The Wings of a Redeemer—Reflections on Ruth 3
When last we left our heroes, Ruth had come home to Naomi after an amazing day of gleaning in the fields of Boaz. Naomi couldn’t believe the haul that Ruth brought home, so she asks in whose field did you glean. When the name “Boaz” is dropped, one could sense that perhaps Naomi is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, the ray of hope. Recall that she came back home to Bethlehem after ten years and returned with no husband and no sons; only this Moabite daughter-in-law in to. She thought she returned empty, but had no idea how SO-NOT-EMPTY she really was.
Now we’re at the beginning of chapter three, and it’s the end of the barley harvest. Six to eight weeks have passed between chapters two and three. Naomi had thought that since Ruth had caught the eye of Boaz, and that Boaz was a Kinsman-Redeemer, that things would have turned around by now. But two months later and the situation is still status quo. Ruth is still gleaning, but the prospect of redemption seems to be slipping away. Ruth’s window of opportunity is closing. What are they to do?
Well, Naomi concocts a ‘plan.’ She tells Ruth that she is to prepare herself and meet Boaz in the middle of the night at the threshing room after he had winnowed his grain and made himself “cheerful.” Once there, she tells Ruth to find the place where he lay down, uncover his feet, and lie down. Sounds harmless enough, right? Wrong. There are many things to criticize about Naomi’s plan. First, threshing floors were typical outside of town, and thus did were dangerous places. Oftentimes, land owners would sleep by the grain to protect it from robbers. Second, she tells Ruth to go at night—dangerous and risky. A young woman alone at night outside the threshing floor, all sorts of things can happen to her. Finally, Naomi’s instructions to “uncover his feet and lie down.” The Hebrew words here carry sexual connotations. To “uncover the feet” can be taken to expose Boaz’ private parts. The word “uncover” is used this way in Leviticus 18 when you have the prohibitions to not “uncover the nakedness of...” throughout that chapter. Second, to “lie down” is a euphemism for sexual intercourse. This is what Potiphar’s wife said to Joseph when she chased him around the house wanting him to “lie down with her.”
Now, is Naomi suggesting that Ruth seduce Boaz? It’s unclear from the text. It can be read that way, but doesn’t have to be read that way. Perhaps, Naomi is simply suggesting that Ruth “make herself available” for Boaz. This is supported by the fact that she had told her “do whatever he tells you to do.” In other words, Ruth, you make yourself available to Boaz and then do what he tells you to do. Either way, it’s not the best plan in the world.
This can happen a lot to us, right? We sense what God’s will is for our lives, and then we move “full steam ahead” without regard for how God intended to have things roll out. For example, perhaps you sense that God is leading you to pursue a particular ministry path, but there are some obstacles in the way. instead of waiting for God to move the obstacles, you “help God along” by taking a shortcut. What oftentimes happens is that our shortcuts often make things worse not better. Consider what happened to Abraham and Sarah. God had promised Abraham that he would have a son, not only that, but that he would be the father of a multitude. However, when you look at Abraham (nearly 100) an Sarah (nearly 90), the math just doesn’t add up for them to have children. Sarah also had a plan, and that was to have Abraham sleep with her servant Hagar. The result was Ishmael, who is today considered to be the “father” of the Arab people (who, by the way, have a hatred for the Jewish people to this day).
Do you have any “Ishmael’s” in your life? Are you living with the consequences of poor decisions you made thinking you were doing God’s will? The good news is that God can (and often does) redeem our poor decisions. That’s what happened with Ruth and Boaz. Ruth followed Naomi’s plan to a “T” right up until she was supposed to “do whatever he tells you.” Instead of that, Ruth lays claim to the promise of a Kinsmen-Redeemer by asking Boaz to “spread her wings over her.” This is in essence a marriage proposal. Ruth wasn’t interested in a “one night stand,” she wanted a marriage commitment. She showed herself to be a worthy woman. Boaz also showed himself to be a worthy man in that he agreed to Ruth’s proposal. Boaz promised that both Ruth and Naomi would be taken care of. There was only one glitch—there was a nearer redeemer than Boaz; someone who had a better claim to the right of redemption. To see how the story turns out, you’ll have to wait until we review Ruth 4.
In closing, one of the takeaways from this chapter is that we should not seek to do God’s will in our way. We should not be tempted to take short cuts to accomplish the will of God. Our ultimate Redeemer, Jesus Christ, was himself tempted to short cut God’s plans. In Matthew 4, when Jesus was in the wilderness being tempted by Satan, we are told that Satan took him to a high mountain and showed him the kingdoms of the earth and said, “All these things I will give to You if You will fall down and worship me” (Matthew 4:9). In other words, Jesus was being tempted to short cut the cross. In Philippians 2 we learn that Jesus “humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8). It was then and only then that God the Father highly exalted Jesus so that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow...and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11). Jesus didn’t shortcut God’s plan, and aren’t you glad for that?