This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
A Risky Proposal
"I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer."
Some guys are just too clever for their own good. Every now and then you hear about some guy who thinks he has to produce some huge romantic gesture when a simple "Will you marry me?" would be the better part of valor. Know what I mean? Like the guy who had to rush his girlfriend to the ER because she swallowed the engagement ring hidden in her milk shake. (I'll bet she uses a straw from then on). Or the expensive ring that floated away inside the helium balloon. The ones that amaze me the most are those egocentric guys that think it would be so fantastic to declare their love in front of the whole world. I saw a video clip of one poor guy who decided it would be a great gesture to surprise is girlfriend at half-time at center court at a Washington Wizard's game. Poor guy... he got down on one knee, flashed the ring box and she turned around and ran off the court! Well, there are marriage proposals and there are marriage proposal. Today, we’re going to talk about another interesting one.
A Bold Plan
It's the end of the harvest season and there's really been no resolution in Naomi and Ruth's problem. Ruth has been able to do well in Boaz's fields. Starvation isn't an immediate concern, but the grain won't last forever. Soon, the wheat harvest will be over and it will be many months before Ruth is able to glean again. Look back at the final verse of chapter 2, "...and she lived with her mother in law." Here is another one of those little hints that the author throws in to lead us to where he wants us to go. Ruth is still with Naomi. She still has no husband. Naomi, like any good Jewish mother, is ready to tackle the problem. She has a plan. She tells Ruth that she's concerned for her daughter in law's future. Ruth needs a husband and Boaz, being a man of worth and a relative is the perfect candidate. So she says, "here's what you need to do..." Now, I've read more commentaries and listened to more sermons than I can count in order to get others' take on this passage. It's a bit perplexing. Naomi's language can be understood in several different ways and virtually every source that I consulted had a little different take on it. What's the problem? Well, let me ask you mothers who have raised a young woman (or are raising one) - in what universe would you give your daughter this advice for catching a husband: Get yourself all dolled up, take a bath, put on some good smelling perfume, and wear your best clothes. Sneak over to the threshing floor but
don't let him see you. Go hide in the bushes. He'll be in full party mode, celebrating the harvest so just wait till he's full of pizza and buffalo wings and he's had plenty of wine and just pay attention where he goes to sleep. When he's sound asleep, creep over to him and uncover his feet (possibly legs) and lay down. He'll take it from there. Mom, are you good with that? Let me put some things in context, as well. From everything that I've read, the threshing floor could be a bit raucous. My impression is that it would be like the cowboys in town at the end of the cattle drive. Young men celebrating a year of hard work with money burning holes in their pockets. Plenty of celebrating, plenty of adult beverages and lots of pent up emotion. It was really no place for a respectable young lady. In fact, any woman found there would likely be anything but respectable. The whole scenario seems just full of innuendo. Now, I have to say that not everyone sees it like that. Most seemed to agree that Naomi's advice was risky business. But, several commentators say that it's nothing like that. Naomi's instructions comply with ancient customs and would be understood at the time as nothing out of the ordinary - a straight forward marriage proposal. Maybe so. I'm open to that. I don't want to sensationalize something for the sake of drama. But, none of these commentators could point to a specific custom. For the most part, it was "it must be above board or Naomi wouldn't have suggested it." At the very least, Naomi's plan exposed Ruth and Boaz to temptation. In the middle of the night, lying together while everyone else is sleeping - they certainly could succomb to a moment of weakness. But, Ruth agreed to follow Naomi's counsel and prepared herself for her date with destiny. So, let's talk about Naomi. I've already said that she perplexes me, somewhat. She usually says the right things; her heart seems to be in the right place. But, I have to wonder about her methods. I guess what I'm really saying is: Naomi is a lot like most Christians that I know. Don't we all have a problem with consistency, now and then? How often do I look back on my life and have to say, "Why did I react that way?" or "My thinking was completely wrong there." And I'm sure there are plenty of times when I've been inconsistent and never realized it at all. Naomi is a lot like us and I think that transparency makes her story all the more compelling. Naomi watched the interaction between Ruth and Boaz. She knew that both were virtuous people, trying to reflect God's character in their lives. She knew that not only was Boaz in a position to rescue Ruth from a life of poverty, but she also perceived that he may also be willing. She no doubt sensed that this was the direction that God was leading. So, like any self-respecting Jewish mother would do, she decided it was time to take matters into her own hands and play matchmaker. Again, I'm not so sure that we're all that different. We see things unfold in front of us and our first thought is often what can I do to "help God out." Sometimes we do end up running ahead of God. Naomi's plan does have risks. First of all, Ruth will be risking physical harm. Naomi was concerned for Ruth's safety when she was gleaning in broad daylight. How much more dangerous is it to sneak around in the dark amid a bunch of roudy field hands? Of course, there’s the whole “sexual tension” thing. No matter what Naomi’s intention were, there is still the question as to how Boaz would read Ruth’s boldness. Would he assume the worst? Would the temptation prove too much? Would he be offended and send Ruth packing? The tension build as the writer puts us on the edge of our seats, wondering how it will all turn out.
A Bold Proposal
Ruth went down to the threshing floor and put Naomi's plan into action. When Boaz was sound asleep, she laid down at his feet. At midnight, Boaz was startled out of his sleep, finding someone lying there. He says, "Who's there?" From here, do you see any deviation from Naomi's plan? Yes! Naomi said Ruth should follow his instructions. But, she didn't give him a chance to say anything. It was Ruth who told Boaz what she wanted him to do. That may have saved the risky plan. She didn’t give him the chance to wonder why she was there. She said, "Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer." or as the NIV has it "the corner of your garment." The Hebrew can be translated either way. That sounds rather cryptic, don't you think? Did Boaz understand her request? He understood perfectly well. First of all, does the language sound familiar from chapter two... when Boaz said to her "a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!" Ruth is a clever one; she's tossing those words right back at him. Boaz prayed for Ruth to be blessed and protected and Ruth is saying that Boaz has the opportunity to be the answer to his own prayer. This is not the only time when that phrase was used to speak of marriage. Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your naked body. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign LORD, and you became mine. Ezek. 16:8 God is declaring His love and commitment to Israel, like a man to his bride. Did Boaz catch the meaning? You bet he did! He said that this kindness (that is showing interest in a man that is much older when she could have been chasing after the younger guys) surpassed the first. What was her first kindness? It was that which everyone in town was talking about. She left everything for Naomi and the Lord. You might may recall that at the beginning of this study, we said that one of the themes of the book of Ruth was "Hesed" - loving kindness or faithful love. It was Ruth's expression of Hesed that Boaz found remarkable. He's saying Ruth was more than being nice to Naomi and to him. He saw a God kind of love. Ruth, a woman who reflects God's love and a woman of worth (the same term used for the Proverbs 31 woman) - of course, she's made an impression on Boaz. Boaz understood exactly what Ruth was asking and he was ready, willing, and able. But, there's just one problem. Here's another one of those "screech" moment in the story where the writer wants us to stop in our tracks and say "huh?" The problem is that Boaz isn't the only relative in town and in fact, there is one who is a closer relative who should have first chance to be Ruth's redeemer. This NOT where we want to see the story go! Boaz and Ruth belong together. Now, everything is in jeopardy. Boaz knows this as well, but he is a man of integrity and is determined to go about this the right way. So, he says that he'll give the other relative first chance. But, if he is unwilling, then Boaz will do all that Ruth asks.
A Kinsman Redeemer
So, what exactly is a kinsman redeemer? The Hebrew term is Ga-al which is translated in various ways as redeemer, near kinsman, blood avenger. In ancient times, family was preeminent. And family wasn’t defined as it is today. We think of the nuclear family - Dad, Mom, and the kids. In those days, it was the extended family which included aunts, uncles, cousins, and beyond. Maintaining the family was of great importance. When a family member was in trouble, another relative was expected to help him out, even when it required some sacrifice. When family was in danger of losing their land, a relative who was able to pay the debt was expected to show up. Likewise, if a family member had to sell himself into slavery to pay
his debt, a redeemer was needed to buy him out of slavery. If a family member was murdered, a relative was called upon to be a “blood avenger” to obtain justice for the victim. One of the most important ways that family would come to the rescue was to preserve the family line: If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel. Duet. 25:5,6 So, how does all this tie in to Ruth? It hasn’t yet been revealed, but next week, we’ll find out that there is land involved. But, the bigger issue is the threat that the family name (that is, Elimelech’s family) will die out. The law as God put forth in the Duet. passage specifies brothers, but it seems that the custom had expanded beyond brothers to any male relative. If you wonder if it was unseemly that Ruth proposed to Boaz instead of waiting for the man to act, the Duet. passage continues: However, if a man does not want to marry his brother’s wife, she shall go to the elders at the town gate and say, “My husband’s brother refuses to carry on his brother’s name in Israel. He will not fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to me.” 8 Then the elders of his town shall summon him and talk to him. If he persists in saying, “I do not want to marry her,” 9 his brother’s widow shall go up to him in the presence of the elders, take off one of his sandals, spit in his face and say, “This is what is done to the man who will not build up his brother’s family line.” 10 That man’s line shall be known in Israel as The Family of the Unsandaled. Boaz is more than willing to play the role of redeemer, but there is that darned closer relative to deal with. He tells Ruth to go to sleep and he’ll talk to the other fellow in the morning. Boaz was sure to protect her reputation He makes sure that Ruth wakes up before first light, before she was discovered by the men at the threshing floor. Before she left for home, Boaz filled her cloak with six measures of barley. I’ll bet Naomi has been up all night, waiting to see how the plan worked out. Naomi was all over Ruth as soon as she got in the door. So... what happened? Ruth proceeded to tell her all that happened. And then she said something that I find interesting, “He gave me all this barley and said that I can’t go home to my mother in law empty handed” hmmm... do you think that Boaz knew who was behind the plot? Or could it be that Naomi was a bigger part of this redemption story than we even realize? Come back next week if you’re wondering what I mean by that.
What do we take away from this lesson? I’d like to focus on that mysterious subject of the will of God. We might wonder was that something that Naomi, Ruth, or Boaz were even concerned about at all. No mention was made of seeking what God wanted in this instance. No one seemed to spend long nights in prayer or agonizing on whether the marriage was God's will. Were they short circuiting the process? We often talk about seeking God’s will or staying within God’s will. I don’t have all the answers but I do have some thoughts. But, I’d like to hear yours as well. Do you ever get the impression that some believers can become “paralyzed” trying to find God’s will? They are so intent on knowing God's will before they act that often they don't act. Sometimes, no matter how much prayer, despite hours of searching Scripture, even though we throw out a fleece, no clear answer comes. Then what? There are big decisions in life that we desperately want to handle in the right way. How do you discover God's will? 1. Follow God's will that we do know. Lots of situations are ambiguous but there are plenty where God has made His will known. The Bible is filled with examples of the way God wants us to live. If we're ignoring God's will that we know, isn't presumptive to ask to know more of His will? 2. Pray. Obviously, prayer is a vital component when we want God to reveal His will for us. 3. Be willing. Sometimes, we want to know God's will so we can "approve" it. If it sounds like something that I want to do, if it sounds like something I can handle, then I'll do it. "But, God, you can't ask me to do that?" God isn't under obligation to "run it pass me." I need to be determined to do God's will, whatever it may be. 4. "Love God and Do as You Please." That's a quote from Augustine, I believe. He didn't mean do what ever you want, without limits, but if you truly are loving God in every sense, you will naturally gravitate toward what pleases Him. After you've committed yourself to followed the part of God's will that you do know; after you've prayed over your situation; after you've decided in your heart to follow His leading wherever He takes you, then do what seems right. You see, when God has His purposes in your life, He WILL see them through. Our actions can, at the most, delay things. He is in control; He'll work things out, sometimes in spite of my actions. God had His purposes in the lives of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz. At times, they may not have done things the right way. Sometimes, they weren't thinking correctly. Sometimes, they took matters in their own hands. But, God accomplished His will no matter what they would do. That's the key. Don't agonize so much over doing God's will. Pray that God will do His will in and through us. "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.