The story of Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, takes place in ancient Palestine around 1100 B.C.
We are going to see that, although the cultural practices were quite different than ours, the human condition is exactly the same. The same problems and the same needs, the same dreams, the same struggles.
Last week, a severely depressed and broken Naomi receives a dose of very good news — news that alters her countenance in dramatic ways. She begins to come back to life. She even opens herself to the possibility of a new dream.
It is her pursuit of that dream that plays out in Ruth 3 with a risky plan that will require a bold obedience on Ruth’s part.
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. 7 When Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile. Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down. 8 In the middle of the night something startled the man, and he turned and discovered a woman lying at his feet. 9 “Who are you?” he asked. “I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.”
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.”
14 So she lay at his feet until morning, but got up before anyone could be recognized; and he said, “Don’t let it be known that a woman came to the threshing floor.”
15 He also said, “Bring me the shawl you are wearing and hold it out.” When she did so, he poured into it six measures of barley and put it on her. Then he went back to town.
16 When Ruth came to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “How did it go, my daughter?”
Then she told her everything Boaz had done for her 17 and added, “He gave me these six measures of barley, saying, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’ ”
18 Then Naomi said, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today.”
My eldest child, Ann Ferris, is now 21 and loves adventure. Two summers ago she spent several weeks in India and one exploring Germany on the way home. For the past month, she has been taking an art history course in Florence, Italy, visiting Siena, Venice and this upcoming week, she will be in Rome.
However, when she was four, she was not quite as adventurous. In fact, on a summer night in a friend’s pool, I suggested she climb up to the top of their cool twisty slide. When she made it to the top, she froze. What probably was 8 feet high felt like 80 in her little girl eyes.
I told her that if she would just let go of the rail and slide down, I would catch her.
In that moment, she had a huge decision to make.
Would she play it safe and climb back down, or would she trust her daddy and slide down into the pool? In the face of fear and uncertainty, trusting me would require bold obedience.
Ruth 3 is a portrait of “bold obedience.” Of stepping out in faith to trust someone else’s plan.
Like Ann Ferris on the slide, Ruth had a decision to make. Would she trust her mother-in-law’s plan, or would she play it safe? And what will we do with the decisions we are called to make?
As we study this passage, we will take one section at a time. First, we’ll look at Naomi’s Challenge (vv. 1-4), then Ruth’s Decision (vv. 5-9), and finally Boaz’s Response (vv. 10-18).