Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor
Wow. This week in Ruth is a page turner. As I was reading I was thinking, those who say that the Old Testament is boring obviously haven’t read this book. It is full of danger, suspense and bold moves. Those who say that the bible is lacking in strong women obviously haven’t read the book of Ruth. It is full of women taking action and daring to take the next steps. Those who say that we must adhere to “traditional” marriage obviously haven’t read what “traditional” marriage was because this type of marriage is more about property than about anything else and addresses the faults in that polygamist system. Those who say that God was only wrathful in the Old Testament haven’t read Ruth and thought about hope, faithfulness and providing for one another.
Back to the chapter at hand. For months perhaps Ruth has been following Boaz’s crew around. She has been provided for and due to what we heard before, has caught the eye of the prominent older man. Naomi sees the writing on the wall and sees what could be done. She takes the matter at hand. She wants her daughter in law and herself to be provided for their entire lives. She is about to make a really risky move. Up until now, Naomi has been sure to keep Ruth out of harms way. She has made sure that she isn’t taken advantage of and now she could be placing her beloved in a risky situation. She tells Ruth to offer herself to Boaz but only after he is full of wine and food and is asleep and even then, don’t take it too far. They need to play this just right.
If Naomi can make sure that Ruth is in the right place at the right time, she has faith that things will turn out just fine. Ruth takes her mother in law’s advice and goes to Boaz. What we, as modern readers, miss is that Ruth is making a bold and daring marriage proposal here. Boaz could react poorly. Instead, he is touched. Ruth could have anyone and yet she is so committed to her family that she is offering her life to Boaz (“cover your servant”). He is touched that she would offer love to him. He also protects her honor by sending her home with lots of food and does the next honorable thing, goes to the closer relative (a surprising plot twist that will be explored next week).
Naomi and Ruth’s bold moves have paid off. Boaz has reacted as he should, taking care of the widows and responding with admiration. They took a move to take action. While this is unlikely for the day, it is not that far off from us at times. There are many times when we can’t find the steps and yet we are being called to be bold. We are being called not to a static life but a life of taking action to create change in the world. Could we take steps to make the situations here on earth better for each other?
Quotes of the Week
“Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.” ― Susan Sontag
“Action expresses priorities.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
“It is terribly important to realize that the leap of faith is not so much a leap of thought as of action. For while in many matters it is first we must see then we will act; in matters of faith it is first we must do then we will know, first we will be and then we will see. One must, in short, dare to act wholeheartedly without absolute certainty.” ― William Sloane Coffin Jr
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” ― Helen Keller
“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” ― Brené Brown
Ruth 3:1-18 (The Message)
One day her mother-in-law Naomi said to Ruth, “My dear daughter, isn’t it about time I arranged a good home for you so you can have a happy life? And isn’t Boaz our close relative, the one with whose young women you’ve been working? Maybe it’s time to make our move. Tonight is the night of Boaz’s barley harvest at the threshing floor.
“Take a bath. Put on some perfume. Get all dressed up and go to the threshing floor. But don’t let him know you’re there until the party is well under way and he’s had plenty of food and drink. When you see him slipping off to sleep, watch where he lies down and then go there. Lie at his feet to let him know that you are available to him for marriage. Then wait and see what he says. He’ll tell you what to do.” Ruth said, “If you say so, I’ll do it, just as you’ve told me.” She went down to the threshing floor and put her mother-in-law’s plan into action. Boaz had a good time, eating and drinking his fill—he felt great. Then he went off to get some sleep, lying down at the end of a stack of barley. Ruth quietly followed; she lay down to signal her availability for marriage. In the middle of the night the man was suddenly startled and sat up. Surprise! This woman asleep at his feet! He said, “And who are you?”
She said, “I am Ruth, your maiden; take me under your protecting wing. You’re my close relative, you know, in the circle of covenant redeemers—you do have the right to marry me.” He said, “God bless you, my dear daughter! What a splendid expression of love! And when you could have had your pick of any of the young men around. And now, my dear daughter, don’t you worry about a thing; I’ll do all you could want or ask. Everybody in town knows what a courageous woman you are—a real prize! You’re right, I am a close relative to you, but there is one even closer than I am. So stay the rest of the night. In the morning, if he wants to exercise his customary rights and responsibilities as the closest covenant redeemer, he’ll have his chance; but if he isn’t interested, as God lives, I’ll do it. Now go back to sleep until morning.”
Ruth slept at his feet until dawn, but she got up while it was still dark and wouldn’t be recognized. Then Boaz said to himself, “No one must know that Ruth came to the threshing floor.” So Boaz said, “Bring the shawl you’re wearing and spread it out.” She spread it out and he poured it full of barley, six measures, and put it on her shoulders. Then she went back to town. When she came to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “And how did things go, my dear daughter?”
Ruth told her everything that the man had done for her, adding, “And he gave me all this barley besides—six quarts! He told me, ‘You can’t go back empty-handed to your mother-in-law!’” Naomi said, “Sit back and relax, my dear daughter, until we find out how things turn out; that man isn’t going to fool around. Mark my words, he’s going to get everything wrapped up today.”
Questions for the Week
When was a time when you had to take matters in your own hands?
What does it take to be bold in the world? What calls you to be bold?
What keeps you from taking action?