Ruth takes a risk and makes her interest in Boaz known in this fourth sermon in the Redeeming Ruth series. Pastor Mark explains Boaz’s humble and loving response and how it reflects the character of our gracious God.
3:1 Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you? 2 Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. 3 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. 4 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.” 5 And she replied, “All that you say I will do.”
6 So she went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had commanded her. 7 And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down. 8 At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet! 9 He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” 10 And he said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. 11 And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. 12 And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I. 13 Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.”
14 So she lay at his feet until the morning, but arose before one could recognize another. And he said, “Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.” 15 And he said, “Bring the garment you are wearing and hold it out.” So she held it, and he measured out six measures of barley and put it on her. Then she went into the city. 16 And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “How did you fare, my daughter?” Then she told her all that the man had done for her, 17 saying, “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said to me, ‘You must not go back empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’” 18 She replied, “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today.”
You’re listening to “Redeeming Ruth,” a sermon series following the events from the Book of Ruth, presented by Pastor Mark Driscoll. Follow this wonderfully written story of the redemption to be found in Jesus and his people, and learn how it applies to everyday people today. This is a presentation of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. For more information, go to marshillchurch.org.
“Then Naomi, her mother-in-law, said to her, ‘My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you? Is not Boaz our relative with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. 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.’ And she replied, ‘All that you say, I will do.’
“So she went down the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had commanded her, and, when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. And she came softly, and uncovered his feet, and lay down.
“At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet. He said, ‘Who are you?’ and she answered, ‘I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.’ And he said, ‘May you blessed by the Lord, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. And now it is true that I am a redeemer, yet there is a redeemer nearer than I. Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good. Let him do it. But, if he is not willing to redeem you, then as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.’
“So she lay at his feet until the morning, but arose before one could recognize another. And he said, ‘Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.’ And he said, ‘Bring the garment you are wearing and hold it out.’ So she held it, and he measured out six measures of barley and put it on her. Then she went into the city. And when she came to her mother-in-law she said, ‘How did you fare, my daughter?’ And she told her all that the man had done for her, saying, ‘These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said to me, ‘You must not go back empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’’ She replied, ‘Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest, but will settle the matter today.’”
Good evening, Mars Hill. Good to see all of you. We are in part four of six weeks on the Book of Ruth. This week we look at Ruth gone wild, the most difficult text in all of Ruth. She goes tanning and everything. Pray for me; it’s a very complicated text.
My name is Mark. I’m one of the pastors here at the church. We’re gonna get right to work in a moment. If you’ve got a Bible, go to Ruth, chapter 3. So, I will go ahead and pray, and we will get right to work. How many of you’ve read ahead and know the very difficult text I’m in for tonight? So, it should be fun. There’s some funny stuff in here, too, I promise you. So we’ll get there in a moment. And it’s good to have you guys out on what I think is the biggest Sunday we’ve ever had. Things are going really well here at the church. So just pray for more seats, or this sermon could free some up. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll pray.
Father God, we love you. We thank you for scripture. We accept it as perfect and authoritative and true and helpful. And God, we’re here tonight to hear a word from you from scripture. I pray, God, you would enable me to do a good job instructing those who have gathered in your Word. God, I pray your Holy Spirit would enable us to hear and understand and apply what it is you would have for us. God, I pray that the men would learn from the example of Boaz; that the women would learn from the example of Naomi, and Ruth, and that through this, Lord God, when all is said and done, we would have a clearer understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ and how he is like Boaz, and how we are to come to him, like Ruth.
And so, God, we give our time to you and we pray that our time would be pleasing to you and that it would be profitable to us, as we ask this in Jesus’ good name. Amen.
Well, I’ll catch you up to speed. If you are new, I’ll go through the first two chapters of Ruth briefly to sort of catch you up in what is one of the greatest short stories in all of scripture. It takes place in the time of the Judges, we are told, which is a time of sin and rebellion and folly, that lasts over 100 years, and is roughly 1,000 years before the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. If you want to read more about that, you can just go to the Book of Judges, and that will give you, essentially, the historical backdrop for the same time period as the Book of Ruth.
And we’re told that in a town called Bethlehem, which means “house of bread,” there is, ironically enough, a famine, seemingly indicative that God has judged his people for ongoing sin of many sorts and kinds, including sexual sin, and he has refrained his blessing until they repent. What happens then is that the story shifts to a very normal, average family headed by a man named Elimelech, his name meaning, “my God is King.” He has a wife named Naomi, her name means “pleasant” or “sweetheart,” and they have two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, which are weird names ‘cause they mean “sick” and “dying”. Nonetheless, what happens is that the famine strikes the town, and Elimelech determines that it is best for he and his family to relocate.
And so he makes a very foolish and tragic choice of all the places that he could have chosen. He chooses the town of Moab, Moab being a place that God’s people are not supposed to go. The Moabites are descended from an incestuous relationship between Lot and one of his daughters in Genesis 19, that led to the birth of a son named Moab; through him come the Moabite people. They’re very godless; they’re very perverted; they have all kinds of sexual sin. Furthermore, they do not worship the God of the Bible. They, instead, worship a false god named Chemosh. Nonetheless, he moves his family there. And in this, he makes a tragic error, as many men do. He is only looking at the economic opportunity in Moab; he’s not asking questions like where will we go to church? With whom will we fellowship? Who will my sons marry? Who will my wife have for friends and accountability? What Bible study could we possibly attend? He overlooks all of the spiritual questions and simply pursues the financial opportunities and heads to Moab.
There, the boys grow up and they want to marry. There are not godly women there, so they marry two Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah. What happens is, tragically, Elimelech dies, Mahlon and Chilion, his two sons, also die. They went to Moab to avoid death and that’s the exact thing that occurred. They died. That left three widows: Naomi, the mother-in-law; Orpah and Ruth, the younger daughters-in-law. And it left them in a very destitute and precarious situation: no husbands, no children, no sons, no protection in that cultural condition, very vulnerable.
Naomi’s life is very hard and then she hears that back in Bethlehem, her hometown, God has ceased frowning and has begun smiling upon his people, and that he has lifted the famine, and that he has blessed them. And now there is a harvest, and she hopes and prays and trusts that as God has been good to his people, if she returns home, that God could indeed smile upon her and bless her as well. So she decides to return home to Bethlehem.
Well, accompanying her, initially, are Ruth and Orpah, who love their mother-in-law, and she also loves them very much. But along the way she realizes she really has nothing to offer these women. So she encourages them to return home to their families, and perhaps to remarry and start their life over. Orpah agrees to that and does return home; Ruth has a genuine conversion experience along the way to Bethlehem and says, “No, I want to worship God and I want to be with his people, so I need to get to Bethlehem.” This would be akin to a young woman meeting Jesus and saying, “I wanna go to Seattle because I want to be a member of Mars Hill. I need to get baptized; I want to get into a Bible study. I want to have Christian friends. I wanna grow in my relationship with God.” And that’s, essentially, what Ruth is saying. And so they move to Bethlehem.
Well, upon arriving, all of the old friends of Naomi and citizens of the town gather together and the women ask her, “How are you doing? It’s been over a decade.” She says, “I’m not doing well. Don’t call me Naomi,” which means sweet, “call me Mara which means bitter, because my life has become very hard. I left here with my hands full. I come back with my hands empty, and I’m bitter. I’m frustrated. I’m angry. I’m unhappy at how my life has turned out.” I believe in this, she’s declaring her situation and she is not in a good place, but she is declaring it to other women who love God in an effort to get accountability, prayer, support, help. She’s crying out to her church for some support.
The scene then shifts to where the two widows are essentially facing starvation. They’re very hungry. They have nothing to eat. They’re very poor and destitute. Ruth looks at her mother-in-law and asks permission to go glean in the fields, which is the equivalent of going to the Hebrew Food Bank or to the soup kitchen to get a bite to eat. It’s very dangerous to venture out into the city as a young woman, all by yourself, and then to head out into the country, and to work in a strange man’s field with a bunch of guys you don’t know. But she trusts the Lord to provide. She’s a woman of great faith.
Naomi grants her permission. She heads out to the field, and scripture says in chapter 2, “It just so happens, by God’s providence, she ends up in the field of a man named Boaz,” who just happens to love God, who just happens to be loaded, who just happens to be very much single, who happens to see her, who happens to initiate a conversation, blesses her, prays for her, feeds her, gives her a great job, gives her a very generous gift for her and her mother-in-law. He looks like the perfect husband. Here comes the guy on the white horse to save the day and get the princess.
She goes to her job, working for him every day for six or seven weeks, and they never have a second date. He doesn’t call. He doesn’t follow up. Nothing. She’s left hanging. What got off to this great, romantic, sparks flying, “Could this be the one?” All of a sudden, nothing. Like the average guy. He does not know how to close the deal. He does not follow through. And she is left to wonder, “Where are we? Are we friends? Are we more than friends? What are we? We need to have the ‘defining the relationship’ conversation.”
For six or seven weeks she goes to work, comes home, Naomi, “Did he show up?” “Yes.” “What did he say?” “Nothing. I think we’re friends, but I’m not sure.” And now time is running out. This is a temp job, right? Contract is up at six weeks. Harvest is over. They go their separate ways. We’re down to days, or hours, and no! Will there be love? Will there be romance? Will she get to wear white? Where are the babies? Will this happen? We need to know.
This is like every good novel and television show and movie where these people are friends, and they should fall in love, and they never quite get there. So now, Ruth and Naomi need to decide, “What can we do to bring this man Boaz to be married to this woman, Ruth?” And at this point, they’re only truly two options. One is the way of scripture, and i