Meditations in Ruth : 16. Playing it Out
Ruth 3:5,6 “I will do whatever you say,” Ruth answered. So she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do.
It is one thing to talk a risky strategy through, it is another to bring it to fruition. With a casual approach we may think this no big thing but in fact it was fraught with possibilities she would not wish to consider. Ruth was, after all, in a foreign land and this course of action could have meant that Boaz took advantage of her and then cast her out, or he could have utterly rejected her, or others could see what was happening and she could get a name for being a whore.
Yet, nevertheless, she says, “I will do whatever you say.” (v.5) She trusts Naomi and she trusts the signs of Boaz’s behaviour towards her so far, and “So she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do.” (v.6) By today’s standards and the behaviour you expect to see on TV and films she is being circumspect to the nth degree, and as anticipated, “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.” (v.7a) So, “Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down.” (v.7b) So far all has gone as planned but this is just the part initiated by Ruth. The important thing is how Boaz will respond.
So the story unfolds: “In the middle of the night something startled the man, and he turned and discovered a woman lying at his feet.” (v.8) It is dark and so he realises it is a woman but he doesn’t know who she is: “Who are you?” he asked.” (v.9a) She replies, “I am your servant Ruth.” So far so good, but now comes the tricky part: “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.” How sweet is that? What a gentle was of saying in the way of their culture, “Receive me under your covering and redeem me and make me your wife.” Yes, that is exactly what she means – and he knows it, for that is that the culture was like.
Thus he responds: “The LORD bless you, my daughter. This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor.” (v.10) i.e. although you could have come to this land and made eyes at young men, you did not. For the sake of your mother-in-law you did not, and now you offer yourself to me, an older man! Those are noises of appreciation but she needs more than that. She needs more than nice words, she needs actions. She needs to hear from him that he is willing to take those actions.
And she gets the wish: “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.” (v.11) Wow! Yes! How wonderful! He will redeem her and make her his wife. But hold on, there is a problem! “Although it is true that I am near of kin, there is a kinsman-redeemer nearer than I.” (v.12) Apparently there is another man who is a closer relative and the law requires the closest relative to take the action, so they will have to act accordingly: “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.” (v.13) i.e. OK, stay here until the morning and remain safe (don’t try going home in the dark in the middle of the night; that would not be safe). Then in the morning I will approach this other man and I will see if he wants to redeem you. If he does, I must let him, but if he won’t then I will.
Thus we find, “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.” (v.14) Obviously there were some others of his men sleeping there as well who stirred at daybreak and saw what had happened and were told by the boss, “Tell no one!” But before she leaves, he sends her off with a gift: “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 she went back to town.” (v.15) She returns home with hope and further supplies. It has been a good night!
Everything that has happened has been done within the rules of strictest propriety. In it’s simplest sense she has acted out, “I am available. Will you take me as your wife?” and he has responded with gentleness and propriety. There is the matter of the other potential redeemer to be sorted out and he will have to go along with that, but if she is refused he will be honoured to take her as his wife. An amazing example of righteous behaviour from all angles. Will we be as circumspect and righteous in all our dealings in life?