Courageous Faith Series
Reaching Out To Others:
“Especially Those Who Are Different” – Boaz
Let’s remember that we seek to follow the Divine Promiser and His promise which transforms ordinary people into “children of promise” (Gal. 4:28). It is God’s promise which encourages our hearts and lifts our souls. His promise keeps us going when the going gets tough.
So far in our series on Courageous faith we have discussed Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Daniel, Jephthah, Samson and now a man named Boaz.
“My husband just won’t talk to me!” the lady said. “I know he cares about me, but he just can’t seem to express it very well. We’re so different!”
Communication is the key to an effective marriage, yet some couples find it extremely difficult to express their true feelings to one another. The feelings are inside them, but they remain bottled up. Unexpressed love is often interpreted as no love at all. In some cases, it may even be perceived as resentment or rejection.
The couple being quoted in our introduction had been married for three years. There were no major problems on the surface of their marriage. However, there was plenty of frustration underneath. They tried to talk about it, but they inevitably ended up in confused silence.
“One of you has to be willing to reach out to the other one, “ it was suggested. “It will take courage and commitment to try, but you can’t go on in silence.”
“I’m willing,” the young lady said. “But what if he doesn’t respond?”
“You’re not the first woman to face that concern,” she was told. “Ruth did it, and it worked for her!”
The little book of Ruth is like a ray of sunshine at the end of a long, dark tunnel. It was originally a part of the book of Judges. It was the only ray of hope after three hundred years of failure and heartache. Just when it seemed everything was going wrong, God reminded His people that He was still protecting the promise.
On the surface, the promise seemed more obscure than ever. God was not worshipped, His law was not obeyed, and His Messiah had not come forth. It appeared to many that there was little hope for the future.
Life was dim when Elimelech (“God is my King”) and Naomi (“Pleasant One”) left Bethlehem because of a famine. Surely things will be better in Moab, they thought. So off they went with their two sons, Mahlon (“sickly”) and Kilion (“Pinning”), to live among Israel’s enemies the Moabites.
Moab was a strange place to find a better life. People who had long opposed Jehovah in favor of other gods populated the land. Moabites were notorious for their pagan rituals, including child sacrifice. It was hardly the place to start over.
When Everything Goes Wrong
While they were in Moab, Elimilech died. Eventually Mahlon and Kilion married Moabite girls named Ruth and Orpah. They seemed happy at first, but both of the boys soon died as well. In just ten short years, Naomi lost her husband and both of her sons.
The book of Ruth is written like a four-act play. As the curtain goes up on scene one, we see three widows crying together in the fields of Moab. Broken at destitute, Naomi announced to them that she was returning home to Bethlehem.
In Ruth 1:8-9 we read, “And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, "Go, return each to her mother's house. The LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 "The LORD grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband." Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept.”
Life was hard for widows in those days. They had no security, no income, and no means of working. Survival was all they could hope for. There were no welfare programs for the poor. Their only real hope was that their relatives would take them back.
Naomi’s suggestion seemed reasonable to Orpha. So she kissed Naomi good-bye and returned to her family. But Ruth refused to leave. She clung to Naomi’s skirts. Namoi Says to her in Ruth 1:15, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.”
It was a desperate appeal by a desperate woman. Naomi realized what awaited them in Bethlehem: rejection, ridicule, and scorn.
Ruth was determined to go with her. Listen to what she says in Ruth 1:16-17, “But Ruth said: "Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God. 17 Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me."
What commitment! What an appeal! How could Naomi refuse? Ruth was more committed to her mother-in-law than some husbands and wives are to each other. There as an unbreakable bond between them. Together they headed down the road on the way to an appointment with destiny.
The promise had to be fulfilled, and God specifically chose these two widows to keep it alive. There were no spectacular fireworks, just a daughter-in-law’s love. But was all God needed. He could take care of the rest. The promisor would sustain the promise.
When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town came out to meet them. It was quite a spectacle – a Jewish woman with a Moabite daughter-in-law. Racial prejudice isn’t anything new. It’s been around a long time.
“Can this be Naomi?” It wasn’t easy hiding your age in those days. Time had left its mark on her – wrinkles, gray hair, and all the rest. Listen to the words of Naomi in Ruth 1:20-21, “But she said to them, "Do not call me Naomi [pleasant]; call me Mara [bitter], for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 "I went out full, and the LORD has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?"
Naomi’s new name indicates that she was a broken woman. She surely would have known the Lord’s instructions to His people about not forsaking their inheritance. They were supposed to keep their land in the family as a gift from God. But she and Elimilech had done otherwise. They had sought their fortune in Moab and lost everything.
Like many husbands, Elimelech probably suggested that they could do better elsewhere. So, they forsook the security of family and friends and struck out on their own. It is obvious from the scant information we have that things did not go well for them. Tragedy strikes only three verses into the first chapter. Before long, Naomi had no male protection for herself or the girls. At least in Bethlehem, our relatives might take pity on us, she probably thought.
Ruth and Naomi arrived in Bethlehem during the barley harvest and found a relative’s house to lodge in. It wasn’t much, but it was still a new beginning. It was at least a chance to catch their breath and start over again.
Times Have Changed
There are two concepts that make up the book of Ruth. The first is theological. It is the concept of the kinsman-redeemer. The kinsman-redeemer was a relative who could potentially redeem you with money from three basic conditions:
1. Slavery: give you your freedom;
2. Widowhood: marry you as his wife;
3. Orphanhood: adopt you as his child
The second concept is social. It is the practice of the levirate marriage (Deut. 25:5). Levirate marriage was permission for a widow to marry her deceased husband’s closest available brother or cousin. This was done to preserve the seed of the deceased. It provided a way for his line of descent to continue. It also provided security for the younger widows who could not fully support themselves.
Both concepts, the kinsman-redeemer and levirate marriage, are key to understanding the book of Ruth. As a widow, Ruth desperately needed to find a relative of her husband who would marry her and redeem her from widowhood. However, since she was a Moabite, her chances of acceptance by an Israelite were slim.
The harvest was in full production, There was plenty of grain in Bethlehem (“house of bread”). So, Ruth volunteered to go gleaning in the fields. The gleaners followed the reapers, who actually harvested the crops. Since harvesting was done by hand, a few scraps of grain naturally fell to the ground. That’s where the gleaners came in: They picked up the scraps.
Gleaning, was in a sense, Israel’s welfare program. Poor people were allowed to glean the leftover scraps of grain from the fields. But they had to work hard in order to eat. At the day’s end, a gleaner might have only a handful of grain.
So Ruth picked a field to glean and began following the reapers. By chance, she chose a field that belonged to Boaz, a wealthy man from Bethlehem. She didn’t know who he was or even where she was. She simply worked alongside the other girls throughout the morning.
A Date with Destiny
As the day wore on, Boaz came out from Bethlehem to inspect the harvest. “The Lord be with you!” he called to the harvesters.
“The Lord bless you!” They shouted back.
Then he saw her – the Moabite girl gleaning in his field. If there was ever a story of love at first sight, this would be it.
“Who’s young woman is that?” He asked the foreman.
“She is the Moabitess who came back from Moab with Naomi,” the foreman said. He went on to explain why he had let her out there, but there was no need for that. Boaz was already interested.
His heart was pounding within him; he hurried over to meet the girl. Listen to Ruth 2:8-9, “Then Boaz said to Ruth, "You will listen, my daughter, will you not? Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women. 9 "Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Have I not commanded the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn."
Ruth was overwhelmed by his generosity. She bowed her face to the ground and asks in Ruth 2:10, “So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, "Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?"
He explained to her that he had heard how she had come to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law, and what a blessing she had been to her. He also mentioned that he had heard how she had come to believe in the Lord and now sought refuge among His people.
Overcoming The Barriers
Here we see a Jewish man and a Gentile girl conversing in the fields of Bethlehem. Both are reaching beyond the social, religious, and cultural barriers that should have separated them. Nevertheless, Boaz showed grace to Ruth, and her heart was moved. She probably blushed as she spoke to him. He was famous in Bethlehem. He was one of the city’s most outstanding men, And he was single!
“May the Lord repay you for what you have done,” Boaz said.
“May I continue to find favor in your eyes , my lord,” Ruth said.
It was the beginning of an incredible romance. Love at first sight – it can happen, you know. At least, it did for them.
When Ruth returned to glean, Boaz instructed the foreman to let her glean even among the sheaves (Standing grain). In fact, he suggested they drop some handfuls of grain on purpose for her to glean. Now that was true love – handfuls on purpose! She gathered a bushel basketful on the first day. She had so much that she could hardly carry it home.
Naomi couldn’t believe her eyes. It was enough grain for a month! “Where did you glean today?” She asked.
“The name of the man I worked with toady is Boaz,” Ruth said.
This time Naomi couldn’t believe her hears. Listen to her response in Ruth 2:20, “Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, "Blessed be he of the LORD, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!" And Naomi said to her, "This man is a relation of ours, one of our close relatives."
Naomi knew what this could mean, even though Ruth didn’t it was too good to be true. The finest and wealthiest man in all Bethlehem had taken notice of the Gentile girl. Could it be that he might be interested in redeeming her?
Some Things Never Change
Ruth would continue to glean in Boaz’s fields until the harvest was over. As the weeks passed, she and Naomi began to wonder if he would ever make a move to show his interest toward her. When Boaz didn’t make a move, Naomi decided Ruth should make one. She advised Ruth to go to him and propose marriage. [As a side note, it has been asked by a single woman, “Is that really in the Bible?” It sure is is the answer. Just read Ruth 3! It worked for her.”]
Naomi realized time was running out. The harvest would soon be over. The time for action was now.
“Tonight, he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor,” Naomi said.
When the harvest was nearly over, the landowner would come to oversee the winnowing process. That’s when they threw the grain up into the wind to blow off the chaff. It was a long, slow process done with a scoop and a shovel. Naomi knew that Boaz would be exhausted by the end of the day. It was the perfect time to make their move!
Listen to Naomi’s instructions in Ruth 3:3, “Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.”
Some Strategies never change! Old Naomi knew that Ruth would make a better impression all fixed up. There is nothing like your best dress and some perfume to knock him senseless.
And Boaz was probably exhausted from the day’s labors. He had little energy to resist – even if he had wanted to.
Naomi gave Ruth further instructions as we read in Ruth 3:4, “Then it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you should do.”
It seems like a strange maneuver to us today, but it made perfect sense in their culture. The act of uncovering his feet was a deliberate proposal of marriage.
When Boaz awoke, startled to find a woman lying at his feet, Ruth said, in Ruth 3:9, “And he said, "Who are you?" So she answered, "I am Ruth, your maidservant. Take your maidservant under your wing, for you are a close relative."
She Proposes To Him
She was asking him to take her unto himself so that she might come under his protection. She appealed to him as her kinsman – redeemer (Hebrew, goel). Only a free man who was a close relative of her deceased husband could become her redeemer he had to be:
4. Able to pay the price of redemption
5. Willing to pay the price of redemption
Boaz met all of these conditions, despite being somewhat older than Ruth. And he reassured her that he was willing to accept her proposal.
In Ruth 3:10-11 we read Boaz say, “"Blessed are you of the LORD, my daughter! For you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning, in that you did not go after young men, whether poor or rich. 11 "And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman.”
It was quite a testimony of her virtue, dignity, and character. He was impressed with her devotion to Naomi. He was also impressed that she preferred him over the younger men.
However, there was one problem with the whole arrangement. In Ruth 3:12 Boaz says, “Now it is true that I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I.”
Someone else! She couldn’t bear the thought. But Boaz assured her that he would try to work it out. He explained that he would have to meet with the other kinsman the next morning to clarify his right to redeem her. Boaz tells her in Ruth 3:13, “Stay this night, and in the morning it shall be that if he will perform the duty of a close relative for you-good; let him do it. But if he does not want to perform the duty for you, then I will perform the duty for you, as the LORD lives! Lie down until morning."
Ruth could hardly contain herself when she returned home to Naomi. Boaz’s words kept ringing in her ears. She wanted him, not the other one. He was the love of her soul. He was the one who extended grace and kindness to her, and her heart beat for him, the thought of losing him was more than she could bear.
In Ruth 3:18 we read Naomi’s words to Ruth, “Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out; for the man will not rest until he has concluded the matter this day.” This was Naomi’s way of reassuring Ruth that things would work out.
Have I Got A Deal For You
When the sun came up over Bethlehem, Boaz was already positioned at the city gate where all business was transacted in those days. Sooner or later, he knew the other kinsman would arrive. And sure enough, he shortly appeared.
Boaz says to his kinsman in Ruth 4:3, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, sold the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech.”
In ancient Israel, land could only be sold to relatives within one’s family. All land was viewed as a gift from God, or the “inheritance of the Lord.” It could not be sold to strangers. Assuming the kinsman might want the land, Boaz informs him of his right to redeem it.
“I will redeem it,” The kinsman announced.
Only then did Boaz explain that he would also have to redeem Ruth, the Moabitess. Listen to what he says in Ruth 4:5, “On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also buy it from Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance.” The kinsman refused. He was willing to take the property but not the girl. In Ruth 4:6 we read his response, “"I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I ruin my own inheritance. You redeem my right of redemption for yourself, for I cannot redeem it.”
By saying this, the first kinsman passed the right of redemption to Boaz. He was able to pay the price of redemption, but he was unwilling because of his previous commitment. He may well have been engaged to be married to someone else.
In Ruth 4:9-10 we read, “And Boaz said to the elders and all the people, "You are witnesses this day that I have bought all that was Elimelech's, and all that was Chilion's and Mahlon's, from the hand of Naomi. 10 "Moreover, Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, I have acquired as my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brethren and from his position at the gate. You are witnesses this day."
The people who were at the gate and the city elders respond in Ruth 4:11, “We are witnesses. The LORD make the woman who is coming to your house like Rachel and Leah, the two who built the house of Israel; and may you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem.”
The people were referring to Jacob’s wives, the mothers of the patriarchs. An interesting side note is the fact that Rachel had died centuries earlier right there in Bethlehem. And now Bethlehem’s town fathers were blessing Boaz, one of Leah’s descendants thought the tribe of Judah.
Building a successful marriage is a lifetime commitment. It takes time, patience, energy, and determination. The marks of an effective marriage include:
1. Lifelong commitment
2. Continual effort
3. Willingness to understand
4. Developing a helpful attitude
5. Consideration for your partner
6. Spiritual growth and maturity
7. Becoming genuinely unselfish
8. Personal accountability and reliability
9. Honest communication
10. Genuine, Spirit-filled love.
Reaching out to each other says, “I care about you, I need you, and I want you.” Every marriage needs that kind of effort if both partners want to know true fulfillment.
His Fame Is Our Fortune
Boaz and Ruth were setting out on one of the great adventures of life – building a family. Their love for each other initiated a marriage. But their commitment to each other initiated a family. Their family changed the course of history.
“May you have standing in Ephratah and be famous in Bethlehem,” The elders shouted to Boaz. And indeed, he was! The redeemer had paid the price of redemption. The promise was secure. The line of the Messiah would be preserved.
Boaz, the wealthy Jew from Bethlehem, married Ruth, the Gentile widow from Moab. It was a wonderful marriage. Soon they were blessed with a child, whose name was Obed. Then the townswomen gathered around and said in Ruth 4:14, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel!”
One cannot read this powerful love story without making an obvious comparison. Bethlehem was the same little town that would give birth to another famous inhabitant: The Lord Jesus. Like Boaz, He too would become a kinsman-redeemer. Free from the enslavement of sin, able and willing to pay the price of redemption with His own blood, He would redeem us from spiritual slavery and set us free from orphanhood an adopt us as His children, and free us from widowhood, making us His bride.
The Kinsman-Redeemer, wealthy with righteousness, would pay the price of our redemption. He would redeem a Gentile bride and make her His own. Born himself of a virgin in Bethlehem, of the tribe of Judah and the seed of David, He is the Messiah – the ultimate fulfillment of the promise. And we are his undeserving bride who can only fall on our faces and ask, “Why have I found favor in your sight?”
Jesus, the Savior, came forth from Bethlehem to find us slaving over the scraps in the field of life. And He loved us in spite of our pitiful situation. He set His heart on us and promised, “I will marry you and redeem you.” It is the pledge of the ultimate Redeemer to you and me. He loves us, and He wants to spend eternity with us.
We are the objects of His amazing grace. He has called us unto Himself and lived us with an everlasting love. What love! What hope! What security!
Let’s Ask Ourselves
As we near the end of another study, let’s ask ourselves some questions with what we have learned from the story of Boaz and Ruth:
1. Have you ever lost everything dear and wondered what God was trying to say to you?
2. What lessons did you eventually learn?
3. Have you ever been willing to reach out to someone across racial or social boundaries?
4. Could those people you reached say they truly found favor or grace in your actions?
5. Do you need to be willing to reach out to others?
6. Could you express your love for others better?