October 21, 2001
In Ruth 3, a single woman travels at night to a barn full of men, uncovers the feet of one man, then proposes marriage. What can we learn from this strange, shocking episode? Alistair Begg explains how this moment in Ruth’s life displayed her sincere trust in God’s care and protection. Above all, we see a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ in Boaz, Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer. Just as Boaz covered Ruth, providing her security, so we are covered by the blood of Christ, who grants us forgiveness and peace.
Sermon Transcript: Print
Father, thank you that all of the circumstances of our lives, all of the apparent inconsequential meetings, are really ordained by your mighty providence. We’re grateful for them all. We thank you for the ongoing relationship that we have with so many in Christ who are scattered far from us here this evening. And as we study together, we commend them into your care. And we pray that you will be our teacher now, from the Bible. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.
For those of you who are visiting, we’re studying in the evenings in this little book of Ruth, which takes us back some three thousand years in history. Ruth nestles into the time period when the judges ruled, which is around approximately 1200 years BC. We have been discovering some very important and practical lessons that have emerged from looking at this section of the Bible, and I think, in much the same way as when we studied Joseph, we have found ourselves greatly stirred and encouraged.
We dealt last time with the opening little section—it was all that we really had time for—of chapter 3. And we discovered that Naomi’s concern was, in chapter 3, as it had been in chapter 1:11, that in this instance her daughter-in-law Ruth would be provided for, that she would be settled in her life. And there is a lesson in this that I failed to point out and I don’t want us to miss—namely, that Naomi could at this juncture in her life have become a kind of miserable character. She does say that there is a bitterness that is attached to her, but it is beginning to dissipate. But even though she says, “Do not call me Naomi,” which means “pleasant,” but “call me Mara,” which means “bitter,” nevertheless, she doesn’t exude a spirit of bitterness. And she doesn’t actually convey to us, as we read of her life, the kind of preoccupation that can be the part and parcel of someone who has been bereaved in a particular way as she has. She has lost her husband, and she has lost both of her sons. But apparently her preoccupation now is not with her constantly referencing the fact of her loss but is of her genuine interest in seeing others who have been similarly bereaved settled in their life.
And it is a reminder to us in passing that the best proof which you and I can give of our affection for someone whom we loved and who has been taken from us is to show proper attention to the happiness and the comfort of the persons who were dearest in life to the one who has been taken. And the same is true for the bereaved. In the loss, for example, of your mother, then she may have had a particular friend. Then instead of sitting in a pool of pity, agonizing over your own loss, recognize that this friend of your mother’s has also had a great loss, and you may now show your esteem and affection for your mother by caring most directly for the one who is also aware of loss.
And also, you recognize that Naomi wasn’t one of these old women who grudge younger women the comforts and advantages which they themselves are now too old to enjoy or to relish. You find that in people. They grow old, and instead of being able to rejoice in what is happening to those coming up behind them, they’re constantly bemoaning the fact that it isn’t happening to them, or that they’re no longer able to enjoy it, or that they’re not going on vacation, or that they no longer have the companionship.
Now, dear friends, this is a lesson first to me, and if it means something to you, then make a note of it. But what we will be in that arena of our lives when we get there is simply an extension of what we are now. And if we are self-possessed now, if we are totally self-focused now, then we will be even worse if we make it to seventy. So let us learn, then, not to grudge to the generation coming up behind us the comforts and the benefits that they may enjoy because of their age and because of their opportunity. Let us learn from Naomi. She’s not sitting in the house bemoaning the fact of her widowhood; she’s saying to her daughter-in-law, “Now, come on. You need to be settled in your life. And here I have some plans and ideas for you. And why don’t you go ahead and do this, and follow my advice, and proceed on the journey.”
And you will remember from last time—and indeed, I think it has been the focus of quite a bit of conversation, if I’m paying attention to what I’m being told—that she gave very clear directions as to how she should go and approach Boaz, exercising his responsibilities on the threshing floor and then finally falling asleep after his meal. And I made quite a play on the fact that parents have a responsibility to usher their children into a framework in which they may find the kind of spouse that will be compatible for them in their lives. And I said it in such a way that, I think, upon reflection—and I don’t say this because anyone has said this to me, but I’ve been thinking about it during the week—I said it in such a way as to perhaps create the impression in the minds of some that parents have a legitimate right to choose for their children the kind of husband or wife that they, the parents, would like. No, they don’t. No, we don’t. We have a responsibility to encourage our children, all things being considered, to marry the kind of fellow or girl most agreeable to themselves—the kind of fellow or girl who will make them glad.
And this idea of “Well, I never had a ballplayer, and so my daughter is going to marry a ballplayer, because I want somebody to go out in the backyard and throw and pitch to,” you may want to do that. You may have to wait until your grandchildren, Grandpa, because that may not be just exactly what your daughter has in mind. And the fact that you think that she needs to marry this character because of the way he’s put together, because he’s always doing stuff like this and everything, and pressing like this—she doesn’t find that remotely attractive. So send him home, and listen to your daughter.
This is the flip side of what I was saying last time, because some of you are dangerous, you know. You get one little thing like this, and you’re off into some kind of Islamic trip. And that is not what we’re saying at all. Gentle persuasions and serious advice may frequently be put to good use. Compulsion belongs not to a parent but to a tyrant. Compulsion belongs not to a parent but to a tyrant. Now, that is just to address any danger that the pendulum went out too far.
Now, when you come to verse 6 and 7, you realize that as a result of Naomi’s initiative and Ruth’s obedience, the latter—namely, Ruth—has placed herself in a situation of extreme vulnerability. Because where is she? Well, she is in a barn, and the barn is filled with what? Filled with men. So here is a single woman in a barn filled with men. Furthermore, in a barn filled with men who are, apparently, in exceptionally good spirits, as a result, first of all, of having completed their task—namely, the bringing in of the harvest—and secondly, as a result of having concluded their meal. And now, having been successful in their endeavors and rejoicing in their relaxations, they’re all beginning to lie down and find their bed for the night, throwing themselves down on the barn floor.
And, of course, the instruction that has been given to Ruth and which she has been in accord with is that she should go down to the threshing floor, not interrupt Boaz while he’s having his meal, but make sure that she finds out where it is that he lies down, because once he’s gone off to sleep and under cover of darkness, she’s actually going to show up and uncover his feet. And Naomi doesn’t want her uncovering the wrong feet, because that could lead to all kinds of disasters that are not planned, at least in the mind of Naomi.
So Ruth was vulnerable. She was vulnerable in relationship to her safety, ’cause she has no saying what these guys are going to do. And she was vulnerable also in relationship to her motives. Because there’s no saying what people are going to say about a young girl who goes down into a barn of men in the middle of the night. In fact, the kind of things that most people are going to say are not the kind of things that you want written on your résumé or sent home in a note to your mother.
In fact, the more I thought about this during the week, I’m not sure I like Naomi’s plan. Now, I don’t think she cares whether I like it or not, and I’m not sure that you’re particularly interested, but I just wanted you to know. In fact, I think, as much as I am commending Ruth for her obedience, I was hoping during the week that she might have had just a little bit more savvy herself—that she might have challenged this notion. She might have said, “You know, you really want me to go down in there and go in the middle of the night, in amongst a bunch of men in a barn?”
Because, after all, think about this: I’m not sure that we would want to use this now as a model for giving advice to our daughters about finding a husband. Would we? Any who would, see me afterwards; we need to have a serious talk. Or that we would use it as a strategy, calling our daughters at university and saying to them, “Listen, I just read an amazing story in Ruth chapter 3. I’ve got an idea for you: you might want to go down to one of the men’s dorms and see if you can’t uncover somebody’s feet.”
Okay, you see why I’m interacting with Naomi’s plan here. I’m saying this is an interesting plan. It’s a reminder to us as well that everything that is described in the Bible is not prescribed in the Bible. And the reason I mention this is because people wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction. In other words, they fiddle about with the Bible and try and make it say what they want it to say—and teenage girls and teenage boys are masterful at it. They may never have read their Bible in seventeen weeks, but as soon as they find a passage like this, they’re off to the races. Now they’re phenomenally interested in Ruth chapter 3, and they’ve got all kinds of reasons as to why they’re going to a party over at Rodney’s house, and they’re planning on uncovering a few people’s feet. Now, unless you understand what you’re doing with the Bible, you’re going to be completely at sea. That’s why I mention this to you.
The circumstances for that to take place would have to be the same as the circumstances here, 1200 BC. The good news is, they’re not. That’s your first out, Dad. The Jewish laws would have to be in place concerning marriage. They’re not. That’s your second out. Therefore, we need to apply another principle in relationship to those who may be tempted to take this descriptive passage and say, “You know, I think this is a very interesting strategy for interpersonal relationships and for getting closer to the opposite sex, and we’ve developed a whole booklet on this now,” and, you know, I can just see, within a very short period of time, somebody’s got a tape series on this called Uncovering the Feet of Your Future Spouse, and it becomes a whole deal.
No. What we have to do is recognize that the Bible said that we should “abstain from all appearance of evil.” We should “abstain from all appearance of evil.”
So you tell your daughter, “You better come home, honey.”
“Oh, I’m not doing anything, Dad.”
“I know you’re not. You’ve got to ‘abstain from all appearance of evil.’”
“Well, I think it’s okay. There’s lots of people there. There’s lots of other people’s parents there, and blah, blah, blah,” and it’s always the same old nonsense.
“You better come home, honey. You’ve gotta ‘abstain from all appearance of evil.’”
“Yeah, well, there’s a thing the other night with Ruth, and she went down in the barn with all the guys and everything. Why can’t I do that?”
“Well, because this isn’t 1200 BC, and this is not the laws of the Levirate—and just shut up and get in the car.”
You see, even good men and women can give bad examples. Right? You can get a bad example from a good person. It doesn’t mean they’re a bad person; it just means they’re a good person that set a bad example, and bad examples, when they come from good people, are not to be imitated. Therefore, that is why, as we trace our line through here, it’s very important for us to recognize that behind this process here, behind this unfolding drama—and certainly this is the high point of the story of Ruth here in chapter 3—behind these highly unusual actions, what we discover is a sincere trust in Yahweh’s care and protection. Naomi is trusting in God. Ruth is trusting in God. Boaz is trusting in God. And although the events and the actions and the details seem distinctly strange to our twenty-first century way of thinking, nevertheless, here God providentially overrules all of this for the well-being of his people.
And so it is that Ruth proceeds with the plan: “[I’ll] do whatever you say”—verse 5—“so she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do.”
Notice in passing that as Ruth proceeds with the plan, she gives to us here a wonderful illustration of the fact that you cannot necessarily deal with all of the implications and all of the eventualities of a course of action before you embark upon a course of action. Were there elements of this that were unknown to Ruth? Yes, many of them. In fact, they didn’t go very far before the message was, “He will tell you what to do.” So on the strength of the word of Naomi, trusting in the providence of God, she proceeds with the plan. If she had waited until she had all the details, she would never have gone ahead.
Now, in this there is a point in passing, as well: a reminder to each of us that there will be occasions—there are occasions—in our Christian life, when we cannot see much beyond the next step. At that point, we have to trust God and venture out on the basis of his Word. It’s not uncommon to find well-meaning believers who, frankly, have made very little progress in their Christian life. They’re safe, they’re under control; there is not very much about them that smacks of the supernatural. There is nothing very much about them that says, “You know, I really trusted God; I went out on the limb.” Because all of the time, they’re spending their lives in the waiting room. And they’re in the waiting room, and they’re waiting to make sure that all of the implications of their actions are detailed for them—that the eventualities of what would happen if they went there, and then, of course, if the road divided here and they took a right, then that would of course place them here, which would in turn make it difficult for them to get there, and so on. These people are absolutely neutralized. They want details before they’re prepared to trust God. They’re so afraid of making mistakes that they never make anything. They’re so afraid of going in the wrong direction that they go in no direction.
Ruth didn’t know but beyond “Wash your face, put on your clothes, put some perfume on, uncover his feet, and then take it from there.” That’s not exactly what you would call a rock-solid plan, is it? There’s a bit of uncertainty there. And yet she proceeds.
And I want to say to some of you: You need to start to think about this. You need to start to dream dreams. You need to start to think about possibilities. You need to look up and beyond the horizon. Give up your small ideas, your paltry schemes, the safe territory. You see, provided your life is in a right relationship with God, provided you honestly want to go his way and not your own way, then the Bible gives us all kinds of permission to launch out in faith, to take risks for his sake—even to get it wrong and to fail and to have to come back.
But Ruth is a wonderful example of somebody who, as soon as she got the rudiments of it together, she said, “Fine, I’m going for it. I’m going for it.” What was she going for? She was going for the future. She was going for obedience. She was going on the basis of trust. May I ask you, what are you going for? What are you going for? What is there about your Christian life at the moment that speaks only of faith? Something that you are contemplating doing, a place that you are planning to go, a venture that you’re undertaking, someone to whom you’re going to speak—whatever it may be—that is all about faith. You don’t know the eventualities, and you don’t know the implications. To the extent that the answer to that is, “Frankly, I haven’t got a clue,” then the Word of God comes to us with great resonance, doesn’t it? Lest we spend our lives very safe, very comfortable, very cold, very refrigerated, stuck in the waiting room. And what is true of individuals is certainly true of a church.
Wesley, when he was asked about, you know, the danger of adventuresome faith and presumption—you know, “Well, this sounds a lot like presumption.” No, this is adventuresome faith. “Well, it’s…” and so on. He said, “Listen, if you’re talking colleagues for me, I’d rather have one fellow who was so on fire that I had to constantly cool him down than to have ten unenthusiastic men whom I had constantly to warm up. I’d rather have one guy that I had to say, ‘Hey, hey, hey, wait a minute, wait a minute,’ than ten guys who say, ‘Did you ever think of this? Did you ever think of that? Did you ever think of this? Would you like to try that?’”
“Put your perfume on, get your clothes on, wash your face, go down, uncover his feet.”
“Okay, I’m on my way.”
And verse 9–13, then, you have the dialogue in the darkness. Dialogue in the darkness. She goes down. He’s lying at the far end of the grain pile. Not exactly what you would call a romantic picture, is it? He’s got all his clothes on, presumably. Who knows how big his belly is as a result of all the food he’s been eating. He’s certainly pushing grain around like crazy. There’s no guarantee. I think he looks like Topol in Fiddler on the Roof, myself. That’s him, you know: “Sunrise, sunset. Sunrise, sunset,” you know. That’s the kind of flavor here. “Is this the little girl I carried? Is this the little boy I knew?” So there he is, snoring down at the end of the grain pile. And Ruth, ’cause her mother-in-law said, is going down, and next she has to uncover his feet, which she does. And “in the middle of the night”—verse 8—“something startled the man, and he turned [over] and [he] discovered a woman lying at his feet. ‘Who are you?’ he asked.”
You say, “Well, what do you mean, ‘“Who are you?” he asked’? He knew who Ruth was.” Listen, have you ever wakened up in the middle of the night and asked your wife who you are? I’ve had my wife come into the bedroom in the middle of the night, and I go, “Who are you?”
“I’m your wife. What are you talking about?”
“Oh, sorry, okay. That’s fine.”
“‘Who are you?’ … ‘[I’m] your servant Ruth,’ she said.” Wow, okay! You see, also, to take all of the kind of sensuality out of this, all of the sort of twenty-first-century-and-post sexuality—the idea of Ruth going down to the threshing floor, sort of strutting her stuff, you know, all dressed up to the nines and ready for action—is just nowhere in the passage. This actually speaks to the anonymity that was so much a part of Eastern dress, that it wouldn’t be immediately apparent to him, especially in the darkness, just exactly who it was he was dealing with.
And so she says, “Well, I’m your servant Ruth.” Notice how she describes herself. And then immediately she goes off-line. “What do you mean, she goes off-line?” Well, this wasn’t in the script. See? “You’re to get yourself washed up, perfume yourself, put on your best clothes”— verse 3—“go down to the threshing floor, don’t let him know you’re there. When he lies down, note where he is; then go, uncover his feet, and he will tell you what to do.” So she’s done everything, uncovered his feet, he wakes up, he says, “Who are you?” She says, “I am Ruth,” and then, before waiting for him to tell her what to do, she starts asking him to do something for her. I just thought that was interesting; I thought I’d point it out.
You see, the law of Moses allowed for a woman to request marriage from a kinsman-redeemer. Now, I know that on the leap years or something, apparently, women can propose to men. That was the old days. The present climate, I’m not sure just exactly how it goes. But in the context in which we’re reading this story, it was the law of Moses which made this not unusual. And so she says, “[I want you to] spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.”
Now, it is in the response of Boaz that we understand just exactly what she was doing. What she was doing was proposing marriage. Because he responds, at the end of verse 10: “You [haven’t] run after the younger men, whether rich or poor.” So he’s not in any doubt about what’s taking place. He realizes exactly what is taking place.
Now some men may have taken advantage of that circumstance in the midnight hour. Others may have used it as an opportunity for reproach, to condemn the woman harshly, to wake everybody in the barn up and say, “Hey, hey! Look what’s going on here!” But Boaz does neither. He is a good and a shrewd judge of character. He’s watched this woman. He has been in her company—albeit not a lot, but enough—so that he doesn’t entertain any suspicious thoughts concerning her. He may have wondered about her method of approach, but he certainly wasn’t wondering about her motives or about her purity.
And that’s why, in verse 10, he speaks of her kindness: “‘Bless you, my daughter,’ he replied. ‘This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier.’” What was the kindness that she showed earlier? Well, her whole life is about kindness—but primarily her kindness to her mother-in-law in the loss of her father-in-law, in the loss of her husband, and in that environment of bereavement. Unlike her sister-in-law, she has come back into the land of Judah, she has committed herself unreservedly to this lady, and the reason that she was out following the harvesters in the field when Boaz first was introduced to her was on account of her kindness to Naomi. And he says, “Now you’re taking this to a whole new level. Are you telling me that you want me to marry you? I can’t believe how kind you are! You could have gone and married any younger man. You have no obligation in this. Whether the young man was rich or whether he was poor, whether he was tall or short, fat or thin, whatever, you could have looked with absolute freedom out over the panorama of opportunity. But I understand that what you’re doing is showing kindness.”
Now, when I got to this point in my study, it just hit me like …. I said, this is friendship, isn’t it? This is why Naomi and Ruth were such “buds,” you know. Because the reason Ruth is here is because of Naomi’s concern for Ruth. But no, the reason Ruth is here is because of Ruth’s concern for Naomi. You see, this is friendship, isn’t it? Because friendship like this is a unique and a precious gift. The friend is always looking out for the friend. The friend is not making decisions on the basis of their existence as to how it will impact them primarily but as to how it will be an encouragement to their friend. And so Naomi doesn’t embitter herself with the fact that she’s no longer marriable, with the fact that she no longer will enjoy the privileges of marital relationships. She’s not trapped in all of this. She’s looking at this girl, and she’s saying, “You know what? I want you to be settled in life. I want you to have a husband. I want you to have children. I want you to have a future.” And because of what Ruth understands—remember, as an alien and a stranger—about the law of God, she, a Moabitess, converted to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob… instead of saying, “Thanks for that,” and then going out and finding any husband she can, she recognizes that if this thing is to go forward in the way that would bring honor and glory to Naomi and to the memory of Elimelech, then she needs to marry a kinsman-redeemer. Therefore, she gives herself away, first in her commitment to Naomi, and now in her commitment to Boaz.
Now, we could stop here and talk about the desirability of equality of age in marriage and so on. It may be desirable; it’s certainly not indispensable. But I’ll tell you what is indispensable: virtue and integrity. Look at verse 11: “Don’t be afraid. [I’ll] do for you [whatever] you ask. All my fellow townsmen know,” what? “That you are a woman of noble character.” Well, that’s worth everything, isn’t it? Because when it comes to marriage, neither physical beauty, nor quick-wittedness, nor financial security, or a host of other factors, will ever be able to take the place of integrity and virtue.
But there’s a problem. Verse 12: “Although [it’s] true that I am near of kin, there is a kinsman-redeemer nearer than [me].” “I can’t fulfill your request, Ruth, since there is another one with a prior and preferable claim. I’m not going to intrude on the rights of the other man, unless the other man voluntarily surrenders his rights.” What a wonderful fellow Boaz is, isn’t he? He’s going to settle things through the proper means. Verse 13: “In the morning if he wants to redeem, good; let him redeem. … if [he’s] not willing, [then I] as surely as the Lord lives … will do it.”
And then he says to her, “Now, what I want you to do is to lie here until morning,” presumably motivated by a concern for her welfare. If she was vulnerable in the barn, she’s going to be more vulnerable outside of the barn in the middle of the night. And if he starts to go with her and stirs the whole place up, then it’s going to be a fiasco if he gets one of his servants, and they go plowing around through the middle of the night—who knows what will take place? And so discretion is the better part of valor. It’s not an ideal situation. But it’s the best decision in light of the undesirability of the factors that are presented.
Certain situations in life may cause us to take a course of action which, in different circumstances, it would be very unwise for us to do. You understand? In other words, you need to have common sense in living your Christian life. Given a clean sheet, it wouldn’t be a good idea for Boaz to say to Ruth, you know, “Why don’t you come over for a coffee? And then why don’t you just lie here beside me—adjacent to me, tangential to me—for the whole night?” It wouldn’t be a good idea, and he probably wouldn’t do it. But given the way this thing has unfolded, he recognizes that the best thing for her to do is stay put. After all, he knows her motives, she trusts his integrity, everyone else is asleep.
And, of course, he wants her to go out under cover of darkness. Why? Common sense. He’s absolutely clear about Ruth’s motives. He’s rock-solid in relationship to his own reaction. But what can’t be guaranteed? What people will say! And so this is discretion again. There is a place for concealment. All concealment isn’t lying. You’re not lying! He’s saying, “Now, look, the best thing that you can do is up and out.” And “so she lay at his feet”—verse 14—“until morning, but got up before anyone could be recognized; and he said”—listen, this is perfect—“‘Don’t let it be known that a woman came to the threshing floor.’” He is concerned that there will be no misunderstanding by others of the nighttime visit.
Incidentally, and in a very particular way, if you think about it in relationship to what’s about to take place the following morning, it’s absolutely imperative that nothing gets out. Because this man needs to have a fair shot at the game, as it were. And he doesn’t need to go at his decision cluttered by all of the innuendo and the speculation regarding the fact that Ruth, this one whom he may take as his kinsman-redeemer, somehow or another was hanging around in the barn in the middle of the night with Boaz.
And so he says, “Listen, give me your shawl,” and it was obviously a big shawl, because “he poured into it six measures of barley and [he] put it on her. [And] he went back to town,” and then she went back up the road. Now, this is the second time in the story that she’s gone back up the road burdened down by a bunch of grain. And now you may read this and say, “Couldn’t he have given her a nose ring or something? Something with a little bit of a diamond in it, or you know, a little something?” “Hey,” you know, “this has been a wonderful evening. Hey, take this, and take this, and take this, and take this!” And she’s going, “Hey, thanks very much,” you know. And she’s either got it on her back, or she’s got it on her front, and off she goes up the road, and Naomi’s watching for her. And here she comes again. And Naomi said, “How did it go, my daughter?”
Now, I love this next phrase: “Then she told her everything.” “Then she told her everything.” Listen, girls: beware of doing anything that you would not want your affectionate mother to know. You want a rule of thumb? Don’t do anything in your life that you cannot go straight home and tell your mother about. And if you apply that rule, you will be saved untold headache, heartache, to the gazillions. Yes, your life may be dull for a time. Yes, you may be regarded as prudish by some. Yes, you may have to divert your plans and your expectations. But I tell you, it will stand you in good stead.
Let no young woman—or man, for that matter—deal in secrecy and concealment. You see the difference? If she’d gone home and said, “Oh, I didn’t go down to the barn,” that would have been a flat-out lie—if she’d gone home, or whatever it be. The concealment from the population is not a concealment from Naomi. She went home, and she told her everything that Boaz had done for her, and she added, “And he gave me these six measures of barley, saying, ‘Your empty days are over.’” And Naomi said, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. Because I’m gonna guarantee the man will not rest until the matter is settled today.” Paraphrased: “He’s hot to trot! You can guarantee, it’s first light of dawn, he’s down, ‘Excuse me, kinsman-redeemer?’ Says, ‘Ruth, you want her? You don’t want her? You want her? Okay. Fine. Thank you. Okay, good. Sign here. Goodbye.’ Boom. Up the road.”
But you see how wonderful this story is. You don’t know that because you haven’t read chapter 4 yet, have you? You don’t know what happens. So we have to stop and save that for next time. But as a little inkling to next time, the way this man does settle issues is the way that issues should be settled. In our dealings, especially where they affect other people—and this is a word to me; I don’t know if it fits anyone else—but in our dealings, especially as they affect other people, we should make no needless delays. Get the thing sorted out. Get it resolved. They’re waiting for an answer; give them the answer. Defer nothing until tomorrow that may be done today, especially if it affects the encouragement of somebody else. You might hold off on bad news, but you don’t want to hold off on good news. Get the matter dealt with.
“Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate and [he] sat there.” So they’re both waiting now. We’ve got Naomi waiting over here with Ruth, and we’ve got Boaz waiting over here at the gate. And we’re waiting till next week, till we get back to the story.
Can I give you a PS? Remember we’ve said that the whole Bible is a book about Jesus? Every time you read this and every time you see Boaz, you should have this feeling in your back of your head that goes like, “This guy is reminding me of somebody. I find when I’m watching Boaz or observing his responses… I don’t know. It makes me think of somebody.” Yeah, it’s making you think of somebody. Because Boaz is a foreshadowing of our kinsman-redeemer, Jesus, who, according to Hebrews, became one with us in everything, except our sinfulness, in order that he might redeem us. That as Boaz dealt with Ruth, so Christ deals with every one of his repentant, believing people: As she cast herself at the feet of Boaz, so we cast ourselves at the feet of Christ. She dependent upon Boaz’s mercy; we dependent upon Christ’s mercy. She being covered over by the corner of his garment; we being covered over by the blood of the covenant, by which he welcomes us with a steadfast love. She being introduced to all the peace and contentment and security as a result of being brought under the wings, as it were, of this wonderful man; and we, in the shadow of Christ, find that he soothes our sorrows and he calms our fears and he dries away each tear. She going up the road burdened by all of his benefits; and we going up the road are made aware of the wonderful provision that God has made for us. She coming to Boaz as a penniless alien; and we coming to Christ as penniless aliens, too. Boaz taking her to himself and making her his bride; Christ the Bridegroom taking us to himself and making us his bride.
And the fantastic thing about this is, this story of Ruth is a real story, right? This is a real person at a real moment in time, living in a real environment, in a Judean village, 1200 years BC. So the story is not like the front of a Hollywood set that exists so that some story can be told on the basis of a fabrication. No, this is a real story.
But here is the wonder about this book, the Bible: this real story, 1200 years before Christ, is ultimately a story about who Jesus is and why he came, and asks us, ultimately, this question: Have you ever cast yourself down at the feet of Christ and asked him to make you his own? And if not, why not tonight? And if yes, then it asks the final question: Am I seeking to exhibit in my dealings with others such a spirit of generous love that I am reflecting the character of he who has wooed me and won me? In short, the longer I live with the Bridegroom, do I look more like him?
We’ll come back to this next time.
Father, we thank you for the Bible. What a great book it is, a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Thank you for all of the practical implications of our study this evening, but thank you most for the foreshadowing that we have of Christ in this lovely man Boaz. As we look to him and through him and beyond him, and as surely as he covered over this young alien with the emblems of his protection and provision, so we who are aliens and strangers to your grace need to come to you and say, “Cover me over ‘in royal robes [we] don’t deserve.’ Cover me.” We give up all our rags—all of the rags that are marked “religion,” all of the rags that are marked “doing our best,” all of the rags that are marked of our endeavors—and we throw them down, and we ask that you would clothe us, save us, make us like you. For we pray it in the name of Jesus. Amen.
 Ruth 1:20 (NIV 1984).
 1 Thessalonians 5:22 (KJV).
 Ruth 3:4 (NIV 1984).
 Ruth 3:3–4 (paraphrased)
 Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock, “Sunrise, Sunset” (1971). Lyrics lightly altered.
 See Hebrews 2:17.
 See Psalm 119:105.
 Jarrod Cooper, “King of Kings, Majesty” (1996).
Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.