(watch here: https://youtu.be/vkIk2qwEY-A)
1Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, ‘My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you. 2Now here is our kinsman Boaz, with whose young women you have been working. See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing-floor. 3Now wash and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing-floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. 4When 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.’ 5She said to her, ‘All that you tell me I will do.’
6So she went down to the threshing-floor and did just as her mother-in-law had instructed her. 7When Boaz had eaten and drunk, and he was in a contented mood, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came quietly and uncovered his feet, and lay down. 8At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and there, lying at his feet, was a woman! 9He said, ‘Who are you?’ And she answered, ‘I am Ruth, your servant; spread your cloak over your servant, for you are next-of-kin.’ 10He said, ‘May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter; this last instance of your loyalty is better than the first; you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. 11And now, my daughter, do not be afraid; I will do for you all that you ask, for all the assembly of my people know that you are a worthy woman. 12But now, though it is true that I am a near kinsman, there is another kinsman more closely related than I. 13Remain this night, and in the morning, if he will act as next-of-kin for you, good; let him do so. If he is not willing to act as next-of-kin for you, then, as the Lord lives, I will act as next-of-kin for you. Lie down until the morning.’
14So she lay at his feet until morning, but got up before one person could recognize another; for he said, ‘It must not be known that the woman came to the threshing-floor.’ 15Then he said, ‘Bring the cloak you are wearing and hold it out.’ So she held it, and he measured out six measures of barley, and put it on her back; then he went into the city. 16She came to her mother-in-law, who said, ‘How did things go with you, my daughter?’ Then she told her all that the man had done for her, 17saying, ‘He gave me these six measures of barley, for he said, “Do not go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.”’ 18She replied, ‘Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest, but will settle the matter today.’
This week I came across an interesting reflection in the devotional, “Our Daily Bread.” Apparently, the early American Indians had a unique practice of training their young braves. On the night of a boy’s thirteenth birthday, after learning hunting, scouting, and fishing skills, he was put to one final test. He was placed in a dense forest to spend an entire night alone. Until then, he had never been away from the security of the family and the tribe. But on this night, he was blindfolded and taken several miles away. When he took off the blindfold, he was in the middle of a thick woods and he was terrified! Every time a twig snapped, he visualized a wild animal ready to pounce. After what seemed like an eternity, dawn broke and the first rays of sunlight entered the interior of the forest. Looking around, the boy saw flowers, trees, and the outline of the path. Then, to his utter astonishment, he noticed the figure of a man standing just a few feet away, armed with a bow and arrow. It was his father. He had been there all night long.
This morning we’re continuing along our journey through the book of Ruth by tackling the 3rd chapter. In the first 2 chapters we explored the profound faith and loyalty of the two women in this book of the Bible, Naomi and her daughter-in-law, Ruth. It took tremendous faith for these two women to make the decisions life had demanded them to make. Whether it was leaving a homeland to raise a family in a hostile, foreign region or leaving a homeland to care for a relative in an equally hostile, foreign region, the decisions were difficult decisions without any assured outcomes. Both women could have died or at least experienced a much harsher, non-welcoming situation than they did. But their strong faith didn’t go unnoticed…their strong faith as revealed in their deep loyalties. Naomi was loyal to her husband and Ruth was loyal to her mother-in-law. Both displays of loyalty were rewarded and respected by those around them and they were able to successfully cope with fearful, dangerous situations.
This is because God values and appreciates loyalty and faith as we lifted up last week. Our God in many ways demands that we have faith in him and stay loyal to him. At times, our God deliberately stays hidden so that we must either seek him out or rely on our faith that He is always there. If our God were to always make his presence felt, always staying within eyeshot or earshot, we’d fail to stretch ourselves and grow into the people He wants us to become. A little fear and doubt is good for building up courage and strength to make the difficult decisions in life. Life isn’t laid out for any of us in a nice, neat little diagram. There are many unknowns to life in this world. And each of our lives is unique and special. No two lives are exactly the same; we must all go down our own distinctive path in life and face whatever comes as it comes. Those young native American boys learned this the hard way…perhaps a way that most 13-year-old boys ought to learn it. Even though they are trained to hunt and provide for themselves, they can’t truly rely on those skills without first experiencing a little fear and doubt. Fear and doubt push us to be ever more alert and trusting.
They certainly pushed Ruth to be ever more alert and trusting in Naomi as we heard in today’s reading. It was one thing to obey Naomi’s advice to go out and glean in Boaz’s field. It was a completely different thing to go into Boaz’s bed after a night of feasting and drinking and seek out his protection! Yet Ruth trusted Naomi…Ruth was loyal to Naomi…and Boaz’s affection for Ruth developed a little further. And here’s where Boaz becomes more of an important figure in this story. So far we’ve been focusing on the faith and loyalty of the two women in this story but we can’t overlook the faith and loyalty of Boaz. After all, he shows an equally great faith and loyalty too. He not only allowed Ruth to glean in his fields but he commanded his other servants to leave her alone. He not only allowed Ruth to stay in his bed but he refused to shame her in the morning for making such a bold, forthright plea for his protection. Boaz had faith in Ruth; Boaz was loyal to Ruth; Boaz was loyal and faithful to his family in passing her on to a closer relative. Boaz was not unlike the protective father waiting in the shadows of his frightened 13-year-old son.
Indeed, Boaz’s faith and loyalty in these 2 women is not all that different than the faith and loyalty of our God. He, too, waits in the shadows ready to offer protection if need be. Like Boaz, God doesn’t immediately swoop in to take away our fears and doubts. Remember, God wants us to stretch and grow through fear and doubt. Boaz could have easily swooped in and taken care of Ruth and Naomi but chose to wait and allow the situation to unfold as God wanted it to. God’s timing in all things is different than our own. God has his reasons just as Boaz had his reasons. We can be assured that God is always faithful and loyal to those who love him.
And God’s loyalty, like Boaz’s loyalty, is often seen through his protection. Our God might allow for fear and doubt but He’s always eager to offer protection when needed. We are assured this over and over throughout scripture. Paul assures us in his second letter to his congregation at Thessalonica, “But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.” (3:3) Moses assures us his book of Deuteronomy, “Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.’ (31:6) Isaiah assures us in speaking for God, “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” (41:10) And David offers a similar plea as Ruth when he was fleeing from the wrath of Saul, “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, until the destroying storms pass by.” (57:1)
Our God heeds our pleas for protection just as we’ll hear next week how Boaz heeds Ruth’s plea. Why? Because He is a loyal and faithful God. Because He is a protective God. Because He is a loving God. We rejoice in the faith and loyalty of Boaz because it reflects the faith and loyalty of God. Sometimes it is hidden, sometimes it is complex, but it is always true and everlasting. Let us be assured and hopeful in him!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.