3 One day Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi said to her, “My daughter, I must find a home for you, where you will be well provided for. 2 Now Boaz, with whose women you have worked, is a relative of ours. Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. 3 Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.”
5 “I will do whatever you say,” Ruth answered. 6 So she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do.
7 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. Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down. 8 In the middle of the night something startled the man; he turned—and there was a woman lying at his feet!
9 “Who are you?” he asked.
“I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.”
(Ruth 3:1-9 NIV)
Boaz has granted favor to Ruth and allowed her to glean in his fields. Boaz has shown extra kindness to Ruth and Naomi by telling his harvesters to show compassion to Ruth by giving her some extra grain and letting Ruth glean as one of Boaz’ own workers.
As we pick up today’s story, we see the harvest time is winding down. Ruth has been faithfully gleaning each day in the fields and has likely gotten a sufficient supply of grain for herself and Naomi to make it through the winter and into the next growing season.
While Naomi is grateful for Ruth’s work and Boaz’ generosity, she knows that this is at best a temporary situation. Ruth has committed herself to Naomi, left her homeland of Moab, and is now under Naomi’s roof and care. Naomi knows that if she were to die, that Ruth would be in a very destitute and dangerous situation. Ruth would be a foreigner living in Bethlehem with no money, no means of support, and living alone as a single woman. All these things added up to a serious dilemma that Naomi needed to deal with.
Naomi came back to Bethlehem with nothing shattered dreams and a foreign daughter-in-law. She arrived with a full-blown pity party, even telling her former friends to not call her Naomi (“pleasant”), but to call her Mara (“bitter”). Boaz’ kindness has rekindled Naomi’s hope that God might not be done working yet. The Lord has provided for them physically with food to eat; the Lord has done this through a relative of her dead husband, again a reminder of God’s faithfulness.
Ruth has also demonstrated kindness to Naomi, switching to Judaism and showing Naomi great kindness, care, and concern as she worked to provide food for them. Ruth also showed great restraint and integrity by working hard and not chasing after other men in hopes of snagging a husband. Ruth trusted God and did not lower her standards in order to provide for herself and Naomi.
Naomi remembers God’s promise to preserve their family line by exercising God’s call for a guardian-redeemer. God’s Law required provision for one another with food and protection as well as children.
Naomi likely explains this custom to Ruth, then has her clean up and dress up to present herself to Boaz. Ruth was likely scratching her head at the strange custom but was obedient to do whatever Naomi said.
This was a risky move on the part of Naomi, as it basically required Ruth to ask Boaz to marry her in fulfillment of God’s guardian-redeemer provision. While Naomi certainly understood the risk, she also had seen Boaz’ heart and compassion for Ruth and herself. Naomi’s faith in the Lord to provide was also encouraged by the kindness Boaz had shown to both of them.
Ruth follows Naomi’s instructions to the letter, and when Boaz wakes up in the middle of the night, she asks Boaz to marry her as her guardian-redeemer. We will see Boaz’ response in our next session together.
There are many good lessons in today’s readings, but the most important are those of living a life of trusting the Lord, living with integrity according to God’s Word, and not manipulating others to our own advantage. May we follow God’s commands and trust Him for provision and protection all the days of our lives.