Whispers of Joy
December 12, 2021 | Redeemed | Whispers of Joy| Ruth 3:1-18
In this third chapter, Ruth’s story advances quickly to a place where we find that Boaz may turn out to be more than just a comforter, more than a provider, more than someone who brought peace, but he may be the one who brings joy again to Ruth and by relationship, to her mother-in-law, Naomi. As we look at this story under the heading Whispers of Joy, we will see A Hopeful Plan, A Bold Request, and A Joyful Future.
A hopeful plan
Ruth 3:1-5 1 Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well (joy) with you? 2 Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. 3 Wash therefore and anoint yourself and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do.” 5 And she replied, “All that you say I will do.”
Our key to understanding this plan is in what Naomi expresses as her reasoning behind it. She says two things here that are worth examining closer.
Should I not seek rest for you-This is not the first time Naomi has used this language concerning Ruth. In Ruth 1:8-9 we see her saying to her daughter-in-laws “Go, return each of you to her mother's house. May the LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 The LORD grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!”
The word translated ‘rest’ here is not just a cease of laboring, but it is better understood as a place where you can rest or resting place. What Naomi is talking about is clear when she adds each of you in the house of her husband. In the context of the first chapter, she is trying to send her daughter-in-laws back to their homeland of Moab so they can remarry, build families, and find their own resting places. Places where they can prosper and be happy. Naturally, we can assume, the same thing is meant here, when Naomi again says, should I not seek rest for you.
That it may be well with you- The word well here has a sense of being joyful or rejoicing. Naomi says, I want a life for you beyond that of a mourning widow working in the fields to take care of herself and her mother-in-law. I want you to find a home, I want you to find joy again.
Naomi, possibly encouraged by the way the Lord has obviously blessed them in finding Boaz and has been thinking. What if God has more for you in Boaz than we thought?
So, Naomi gets an idea. Ruth should let Boaz know that she would be open to him redeeming her. But she does so in a way that would avoid any unnecessary public embarrassment for Ruth or Boaz. He could quietly refuse, and no one would have to know. But she hopes…she hopes Boaz’s amazing kindness to Ruth and to herself, Boaz’s protection and gifts, his praise of Ruth…she hopes…maybe this indicates that he would be interested in extending the ultimate kindness to Ruth.
The plan is to let Boaz know that Ruth is interested in him and would be interested in him exercising his right as a kinsman redeemer concerning not just Naomi’s estate but Ruth herself.
A hopeful plan, that Ruth agrees with and sets out to carry out just the way Naomi had planned.
A Bold Request
Ruth 3:6-11 6 So she went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had commanded her. 7 And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down. 8 At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet! 9 He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” 10 And he said, “May you be blessed by the LORD, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. 11 And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman.
There is a tension that needs to be managed here that sometimes I think commentators and pastors forget and lean too far one way or the other. This is neither as salacious, as some make it, or as innocent as others make it.
While we acknowledge there is some ambiguity in the original language (translators disagree on what exactly this plan was, what uncover his feet means, where she was supposed to lie down, and why Naomi would simply say, he will tell you what to do) we must keep the character and motives of those involved in mind.
This ambiguity is possibly intentional to highlight that this could have gone another way. There is a certain sensuality here that we cannot deny. Boaz’s heart was full, joyful, and glad. The harvest was good after years of famine, his barn was full, and his house would have what they needed. Here Ruth comes to him under the cover of night when he is full and happy, where he lay by himself, at the end of the heap of grain, and uncovers his feet and lay beside him.
In the dark, in a corner alone, and no one knows she is there. No wonder Boaz was startled!
This certainly could have been interpreted in an inappropriate way. Moabite women were already thought of by the Jews as immoral women and here one comes in the dark of night and lays next to him. He could have thought any number of things. Especially with Naomi’s plan where she was supposed to just wait and see what he said.
What if he decided that he would take advantage of the situation?
What if he decided not only that, but then to run her reputation into the ground around town as a hussy who threw herself at him?
Maybe that is why Ruth deviated from the plan a little bit, she knew Boaz was an honorable man and she wanted him to know she was an honorable woman, so she made a bold request at this moment. ‘Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer’
What does spread your wings over your servant mean? The word used here for wings can also mean the edge or corner of a garment. I think she intentionally uses it because of this double meaning. Remember that God himself uses this language of spreading his wings over Israel, and Boaz himself used this word when he was praising Ruth in chapter 2. Ruth 2:12 (ESV) 12 The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”
Literally, please cover me with your garment, figuratively, cover me with your wings, that is take me in as your own. This is essentially Ruth asking Boaz to propose marriage to her. But there is more here. She says, for you are a redeemer. This isn’t just a request for marriage but a request for him to exercise his duty as a kinsman redeemer which would mean caring for Naomi and fulfilling his duty to carry on Naomi’s son’s lineage. In the same way Naomi sought Ruth’s good, Ruth likewise cared deeply for Naomi’s good.
Don’t forget that according to the law, Boaz was not bound to fulfill this duty towards Ruth because he was not a brother to Mahlon and Chilion. Ruth boldly asks that he would do it of his own accord. Will he redeem her?
A joyful future
Ruth 3:12-18 12 And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I. 13 Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the LORD lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.”
14 So she lay at his feet until the morning but arose before one could recognize another. And he said, “Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.” 15 And he said, “Bring the garment you are wearing and hold it out.” So, she held it, and he measured out six measures of barley and put it on her. Then she went into the city.
16 And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “How did you fare, my daughter?” Then she told her all that the man had done for her, 17 saying, “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said to me, ‘You must not go back empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’” 18 She replied, “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today.”
Ruth’s life would never be the same. She had come to Bethlehem with a hope of some kind of future, she has found some peace here, but now there is a real sense that there will be joy in her future. She won’t have to eke out an existence as a widow here in Bethlehem.
There is just one more note that is worthy of paying attention too. Why did Boaz send the gift of grain? Ruth tells us when she reports to Naomi, that she must not go back to her mother-in-law empty-handed. Why is this important?
Naomi came to Bethlehem, by her own words, empty. Her motivation for sending Ruth to Boaz was to take care of Ruth, but here in this gift, it seems Boaz will not forget Naomi. They came empty and bitter and now God has providentially brought them to the brink of a life filled with promise and joy.
Ruth would be married, Naomi would be taken care of, the line of Elimelech would continue. This is a huge point in the story.
If everything went well, Boaz would be the redeemer for not just Ruth but Naomi.
The story introduces a small point of tension here at the conclusion of the chapter. Naomi is confident that they will have an answer this very day, but there is a possibility that yet another character will have to be involved.
There is another kinsman that has first refusal rights. It is a small tension because we have seen God providentially guide and provide for Ruth and Naomi throughout this story. We trust that God will take care of this too. We will see how the story finishes next Sunday.
But you see, either way, joy is coming, because the emptiness is over, the mourning is over, the loneliness is over, there is redemption on the horizon.
The Reality For You and I
You know, there was a real possibility that Ruth could have been rejected by Boaz. He had no real legal responsibility to her; he was of a different status than her both economically and societally.
He could have laughed at her, belittled her for even presuming someone of her status could ever be with someone of his status. This could have ended much differently than it did.
This is the fear some of you may have. You may have never said it out loud, you maybe couldn't even articulate it, but this thought has had its grip on you all your life,
What if Jesus doesn’t want me?
What if I come to Jesus and he rejects me?
You have never dared to dream that the joy we talk about, the joy we sing about at Christmas, could really ever be yours because of your past, because of your sin, because of your doubts.
Why would the perfectly righteous God of the universe ever take a sinful man or woman like you?
But don’t miss this. It is Jesus himself that welcomes you!
Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV) 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
John 7:37-38 (ESV) 7 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
John 6:37 (ESV) 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
Jesus doesn't need to be made aware of your need for redemption, he didn't need any prompting, it was his plan from the beginning.
He initiated it, he completed it, and he offers it.
There is no past that precludes you, no sin that prevents you, and no shame that can shut you out, if you will just come to him as your redeemer and ask him to cover you.
You can experience joy that is beyond words in this life and in the life to come. You can know peace and joy that surpasses understanding, and more than that, it is his great pleasure and joy to give it to you.
Hebrews 12:2 (ESV) 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
What joy was set before him? The completion of his work, the redemption of his people.
Do you want to experience that joy today? You simply have to be willing to come to him and ask.
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