READ – Ruth 3
Chapter 3 is the “love story” chapter in Ruth. Here we are told of how Naomi, having come out her depression, begins to see how vulnerable Ruth’s future is in the land of Israel. She tells Ruth that it is her duty to find “rest” for her. At this time, rest for a widow meant coming under the protective care of a husband. Naomi hatches a plan to get Ruth hitched – to Boaz. When Ruth comes back from her nighttime encounter with Boaz, Naomi tells Ruth she can wait (ie she can rest) because Boaz won’t rest until she is redeemed. It’s a story of how Ruth moved from restlessness to rest. It’s a story that shows us how we can find rest in all our restlessness.
1. HOW RUTH FOUND REST
Naomi’s plan was risky. Sneaking into a man’s tent in the middle of the night looking your best, uncovering his feet and lying down next to him? This was not only risky, it was dangerously risqué. Boaz was known as a man of character and integrity. Threshing floors were frequented by prostitutes for business. What was Ruth doing!? All this could easily have been misinterpreted by Boaz. But the story is told in such a way to highlight the character of both Boaz and Ruth. Boaz understood Ruth’s intentions. Ruth trusted Boaz’ character. This was not a night of passion but a night where character of heart ruled over the cravings of the flesh.
If Naomi’s plan was risky, Ruth’s execution of the plan was crazy. Instead of waiting for Boaz to take the lead, Ruth took the lead and proposed to Boaz (“spread the edge of your garment over me was a figure of speech for engagement)! A foreign, poor woman asking a rich, noble man to marry her was absolutely unheard of… Yet Boaz didn’t flinch. When Ruth called Boaz to fulfill the role of family redeemer – he saw she was right (v12). The law called him to care for Ruth, for Naomi and to honor Elimelech. Marrying Ruth would take care of all these needs and bring rest to these vulnerable women. He promised Ruth with a solemn vow—he would make sure she would be redeemed by the next morning. When he sent Ruth home with a pile of grain, Naomi knew what it meant – it meant Boaz could be trusted, he would not rest until Ruth found rest.
2. HOW WE CAN FIND REST
What does this ancient love story teach us about finding rest in all our restlessness?
Be at Rest…God is mysterious. God is faithful. The story of Ruth shows us two things about God that we must hold together, in tension, to find rest. 1) God is mysterious – his ways are subversive and surprising. 2) God is faithful – his ways are sure and steadfast. God’s mysterious ways are highlighted in this book in the Old Testament Jewish cannon named after a Moabite woman (the only book named after a non Jewish person). It’s as if God is saying, “You want to know how I work and who I work through? How about this – I work through a woman proposing to a man, a younger person proposing to the older, a beggar field worker of the lowest class proposing to an upper-class field owner, a Moabite foreigner proposing to an Israelite, using a plan that’s uncomfortably like that of a prostitute! It’s through this that my greatest King will come. It’s through this that my son will one day enter the world.” What?! This was utterly shocking in its day. God subverts the status quo and surprises at every turn. Much of our restlessness in life comes from wanting to have all the answers; to have all the answers about God. Ruth shows us we never will. God always surprises. He works in ways that subvert human expectation and thinking.
God’s faithfulness is also highlighted in the book of Ruth. So much of our restlessness in life is because we want to eliminate all risk. But Ruth shows us we will never eliminate all risk and we don’t have to. Why? We can trust God to provide and to direct our lives even when we don’t know how things will turn out. God faithfully led and directed Naomi and Ruth. The lesson – he can be trusted, even when he calls us to step out in faith and risk.
Be at Rest…God’s limits in your life are gifts– Ruth is one of the greatest characters in all the bible. But her greatness was not found in how much she did and how many people she impacted. Her greatness was found in her love for two other people. Ruth did not spend her life resisting all her limitations – her poverty, her widowhood, her barrenness, her being an immigrant refugee. Instead she learned to show “hesed” love within her limits and therein was her greatness.
So much of our restlessness comes from trying to do it all and be it all. But In giving us the limits we have, God is teaching us to love like him – with hesed love that is loyal, committed and available.
Be at Rest… God won’t rest until you are fully redeemed. Boaz uses the strongest words a person could ever use at the time. He say, “As the Lord lives…I will”. He’s making a covenant oath in essence saying, “May God kill me if I break any of my promises to you.” He even sent Ruth home with a “down payment” on his promise (a full load of grain). Naomi hears what Boaz said and sees what he did and she knows – Ruth’s rest is sure. She tells her she can wait for Boaz who won’t rest until he has made good on his word.
The covenant oath of Boaz points us to a greater covenant. The love story of Ruth and Boaz points us to a greater love story. How do we know this? We know this from how the book ends. It ends not with a wedding but a birth – the birth of baby that shows God is keeping his covenant to a wayward people to give them rest by raising up a king after his own heart (David). Ruth’s story is a part of God’s great promise and covenant of redemption. Ruth is not only about Ruth’s baby and grandson (David), it’s about her greater grandson – the baby born in Bethlehem to bring the world lasting and full rest. Ruth is not only about the love of this unlikely couple, it’s about the love of God for a broken world – a love that will not rest until we are redeemed. In Jesus, we see why we can trust God with whatever makes us restless. Jesus left his eternal rest at the Father’s side to pursue his faithless bride, so she would finally find rest in Him. He showed us how far God would go to prove to us beyond a shadow of a doubt that His love and His faithfulness to us can be trusted. In between the first and second coming of Jesus, we can wait, knowing he won’t rest until we are fully redeemed.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. What about the sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?
2. Where would you say you are today on the rest scale? 10 – completely at peace and rest – 1 – full of anxiety and restlessness. Why? What makes you most restless?
3. Ruth shows us God surprises us and subverts our expectations. How does this help us rest and keep us from trying to figure everything out/have all the answers? What about Ruth has surprised you about God and his ways?
4. Ruth also shows us how God is faithful and trustworthy. How does Ruth’s story show us this? How does Ruth’s story encourage you to trust God in areas where you may be called to risk or trust him without knowing how it will all turn out?
5. Do you struggle with trying to live a “limitless” life, ie trying to do it all and be it all? How does this affect you? What limits has God put in your life right now? What might it look like to see your limits as a gift that help you focus your love (hesed) on a few?
6. Advent is a season that acknowledges our struggle with restlessness. Advent means “arrival” or “coming”. We live in between the comings of Jesus. At his first coming – he bore our sin and defeated all the enemies of our rest. At his second coming – he will completely redeem us from the curse of sin and death and usher in a endless age of eternal rest. In between, we wait. Ruth teaches us our waiting can be a hopeful, expectant waiting instead of restless waiting.
In light of this, what difference would it make to you right now if you believed with all your heart that you can trust God to redeem everything you don’t understand, everything that hurts, everything you are afraid and worried about? How does all Jesus has done at his first coming assure you he will fully redeem you and all your sorrows/fears at his second coming? How does the gospel prove to us that God can be trusted in this way?