We continue our study of Ruth and we wait with great expectation the day of Christ’s birth.
Naomi’s Plan for Rest
Naomi cared greatly for Ruth and desired that she find rest (a secure position) for her with a husband and family. Naomi told Ruth, “My daughter, shall I not seek a state of rest for you, that it may be well with you?” (3:1). This desire was behind her earlier statement to Ruth and Orpah in chapter 1 verse 9: “May the Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” Naomi devised a plan to get Ruth to appeal to Boaz to redeem them as their kinsman redeemer.
Naomi’s plan involved Ruth going to Boaz after he finished winnowing barley at the threshing floor. She told Ruth, “So you shall wash yourself and anoint yourself and put on your best clothes, and you shall go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.” Naomi knew that this proposal was best made in private. She told Ruth to go to where he is and “you shall go and uncover his feet and lie down; then he will tell you what you shall do.”
Ruth’s Boldness for Redemption
Ruth carries out Naomi’s plan and boldly asks Boaz for redemption. After “Boaz ate and drank and his heart was merry” he went to sleep at the end of the grain and Ruth “came secretly and uncovered his feet and lay down.” Why did Ruth uncover his feet? Why was this the plan that Naomi devised for Ruth? There is a natural and a symbolic meaning behind this puzzling action. The natural explanation is that Boaz would awaken at some time in the night because his feet were exposed and cold. When he woke up, he would see Ruth and they could talk at a time when everyone else was asleep.
The symbolic explanation is found in Ruth’s response to Boaz’s question “Who are you?” Ruth answered, “I am Ruth, your maidservant. So spread your wing over your maidservant, for you are a kinsman redeemer.” Ruth is boldly asking Boaz to claim his right as kinsman redeemer and requesting that Boaz take the corner of his garment (i.e., wing) and spread it over her. This recalls Boaz’s earlier comment to Ruth: “May the Lord fully repay your work, and may our wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge” (2:12). She is boldly asking for Boaz to redeem her and Naomi and give them refuge. There is another interesting aspect to Ruth’s reply. Earlier she called herself Boaz’s “servant-woman” (2:13) and now she calls herself a “maidservant” (3:9). The two different Hebrew words can be synonymous, but in this context it reflects Ruth’s journey from a simple servant woman to a female servant who is eligible for marriage.
Boaz’s Urgency for Resolution
Ruth boldly petitioned Boaz to redeem them and Boaz urgently seeks resolution. Boaz told Ruth, “May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter. You have shown your last lovingkindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich.” The first act of lovingkindness was recorded in 2:11-12 and refers to all she has done for her mother-in-law. Boaz praises Ruth for “not going after young men.” This refers to Ruth seeking to marry Naomi’s kinsman redeemer and provide her an heir rather than seeking a husband for herself. Boaz praises Ruth’s lovingkindess toward Naomi saying, “So now, my daughter, do not fear. All that you say, I will do for you; for all my people within the gates of the city know that you are a woman of excellence.”
Boaz is willing to redeem Ruth and Naomi, but there is a problem. In an unexpected turn of events, Boaz told Ruth “there is a relative closer than I. Remain this night, and when morning comes, if he will redeem you, good; let him redeem you. But if he does not wish to redeem you, then I will redeem you, as the Lord lives.” Boaz is not the closest male relative of Naomi. This is startling news because we have been cheering for Boaz since we heard of him. Now, there is a possibility that another person, whom we do not know, might redeem them. Boaz comforted Ruth and sent her home to Naomi with some grain. Ruth reported to Naomi all that had transpired and Naomi replied: “Wait, my daughter, until you know how the matter falls into place; for the man will not remain quiet until he has finished the matter today.”
Advent Reminds Us to Wait
Chapter 3 does not end where we expect it to end. There is no indication that Boaz spread his wing over Naomi. Boaz praised Ruth for her lovingkindness but indicated that he was not able to provide for them until the closest relative had spoken. At the end of chapter 3, we wait with expectation just like Naomi and Ruth waited for Boaz.
One of the great blessings of the Advent season is that it forces us to wait. We begin four Sundays before Christmas preparing ourselves for the day when we celebrate the arrival of Jesus. We do not like to wait, but it is good for us to wait upon God. As the psalmist said, “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10). Augustine is quoted as saying, “If God seems slow in responding, it is because He is preparing a better gift. He will not deny us. God withholds what you are not yet ready for. He wants you to have a lively desire for His greatest gifts. All of which is to say, pray always and do not lose heart.”
As you wait for Christmas Day:
- Ask God to increase your patience. Make a list of the things in your life that produce impatience and ask Jesus to help you respond well in each of them.
- Ask God to increase your hope. When you find yourself anxious and full of concerns, ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of the eternal truths and glorious expectations found in the Gospel.
- Ask God to increase your joy. Grumbling is easy, anyone can do it. Rejoicing takes work because it involves focusing on Jesus more than yourself.
- Ask God to increase your love. Our greatest love should be for the Lord our God. “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps 37:4). Once our love for the Triune God grows, our love for others will grow as well.
- Ask God to increase your faith. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). Let us be like Abraham who “with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able to do” (Rom 4:20-21).