It’s amazing how little, comparatively speaking, it takes to encourage someone especially when God is at work. Ruth spoke 7 words in response to Boaz; what and how she spoke radically changed Boaz’ thoughts and dreams for the future. A weeks worth of groceries had a similar effect on Naomi, prompting an about-face; no longer focused on what she didn’t have, Naomi began to recognize the potential for future blessing. True, the full significance went far beyond 7 words and a bushel of barley; yet it is often simple things offered in kindness and humility that make a difference.
Some time passed from Ruth’s first day on the job of gleaning and the beginning of Chapter 3. Likely most if not all of harvest (barley harvest at least; see 2:23) has passed, all that is left is the work of winnowing out the last of the grain. Meanwhile, Naomi has been quietly observing and thinking about future need and the guidance she gave Orpah and Ruth before leaving Moab. Then she prayed that the Lord would enable them to find “rest in the home of a new husband” (Ruth 1:9). Orpah’s future is out of her control but Naomi still feels a sense of responsibility for Ruth’s well-being.
A. mom plans v.1-4
When Naomi finally comes to the point of action she wastes no time or words. She begins by asking Ruth a rhetorical question, one which assumes an affirmative answer, and just barrels ahead without waiting for a response. It’s almost as if Naomi had anticipated Ruth’s objections and was detemined to override them: we’re doing fine, no one’s interested in me, I don’t have a decent outfit, no clue what to say, how to approach a man on that kind of subject. Naomi has a solution for each of these hurdles to be overcome.
you need security – orig. word: rest; meaning: the sort of life that accompanies being settled in your own home with a put-together family. Ruth was probably too busy with the work of day-to-day existence to give much attention to husband hunting. Reprieve for a while after opportunity for gleaning ended but only until supplies ran out; then what? Circumstances certainly improved and had more promise than when in Moab, but… long-term security still a need.
Boaz has a duty – while not stated explicitly in the Law, principle is still there that a family line not be allowed to die out whenever possible. Since Boaz was related to Elimelech and apparently a bachelor, it would be logical to assume he could be prevailed upon to remedy Naomi’s dilemma. If Naomi had knowledge of other eligible family members, she kept it to herself, perhaps counting on Boaz’ demonstrated kindness to make up for distance in relationship.
make yourself presentable – best clothes, best face, best perfume, best smile, but all in modesty. Even though they might be in reduced circumstances, Ruth could be neat and clean and presentable. Given Boaz’ character, simple modest beauty (the kind described by Peter in 1 Pet. 3:3-4) of a gentle and quiet spirit would be most attractive to him. Probably a concept not well-understood by Ruth because of her Moabite heritage.
take a risk – minimize risks to greatest extent possible: wait until you can approach Boaz without being observed, get his attention in a way that will not unnecessarily startle him, then follow his lead. Being part of God’s plan requires discernment and courage – discernment to know what individual responsibility is, courage to act when appropriate. In Ruth’s circumstance, she risked much personally – rejection by a potential husband, alienation in a foreign culture, her personal feelings; yet her character and trust in God were of adequate strength to enable her to do as Naomi instructed.
B. she proposes v.5-9
“I will do everything you say” – Ruth isn’t a kid, she’s a grown woman, widowed, should be able to make her own decisions especially with regard to something this big. Yet,… she’s a foreigner in a new culture, not necessarily up to speed on the nuances of relationships, how to move the process of matchmaking along without causing offense or communicating the wrong thing. Ruth is content to trust Naomi for guidance – first, that what she is doing is right, then that she will do it the right way without damaging Boaz’ reputation or her own.
no witnesses, no embarassment – a public approach could lead others to believe Ruth was being presumptuous, would put Boaz on the spot and perhaps cause him embarassment in front of others. There’s duty, but there’s also chemistry! As well as other obligations of which Naomi and Ruth might be unaware. If there were a better option this would give Boaz an opportunity to tell Ruth without public notice. Approaching quietly, under the cover of darkness, Ruth awakened him in such a way as to not disturb others sleeping nearby.
I did read the signs correctly, didn’t I? (Ruth 2:12) When Boaz awakens, Ruth speaks quietly but quickly and directly. In answer to his question Ruth alludes to what Boaz said at their first meeting – he described Ruth as having come under the Lord’s wings for refuge. Now she asks Boaz to take her under his protection, a polite request for marriage. However, if Ruth misunderstood his meaning, that was his cue to say so and offer a different plan.
NOTE: Many would like to read into this spine-tingling scene far more than is warranted, hinting or even stating outright that Ruth went way beyond the bounds of propriety with regard to physical intimacy. If that is true then Boaz was far from honest when he called her a virtuous woman (v.11).
C. he promises v.10-15
you blessed my socks off – Boaz’ first response: one of surprise, delight, thankfulness. Ruth was looking for a further gift from Boaz in the form of marriage; Boaz viewed it as working the other way round, that Ruth was giving him the gift, the blessing, the kindness.
you’re better than I deserve – Boaz didn’t think he had a chance at anything more than being viewed as a compassionate older friend. That Ruth would consider an older man for a husband totally blew him away. It would have been more in keeping with her circumstances to set her heart on a younger man, one who might even outlive her unlike Mahlon. Boaz was perhaps approaching the age when marriage to anyone would be unlikely but God had other ideas.
I’ll handle the details – Boaz assured Ruth that even though it was more complicated than she apparently knew, he’d take care of sorting out the details. That would need to be done publicly but would not require Ruth’s direct involvement. In either case, her future would be assured whether Boaz or the closer relative married her.
your reputation is safe with me – Boaz praised Ruth as a virtuous woman, a woman of noble character, and then he himself acts as one of noble character. He would if necessary defer to the wishes of the closer relative although his first choice was to marry Ruth himself. Boaz was also determined to guard Ruth’s reputation – all the people in town know your character and I’ll make sure nothing changes that. Ruth did her part by preparing to leave the threshing floor while it was still dark.
here’s my guarantee – As she was leaving Boaz made his intentions very plain, giving her about 60 pounds of barley to take home. Generosity and a token of how seriously he took his promise; while his word was good, he didn’t expect Ruth and Naomi to rely on that alone. Besides, she had blessed him so why shouldn’t he return the favor! with what he had close by to give to her.
D. waiting patiently v.16-18
what happened? who are you? Mahlon’s widow or Boaz’ wife? Did Naomi stay up all night, tensely waiting for Ruth to return with news? Perhaps, for what mother could go to bed and sleep soundly on a night like that? Her question as Ruth approached – who you? Implying the question whether she should still be considered Mahlon’s widow or as betrothed to Boaz?
oo-la-la! It sure seems like Boaz is seriously interested/committed not only to Ruth but Naomi as well. His gift of barley had Naomi in view which could easily be taken to mean Ruth’s new home would have an in-law apartment. That would be in good keeping with Boaz repeated notice of how Ruth was caring for and devoted to Naomi as well as his affection for Ruth. While Ruth probably would not make providing for Naomi an explicit condition of marriage, it certainly was a significant consideration.
shouldn’t have to wait long – just as there was a time for action, then there was a time for quiet waiting. Ruth and Naomi would have to wait while God and Boaz carried out their respective parts in determining who would act the part of the goel, the kinsman-redeemer who would marry Mahlon’s widow. Since Boaz was a virtuous man and had more than a passing interest in Ruth, the details should be settled quickly.
Waiting patiently, quietly when significant details regarding the future are uncertain – not something the average person or, at times, the average Christian manages to do well. It’s really a major element of that rest Naomi spoke of to her daughters-in-law, rest she hoped they would find and that she worked to help Ruth achieve. Did Naomi realize that they could rest right where they were? Willing servants in God’s plan? There is no more secure place to be than in God’s keeping, actively living out our lives under his watchful care and direction. God can be trusted with the details, to work them out for our good and his glory.