Today we are we will be continuing our summer series on Women in the Old Testament, looking at some of the most important and impactful women in Jewish Biblical history. We will be reflecting on Ruth 3, Ruth - Humility & Kindness. Ruth’s humility and kindness stands out to Boaz. Ruth’s story happens during the time of the Judges, a time when everyone did what was right in their own eyes. Boaz stays true to God and is drawn to Ruth who has chosen Israel’s God over her own gods from Moab.
Ruth-Humility and Kindness
August 21, 2022
Naomi and Ruth find themselves in a place where they are unable to completely make it on their own; they're relying on what Ruth can harvest in Boaz's fields, but that's only a temporary solution, it won't get them through the whole year. Since Ruth is a foreigner from one of Israel's greatest enemies, many villagers will be slow to help.
Boaz notices Ruth and asks his foreman who this woman is. He’s told she’s Ruth, daughter-in-law to Naomi, a relative of his. Boaz goes to Ruth, “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. 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.” Ruth’s reputation has gone before her, a reputation for kindness, hard work, and commitment to her mother-in-law.
Now Naomi re-enters the story and advises Ruth. "My daughter, I must find a home for you, where you will be well provided for. Now Boaz, with whose women you have worked, is a relative of ours. Tonight, he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in 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. 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.” Boaz is a hard-working farmer and he's sleeping in the field to protect his crops from thieves. Ruth does as Naomi tells her. She shows trust, humility, and obedience, unlike Israel during this time of the Judges.
Ruth is risking herself, putting herself in a dangerous situation; physically, emotionally and socially. Just think about it, it doesn't matter what culture or time in history, a woman dresses up in her best clothes with perfume and makeup and in the dark of the night goes to visit a man in the fields all alone, what do you think might or will happen. What it comes down to is that Ruth, a foreigner from Moab, a detested enemy of Israel is offering herself to a wealthy older man in return for protection and security.
Ruth dresses herself up prettily and puts on perfume and as darkness settles over the land, she makes her way to the field where Boaz is working. When she sees him lie down and fall asleep, she silently goes to his feet, uncovers them and lies down there. Boaz doesn't have any idea what's happening and, in the night, when something wakes him up, he's startled to find a woman at his feet. His first reaction is to ask, "Who are you?" He doesn't recognize Ruth at first. Ruth answers, "I am your servant Ruth, spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer." Ruth uses the word "amah" which can mean "servant," but also means "slave, maid or concubine."
Ruth allows Boaz to decide how to interpret the word "amah," but she does mention at the same time that he's a kinsman-redeemer with the responsibility to protect her. By asking Boaz to spread the corner of his garment over her, Ruth is asking him for his protection. She's at the mercy of Boaz. What is Boaz going to do? If he chooses to use Ruth as a slave or concubine, she will have certain rights and protections. But might Boaz, as a righteous God-fearing man choose to treat her as a maiden and truly be her kinsman redeemer and take her as a wife and protect the family line of Naomi and Elimelek, even though, according to Deuteronomy 23, their children would not be allowed to enter the assembly of God for 10 generations? It's all in Boaz’s hands and in the middle of a field at night, Ruth will have to submit to it.
Boaz responds, "The Lord bless you, my daughter. This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor." Boaz is touched by Ruth's act of trust. Because of her character, Boaz responds positively to her request to be her and Naomi's kinsman-redeemer. But another relative has first right over Naomi's land and Ruth, but Boaz promises that if the relative refuses to be their kinsman-redeemer than he will. Naomi and Ruth's future is safe and secure. Boaz fills her shawl with barley and sends her home early so that Ruth's reputation isn't ruined by someone seeing them together and drawing wrong conclusions about what's happened.
Jesus is our kinsman-redeemer. We’re created in the image of God to be in relationship to him, but through sin and rebellion and a refusal to listen to God, we sold ourselves into slavery to Satan and his lies. A kinsman-redeemer is family taking care of family. We’re children of God, Jesus is our older brother, and he’s stepped in to buy us back from the sin we’ve given ourselves over to. In the time of Ruth and Boaz, Israel has drifted far from God, doing whatever each person decided was right. As you read the end of Judges, cruelty, crudeness was normal, God wasn’t central to their lives, faith was only rituals, and most people created their own truth that revolved around themselves.
As I reflect on where we’re at today, we’re travelling down that same road in our culture, where everyone does what’s right in their own eyes, often right is what pleases them and benefits them, even if it hurts or demeans others. People listen more to voices that tickle their ears and beliefs rather than digging deeper into Scripture for the way and teaching of Jesus. It's easy to treat others in negative ways, focusing on how they don't measure up. There's a casual cruelness today that comes out in gossip and snide remarks that cut into peoples' hearts and souls. If you hear enough of this from people around you, it's easy to believe you're worthless and don't belong.
Like Ruth, many people walk through their days feeling as if they don’t really belong. Having mentored people who wrestle with their identity, youth in trouble with the law, or those simply coming from the wrong side of the tracks, many feel that no one cares about them. This is why Youth Unlimited, the Broomtree, and FCSS are so important; and why the church is so important as places of safety, hope, and belonging. Jesus understands because he experienced the same thing, rejection, aloneness, fear, and more. Boaz offers Ruth safety, protection, acceptance, hope and grace, just as Jesus does for us.
Jesus invites you to come to him when you’re tired and life is heavy. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jesus shows you how much he loves you by being your kinsman-redeemer: paying the price of sin on the cross so that you can experience the grace of forgiveness and belonging. Being our kinsman-redeemer is more than his death on the cross, it's also about offering a life filled with emotional, relational, and spiritual health. Jesus sends his Spirit to the church to offer the world hope; giving people looking for a place to belong, looking for acceptance and aching to be valued, a family who will love them and walk with them as we follow Jesus together. This leads to confession and repentance, obedience and a life of daily worship; looking always to Jesus.
We can experience Jesus’ presence and health by reaching out to the people he has called his own; people he talks about in Matthew 25, "Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me;” reaching out with arms of love, safety, and protection to a hurting and broken world.
The story of Ruth ends with hope and fertility, “Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son…. Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.”
We’re here to bring the world a message of hope and grace. This is what Ruth and Naomi found through Boaz, what we find through Jesus. It looks like walking alongside those who don't know Jesus or haven't accepted him yet. It feels like an invitation to them to join you in your journey of hope and healing following Jesus.