Saving Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz

Ruth Chapter 3

The world needs saving, doesn’t it? It needs saving from the senseless violence of the ISIS group that hates Christians and Muslims and people in general. It needs saving from police brutality and out of control mobs and racism we pretend doesn’t exist. It needs saving from bombs in Gaza and made up stories passed off as “news.”

The world needs saving, quite frankly, from us.

And do you know how God saves us again and again? Well, of course the answer is Jesus, right? But wait. Throughout scripture, stories of being saved are told through having enough to eat, having someone to love, and having babies.

Today is about Boaz saving Ruth. And Ruth saving Boaz.

tumblr_m46cpx9emn1rvjm9wo1_500And that’s right where we are this week, folks. It’s a pretty risqué story, actually. A single, widowed, foreign (Moabite) woman, Ruth, heads down to the threshing floor after a night of partying to celebrate the bountiful harvest and proposes to an older, Jewish man who has had too much to drink. The likelihood of a Jew marrying a Moabite is, well, not. Ruth’s time of mourning is over, as her mother-in-law, Naomi has instructed her to dress in preparation to meet Boaz for more than just polite conversation.

The Hebrew language has a good sense of humor and storytellers in the Old Testament know how to use it well. Words are chosen carefully to tell layered stories that point to many truths, some hidden and some that become apparent in the context. So perhaps chapter 3 of the book of Ruth is the “bow-chicka-wow-wow” chapter. Certainly something intimate happens on the threshing room floor that night. Certainly something that propels this story forward.

eye_Swanson_STR-11_Boaz-and-Ruth-on-the-Threshing-Floor_smallThe threshing floor was a place for men. And the harvest was like the 4th of July is here. It meant another year of life. And they partied. It was a big deal. So imagine the courage it took for Ruth to carry out this plan. To hide in the shadows as the men drank and told stories, celebrating their hard work. While today’s chapter involves bold moves in the dark and sexual overtones that we can easily dismiss, this is the stuff of life and future. Imagine how afraid Naomi and Ruth still were about their future, their hope for survival. It absolutely depended on Ruth finding a husband who would provide for her and her mother-in-law.

So it is something to imagine Ruth, lurking in the shadows, all dressed up as a sign that her mourning was over, waiting for the right moment to approach Boaz and pop the question.

Ruth and Boaz.jpg_700And we get to see Ruth’s character continue to play out. Today, we see Ruth go from a passive and submissive mourning widow to an agreeable partner in her mother-in-law’s plot for a husband that will save them both. However, things don’t go just as Naomi thought they would. “He’ll tell you what to do,” she tells Ruth. Yet, Boaz doesn’t do that, so Ruth takes matters into her own hands and essentially proposes to Boaz.

First, Boaz reacts with seeming delight that she has chosen him, an older man, when a younger man would have been more desirable. But he plays by the rules, knowing there is another relative who would have claim to Ruth before him, and he’ll have to see to that first. It doesn’t seem he is trying to side step responsibility. It seems, rather, that he is honoring the very system in place that protects Ruth and Naomi. Just as he honored the rules surrounding his fields, to leave enough along the margins for the widows and the poor.

Now because Boaz was related to Naomi, there was a chain of responsibility to take care of widows. Yet he needed prodding to step up to this family responsibility.

Remember, women in the 1st century were completely vulnerable and likely to die or worse if they had no husband, so relatives would step in to marry and uphold the promise of their relative who had died. We’ll find out how that shakes down next week.

book-of-ruth-third-chaptercompleteand-croppedThen Boaz worries about Ruth’s reputation if she was seen leaving the threshing room floor in the morning empty-handed. He is concerned with her “walk of shame” so to speak, that next morning, and gives her grain – and quite a lot at that – to take home. Perhaps it signals a promise of future marriage and of fertility.

This is how God works out salvation, folks. God’s faithfulness is alive and well in each of these characters in this story. God’s faithfulness to Ruth is alive and well in Boaz as he tells Ruth not to worry. God’s faithfulness is alive and well in the celebration of the harvest, in the way Ruth seeks to secure her future with a trust-worthy man.

How has God been faithful to you? Have you been able to see God’s faithfulness in the complex and day to day living of your life, just as we look for God in the telling of the story of Ruth’s life? Do you see God’s faithfulness in your life?

Because whether your life is a shambles right now or filled with uncertainty and fear, listen for the voice of a friend telling you, in the words of Boaz “don’t worry about a thing.” God is with you and is working out wholeness and healing and life for you. Rest assured in this promise.

This is the challenge to us, people of faith. Because even in those words Boaz speaks, we know things don’t always go according to plan. As people of faith, we claim what a life of faith looks like. It can look awfully messy. Yet, God is faithful to us, I am certain. And how our lives reflect that faithfulness is as unique and varied as we each are.   The world needs saving, indeed. Thank God.