Monday, March 4, 2013

Boaz Gets Crazy with Ruth



With a story line straight out of a country song, the Book of Ruth chapter 3 finds Naomi devising a way for her daughter in law to get a husband!   It’s a farm town Friday night at the end of harvest season and she’s determined not to let a quality cowboy like Boaz get away.   Convinced that every guy is keen for a moonlight romp in the hay –or barley as it happened to be in this case, she’s certain she knows how to take this relationship to the next level!  

I made my first visit to Tabernacle Baptist Church this past week.  Numerous Cru students are members there and they are very supportive of college ministry all the way around.  Pastor Paris has been teaching thru the book of Ruth –and yesterdays sermon aligned nicely with the stuff we’ve been talking about at Real Life the last couple of weeks; Marriage, sex, and dating.

The book of Ruth’s three main characters are:
Naomi –a Hebrew widow who is wounded, bitter and broken by the hardships of life.
Ruth – a Moabite, one of Naomi’s daughter–in-laws.  She is also a widow.
Boaz – an upstanding Hebrew man, prosperous, hardworking and Godly.

In Chapter 1, Naomi leaves Moab in hopes of finding life and food back in her native land of Judah.  Ruth was determined to stay with her, and famously declares “your people will be my people, and your God, my God.”  (Ruth 1:16)

In Chapter 2, Ruth meets Boaz while gleaning grain in his field.   (According to the Mosaic law, farmers/landowners  were to refrain from harvesting their whole field and the poor were allowed to pick whatever they could along the edges. Leviticus 19:9-10) He treats her with kindness, blesses her with food and instructs his workers to make sure she “finds” plenty of grain.   He invites her to keep close to his guys in his field so that she’ll be safe.  He doesn’t even really know her, but he’s immediately looking for ways to tangibly bless her life. 

Boaz is a stud all the way around, and as a distant relative of Naomi he’s a potential “kinsman redeemer” for Ruth –basically he could buy her out of widowhood and marry her.  That would be fantastic!  Boaz is a man of character, he’s generous, he looks out for others.   His workers respect him, he cares for the poor –this guy is the kind of guy anyone would want their daughter to marry –and Naomi becomes set on making that happen. 

In Chapter 3, it’s the end of the harvest season.  It’s kind of like “county fair” time, and Naomi contrives this plan to “catch a catch” as pastor Paris put it.   Here’s the plan in verses 3 and 4. 

Ruth 3:3-4
Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. But when 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.”


“Sounds like seduction” said Pastor Paris!  I agree!  I’ve heard numerous sermons trying to make this whole interaction seem less funky, but I’ve always thought it seemed sketchy–especially given the norms of the day!  Pastor Paris refused to shy away from the shadiness and unpacked this section with tremendous contemporary application.

Naomi  basically tells Ruth to put on some perfume, get dressed up, wait for Boaz to finish eating and drinking wine and then go “lie with him” out in the barn.   Really wanting Boaz and Ruth to hook up –she makes a plan for them to actually hook up!  

Ruth’s supposed to go out and “uncover his feet?”  Paris explained that in Hebrew, it could certainly insinuate an uncovering of much more!   “Lie down, and he will tell you what to do.”   So she’s supposed to find him in the night, when no one else is around, crawl up to him wearing perfume, uncover at least his feet, and make herself available for whatever he says to do?!  Were the ladies in fact counting on the uncommon virtue of Boaz to make this turn out differently than one would expect?  Ruth told her mother-in-law “All that you say I will do” –some say she was just being a respectful daughter?   Was she acquiescing to a shady plan because she was trusting and na├»ve?  I can’t believe it!  I think both of these ladies, were defaulting to “Moabite methods!”*  Sleeping with a guy isn’t the best way to get a husband –but it has worked for billions of people!

At midnight, with his “feet” exposed, Boaz awakes with incredible fright to hear Ruth’s proposition.  Things definitely get crazy –but not like you might think!

Rather than engaging inappropriately with a woman who is not his wife, Boaz makes a declaration of NO COMPROMISE!  First of all, check out the way he starts talking about the Lord.  He then promises that he will follow the legitimate procedures for making Ruth his lawful wife.  He will not take what is not his.  Instead, he gives.  He sends Ruth home with grain for Naomi.  He’s a man of integrity, and rather than taking any short-cuts, Boaz is determined to do things God’s way!   Taking the responsibility upon himself, he proceeds to expend himself to arrange the marriage.

Here’s what’s crazy –on that day, and on this day –BOAZ HONORS RUTH!  He loves her, he cares for her, protects her and cherishes her.  In short, he loves her in the same crazy way that Jesus loves! 

*Moabite Methods:  What i'm calling Moabite, are certainly common enough.  People making up their own sexual ethic, trying to make marriage happen however they can etc.  But, it is interesting to see where the Moabites started.  We're talking about a whole culture of people who were literally spawned into existence thru an act of devastating sexual brokenness.  Check out Genesis 19:30-29

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