December 15, 2019
3 Then Na′omi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek a home for you, that it may be well with you? 2 Now is not Bo′az our kinsman, with whose maidens you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. 3 Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 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.” 5 And she replied, “All that you say I will do.”
6 So she went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had told her. 7 And when Bo′az 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. 8 At midnight the man was startled, and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet! 9 He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your maidservant; spread your skirt over your maidservant, for you are next of kin.” 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. 11 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 woman of worth. 12 And now it is true that I am a near kinsman, yet there is a kinsman nearer than I. 13 Remain this night, and in the morning, if he will do the part of the next of kin for you, well; let him do it; but if he is not willing to do the part of the next of kin for you, then, as the Lord lives, I will do the part of the next of kin for you. Lie down until the morning.”
14 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.” 15 And he said, “Bring the mantle you are wearing and hold it out.” So she held it, and he measured out six measures of barley, and laid it upon her; then she went into the city. 16 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, 17 saying, “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said, ‘You must not go back empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’” 18 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.”
Ruth & Naomi Shoot the Moon
One of the most popular card games out there, and one that I’m sure many of you know well, is Hearts, where the object of the game, is (ironically) to collect as few hearts as possible. And so with 52 cards, 4 players, in each round each player wins by staying far away from any and all hearts, and the queen of spades, for that matter. And in the end, the person with the fewest hearts wins. Simple enough. But yet there’s one another way to win, and that is, if you somehow, someway can collect all 13 hearts, a move which is called, “Shooting the Moon.” If you can find a way to collect each and every heart, you win big. It’s an incredibly risky play, a chips all in, go for broke kind of move, and one that you can really only pull off if you have a certain kind of hand. It’s high risk, high reward, and the reward is massive. And Ruth chapter 3, the part of the story that Lois just read, tells the story where Ruth and Naomi Shoot the Moon.
Friends, we’re in the middle of a sermon series on the short Old Testament book of Ruth, which is admittedly, an unusual book to study during Advent. But yet, from a big picture standpoint, as I shared a couple weeks ago, here again is what the book of Ruth is all about. It’s a story that begins with tragedy & death and ends with joy & birth, the birth of a baby boy in the town of Bethlehem. I mean, c’mon now, how can something possible echo Advent more than that?!
Even more, Ruth is a book filled with hope and promise for people who find themselves walking through a difficult or trying season and Lord knows that for many of us, that’s exactly the kind of good news we need in this holiday season that may not be as rosy or joyous as we would like. And so Ruth is a book filled with hope and promise by not only pointing us to a good and gracious God, but also by instructing us on how to live in midst of difficult circumstances as we learn from the characters themselves.
A Review: Ruth 1 & 2
Now before we dive in to chapter 3, let’s briefly recap chapters 1 and 2. As I mentioned, our story begins with tragedy and death. Naomi’s husband Elimelech died, and not only him, but her two sons as well. Eventually, Naomi and Ruth, Naomi’s daughter in law, make the long trek back to Bethlehem where they’re from. And by the end of chapter 1, things are still looking bleak. They’re both widows, with no financial security. And so they find themselves in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest, and Ruth ends up gleaning, it’s their only option really. And Ruth finds herself strangely enough in Boaz’s field, who just happens to be a relative of Naomi, which is a crucial detail in the story as we’ll see today. Boaz ends up being incredibly kind and generous to Naomi, even giving her special treatment. And yet while that’s nice and all, Naomi and Ruth both know that the barley harvest is about to end. Their endless supply of grain is about to run dry.
And so as we come to chapter 3 and our story today, Naomi recognizes that she and Ruth need to find some kind of long term solution. And full transparency here, I’ll be completely honest, her solution is very, very weird. In our story today there are undeniable sexual overtones, a proposal by a woman to someone’s she’s kind of related to, all at the direction of a very eager mother in law. It’s slightly unnerving, mildly uncomfortable, somewhat confusing, and bears almost no resemblance to the lives we live or situations we find ourselves in today. Friends, aren’t so happy you’re here this morning?! But yet, I am determined to pull something meaningful out of it, so hang in with me here.
The key to you and I making anything of this story is to rightly understand who the characters in this story represent on a big picture level, and that is, Ruth (and I suppose, Naomi, for that matter) represent you and me, as followers of Jesus, and Boaz, represents, or is a foreshadowing of Jesus himself. Now, you might think that’s a little bit of a stretch to say Boaz foreshadows Jesus, and that’s because Boaz is Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer. Now, our translation this morning just says kinsman, but in reality the more accurate title for Boaz is kinsman-redeemer, and that redeemer language ought to grab our attention, because this language of redeemer is one of the names given of Jesus himself. After all, Jesus is in so many ways, our redeemer. The one who rescues us, who takes our broken lives and makes them whole, who shines light in the darkness, who brings hope to the hopeless. You see the role that Boaz will play for Ruth is so very similar to the role Jesus wants to play in our lives and it’s by seeing this connection that this story can still speak to us today.
Alright, back to our story at hand.
Searching for Rest through a Redeemer (v.1-2)
Naomi, her mother-in-law said to her (Ruth), “My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you.
Remember, Naomi, knowing that the barley harvest is about to end, senses that she needs to come up with some kind of long term solution for Ruth, saying, “I need to seek some security for you.” Other translations use the word “rest.” Either way, whether it’s security or rest, Naomi is naming something that you and I long for deep down, in both big and small ways.
Some people long for financial security, getting beyond living paycheck to paycheck. Others long for job security, something that they can count on long term, rather than temporary. Others long for relational security, the prospect of getting married, wanting the one you love to propose, or wanting the one you love to say yes when you do.
And of course, we all need rest. Whether it’s a vacation, a day off, a two hour nap, or maybe even just 10 minutes of silence. Maybe we’re counting down the days until Christmas break, and then shortly after that we’ll be counting down the days until our extended family finally leaves.
But yet most of all, we a deeper kind of rest and security. A kind of rest and security that can only come from a Redeemer, where we can rest, knowing deep down where our past is forgiven, where our present has real and lasting meaning and where our future is secure. As St. Augustine so famously said, “Lord, our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”
Jesus even says,
28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
You need rest, I need rest, Ruth needs rest too, and so how does Naomi plan to find rest for Ruth? Well, of course, just like you and me, we find rest through our Redeemer. And for Ruth, that’s Boaz. Naomi says in verse 2,
2 Now here is our kinsman-redeemer Boaz
And this is where we have to talk about this concept of a kinsman-redeemer, and why for Ruth and Naomi, it’s their only hope.
Here’s the short and sweet of it – in ancient Israel and in Old Testament Law, God’s law stated, that a dead man’s relative was obligated to marry any childless widow in the family. And so, through this marriage, the widow would be provided for and children would be had, who would eventually inherit the dead man’s property. This would preserve the family line, maintain the family land, provide for needy members of the family (such as an elderly widow such as Naomi). Boaz is their closest relative, or so they think. And so Naomi, knowing she is about to lose Elimelech’s (her deceased husband’s) land and knowing there are no sons in the family line to care for her and Ruth, asks Ruth to pursue Boaz in order to keep the property, produce a son, and ultimately find rest and security.
As you can imagine, there’s no doubt a lot to gain here, but there’s also a lot of risk involved as well. Ruth is essentially going to have to ask Boaz to marry her. It’s going to require incredible courage and faith and there’s always the chance Boaz may say “no.” In short, Ruth and Naomi have to shoot the moon.
So, Naomi shares her idea with Ruth, telling here essentially, hey this is a marriage proposal, so take a shower, put on some perfume, take off your widow clothes and put on “I’m available!” clothes. And just to be safe, go late at night, after he’s had plenty to eat and drink, when he’s in a more agreeable mood. Find where he’s sleeping and lie down next to him. And Ruth says, “Okay, that’s what I’ll do. It’s time to shoot the moon.”
It’s incredibly risky, unbelievably gutsy, high risk yes, but high reward too.
So, what’s the connection for you and me? How does this connect to our relationship with Jesus? Well, just to be clear, certainly the point is not, “And here’s how you can ask for Jesus’s hand in marriage too.” That’s a little too close to home, but rather, I think the connection is this …
Pursuing Jesus, our Redeemer is a Risky, Costly Endeavor (v.2-10)
Think about what this means for Ruth. She’s a woman, widow, going out late at night in a not so safe part of town, she could be robbed or mugged or taken advantage of by any number of men at the threshing floor that night. She’s proposing to a guy she barely knows. There’s the possibility of rejection, she could be seen as a prostitute. There’s a lot of risk involved here.
In very different ways, but in some ways similar ways, a life of following Jesus requires risk. From the very beginning, pursuing a relationship with Jesus requires us to be vulnerable, to confess our sins and failures before God himself … this is true of any relationship, the more depth and intimacy that you want in any relationship, the more you have to give of yourself, the more you have to let people in and see the not so beautiful parts of you. And in many ways, that’s true of Jesus too.
Now certainly we know that whenever we come to Jesus in humility and sincere faith, he always welcomes us with open arms. But even beyond that, the decision we make in following Jesus may have real life consequences, where we may feel like our family members who aren’t Christians, don’t understand us, or co-workers or neighbors who don’t respect us. It may mean sacrificing worldly pursuits and endeavors - money, prestige, status – particularly when those things are incompatible with our faith.
After all, Jesus says, 24 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.
Pursuing Jesus can be a risky and costly endeavor … and of course, there are incredible rewards too. That’s where real life is, real rest is found.
Now, notice the exchange in verses 9 & 10, Ruth says,
“I am Ruth, your servant; spread your cloak over your servant.”
When she’s saying, spread your cloak over me, what’s she’s communicating in no uncertain terms, is “Boaz, marry me, for you are our family redeemer!”
And notice what Boaz says,
“May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter; this last instance of your loyalty is better than the first; you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich.”
Think about what he’s saying … “this last instance of your loyalty is better than the first.” Loyalty to whom? Well it’s loyalty to Naomi! Here’s the fascinating thing about the book of Ruth. In many ways, we portray it as a love story between Ruth and Boaz, when in reality it’s a love story between Ruth and Naomi! Ruth is showing loyalty and love and kindness to Naomi by being willing to marry Boaz, whose related to Naomi. As Boaz says, Ruth could have very well have married someone else, someone younger or someone richer, which may have been of benefit to her, but no, she, out of her love and loyalty to Naomi, is willing to marry Boaz, a marriage which in many ways, will benefit Naomi!
Out of love for Naomi, Ruth chooses the more costly, sacrificial path. And in the same way, out of obedience to Jesus, you and I are often called to choose the more costly, sacrificial path. Ruth chooses a path towards marriage that not only benefits her, but benefits Naomi as well. And similarly, you and I, throughout a life of following Jesus, can pursue and invest in ways that serve and bless and bring life to those around us.
Here’s an example:
I heard a story about a guy named Pete Leonard, a businessman involved with a local software company, who for whatever reason, out of a love for coffee I guess, started roasting coffee out of his garage. About the same time, Pete watched as a family member fruitlessly searched for work after serving time in prison. Pete said, "He'd always get interviews, but the instant he had to check the box 'I'm a convicted felon,' that was the end of the story." Pete also realized that his relative's story was typical of a much larger problem: Many ex-convicts can't find work, which drives them back into unemployment or crime.
So one morning, Pete and two close friends began sketching out this idea of starting a coffee shop that was in the business of not only making great coffee, but in hiring almost exculsively ex-convicts. Pete and his wife, Debbie, invested thousands of dollars to launch the business, and Leonard eventually left his job to pursue it full time. For a mom or dad coming out of prison, that means being able to be a provider and pulling the family out of the cycle of poverty. According to Debbie for her and Pete it's also meant realizing that "your security is in God and not in your bank account.”
What a beautiful way to live out your faith. Think about how risky and costly that was for Pete and Debbie – giving up a lucrative job for an uncertain business idea, risking their reputation by hiring ex-convicts, and providing rest and security for ex-convicts who desperately need it.
In Ruth, we get a picture of what it looks like for you and I to have courageous, risky, obedient faith in our Redeemer, Jesus himself.
Now, there’s one thing that we need to discuss briefly here before moving on, and it’s the part of the story that is slightly unnerving, mildly uncomfortable– and that is the undeniably sexual overtones that run through this chapter. In one sense, it may seem like Naomi is asking Ruth to essentially seduce Boaz, after all, she gets all dressed up, looking pretty, goes late at night, all this talk and making mention of lying down. (Friends, I’m sure you can understand why this wasn’t the subject of our children’s message this morning. I tell you what, they do not make Veggie Tales on Ruth ch.3). But from everything I’ve read and can tell, there’s no sexual immorality or anything inappropriate that takes place here. After all, both Boaz and Ruth have been described as honorable, noble, God-fearing, law-abiding people all throughout. To suggest that something inappropriate is happening here seems incompatible with the rest of the story. And if you’d like to discuss further during fellowship hall, I suppose I’d be happy to do that.
And friends, we’ve got to keep moving. That’s about as much awkward romantic stuff as I can handle.
Let’s move on to more important things. You might be asking, how can Ruth have the confidence to carry out this plan? How can she possibly be so bold?
The same is true for us - How can we have the confidence and assurance to live like this? To live this boldly, to love this deeply, to risk this much, to be this vulnerable?
Well, I think the only answer is this - it’s because we can trust in the character and promises of our Redeemer.
Trusting in the Character & Promises of the Redeemer (v.11-17)
Look at what Boaz says next,
11 And now, my daughter, do not be afraid, I will do for you all that you ask …
This is pretty incredible. Boaz, seeing Ruth’s courage and loyalty and love for Naomi, says yes! Now, as the story explains, Boaz knows that there is a relative that is closer to Naomi, who has the priority in being the family redeemer, should he choose to be. So while Boaz can’t officially say yes right away, he’s going to do everything in his power to find the security and rest that Ruth asks for.
It’s an amazing word and promise that our Redeemer says to us, “Do not be afraid. I will do for you all that you ask … “ Now, of course, that’s not to say that Jesus will truly do for us everything that we ask for, we know better than that, but rather than he will do for us everything we ask for that is in line with his promises. Remember, Naomi has come up with plan and Ruth has executed it, not because of their own wishful thinking, but because it’s what God promised to do in his Law, something they can trust because it comes from God’s Word, spoken by God himself.
Friends, we have can have full and complete assurance that our Redeemer will do and accomplish everything he has promised to do. His promises are good and true and can be trusted. Think about some of the beautiful promises we find in scripture.
He promises to give us wisdom if we ask. He promises to never leave us nor forsake us . He promises to finish the good work he has begun in us. He promises to one day come again and make all things new. Promises that we can put our weight on.
As you would imagine, one of my duties here as a pastor is to officiate memorial services as needed and I’ve done roughly 10 or so now since we moved here, mostly for people and families who have no affiliation with our church and even more, people I had never met before. And while it’s always a difficult time for all included, I always find it to be a sacred privilege to be able to walk alongside a family during a time of deep grief and mourning and to point them to the hope we have in Jesus Christ.
One of the things that often strikes me in meeting with these families is that almost all of them, even those who for their whole life have been functionally atheist or agnostic, are desperately searching for something hopeful to hold onto, saying things, “He or she is in a better place” or “They’re looking down on us,” but yet, with no real reason or grounds for believing in those things.
But friends, we as Christians, we can grieve different, as people with hope, because we can trust in the character and promises of our Redeemer.
We can believe that followers of Jesus will be with him for eternity because Jesus himself said so, when he said:
“I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live …”
You know why I can say and believe these incredible promises. Friends, it’s because Jesus said so! If Jesus said, you can put your weight on it, you can trust it, it’s true. He’ll do all that we ask according to his promises, whether we’re facing the highest highs or lowest lows.
We can trust in the character and promises of our Redeemer, Jesus.
Alright there’s one last thing I want you to see in our story today:
Learning to Wait for the Redeemer (v.18)
Our chapter begins with Naomi in search for rest for Ruth. And here’s how the chapter ends, Naomi, speaking about Boaz, their kinsman redeemer says this,
18 She replied, “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest …
Isn’t that beautiful? We can find rest in our Redeemer Jesus because we know that he is working tirelessly on our behalf, even while we rest. We can find rest in our Redeemer Jesus because we know he is working behind the scenes, sitting at the right hand of the God the father, ruling and reigning and interceding for us in this very moment. Friends, we can rest because we serve and worship a God who doesn’t have to.
Friends, isn’t it kind of weird that you and will likely spend somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 of our life sleeping? You and I will spend a significance chunk of lives, sprawled out on a bed, head on a pillow, just laying there, accomplishing nothing. Yet, it’s all by God’s good design. That’s exactly how God wanted it.
After all, God could have very easily created us as people who don’t need sleep, as people who work and move and get stuff done, making the most of each and every of the day, but no, instead, we’ve been wired to be unproductive. You and I were made in need of rest. You have to imagine that God created us that way as a way of building our trust and confidence in Him. That going to bed each night would be an act of trust, trusting that God is at work, even when we don’t.
D.A. Carson, famous Christian author says this, “Sometimes the godliest thing you can do in the universe is get a good night’s sleep—not pray all night, but sleep.”
So friends, maybe just maybe, for Jesus’s sake, go get some sleep.
“Wait, Naomi says, for the man will not rest.”
That’s the kind of man Boaz was, and that’s the kind of Redeemer Jesus is for us, even to this very day, until he one day comes again.