Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ruth's Gamble

Ruth chapter 3
God provides for those who act on faith and act righteously.
Ruth 3:1-8 Most don’t know this but way down deep in an archeological dig in Israel they discovered an ancient newspaper several thousand years old. It was a small fragment but they found this on it. “Dear Abigail, my widowed daughter-in-law has found a very nice man who is a bit older than her but she really likes him a lot. And he is a fine man who treats her like a princess. He seems to really like her but he won’t take their relationship to the next level, and he ain’t getting any younger. What can I do to get him to fish or cut bait? Signed, Baffled in Bethlehem.” Now it looks like Abigail wrote back but her letter was never found.
OF course they didn’t have newspapers back then, but I would really like to know where Naomi got this crazy scheme for Ruth to follow; it just might have been from God!
Chapter 3 is like the third act of this great play written by God. At the end of Chapter 1 Naomi felt empty and forsaken by God but by the end of Ch 2 she is praising God for His goodness. She went from hopeless to hopeful. You know when you feel hopeless you don’t even try to figure a way out of your mess. It’s just too hard and there’s no hope for success anyway. But when someone gives you hope you begin to think about what God might do for you, especially if you’re willing to step out in faith.
1 Naomi: Scene 1 opens with Naomi’s counsel.
The first four verses of this chapter just have so much hope. But the funny thing is you could see this plan going terribly wrong in many ways. I don’t know how long Naomi thought of this, maybe several weeks, or maybe the Lord gave her this idea that very day.
But think about it, Ruth is to go to the threshing floor too hide. What if she is found hiding wearing lipstick and perfume, what will they think of her? Now when Boaz goes to his sleeping bag she has to get over to him without waking anyone else up, uncover his feet and then lay down there near him. Several things could go wrong here. She could step on one of his servants in the dark. She could accidently uncover the feet of the wrong fellow. Or the plan could backfire in the wee hours of the morning if Boaz wakes up and thinks that Ruth has some really different intentions. But in spite of all that, Ruth tells Naomi she will do what she has been told.
Now the scene changes to the Threshing floor and Ruth.
There’s Ruth all cleaned up and wearing some Chanel #5, but it might not be what you think. Remember it hasn’t been long since she lost her husband. It was typical for a widow to spend time in mourning. But when a man or a woman is done with the grieving period, they wash themselves, anoint themselves with oil and perhaps a fragrance, and go about their business . So she’s not just making herself look attractive, she’s announcing that mourning is over.
One commentator points out that Ruth does 4 things. She is attractive, attentive, assertive, and available. She made herself attractive; she attends by watching to see where Boaz is going to sleep. She is assertive when he wakes up and asks who she is, and available to submit to whatever he suggests. But what a Bold move? It’s bold but there is no sin. She is still acting righteously.
There’s something very interesting about this story: There is no villain! The three main characters all want the best for others. Naomi wants Ruth to be provided for. Ruth wants Naomi to be taken care of in her later years. And Boaz is helping to take care of both of them without asking anything in return! This part could even be a comedy! But it seems God uses a wise old woman to get things rolling along.
Now why on earth would Naomi tell Ruth to uncover his feet?
Some say this was a customary way to show one is willing to be a servant, sort of saying I’ll be under your feet. Some say that she uncovered more than his feet and later on they were essentially under the covers together. Listen, the Bible never teaches that! In fact it teaches both Ruth and Boaz with great restraint and righteousness.
So Scene 2 fades to black after she uncovers his feet and lies down.
Scene 3 Boaz Awakes! As for me I think this is where we get the expression, “He got cold feet.” But it’s changed some over the years.
This is what happened, in the middle of the night Boaz’s feet get cold so he wakes up and that’s when he spots a woman lying near him. The fact that he has to ask who she is tells us there was no hanky-panky going on.
But that doesn’t mean she hasn’t put herself in a vulnerable position. In fact, isn’t that what a step of faith entails? When we step out in faith there is the possibility that things won’t go according to plan. But it appears that Ruth and Naomi trusted in God and also in the character of Boaz. Here she was an unattached lady that he apparently likes, it’s late at night, he’s been partying, who knows what might happen? But Boaz is a gentleman just as Ruth is a lady.
Look at v9. (read) Notice what she says to him. She makes it clear why she is there. She says at first I’m Ruth your servant. She ends with ‘you are the redeemer’. What did she mean by that? Under Jewish law there were two things in play here. The first is Levirate marriage. If a man died before his wife was pregnant, the man’s brother was to take her as his wife, but the first son she had would carry on the dead brother’s name. That’s found in Deut 25. But, there is another concept called the Goel, or kinsman-redeemer. Under the law the nearest relative could act on behalf of his brother or cousin in matters like paying off his debts or buying back his land. Ruth is reminding him that she is available to him under the law.
Now Boaz responds with “May you be blessed by the LORD, my daughter.” And he is really glad she is there. He liked her but thought of himself as too old and her as too young. He calls her daughter several times. There may have been 20 years difference in their ages. He’s glad she didn’t go after younger men.
But wait, I gotta go back to Ruth. After she says I’m Ruth, and before she says you are my kinsman redeemer, she asks him to cover her. I DON”T KNOW WHY most translations say cover me with your garment! The word is WING! It’s the same word we saw in chapter 2:12 when Boaz tells her, “May Jehovah repay your work, and may a full reward be given you from Jehovah, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to trust.”
Do you see what Ruth is saying? Not only have I come under the wings of God, I would like to be under your wing as well. What a nice way to ask him to marry you girls! You don’t really have to propose marriage; you can let him know you’d like to be under his wings! And Boaz got the hint. Look at verse 11 (read 11-13)
First He says, don’t worry, I gotcha covered! I will do ALL your requests. He knows this is more than just barley talk.
Then he tells her there is another kinsman that has to be dealt with. Then: If he doesn’t redeem you I will. As God Lives! Now lay down till morning. He is not about to send her home in the middle of the night, its dangerous.
BUT, he does something else. V 15, he gives her more grain so that she will not go home to Naomi empty handed. Now this isn’t just a nice gesture, He is sending Naomi a message. This is like a bride price, but he hasn’t dealt with the other kinsman yet.
Then the last scene: Ruth and Naomi again. (vv 16-18)
What a wise woman Naomi was. Wait till it’s a done deal! She knows that we do our part and then wait on God. Don’t presume to know exactly what he will do, just Trust and Obey, there’s no other way! But she was confident in the Lord and in the character of Boaz.
What do we learn from this?
First, when God gives us Hope, we begin to think about what God might do to provide for us. Listen, this church needs Hope again. God has not forgotten you or us! He is still blessing us!
Second, Ruth is ready to step out in faith, follow the counsel of her mother in law and make herself vulnerable. Sometimes, we step out in faith and discover that we didn’t quite see what God’s plan was or we missed the timing a little. That’s OK; God still honors your faith in Him. He’ll correct your course or you’ll get another opportunity, or God will work it all out anyway. Just don’t step out presuming on the Lord. Step out trusting Him.
Third, they let the sun come up on their righteousness. Sometimes in the dark we make the wrong decision. We fail and miss God’s best. This is not just for young people to stay pure before marriage, it’s for the man tempted to cheat on his taxes because dark financial times. It’s for the single mother tempted to put a couple of things in her purse and not pay for them because of dark times in raising a family.
If we will follow God’s plan, let the sun rise on our obedience to God, He can do great things with us. He can make this Moabite heathen into the god-fearing grandmother of King David, who will be the great great great etc. grandfather of Jesus Christ.
We don’t obey just because we want a blessing but because its right. But God blesses his children in obedience.
Let the Sun rise on your purity!

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