*Courtship or Dating or Doing “the Ruth Method”? (Ruth 2-3) *
Please turn in God’s Word to the book of Ruth, and in our ongoing verse-by-verse study through this book we come to a very timeless and timely question: how do a man and woman go from meeting to marriage?
Should they date, or court, or “dort” (some in-between)?
In church history there was a council~/synod of Dordt (renouncing Arminian theology, didn’t deal much with premarital relationship).
Actually in church history, this type of debate is quite recent because this type of dating is quite recent.
Many don’t know dating is relatively new, 80-90 yrs old in US, even newer in some similar cultures.
Ellen K. Rothman (not a Christian) records the following in her book /Hand and Hearts: A History of Courtship in America/
/ /‘A first-class revolt against the accepted American order took place among American youth in the 1920’s.
This was not a sudden eruption, but rather a series of seismic tremors that occurred with increasing intensity and frequency through the 1910’s and 1920’s.
By 1930, the terrain through which young Americans passed en route to marriage would be almost unrecognizable to their parents.
In 1900, middle-class courtship was more carefully supervised; by 1930, the supervision and formality had given way … and many of the familiar landmarks were swept aside.
What they [modern daters] did was to develop a systematic, peer-controlled approach to the social and sexual relationships of late adolescence and early adulthood.’
Another secular source traces the transition from former courting models focused on the girl’s father, family and home environment: ‘after the Civil War, an elaborate system of rules governing courting emerged … men conducted formal “calls” to her home, during which couples might converse, read aloud, play parlor games [this is late 19th century] …As the century progressed [to 20th], however, new opportunities for interacting outside the home emerged.
College enrollments rose, and students [away from home at that age more than before] developed their own rules governing relationships.
More women entered the workforce, particularly as schoolteachers.
And especially in urban areas, new public diversions like dance halls, amusement parks, theaters, and parks enticed courting couples away from the safety of their parlors [automobiles, urban ~/ social revolutions]… popular magazines and advice columns quickly outlined new rules to replace the old.
By 1925, traditional courtship had fallen out of fashion.
Instead, young couples began to go on “dates,” which differed significantly from courting: They cost money, focused less on long-term commitment, took place in public [culture shift away from parents], and were initiated and paid for by men [and before long there came to be expectations from men in return].
Standards of sexual morality also changed, and the terms “necking” and “petting” … entered public discussion [and the process in larger measure] ... In some circles, young people dated widely, rather than with one exclusive partner, since status hinged on being seen regularly with different desirable dates … In the late 1960s and early 1970s, however, the sexual revolution [took place] … Couples still dated—some going steady—but [sexual activity] and living together became a widely accepted step toward marriage … “Singles” clubs and bars proliferated, and people of all ages sought congenial partners through dating services, the “personals” sections of magazines and newspapers, and Internet sites … as both men and women assumed more individual responsibility and initiative in finding a mate than at any previous time, while also exercising greater freedom in the process.’
What had evolved in the “roaring 20’s,” /de/volved significantly in the sexual 60s and 70s and most in the church also got involved in a similar premarital process, but with Christianized warnings to not sleep with ~/ live with before marriage, don’t marry those who don’t profess Christianity, and if your relationship really progresses then eventually you announce intentions to family to get married, and when the wedding gets close then you get input from the church (rather than family and church family involved before, during, and throughout relationships for their counsel and care like in the past).
By the end of the 20th century, conservative US Christian culture in growing numbers began to revisit 20th century Western-American practices of dating and re-evaluated its common assumptions in light of Scripture and recognized many dangers (I think in a good way).
Some kissed dating goodbye, at least in its recreational worldly forms.
In its place many have revived courtship models.
In many Christian circles, websites, bookstores, churches, and communities, this has become quite a hot topic in the last couple decades.
I don’t know that I actually heard the term courtship much or at all growing up (ex: GCBC “Q&A”).
Some Christians may think “to court” = go to traffic school, “suitors” sell 3-piece suits (my own confession)!
Even pro-courtship books I’ve read define courtship in different ways, as we in this room might, too.
The one time I remember the term /courting/ growing up was in the old movie “7 Brides for 7 Brothers” - the sister-in-law teaches the uncivilized brothers how to court girls (be polite, be gentlemanly, dance, etc., and it’s all set to a song “goin’ courtin’”).
But if you actually read the lyrics of the song or see how they did it then I don’t think any of us Christian dads would want our daughters to find a man that way!
In fact, their dads weren’t even involved and had to come with shot-guns to try to get their daughters back!
All that to say, just using the term “courtin’” doesn’t automatically fix sin problems.
A “dater” may honor God more than “courtshipper.”
You won’t find the word “date” in the Bible unless it’s a tree, and you won’t find “courting ~/ courtship” either, which may surprise some who assume biblical characters lived like early frontier Americans, and that every gal in Bible times wore gingham or denim dresses and guys got to know them on prairie house porches after church services where they sang from the same hymnal we use and read from the 1611 KJV, because “if it was good enough for the apostle Paul, then it should be good enough for us, right?”
Let’s not approach this question first with American glasses on, but let’s put /biblical glasses on/ and as best we can transport back to Bible culture, interpret the OT properly in light of the NT, and then try to draw out applications that apply to every culture.
If you study /inductively/ (as a Christian before an American) how men and women actually got together in biblical times and cultures, you find there were a lot of different ways they got together that were not only radically different than 20th century American dating practices, but were also in many ways different than 18th-19th century American courtship practices.
If our only choices are between the two, the older American family values and practices I find much wiser and safer in many ways.
But recognizing wisdom in one way more than other is not the same as saying there’s only one way God’s Word lays out in step-by-step detail for all time.
Should we follow Boaz and Ruth’s method?
Or should we betrothe as Mary and Joseph did? Or be arranging marriages like others did in the OT? Let’s read together how it occurred for Ruth and Boaz in their ancient Israelite culture, which I guarantee will look more than a little different than our culture, even those who strive to be most “biblical.”
But by God’s help we want to discern principles from this passage that transcend culture.
We’ll be reading Ruth 3, but I want to first set the historical context by starting in chapter 2:
/5 //Boaz asked the foreman of his harvesters, “Whose young woman is that?” 6 //The foreman replied, “She is the Moabitess who came back from Moab with Naomi … /[Boaz notices her.
He gathers some information about her and her character as we’ll see and then he takes initiative and approaches her and says in v. 8]
…/8 //So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter /[personal family term of tender-kindness in their culture]/, listen to me.
Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here.
Stay here with my servant girls /[provision]./
9 //Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the girls.
I have told the men not to touch you /[protection]./
And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.”
/[practical kindness]/ 10 //At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground … /
Now, single guys, don’t expect a woman to fall at your feet like this in our culture in your first conversation … but a godly man who treats others in a godly way will stand out.
A lot of guys think goofiness is the key to getting a girl, but godliness is key to a godly girl (or it should be).
It wasn’t coolness or craziness that impresses Ruth here, it’s kindness (guys and girls should both take note).
A man who shows practical and thoughtful kindness, who protects her purity and honor, and provides for her needs, and personally speaks to her and treats her as a family member, is a godly man (Paul tells Timothy to treat younger women as sisters w~/ purity).
In v. 1 Boaz is called a “man of standing,” i.e. substance, noble and strong beyond wealth.
Here he proves to be a generous gentleman, a man of character and kindness, far beyond OT cultural norms.
/10 //At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground.
She exclaimed, *“Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?”*
11 //Boaz replied, “*I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law* since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before.
12 /*/May the Lord repay you/*/ for what you have done.
*May you be richly rewarded by the Lord*, the God of Israel, *under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”*
13 //“May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord,” she said.
*“You have given me comfort and have spoken kindly* to your servant—*though I do not have the standing of one of your servant girls.*”/
Boaz speaks kindly, comforts, praises and prays her blessing …
Ruth is humble, honoring to him, to Naomi, and to the LORD …
/19 //Her mother-in-law asked her, “Where did you glean today?
Where did you work?
Blessed be the man who took notice of you!” Then Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one at whose place she had been working.
“The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz,” she said.
20 //“The Lord bless him!”
Naomi said to her daughter-in-law.
“He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.”
She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our *kinsman-redeemers.*”
/[I’m reading from NIV]
/21 //Then Ruth *the Moabitess* said, “He even said to me, ‘Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain.’
” 22 //Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It will be good for you, my daughter, to *go with his girls*, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed.”
23 //So Ruth stayed close to the servant girls of Boaz to glean until the barley and wheat harvests were finished /[i.e., several weeks go by]/.
And she lived with her mother-in-law./
*3:1 */One day Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not try to find a home for you /[or “rest” or “security”]/, where you will be well provided for?
Remember, parents in Bible times often arranged marriages for their children, and still do today in some similar Eastern cultures.
“Matchmaker mom” goes on…] /2 Is not Boaz, with whose servant girls you have been, a kinsman of ours?
Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor.
3 Wash and perfume yourself, and put on your best clothes.
Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking.
4 When he lies down, note the place where he is lying.
Then go and uncover his feet and lie down.
He will tell you what to do.” /
So here it is, a biblical 7-step plan for getting a husband (this is the closest the Bible ever comes to a detailed manual or method for single gals to find a mate, so ladies take notes, ok? Ready?)
Step 1: Wash up (v. 3)
Step 2: Put perfume on
Step 3: Put nice clothes on
Step 4: Wait till he finishes eating and drinking so he’ll be in good spirits after a good meal (is this kind of like not having a deep relationship conversation with a guy while he’s in the middle of eating chicken wings watching a ballgame?
Step 5: Scope out and stake out where he’s sleeping stealthily
Step 6: When he sleeps in the middle of the night lay at the foot of his bed, pull the covers off his feet, and wait till he notices
Step 7: When he wakes up, he’ll fill you in on the next steps …
Shall we close in prayer?
No need for further explanation?
This doesn’t sound like much like courtship in colonial America, does it?