Ruth 3:1-6 1 One day Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not try to find a home for you, where you will be well provided for? 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.” 5 “I will do whatever you say,” Ruth answered. 6 So she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do.
Well, I have heard of some crazy dating and match making strategies, but I’m thinking this one in Ruth chapter three takes the cake. Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law had the cockamamie plan for how Ruth would catch and woo Boaz. First, she was supposed to take a bath. Probably not a bad idea before a first date. She was supposed to put on special clothes. Ok. Not unrealistic. I remember before my first date with Thom a friend and I went shopping for a new outfit for me to wear. What was that even about? It’s not like he knew what was already in my wardrobe. How would he have known if I was wearing a new outfit or one out of my closet? And yet, the first date was a special occasion and called for something new.
Ruth was supposed to get all dolled up. She was told to add some perfume to her dolled up appearance. That’s not so weird, right? Here comes the insane stuff. Ruth was the only one who knew she was going on a date! Boaz didn’t even know it! She was supposed to sneak into the threshing floor area on the night when it just so happened that Boaz would be taking his turn on the threshing floor. None of you teenagers use this passage about leaving home late and night and sneaking into someone’s house to justify anything! Let the parents say “amen!” Naomi sure knew how to manipulate a man. She knew the power of getting Ruth into the right place at the right time, the time she could happen to be alone with Boaz.
What happened next was completely off the wall. Ruth was supposed to wait until Boaz lay down to sleep near his grain to protect it from thieves. She was then to go to him and uncover his feet and lie down at his feet. Now that is weirder than all get-out. I’m not recommending the feet uncovering strategy for any of the single ladies in the house today, but apparently, “back in the day” it was the thing to do! J If I had been Ruth I can only imagine the look on my face as Naomi was telling me her plan! I would have been like, “You want me to do what?” Perhaps if I was desperate enough I would have done it!
I guess I did do some crazy things I did when I was single and looking for a man. I actually did take out an ad in one of those dating papers, the print kind, back before online dating sites were popular. I had resisted doing so, but time started ticking, and I wasn’t meeting anyone. I gussied up my profile and made myself sound as interesting as possible. One of the things I put down about myself was that I enjoyed shopping. Unfortunately when the paper came out the ad about myself had a typo in it. Instead of saying I enjoyed shopping it said that I enjoyed “shipping!” I just knew some UPS or FEDEX guy was going to be calling! I never did that again. God brought Thom into my life when I was 28 and we got married on my 29th birthday, so I found my Boaz a bit later than some! Praise God I didn’t have to smell his feet first! J
Well, Ruth followed Naomi and went all “Sadie Hawkins” and made the first move on Boaz. Naomi knew that in the Law of Moses provision was made for girls like Ruth who needed a husband. God had given the Israelites the rule that a man was required to marry the childless widow of his deceased brother. If they had a son he would be the brother’s name and inherit the brother’s property. That was a way to ensure the deceased brother’s name and lineage would be perpetuated. It was called the law of the “levirate” marriage. If no brother was available, a more distant relative would be asked to step up and fulfill that duty. But here is the kicker, the widow had to let the relative know he was acceptable to her to be this “goel” the English word “kinsman-redeemer” and provider. Naomi wasn’t just insane. She knew what she was doing with this plan. She was helping Ruth get into a position so she could basically ask Boaz to marry her.
So, Ruth gussied herself up, perfumed herself up, and stealthily crept into the barn where Boaz was asleep. She uncovered Boaz’s feet and laid down at his feet. Okay, why his feet? Well it wouldn’t have been appropriate for her to snuggle up next to him, right? But why his feet? As we talked about last week, Ruth was a very humble person. The kind of people who were at the feet of others were servants. Ruth was indicating her desire to submit to and to serve Boaz should he accept her proposal.
Well, Boaz stirred in the middle of the night, probably due to his cold feet (I wonder if that where the expression about “cold feet” comes from as it relates to marriage!) and was awakened to see a woman sleeping at his feet. As someone once said,
“Life is full of rude awakenings!” Adam went to sleep and woke up to discover he’d been through surgery and was now a married man. Jacob woke up to discover he was married to the wrong woman! Boaz woke up at midnight to find a woman lying at his feet.
And so, in the darkness of the night, Boaz asked the woman who she was in verse nine, and she replied, “I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.” Ruth was a smart girl, and she was a romantic at heart. The Hebrew word for “corner” in “corner of your garment” is translated as wing in 2:12. Ruth was using Boaz’s words back on him.
He said to her in 2:12 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.” She was reminding him she had sought refuge under the wings of the Lord, and now she was seeking refuge under his wings. This was her proposal! She wasn’t down on one knee, but she was down at his feet, asking for him to become her husband.
What would Boaz do? If he spread his cloak out over her he was symbolically agreeing to become her protector and provider. She reminded Boaz that he qualified to be a kinsman-redeemer for her.
The idea of a Kinsman-Redeemer is a central theme in Ruth and the Scriptures. The Kinsman Redeemer was responsible for protecting the interests of needy family members:
- To provide an heir for a brother who had died (Deut. 25:5-10)
- To buy back an estate which had been lost through poverty (Lev. 25:23-55). This kept the land in the possession of the family.
- To redeem a relative who had been sold into slavery (Leviticus 25:47-49)
- And to avenge the killing of a relative (Numbers 35:19-21).
In order to qualify to be a Kinsman Redeemer, you had to meet four qualifications:
- You had to be kin somehow. There had to be a blood relationship!
- You had to be free yourself. Slaves or people in debt themselves couldn’t purchase someone else out of slavery.
- You had to be able to pay the price. Whatever the price was, you had to be able to pay it.
- You had to be willing to pay the price. Just because someone could accomplish the work of redemption doesn’t mean he would. There had to be a willingness to sacrifice whatever was necessary to purchase the person. I am sure there were many slaves who had a family member who could do what was necessary but chose not to because they weren’t willing to pay the price and spend their resources to free someone else.
Let me step away from Boaz for a minute to say that you and I have a Kinsman-Redeemer. His name is Jesus! He met all four qualifications. First, He became kin to us as is seen in Hebrews 2:14-15 “14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil– 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
Jesus became related to us in that since we were humans, He also took on flesh and blood and became “one of us.” Jesus didn’t owe a debt to anyone. He wasn’t born into the world with a sin nature because He was conceived of the Holy Spirit. He was without sin. Because of His perfection, He was eligible to pay the price for the sins of humanity. Peter tells us we are redeemed with the “precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (I Peter 1:19).
Boaz was ready, willing, and able to redeem Ruth. There was just one catch. There was a closer relative than Boaz. If he wanted to redeem Ruth, he had the first right of refusal, so to speak. If he didn’t want to marry Ruth, Boaz could legally step in.
SAM AND MEDIA WILL HAVE TO WORK TOGETHER HERE IN A MINUTE:
So, Ruth proposed and was holding her breath. What would he say? Would she be rejected by him and humiliated? Would word get out that he said “no” to her proposal? Could she ever show her face in Bethlehem again if he rejected her?
Cue the romantic music for Boaz’s response to Ruth’s proposal (as she smells his feet) and he responded in verse 10:
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZJFPXZLNx0) (Start volume high and lower in five seconds)
Ruth 3:10-18 10 “The LORD bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. 11 And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character.12 Although it is true that I am near of kin, there is a kinsman-redeemer nearer than I. 13 Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to redeem, good; let him redeem. But if he is not willing, as surely as the LORD lives I will do it. Lie here until morning.”
TURN MUSIC OFF
I know Boaz’s response sounds a little unromantic. Imagine someone asking you to marry them and they respond with, “If the other guy doesn’t want you, I’ll take you,” but it wasn’t like that! J Boaz had to make sure the other guy was legally out of the way before he could swoop in. Doesn’t that sound more romantic and exciting?
There was more to the eye to Boaz’s response than one might think. First let me point out that he accepted Ruth. He could have refused to have anything to do with Ruth, but he accepted her and her proposal. He even called her “daughter” showing he had taken her into his heart. He called her daughter in chapter 2. Who was he kidding? He had already fallen head over heels in love with her. Why didn’t he just go ahead and propose? He didn’t think he stood a chance. He thought of all of the other single bachelors in Bethlehem and never dreamed she would be interested in him.
Do you know how much God loves you? He has accepted you because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, His beloved Son. He wants to be with you. Before you express an interest in being with Him, He is longing to take you as His bride. You are accepted by God. (Romans 15:7) I love this verse from the NKJV: Ephesians 1:6 “He has made us accepted in the Beloved.” He calls you His beloved!
God is just waiting for you to move toward Him today. I think many people are waiting to get their ducks in a row before they come to Christ. They are trying to get everything in order, trying to become perfect as if somehow we could impress God with how together we have it. That’s not the way it works. God accepts you as you are. Now, He loves you too much to leave you that way, which is why He give us the Holy Spirit, His Word, and the counsel that comes through the church to help us transform into the image of Christ, His Son. But that is a process. That is our journey. That isn’t an overnight reality in the lives of anyone I have ever met.
Boaz not only accepted Ruth, but he assured her he would protect and provide for her. In verse 11 he told her not to be afraid and said he would do for her what she asked.
So in chapter 4 Boaz went to talk to the man who was first in line. He told him how Naomi was back in Bethlehem and how she had some property to sell that had been her husband’s. He reminded this guy that he was first in line to redeem it, first in line to buy it back, and the guy said he wanted it.
Then Boaz went on to explain this was a “buy one, get one free” deal. If he bought the land he also got a bride. You see they kept the deceased person’s name with their property back in that day. If this guy married Ruth and they had a son, the son would become the owner of that property and the guy would lose the property he paid for as an inheritance for his other family members. He wasn’t risking that. He wanted that land, but he didn’t want a wife. With the closer relative now out of the way, Boaz was legally free to marry Ruth! I am sure Naomi started planning the wedding! He plans had worked!
Play “HERE COMES THE BRIDE” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpm2VjT05fo) (Just ten seconds)
Note again the reason the first guy passed. It would prove a financial risk to him to take Ruth on. He could lose his investment. Listen, Boaz, was willing to risk everything and pay any price to redeem the woman and her estate. Sound familiar? Jesus paid it all! All to Him I owe! He risked it all to buy us all, including His very life! What a Redeemer!
Ruth had options when it came back to redemption. We know of at least two relatives who qualified. We, however, have no one but Christ who is qualified to redeem us from sin. Salvation is found in no other Acts 4:12. Jesus alone is the “Way, the Truth, and the Life and no one comes to the Father except through Him” (John 14:6). People say, “Well that sounds pretty narrow.” It is, but the amazing thing is that anyone can come through that narrow way! How wide is God’s mercy that He will take anyone!
There was a “Happy Mother’s Day” for Ruth because 4:13 tells us after Boaz and Ruth were married, they gave birth to a son named Obed.
The match-making mother-in-law’s mission was accomplished, and she became a proud grandma. The bitter woman became a doting grandma. The transformation in Naomi’s life is just as beautiful as the transformation in Ruth’s. She was now Ruth’s former mother-in-law. Ruth married someone else. They weren’t any longer legally related. But when she and Boaz had a baby, they took Naomi in as if she was the mother-in-law still. The women in the town couldn’t get over it. They acted like Naomi wasn’t the grandma, but was the mom of the baby.
Look at Ruth 4:14-17 14 The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! 15 He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”
16 Then Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him. 17 The women living there said, “Naomi has a son.” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
That grandbaby became like a son to Naomi. What a beautiful picture of God renewing her life and bringing restoration to her. Amazing, it is that this story started with a funeral and ended with a wedding and a baby.
So, what is your point, Pastor Melissa? I guess I have two:
- We all need a Redeemer. One has been provided. His name is Jesus. You can’t be in a right relationship with God without a relationship with Him. You have to accept that His payment for your redemption, His blood, will save you from a life of sin and selfishness. We all need redeemed from both; sin and selfishness. He accepts you as you are. No, He doesn’t want any of us to stay as we are, but we don’t have to get cleaned up for Him to love us.
He also wants to assure you today that when He stays He wants you, He means He wants you for life. He will provide for you. Philippians 1:6 says whatever God starts in your life, He will complete. He will stick with you for the long haul. Just as Boaz took Ruth in for life, so God wants to be your forever Protector and Provider. Who would want to walk away from that?
- If God is the Author of our stories, the endings are up to Him to write. Who could have predicted the twists and turns in Naomi and Ruth’s stories? Who would have thought uncovered feet could have led to love? You can’t see the ending when you are in the midst of your struggle. You can’t see the ending from any point in your circumstance, but hallelujah, we serve as God who sees the ending from the beginning!
Allow me to suggest some ways to respond to this message. Maybe there is someone who is like a mother to you or like a daughter to you as Ruth and Naomi were for each other. On this Mother’s Day, come and pray and give thanks for them. If they are in this room, grab them and let them know what they mean to you. If they aren’t here send them a text or call them after church.
If you are here and you want to respond to the God who has accepted you and assures He will walk with you for life, come and receive Him today. If you are here, and you are in the middle of circumstances that don’t seem like they could ever have a happy ending, turn your sorrow over to God, let Him direct your steps, obey what He asks, and stay close to His side. Things have a way of turning out far better than we could ever hope for when we walk with God.