the book of Ruth entitled, “From Ruin to Redemption.”
The story of Ruth takes place during the time of the Judges … a time in which everyone did what was right in their own eyes ...and as a result… it was a time of great chaos and violence. But in the midst of the darkness ....we are given a beautiful story of hope. Now…go ahead and grab a Bible and open it to Ruth 3. While you’re turning there..... let me catch you up.
Chapter 1 hit us with the bitter providence of God in the life of Naomi as she left her land.... lost her husband....lost her sons...and lost one of her daughters-in-law. But.... there was sweet providence as well. The famine broke in Judah...and Ruth committed herself to care for Naomi. But still..... the chapter ends with Naomi so overwhelmed with her losses that she tells people that God is against her and she changed her name to Bitter.
In chapter 2 the mercy of God breaks through bright enough for even Naomi to see it. We met Boaz, a man of wealth, a man of God, and a relative of Naomi's late husband Elimelech. We see Ruth taking refuge under the wings of God in a foreign land and being led mercifully by God to the field of Boaz to glean. And we see Naomi recover from her bitter season of hopelessness as she sees that God never left her and she praises Him for providing for her. Chapter 2 overflows with hope and spills into the climax of our story in chapter 3.
Now....if you are able…I would like to invite you to stand for the reading of God’s Word.
Ruth 3 (CSB)
1 Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi said to her, “My daughter, shouldn’t I find rest for you, so that you will be taken care of? 2 Now isn’t Boaz our relative? Haven’t you been working with his female servants? This evening he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. 3 Wash, put on perfumed oil, and wear your best clothes. Go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let the man know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 When he lies down, notice the place where he’s lying, go in and uncover his feet, and lie down. Then he will explain to you what you should do.” 5 So Ruth said to her, “I will do everything you say.”
6 She went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law had charged her to do. 7 After Boaz ate, drank, and was in good spirits, he went to lie down at the end of the pile of barley, and she came secretly, uncovered his feet, and lay down. 8 At midnight, Boaz was startled, turned over, and there lying at his feet was a woman! 9 So he asked, “Who are you?” “I am Ruth, your servant,” she replied. “Take me under your wing, for you are a family redeemer.”
10 Then he said, “May the Lord bless you, my daughter. You have shown more kindness now than before, because you have not pursued younger men, whether rich or poor. 11 Now don’t be afraid, my daughter. I will do for you whatever you say, since all the people in my town know that you are a woman of noble character. 12 Yes, it is true that I am a family redeemer, but there is a redeemer closer than I am. 13 Stay here tonight, and in the morning, if he wants to redeem you, that’s good. Let him redeem you. But if he doesn’t want to redeem you, as the Lord lives, I will. Now lie down until morning.”
14 So she lay down at his feet until morning but got up while it was still dark. Then Boaz said, “Don’t let it be known that a woman came to the threshing floor.” 15 And he told Ruth, “Bring the shawl you’re wearing and hold it out.” When she held it out, he shoveled six measures of barley into her shawl, and she went into the town. 16 She went to her mother-in-law, Naomi, who asked her, “What happened, my daughter?” Then Ruth told her everything the man had done for her. 17 She said, “He gave me these six measures of barley, because he said, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’ ” 18 Naomi said, “My daughter, wait until you find out how things go, for he won’t rest unless he resolves this today.”
This is the word of the Lord. Let’s Pray. You may be seated.
Life…well…life is harsh.....life is messy... and the difficulties of life have the ability to blind us to the presence and to the work of God...leaving us feeling the despairing reality of hopelessness. Harvard just recently did a study on Americans ranging from 18 - 29 years of age…and an overwhelming 51% reported that they are living with a debilitating feeling of hopelessness..... a hopelessness that has left them bitter, depressed, tired, agitated, anxious, and as a result they have withdrawn and isolated themselves from their friends, their family, and even the Church.
Now.....hopelessness can be a result of financial issues, relational problems, health concerns, or a number of other negative circumstances. But....the truth is....when you place your hope in anything or anyone other than God…hopelessness is inevitable…why? Well....because situations change…relationship can end…jobs can be lost…and our health and livelihood are fragile.
This was Naomi’s experience…remember.... she placed her hope in her husband…in her sons…and in the possibility of grandkids....but when all of that was taken from her....she felt hopeless....broken…and bitter. She had misplaced her hope. Maybe…like Naomi... you too have misplaced your hope…maybe like Naomi and the thousands who took the Harvard poll…you also have felt bitter, anxious, depressed, and alone.
Well.....this morning ....I invite you to experience and accept the steadfast love of God…and I pray that your heart will overflow with a hope that is unshakable, immovable, and that it will free you to pursue a life that is passionate about doing what is good and right.
You see....when you are confident in God's steadfast love for you....you will have a hope that enables you to pursue a life of virtue and integrity....while also providing you with a thrilling impulse to take risks for the sake of the gospel. And...In Ruth 3 …we will see these truths displayed in the life of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz through four scenes
Scene 1 (v. 1-5 ) The Plan
Scene 2 (v. 6-9) The Proposal
Scene 3 (v. 10-13) The Promise
Scene 4 (v. 14-18) The Provision
But…before we dive into theses four scenes I need to give a disclaimer....this story is full of suspense and as we will see......not every detail is explained fully....and there are some cultural practices that we simply do not fully understand. As a result ....we are going to be left with few questions and the sensuality in this story may make some of you uncomfortable,....but this tension is important to the narrative so we are going to have to be ok with being a bit uncomfortable this morning. Alright......Let’s take a look.
Scene 1 (v. 1-5 ) The Plan
Ruth 3:1 (CSB)
1 Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi said to her, “My daughter, shouldn’t I find rest for you, so that you will be taken care of?
Naomi…was once blinded by bitterness due to her misplaced hope....she had once again hoped in God and as a result she was no longer thinking of herself and her security, but Ruth’s.
In this society....a woman’s home and her family was her life. But more importantly marriage would provide Ruth with safety and security. As a married woman…Ruth would be protected from exploitation or oppression....and so Naomi tells Ruth, “Look…I don’t mind you living here....and I am thankful for your love and care.....but look....let’s be honest....You need a man!”
Now.....Naomi doesn’t want Ruth to find just any man....but one who could provide her with an heir .... one who could redeem her family and continue Elimelech’s family name. It just so happens that Boaz fits the bill....he’s a part of the family and can fulfill the role of the family redeemer.
This idea of a family redeemer is found in the Law of Moses and it speaks of a close relative who is able to come to the aid of a family member. The instructions were that when a man died....his brother was obligated to marry his widow and raise up his children. He was even to give the dead man’s name to the first child born out of the new marriage. This would ensure that the inheritance would continue to be associated with the deceased relative.
Now ..... the Law didn’t necessarily obligate Boaz…he was a distant relative....The law also didn’t address foreigners like Ruth who had married into the family. In fact there are a LOT OF LOOP HOLES THAT BOAZ CAN TAKE to avoid redeeming Ruth and Naomi! But Boaz had already been functioning as a redeemer as he protected Ruth in the field and provided food for Ruth and Naomi. So with that....Naomi sees potential.
However....its been about 7-8 weeks since Ruth met Boaz....and with the harvest being over and with Ruth no longer going to the field to work.... Naomi comes up with an interesting plan.....Look at v2
Ruth 3:2 (CSB)
2 Now isn’t Boaz our relative? Haven’t you been working with his female servants? This evening he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor.
The threshing floor was a stone slab on top of a hill…and farmers would go there to separate their grain from the chaff ....they would grab their pitchfork and toss a mixture of straw, grain, and chaff into the air… the grain …which was heavier ..... would fall to the ground while the unwanted chaff would be blown away. And this job was usually be done at night in order to take advantage of the evening breezes.
Now.... these threshing floors were communal places…they were often shared by members of the village... and they were places of joy and celebration because the work of threshing meant that the harvest had come in.
However.....threshing floors had a bad reputation too. Farmers would have to sleep on sight .....because if they didn’t....thieves would steal their grain....these places were also associated with immoral behavior....particularly prostitution. In other words…the threshing floor was a dangerous place.....and the last place you would want send your daughter....but.... Where we see a great risk…Naomi sees a great opportunity....and she outlines a strategy. Look at v3
Ruth 3:3–4 (CSB)
3 Wash, put on perfumed oil, and wear your best clothes. Go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let the man know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 When he lies down, notice the place where he’s lying, go in and uncover his feet, and lie down. Then he will explain to you what you should do.”
In other words.. “Ruth, if you are going to get Boaz.... you need a bath! Wash up, perfume up, and change your clothes” and this instruction speaks to the fact that.... for the last several months..... Ruth has been mourning her late husband…she had been wearing mourning garments...which would help explain why Boaz didn’t make a move on Ruth earlier. But by changing her clothes and cleaning herself up she would be visually announcing that she was ready to get back to a normal…back to regular life…which included the possibility of marriage.
Second....Ruth was to make herself attentive… in other words.... “Ruth, make note of where Boaz is working....but don’t let him see you.... wait.....and after his work day is over …after he eats and drinks and falls asleep…he will be in a good mood and thats when you to make your move.” And if we thought that it was risky for Ruth to go to this dangerous place in the middle of the night...here is where Naomi’s advice gets a bit weird and little uncomfortable. She says, “Ruth, once Boaz is a sleep you go in and take the blanket off of his feet, lie down next to him…...and wait for him to tell you what to do next.”
It is not hard to imagine some of the things that a ungodly man might conceivably want to do in such a situation...What started out as risky has now become risque. Could Naomi really be instructing her daughter in law to try and snare a husband by seducing him? (PAUSE)
No......I don’t believe that’s Naomi’s intention…rather the narrator is deliberately ambiguous here because he wants to highlight the potential danger of Ruth’s actions being wildly misunderstood. You see.... what Naomi is suggesting is going to put Ruth’s reputation and personal safety in grave danger.
In fact....if you remember....Boaz himself warned Ruth about the risks she might encounter working the fields during the day. How much greater would the danger of harm be if she were to present herself alone to a man in the middle of the night!?!?! I imagine Ruth would be quick to look at Naomi and say, “Lady, you’re crazy”....but look at how she replies…v5
Ruth 3:5 (CSB)
5 So Ruth said to her, “I will do everything you say.”
In spite of the great risks....Ruth says, “sure”…she wholeheartedly and courageously accepted Naomi’s plan..... which speaks to Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi…it speaks of her trust in Boaz’s integrity....but even more so....it points to her trust and confidence in God. In other words.....Ruth sees how Naomi is utterly confident that God will provide a redeemer .....she sees how eager Naomi is to encourage Boaz to be that redeemer and…what seems like a risky move is actually an act of faith.
Naomi presented Ruth with a risk ....and…in an act of faith....she said, yes! But…will she stick to the plan?(PAUSE)
Let’s take a look.
Scene 2 (v. 6-9) The Proposal
Ruth 3:6–8 (CSB)
6 She went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law had charged her to do. 7 After Boaz ate, drank, and was in good spirits, he went to lie down at the end of the pile of barley, and she came secretly, uncovered his feet, and lay down. 8 At midnight, Boaz was startled, turned over, and there lying at his feet was a woman!
Now.....Put yourself in Boaz’s sandals for a minute… You just put in a full day’s work....You’ve eaten well and now you’re enjoying some rest under the stars. Life is good! All is well....until you wake up with cold feet! You sit up to grab your blanket and there’s a strange woman lying next to you!!! What would you do?! How would you respond?!?!
Ruth 3:9 (CSB)
9 So he asked, “Who are you!?”
Fair question! Especially considering the rampant immorality and prostitution that went on at the threshing floor. And Boaz being a moral man and a godly man…he’s not expecting any company. But he hears a familiar voice…as Ruth replies....
Ruth 3:9 (CSB)
“I am Ruth, your servant,” .... “Take me under your wing, for you are a family redeemer.”
Now..remember....Naomi had instructed Ruth to be silent…She was supposed to let Boaz take the initiative. However, whether out of faith or fear of being ambiguous, or .....just a simple inability to keep her mouth shut......Ruth wanted to make her intentions clear right away...... so she blurted out her whole heart to Boaz....and essentially asks him to marry her.
In the ancient world..... covering someone with the corner of their robe was equal to dropping on one knee and giving them an engagement ring. Essentially Ruth is quoting the modern scholar Beyonce and telling Boaz to put a ring on it! But even more....she is reminding him of his prayer for her in the field. She’s saying, “Do you remember that time you prayed that the Lord would take me under His wings? Well.....Naomi and I have been thinking.........and we think the Lord is going to use you to answer your own prayer.”
Now....we have to understand....that Ruth’s wild request was at best socially awkward and at worse extremely offensive. It was entirely countercultural for a woman to propose to a man, or a younger person to an elder, or a field worker to the land owner. Yet.....Here’s a Moabite servant girl asking her Israelite boss to marry her. From a natural perspective this does not look good! But....how will Boaz respond?
Scene 3 (v. 10-13) The Promise
Ruth 3:10 (CSB)
10 Then he said, “May the Lord bless you, my daughter. You have shown more kindness now than before, because you have not pursued younger men, whether rich or poor.
Boaz is pumped!! You see.....Up to this point..... Ruth had been in mourning....she had been unavailable....but once she removed her mourning garments…she became a free agent and....lets be honest.. .Ruth was way out of Boaz’s league…she could have picked anyone....Boaz knew this.....he wasn’t stupid.....He knew Ruth could have had her pick of a man.....but Ruth …she decided not to pursue a guy out of greed.....or simply out of attraction and passion.
And stepping back for a moment..... we are left to marvel at the purity of both Boaz and Ruth. Ruth made no sexual advance toward Boaz in an effort to win him...and Boaz’s made no attempt to take advantage of Ruth but instead he prays for her!
Now.... It is noteworthy to step back and look at Proverbs 31 which famously describes a woman of godly character. And what’s interesting is that in the ordering of the Hebrew Bible the book of Ruth follows not Judges but the book Proverbs. Consider what Proverbs 31:31… says about the woman of godly character......
Proverbs 31:31 (CSB)
31 Give her the reward of her labor, and let her works praise her at the city gates.
Now look at what Boaz says in Ruth 3:11
Ruth 3:11 (CSB)
11 Now don’t be afraid, my daughter. I will do for you whatever you say, since all the people in my town know that you are a woman of noble character.
Ruth is a “Proverbs 31” woman and her faithfulness had indeed been praised in the city gates! In just a few months Ruth has been recognized by everyone in town that she was a woman of noble character. But, just as the happy ending seems secured.....Boaz raises a problem and their happily ever after is put on hold.
Ruth 3:12–13 (CSB)
12 Yes, it is true that I am a family redeemer, but there is a redeemer closer than I am. 13 Stay here tonight, and in the morning, if he wants to redeem you, that’s good. Let him redeem you. But if he doesn’t want to redeem you, as the Lord lives, I will. Now lie down until morning.”
Now..understand…neither Boaz or this other potential redeemer were obligated by the law to marry and redeem Ruth. Naomi’s whole plan hinged on a moral obligation but even more so upon their willingness and desire to do it. This is why Boaz says, if this other guy doesn’t “want to” redeem you....you see…Boaz sees the opportunity of marrying Ruth and redeeming her and Naomi as a gift. And being a man of character he doesn’t want to take…or steal such a good thing away from the guy more qualified. However, Boaz assures Ruth..... “whether its the other dude or its me I promise you.... You will be redeemed…but there’s nothing we can do right now so lay back down and get some sleep.”
I imagine Ruth fell fast asleep as she felt protected in the presence of Boaz …while Boaz laid wide awake working through a solution to the problem. But either way..this leads us to the fourth and final scene.
Scene 4 (v. 14-18) The Provision
Ruth 3:14–15 (CSB)
14 So she lay down at his feet until morning but got up while it was still dark. Then Boaz said, “Don’t let it be known that a woman came to the threshing floor.” 15 And he told Ruth, “Bring the shawl you’re wearing and hold it out.” When she held it out, he shoveled six measures of barley into her shawl, and she went into the town.
It’s early in the morning....the sun has yet to start rising..and Boaz gently shakes Ruth…and wakes her up … he wants to get her home before anyone sees her....he knows they didn’t do anything scandalous but he also knows how quick gossip spreads around town and he wants to preserve her dignity and reputation.
And...Boaz…being the generous guy he is…he doesn’t want to send Ruth home empty handed so he he stocks her up with grain to take back to Naomi. Also…he knows that if she’s seen.... the grain will explain why she had been at the threshing floor. And chapter 3 ends the same way chapter 2 ended....with Ruth returning home to tell Naomi about her adventure. Look at Ruth 3:16
Ruth 3:16 (CSB)
16 She went to her mother-in-law, Naomi, who asked her, “What happened, my daughter?”
Then Ruth told her everything the man had done for her.
A more accurate translation of the Hebrew would be....“Who are you, my daughter?” … and if where honest......this question doesn’t seem to fit …which is the reason why it’s translated in our English Bible as “What happened, my daughter?”
But..... this question… “Who are you?”…it doesn’t speak to the fact that Naomi had forgotten what Ruth looked like but rather it points to Naomi’s internal struggle she has been wrestling with throughout this entire book....this entire narrative she has been struggling understand her relationship with Ruth....she has ultimately been asking..... “Who is this girl? Is she a person of no significance? Is she an outsider and an outcast or is she in fact more significant than I had ever dreamed?” And as Naomi is deep in thought …Ruth continues her report Ruth 3:17-18
Ruth 3:17–18 (CSB)
17 She said, “He gave me these six measures of barley, because he said, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’ ” 18 Naomi said, “My daughter, wait until you find out how things go, for he won’t rest unless he resolves this today.”
As Ruth returned with even more grain…Naomi can’t help but feel overwhelmed by God’s provision. Remember....back in chapter 1 she described herself as empty....her circumstances had left her feeling hopeless and lost ....but God proved to her that He had never left her....in fact He had been providentially guiding her every step ......fulfilling all of her needs through Boaz and Ruth! The Lord had provided food for her hunger, and a place to rest her head. But the question now is... will the Lord withhold from her the one other thing she still lacked, descendants?
Well....we will have to wait and see what God does next week in chapter 4....but in light of this question we have to consider the significance of Boaz’s earlier response in v12 ....when he said, “There is a redeemer closer than I am.”
Ruth 3:12 (CSB)
12 Yes, it is true that I am a family redeemer, but there is a redeemer closer than I am.
It’s true..... Boaz may have been talking about some other family member… a guy that we will meet in chapter 4 but his response points us to an even greater truth.....you see....all throughout this story there has been a redeemer closer than Boaz…a redeemer that has been hovering in the shadows of the narrative.....and behind all the human agents..... this redeemer has been lavishly pouring out his grace.
You see......the real love story in this book is not about Boaz and Ruth. There has been a greater love story being told behind the scenes and it’s the love of God for his sinful people....and it’s the same love that prevented Him form ending the world after Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. It is the same love that chose and called Abraham.... It’s the same love that pursued the Israelites and loved them despite their history and pattern of rebellion and idolatry. It’s the same love that causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall.
And this love of God took its fullest shape in the coming of Jesus Christ. His love for us took him much further than a grain pile at midnight. It caused him to leave the glories of heaven and to be born as a baby in Bethlehem. But unlike Ruth..... there was no place of rest for Jesus, there was no godly Boaz to protect him....In fact he had to flee for his life when he was just a young child.
And this love caused Jesus to become a servant.... who was of no reputation, despised and rejected by men. This same love of God took Jesus all the way to the cross. There, in the midst of a darkness ....far deeper than any a threshing floor at midnight…Jesus offered himself up for the sins of his people.
There....on the cross.... God the Father abandoned His Son....for He could not and would not look at His only son who had been so disfigured as he took on himself the sins of the world. You see…Jesus didn’t just willingly risk His life like Ruth did....but he willing gave His life. Why? Why would he do that?!?!
Was it because you earned His love? Was it because you deserve his love? Not at all. According to Romans 6 the only thing we have earned or deserve is sin and death. However…God loves us and He is so committed to saving sinners like you and me that he gave his one and only son …and whoever....whoever believes in him will not die but will have life…and it’s all because of God’s faithfulness to the undeserving
As you sit here this morning…I cant help but wonder if you know this love of God? This morning I would like to invite you to give him your life......yes…you may be disfigured by sin…shame…and guilt....but your life is all you have to give…so give it to him and He promises that he will Redeem you and receive you into His family. He will cover you with his wings and He will be your refuge. He will spread the robe of Christ’s righteousness to cover your nakedness.
Listen to me....it does not matter how undeserving you are, no matter what you’ve done or where you’ve been, the invitation is open to come and be redeemed. God will welcome you for the sake of Christ; he loves you that much.
Now…Christian....Ruth 3 forces us to step back and evaluate our faith....and ask ourselves “What am I willing to risk for the sake of making the gospel known?” If we are honest about our life ....most of us are not willing to risk much....especially when it comes to our health…our reputation…our families....our bank account....or especially our comfort. The proof of this is seen in our unwillingness to talk to others about God…what Francis Schaeffer calls “our guilty silence.”
Forget about putting our reputations at risk at midnight at the threshing floor...... we struggle to talk to our friends about Jesus because we don’t want them to think we’re weird or we’re worried we will offend them.
I once heard it said that when you are convinced of God’s love for you.....God’s love is like an acrobat’s harness. You’re free to take seemingly risky ....costly decisions for the sake of the gospel…because you know that God’s love is steadfast. Brothers and sisters....audacious and expectant Christian faith grows when you take pleasure in the steadfast kindness of God.
Tell me…can your faith be described as expectant? What about audacious? If not....perhaps your’e not completely confident in God’s love…or His protection and provision. Take some time to delight in who God is and take that step of faith…wether it’s sharing the gospel at work or with a neighbor....or reading the Bible with your wife …or serving in Mission Kids on Sunday morning..........What risks could you take to partner with God to see His Kingdom come here in Las Vegas as it is in Heaven?