Give Up to Gain

Posted: April 1, 2021 in Ruth

Ruth 3, “Give Up to Gain”

Years ago, there was an SNL character named Stuart Smalley who satirized the idea of the power of positive thinking. No matter how bad things got for Stuart, he could always look at himself in the mirror and give himself the same pep talk: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggonit, people like me!” It might work for TV but it is worthless in real life. Try believing you can fly through the power of positive thinking. You’ll feel great about yourself as you jump out the airplane all the way down until you become a spot on the pavement!

Even more ludicrous is the idea that positive thinking works to guarantee us eternal life. Multitudes of people believe that God will take them to heaven when they die, all because they were relatively nice people and God is a loving God. In essence, they say, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggonit, God likes me!” Tragically, they will be just as disappointed as those deluded into thinking they can fly.

The fact is we cannot think ourselves into heaven. There is nothing we can do in this life that will earn us our place in the eternal life. We are not good (not at all!), we are not that smart, and although God is a loving God who sees us as one of His creations, He will still judge those who remain in their sins. God judges according to His perfect righteousness, even as He maintains His perfect love. What can we do about it? In ourselves, nothing. We have zero to offer, and our best, most positive self-thoughts are powerless. But the good news is that Jesus has already done everything. We need only surrender ourselves to Him, putting our lives totally in His hands. We give up trying to get ourselves into heaven and we rely fully on Jesus – on His work and His promise, and He gets us there. When we give up everything to give ourselves over to Christ, we find that He gives us precisely that which we could never get on our own: redemption.

We see this pictured in historical Israel as the book of Ruth continues. In Chapter 1, the reader was introduced to a tragic family story during the days of the judges. One particular man from Bethlehem in Judea followed in the ways of so many other Israelites in their abandonment of God. This man took the next step by even abandoning the promised land and marrying his sons to two Gentile Moabite women. At some point, the father died in judgment, as did the two sons who freely chose to remain in Moab (confirming the rebellion of all three men). This left three widows – one of which went back to the Moabite family of her birth.

The two women who remained were the Jewish mother-in-law Naomi and her Moabite daughter-in-law Ruth. Although Naomi implored Ruth to leave (for her own sake), Ruth loved Naomi and loved Naomi’s God and refused to turn away. The women thus returned to the land of Israel, fully expecting to face a life of poverty and hardship.

Yet hope returned in a big way as God providentially directed Ruth to the man Boaz, whose fields she wanted to glean for a bit of leftover grain, fending off starvation. Boaz had heard of Ruth’s commitment to Naomi and he was determined to honor this young woman for her sacrifice. He took Ruth from being an outsider and beggar gleaning the fields to virtually treating her as one of his own cared-for workers. Moreover, he ensured she took home so much grain that it was overwhelming just to see her. Naomi need only the slightest glance at the burden in Ruth’s arms to know that she witnessed a miracle of God.

Something wonderful had happened, and it was only the beginning. Chapter 3 picks up at that point, showing the hope of something wonderful develop into a true promise of redemption.

The narrative of the chapter breaks into three main sections: the plan, the execution of the plan, and the report of the plan. What was the plan? Surrender. Neither Naomi nor Ruth would be able to gain anything on their own. Ruth needed to surrender herself to another, if she hoped to be redeemed.

In terms of eternal salvation, none of us will ever be able to achieve anything on our own. Our only hope is surrender. Surrender yourself to Jesus and receive His redemption!

Ruth 3

  • Naomi’s plan for Ruth (1-5).

1 Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you? 2 Now Boaz, whose young women you were with, is he not our relative? In fact, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor.

  1. For all of the talk of how much Ruth loved Naomi, it cannot be denied that Naomi also loved Ruth. Although Naomi originally tried to persuade Ruth to go back to her birth parents, that wasn’t done out of hatred for Ruth; it was an act of love and concern not wanting Ruth to suffer needlessly. Here, Naomi acts on her love for her daughter-in-law as she sought out a new husband for her. The life Ruth had willingly chosen was a difficult one, and Naomi hoped for something easier for her. She wanted her daughter to experience “security,” or (per NASB and ESV) rest and comfort. She desired provision for her daughter-in-law, looking towards her long-term needs. Gleaning the fields was sufficient in a pinch, but it wasn’t desirable as a career. Something permanent was required for true security.
  2. She immediately suggested Boaz as a potential for that security. “Relative” = “one known.” It is a different word from the term later in the chapter speaking of the specific kinsman-redeemer, but it is obvious from the context that this is what Naomi had in mind. A relative was required for redemption. The idea for redemption is primarily that of purchase. It is most easily seen the redemption of someone out of slavery. That is when a purchase price is paid and the slave is set free. This is the picture often painted of our own salvation in Christ. One of the purposes of the cross was to pay off the debt we owed against God through the substitutionary sacrifice of His Son. We owed death; Jesus paid it. As Peter writes, we were not redeemed with corruptible things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ as the Lamb of God (1 Pt 1:18-19). This was the picture seen in the Passover as the blood of lambs were shed in place of the firstborn sons of Israel, redeeming them from Angel of Death. Yet there was another aspect of redemption in Israel: when a family member would pay the price for a kinsman in dire trouble. Perhaps someone sold off his family inheritance due to debt and trouble…a kinsman-redeemer might purchase that property back to ensure it remained within the family (Lev 25). Or perhaps a family member was murdered in cold blood…the kinsman-redeemer would pursue the murderer to justice, hoping to avenge or “redeem” that which was taken (Num 35). To the point in the case of Naomi and Ruth, another role for the kinsman-redeemer was to perpetuate the family lineage of a brother who had died. It was considered a tragedy for a family line in Israel to perish (particularly in relation to the land specifically given to the family by Almighty God), so a kinsman-redeemer would purchase the property of the dead brother, marry his widow, and raise up children for that man’s line (Dt 25). It was both an affirmation of the ownership of God over the land demonstrating that His gift remained a gift, and a method of benevolence for the widow ensuring that she would not starve. – This was Naomi’s desire for Ruth. Naomi knew of someone who would serve as a perfect kinsman-redeemer for Ruth: Boaz. Boaz had already demonstrated tremendous kindness to Ruth, not only in his initial provision from their first meeting in the fields, but in the weeks that followed as Ruth went back day after day through the barley and wheat harvests. This was someone already providing security and comfort to Ruth…surely he would continue to do it in his covenant role as a kinsman-redeemer.
  3. From the details given, it is obvious that this was no “off the cuff” brainstorm from Naomi. She thought this through, to the point of knowing where Boaz was from day to day. She knew that Boaz would be busy that night “winnowing barley.” For those of us not from farming backgrounds, to “winnow” the grain was to crush the freshly harvested stalks under foot, throw it into the air and allow the wind to blow away the chaff leaving the pure grain behind. In Israel it generally took place in the evening due to the increase in wind coming in from the sea. Because it would happen at night, the person would work until he couldn’t do any more, then lie down in the threshing floor and go to sleep. The hour made it late to attempt to gather up the grain for storage, but the produce still needed to be guarded. A sleeping laborer on the threshing floor served the purpose.
    1. That Boaz personally did this work is itself interesting, considering how many men labored for him in the fields. Surely his wealth afforded him the opportunity to hire out the work, something that was fairly common at the time. Perhaps it is an indication of Boaz’s solid character and work ethic, himself doing whatever it was that he would ask a servant to do. Or perhaps it is another indication of God’s providence at work. A man like Boaz did not need to make himself available in a public place overnight like the threshing floor, but God ensured that Boaz did it which made the whole plan of Naomi possible.

3 Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 Then it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you should do.”

  1. Step 1: Ruth was to clean up and go to Boaz. We get the picture of Ruth preparing herself for her best date, perhaps as if she’s getting ready for prom or her engagement photos. That might not be entirely accurate. After all, Ruth and Naomi had little money. Although Boaz had ensured the two of them had plenty to eat, it is doubtful that they had so much money that they were able to improve their wardrobes. Most likely, both Naomi and Ruth were still dressed as widows. Their daily rags were still clothes of mourning, publicly declaring their grief over their lost husbands. Thus, Naomi seems to have told Ruth to put off her widow’s garment and put on something fresh. Ruth was to anoint herself with oil and present herself as a woman available to be taken as a bride. The very look of Ruth would have been a statement of her willingness to wed.
  2. Step 2: Ruth was to uncover Boaz’s feet and wait. There are different thoughts as to what it meant for Ruth to uncover Boaz’s feet (which we’ll see in a minute). For now, notice the passivity of the instruction. Ruth is to go into Boaz, uncover her feet, and simply wait. Naomi does not command Ruth to say anything. Naomi counted on the fact that Boaz would know what to do. Ruth’s approach to Boaz was to do nothing but uncover his feet; Boaz would do the rest.
  3. Look at this now in our redemption found in Jesus. We do not by any stretch of the imagination clean ourselves up (all the newness we have comes from Christ!), nor do we somehow “uncover” the feet of Jesus. We do, however, go to Christ in faith, submitting to Him trusting that He will know what to do. We come to the end of ourselves, understand that we can do nothing, and we place ourselves in His capable hands. We surrender, knowing that Jesus is going to act according to His word and promise.

5 And she said to her, “All that you say to me I will do.”

  1. This was full and ready obedience. Even if the custom sounded weird in her ears, Ruth trusted Naomi and was prepared to do whatever Naomi asked. As a Moabitess, this might have sounded like something strange among the Hebrews. Even so, she was still ready and willing to obey.
  2. Obedience may sound simple, but when people don’t understand the reason for a particular instruction, they have trouble following it. [Especially me!] We see this all the time regarding God’s offer of salvation through Jesus Christ. People are told to repent of their sins and trust Jesus by faith, but when they can’t (or won’t!) wrap their minds around it, they refuse to do it. We like the idea of personal control, being the “captains of our own fates,” and when it comes to surrendering control to God, we tend to rebel. … Worse yet are those who get a flimsy version of the gospel, stripped of our true need of redemption in Jesus and forgiveness from the wrath of God due to our sins. When someone is told to “give their heart to Jesus” in order for them to have a better life and be spiritually fulfilled, that is something that doesn’t even make sense. Without knowing the reason for Jesus’ cross and resurrection, why would anyone ask Jesus to be Lord? Why give Jesus your allegiance and worship when you don’t have a reason? Our failings in evangelism aside, Biblically speaking we DO have a reason. Jesus died as a sacrifice for our sins. Our only hope is repentance and faith in Him, receiving Jesus as our Lord…yet so many people still refuse to do it. We need willing hearts to the call and invitation of God! (God, give them!)

Naomi had a plan at work. Was this simply an example of a matchmaking mother-in-law? Was this the bunch of scheming of a shrewd woman? No. Whereas Naomi had a plan, her plan was according to God’s plan. Remember that all of Naomi’s ideas were based on what was already written in the word of God. She had no reason to tell Ruth to go to Boaz making herself available for redemption, unless there was a provision in the law of God detailing redemption. Naomi knew Hebrew customs, but more than that, she knew the God behind those customs. Her ultimate plan was that God’s word would prove true.

God’s word always does! May we make our plans based on the written plans of God!

  • Ruth executes the plan (6-15).

6 So she went down to the threshing floor and did according to all that her mother-in-law instructed her. 7 And after Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was cheerful, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came softly, uncovered his feet, and lay down.

  1. Ruth followed the instructions of Naomi and found everything as she described. Boaz had a hard day’s work winnowing and threshing the barley grain and had laid down to sleep. Be careful not to get the wrong idea about his eating and drinking. Although Boaz’s “heart was cheerful,” the text does not imply that he was overtly drunk. This was not a night of carousing for Boaz; it was simply a drink or two with a satisfying meal. If anything, the wine probably helped Boaz get to sleep in such a public place and hard surface as the threshing floor. 
  2. With everything in place, Ruth followed through on everything Naomi told her to do. Not saying a word, nor making a sound, “she came softly, uncovered his feet, and lay down.” She didn’t call attention to herself nor demand that Boaz wake. She simply went to where Boaz was, made herself available to him, and waited.
    1. Notice that in all that Ruth did, there is not even the appearance of hesitation. She seemingly had total faith that she would be safe, neither being abused by Boaz nor being cast out by him. Such trust! This was trust not only in Naomi’s plan but also trust in God. Remember that Ruth declared that Naomi’s God would be her God (1:17). Her faith was in the God of Israel. Ruth could proceed without fear because whatever happened was something that God allowed, and her life was in the hands of YHWH.
    2. Do we have that same trust? It seems that Christians proceed is so much fear and uncertainty in our present time. We’re scared of viruses, we’re scared of the news, we’re scared of all kinds of things. It would be as if we forgot the repeated command in the Bible to “fear not.” Beloved, when we belong to Jesus, our trust is in our sovereign God! Whatever comes our way is whatever He allows. That isn’t permission for us to be foolish and bring the consequences of sin upon ourselves, nor to play a spiritual version of Russian roulette with our lives. Rather, it is a call and opportunity for us to trust God as If we live, we live unto the Lord; if we die, we go to be with Jesus. Come what may, God is glorified! May God give us the faith to live likewise!
  3. FYI: Many people have either implied or outright accused Ruth of committing a sexual act with Boaz. Elsewhere in the Bible, the Hebrew term for “feet” sometimes refers to a man’s genitals (as when Saul was “attending to his needs,” when David’s men snuck up on him [1 Sam 24:3], literally “cover his feet,”). Such an assumption speaks far more about the depraved imaginations of the critics than either Ruth’s moral character or the text itself. The entire book shows Ruth to have a pristine character, being a model that even the Hebrews could follow. She wasn’t perfect (no more than anyone else), but she lived an upright life. To assume that she would engage in a perverse act of fornication simply does not fit the text. Just because an expression is used symbolically and euphemistically in some parts of the Bible does not mean that it is always used that way. Sometimes “feet” are just “feet.” This was an act of purity on the part of Ruth. She uncovered Boaz’s feet, and no more. She placed herself at his feet, submitting herself to his authority, asking for his grace in lifting her up. This was a beautiful request; not something born from the evil imaginations of men.
    1. As an aside, it is a good reminder to those not-yet married to conduct themselves in a way that examples godly purity. At one point in our culture, chastity was seen as a virtue. Sadly, those days are long gone, popularly speaking. In the church, it should remain! Those who belong to Jesus ought to strive to glorify Jesus in every aspect of our relationships with one another. Be it when we date/court, or when we wed, or if we remain single, may we glorify God in all we do!

8 Now it happened at midnight that the man was startled, and turned himself; and there, a woman was lying at his feet. 9 And he said, “Who are you?” So she answered, “I am Ruth, your maidservant. Take your maidservant under your wing, for you are a close relative.”

  1. At some point during the night Boaz woke up and wasn’t initially sure of what was going on. All of a sudden, he noticed a woman lying at his feet and he asked the obvious question: who’s there? Obviously from Chapter 2, Boaz was already well-acquainted with Ruth, yet he did not recognize her on the threshing floor. Was this confusion because of age? Because of sleep? Both? The text does not tell us precisely, but it is not difficult to imagine there is a little bit of everything involved. Boaz seems to have been of the same generation as Elimelech (at least), making him quite a bit older than Ruth. There’s no question that Boaz had a sharp mind, but even the smartest of people get a little fuzzy when waking from a nap. In any case, Boaz was confused and asked the question.
  2. First, Ruth identified herself, giving her name and her position. “I am Ruth, your maidservant.” Although Ruth labeled herself as Boaz’s “maidservant,” it is interesting that this term is a different word than the one she used to describe herself in Chapter 2:13. This “maidservant” is of a slightly higher social status. Perhaps she uses the term because now she knows of Boaz’s kinship to her, something of which she was not previously aware. Ruth was not one of Boaz’s employees and directly part of his household, yet she was more than a typical Gentile stranger.
  3. Second, Ruth made her request. Bible versions render this differently, some referring to Boaz’s cloak covering her. Although that was the intended meaning behind the symbolism (with Ruth moving Boaz’s cloak off his feet, that he might cover Ruth with that cloak, putting her under his authority and household), the Hebrew is a bit more picturesque. It might be more literally translated “spread your wing over your maidservant.” If the word picture of “wing” sounds familiar, it should. Boaz used the same idea with Ruth in Chapter 2, when he observed that Ruth had come under the wings of YHWH seeking refuge (2:12). Possibly, this was an intentional choice of words for Ruth, asking Boaz to be the instrument of God in her refuge. – Either way, the idea is clear: Ruth asks for the covering and provision of Boaz. She desires his protection over her.
    1. Is this not our request when we present ourselves to Jesus in faith and surrender? We acknowledge our sinfulness and our need, and we ask Jesus to cover us with His wings – to cover us with His authority and His sacrifice, being our protection and provision. How glorious it is that He gives it!
  4. What was the basis for her request? Boaz was a “close relative,” a go’el, kinsman-redeemer. This is the specific word used in the Mosaic law for the role previously inferred by Naomi. This was the covenant responsibility of family to care for family, to ensure that a brotherly line did not die in destruction. Ruth knew the law in the word of God and asked Boaz to abide by it. — Just the fact that Ruth said anything is of interest, because this is not something that Naomi instructed her to do. Naomi had told her to go to the threshing floor and remain out of sight until Boaz was asleep, and then to uncover his feet not saying anything…all of which Ruth did. But nowhere did Naomi tell Ruth what to say; Naomi trusted that Boaz would know what to say and do. These words from Ruth were unexpected and bold…but also wonderful. How so? Because although this was bold, it was a holy boldness based on God’s word. This was not a moment of pride and ego for Ruth; this was her reliance on the authority of God’s word as revealed in the Mosaic law. What the extent of Ruth’s theological education was, we do not know, but it is obvious she knew enough to know about the responsibility of the go’el kinsman-redeemer. And what she knew of that was enough for Ruth to confidently hold to that promise and boldly ask for God’s will to be done according to it.
  1. Would that we might have such confidence in the word of God! And again, why is it that we can have faith that Jesus will save us? Because He promised He would! That is the guarantee from His word. Paul wrote it to the Romans: Romans 10:9, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” That is as clear-cut as it gets. Men and women are not saved because of all the good things we do; we are saved because of the work of Jesus Christ and our confession in Him expressing true, sincere faith. When we have renounced our own lordship over our lives, receiving and confessing Jesus as our Lord and God – when we truly believe in our hearts that He did everything the Bible claims that He did, including rising from the dead three days after His crucifixion unto death – when we do those things, we will be saved. There is no room for doubt in such a confession, for it is based on the unchanging word of Almighty God. God declared it; it will be done!

10 Then he said, “Blessed are you of the LORD, my daughter! For you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning, in that you did not go after young men, whether poor or rich. 11 And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman.

  1. Boaz blessed Ruth, blessing her in the name of YHWH God. Again, this was a woman who exampled everything that a Hebrew woman ought to have been, though she was originally a Gentile Moabite. Although it would not be written for several more generations to come, she was the epitome of the Proverbs 31 woman, the virtuous woman whose worth is far above rubies (Prov 31:10). Even as a Moabitess, Ruth’s trust was in the God of Israel and she acted upon His word. No doubt she was already blessed of God, and Boaz’s prayer for her was that she would continue to be blessed.
  2. Why? Boaz gave the reason: Ruth had demonstrated true ḥesedkindness” according to God’s own character. And she did not just demonstrate a bit; she gave an abundance of it! And what makes this so wonderful is that Boaz here is not even referring to himself, as if he was flattered that the beautiful young Ruth would be interested in an older man like Boaz. Look closely: to whom was Ruth showing this godly “kindness”? Naomi. Boaz acknowledges this by saying this demonstration of Ruth’s kindness was greater than at the first. What was the first? Ruth’s first act of ḥesed kindness was to Naomi; so was this one. How so? Because Ruth could have been married to anyone. Boaz knew that Ruth could have had her choice of husbands, even among the rich in Israel. Yet Ruth appealed to the elder Boaz. Why? Because Ruth was not seeking only her own security; she was looking out for Naomi. Ruth could have been any with husband from any family in Israel; Naomi would find redemption only from one of her relatives. Ruth’s kindness towards Naomi was to put her own needs aside and go to the one person (of whom she knew) that Naomi could be redeemed.
    1. That is a kindness that cannot be ignored! Although if we try to assign spiritual types and roles to the various characters in the book, Ruth most often pictures the church, in this she demonstrates far more of the love and kindness of Christ. Ruth set aside her own needs so that Naomi could experience redemption. What did Jesus do for us? The same thing to an infinitely greater extent! Jesus set aside His own glories for our redemption. He set aside His own comfort and safety for our salvation. Jesus was willing to be humiliated on our behalf, that we might be made the children of God. No greater selfless love or covenantal kindness can be found, than that of Christ!
    2. Yet if we look at Ruth in the role of the church, we see something else. It is a reminder that our redemption is only found one place: the Lord Jesus Christ. Ruth did not turn to any other family because Naomi’s redemption was only found in one family (her own). We cannot turn to anyone else or any other religion for forgiveness, redemption, and eternal life. We find it only in Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one goes to the Father except through Him (Jn 14:6).
  3. After the blessing came the promise. Boaz promised to act according to his own covenantal role. He recognized that everything Ruth said was true. He was a go’el redeemer, having a covenantal duty to his family. He would ensure that Naomi and Ruth were redeemed, even swearing upon the holy covenantal name of God to declare it would be done.
    1. Swearing is not commended to us by Jesus. Far better to let our yes be yes, and our no be no (Mt 5:37). Even so, there is nothing sinful in Boaz’s oath. This was his own promise to abide by the word of God, based on the holiness of God. His desire was to see God’s will done, and he was calling upon the name of the Lord to do so.
  4. BTW: Notice the commendation of Ruth’s moral virtue. Boaz knew that Ruth had a wonderful reputation in the town of Bethlehem. This was the same description of Boaz himself from Chapter 2, describing him as a “man of great wealth/worth,” (2:1). Ruth did not have riches of gold but she was wealthy in virtue. Boaz knew this, as did the rest of the town. This is yet another reason not to assume she performed any act of fornication.

12 Now it is true that I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I. 13 Stay this night, and in the morning it shall be that if he will perform the duty of a close relative for you—good; let him do it. But if he does not want to perform the duty for you, then I will perform the duty for you, as the LORD lives! Lie down until morning.”

  1. There was more than one go’el relative-redeemer available. As a man seeking to honor the Lord in his actions, Boaz needed to give the other man the opportunity to fulfill the covenant obligation. If Boaz skipped over the place in line, then God wouldn’t be honored. No doubt, Boaz desired to redeem Ruth himself, but he had a greater concern for following the commands of the Lord the right way. Either way, the outcome was good for the women. One way or the other, Boaz would ensure that Ruth was redeemed.
  2. What did this mean? It meant that the plan was successful! Again, this wasn’t a scheme to try to manipulate some kind of outcome for Naomi and Ruth. This was an honest appeal to a covenant command in the word of God that would both honor the Lord and help two women in desperate need of it. And because all the people involved were willing to submit themselves to God’s word, a God-honoring outcome was assured.
    1. It was assured, but not fulfilled…not yet. The fulfillment would come in the morning, but until that time, Ruth could rest in the promise. The promise was just as certain as the actuality, even if the fulfillment would bring with it extra blessings.
    2. This is our own assured comfort in Jesus! There are certain aspects about our salvation that are not yet fulfilled. We are promised a kingdom, and although we live as kingdom citizens today, we do not yet see Jesus’ physical reign on the earth. We are promised eternal life, something we cannot truly see fulfilled until it arrives. Yet our promises are no less certain. We have full confidence in these things, based on God’s word. The promises are just as good as the actualities, although the actual fulfillment will bring extra blessings. (So praise God for those promises today!)
  3. With the promise given, Boaz instructed Ruth to lie down and go to sleep. To send her away in the middle of the night would expose her to danger and was unnecessary. Again, this speaks highly of Boaz’s own moral character. He did not dare take advantage of this younger woman, even though he could have potentially been betrothed to her in a few hours.

14 So she lay at his feet until morning, and she arose before one could recognize another. Then he said, “Do not let it be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.”

  1. Although neither Ruth nor Boaz did anything unseemly, it was still a bit of a tricky situation. A man and woman alone, in darkness, lying next to each other on the ground? Anyone coming upon that sight would have started the rumor mill. Boaz sought to protect Ruth from that sort of thing. Surely the servants coming to Boaz in the early morning hours to help gather the grain would have seen Ruth. Boaz commanded their silence. Obviously, their meeting was not kept forever a secret…otherwise, we would not have it recorded in our Bibles! But Boaz could not take the chance that Ruth’s meeting might threaten the possibility of her redemption by the other go’el, nor of ruining her reputation in town as a virtuous woman. Already, Boaz looked out for Ruth’s best interest, guarding her with his own “covering,” as it were.

15 Also he said, “Bring the shawl that is on you and hold it.” And when she held it, he measured six ephahs of barley, and laid it on her. Then she went into the city.

  1. Not only did he protect Ruth from the gossips; Boaz provided for her physical needs. Ruth hadn’t brought a basket with her, so he had her take up one of her extra shawls to take home a bunch of food to her mother-in-law. How much was an “ephah”? Estimates vary, with most scholars believing it was close to a bushel. In this case, “six ephahs” would be the equivalent of just under 20 gallons! That said, notice that the NKJV italicizes the word “ephah,” indicating that it is not technically in the text. NASB, ESV and others use the word “measure” in place of “ephah,” but neither is that word in the text. Literally, the text says only “six barleys,” with the exact measurement unknown. Whatever it was, it wasn’t a small amount, although it was an amount that Ruth could easily carry by herself.
  2. Question: Was this really necessary? After all, one way or another, Ruth was going to be betrothed by the end of the day. It wasn’t as if she was going to starve in the next couple of hours. No, it wasn’t necessary; it was a gift. It was a symbol of joy and provision and honor…something that becomes clear in Ruth’s later explanation.
  • Ruth reports the plan (16-18).

16 When she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “Is that you, my daughter?” Then she told her all that the man had done for her. 17 And she said, “These six ephahs of barley he gave me; for he said to me, ‘Do not go empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’ ”

  1. Naomi’s question might seem a bit strange to our ears. Surely, she knew what her daughter-in-law looked like. It was one thing for Boaz not to initially recognize Ruth lying at his feet in the midnight hour; it was another for Naomi not to recognize Ruth in the morning. Perhaps the simplest explanation is best, that Naomi had difficulty recognizing Ruth in the pre-dawn light. Although she was waiting for Ruth to return, she just wanted a bit of confirmation it was her before asking any specific questions. – That said, another idea has been suggested that the better translation of the question is, “Who are you, my daughter?” Perhaps Naomi’s question was specific, asking whose bride Ruth now was. Was Ruth still the widow of Mahlon, or was she now the betrothed of Boaz? Had the plan worked? Had Boaz acknowledged Ruth’s surrender to him and followed through on his covenant commitment? Yes!
  2. Ruth faithfully reported the news of everything that happened that night. She also gave the gift of barley to Naomi. Here, we learn the reason for the gift of food. It wasn’t so much for Ruth as it was for her mother-in-law. The six measures of barley (whatever quantity the measure was) were perhaps to be viewed as a type of dowry, or at least an acknowledgment of thanks and kinship. In Naomi’s mind (and surely as intended by Boaz), this was a symbol of his commitment…something she soon acknowledges…

18 Then she said, “Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out; for the man will not rest until he has concluded the matter this day.”

  1. Naomi had complete confidence in Boaz. There was no need to worry or be anxious. Neither Ruth nor Naomi needed to pace back and forth waiting to see what was going to happen. They could set still and trust the word of Boaz, and (more importantly) trust how Almighty God would work through Boaz. One way or the other, Boaz had spread his covering/wing over Ruth and would ensure that she would be redeemed.
  2. Interestingly, the chapter begins and ends with the issue of rest. Different words are used, even reflected in the English (“security,” 4:1; “rest,” 4:18), but the concept of rest overlaps between the two. Naomi wanted Ruth to experience rest; Boaz gave the assurance that rest would come; Boaz would not rest until it did He was going to do whatever it took for the comfort of redemption to be fulfilled.
    1. This is our Jesus! When Jesus did the work of redemption on the cross, He did not rest until it was fully accomplished. For Him to declare tetelestai “It is finished!” was not for Jesus to say that it was mostly done or nearly done. It was done! The payment due our sin was brought to full satisfaction, with nothing remaining. Jesus’ suffering and death accomplished it all. As a result, we have no doubt of our redemption! In what Jesus has finished, we can rest!

Conclusion:

An old TV character used to say, “I love it when a plan comes together!” Here, a plan came together but it was not the plan of a doting mother-in-law trying to set a match for her daughter-in-law. Nor was it the scheming of a couple of women trying to hone in on some gold-digging riches. This was the marvelous plan of God, as laid out in His word and trusted by His people. This was the provision God had made; all His people needed to do was walk in it.

What was it? Redemption, via surrender. There was a simple way for Ruth and Naomi to experience the redemption offered by Almighty God, for them to be brought back from the dead (or at least, brought back from a dead lineage and a hopelessness that leads to death). It meant surrender. It was simple trust in God’s word, with Ruth giving up any hope of her achieving anything on her own and placing all her trust in the man designated as her kinsman-redeemer.

God’s plan for redemption has not changed. It takes surrender. We need to give up, to gain. This should not come as a surprise; it is exactly what Jesus told us to do. Matthew 16:25, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Want to save your life? Lose it unto Jesus. Surrender everything to Him, placing your life in His hands. And according to His word which never fails, Jesus will redeem you. He has already made the purchase of your redemption at the cross; the only thing that remains is imputing it to your account. That happens the moment we place our faith and trust in Him as our Lord.

But it isn’t only about our initial forgiveness and justification. The Christian life is about continual surrender. Yes, we have been redeemed (gloriously so!) but we still struggle in this world. The way we deal with those struggles is through the power of Christ, available to us in the Holy Spirit. For that, we need to surrender.

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