This week we continued our journey through the story of Ruth by hearing from yet another character in it. Hear this week from Boaz as he marvels at the incredible risk of faith Ruth took and the gift of life brought about because of it. Thanks for reading and sharing.
Risks of Faith
For two weeks now we have been working our way through the story of Ruth in a teaching series I am simply calling, “A Love Story.” This hasn’t been quite our normal journey, though. Rather than merely telling you about the story as I normally would, we have been looking at the events described in the pages of Scripture through the eyes of the people who experienced them. Naomi took us through the awful events of the first part of the story. Then, last week, we heard from Ruth as she unpacked her incredible first day gleaning to provide food for Naomi and her, and how she stumbled upon the field of a distant relative named Boaz. This morning, we are going to jump forward a few weeks to the end of the barley season to hear some more of the story…
Greetings, friends! How are you this fine morning? You all are dressed so nicely. Is there a festival happening about which I have somehow become unaware? Surely a gathering of this many obviously wealthy people must be a powerful group. One can only imagine the kinds of things of which you are capable when you work as a single unit. Bah…these are just the idle ramblings of a man with far too much time on his hands. I should get back to work. After all, this grain won’t sell itself. I wonder though…if you are traveling in my direction, do you perhaps have a few spare moments for a tale? It doesn’t seem you have anywhere better to be so I might as well entertain you with the story of the events which have occurred so recently. I confess that I am still in a mild state of disbelief at the thing which our God has done. Going over the details once again might help me make sense of the goodness of Yahweh to a man such as myself. A tale it is then…but where should I begin? Well, there is no place worth beginning quite like the beginning so to the beginning we shall go.
This story began just a few short weeks ago. Has it only been that long? Well, the harvest is finished and everything started just as the early grain was starting to show itself so I guess that is correct. It seems like a lifetime ago…back to the story. I arrived at my largest field that day about the same time and in about the same fashion as has become my custom. I always rise early in order that I might spend a few quiet moments studying the law and striving to be sure I am living within its spacious boundaries. There are some among the people who consider the law as a tool of restriction. This is nonsense. The law is the greatest source of freedom we have as a people. Its study should be an integral part of the daily pattern of anyone who would count themselves among the people of Yahweh…There I go again. Friends, will you help me? My mind is prone to chasing rabbits. If I follow one again please wave a hand and stop me.
Where was I?…Ah, arriving at the field. I arrived that morning and greeted the workers. They are a faithful crew and I sincerely wish that our God would bless them with an abundance of His Spirit. Once I had made my greetings, I went to check in with the foreman. He is a kindhearted man. It is so hard to find men of his caliber these days. So many seem to prefer to follow their hearts instead of the law. But this man knows how to walk in the compassion of our God. There are so many struggling these days. Why I should have had the great fortune of fortune in this life is beyond me, but I am in no place to keep it for myself. The more gleaners and poor gatherers I can help the better I say…so does my foreman. Speaking of gleaners and the like, as he was giving me the morning’s report I saw her. There was almost a glow about her. I can’t recall seeing a woman with such elegant and yet mysterious beauty before. Even though she worked like a beast of burden and was filthy from her labors, the grime of the field seemed to have no effect on her. If anything, it only served to increase her radiance. Certainly aware of the conversation taking place between the foreman and me, she kept glancing in our direction with a worried look in her eyes. Doubtless she was concerned that I would either take advantage of her, given her heritage, or run her off, but I wanted nothing of the sort. Having heard her tale from the foreman, the feelings of my heart were only good. A woman of such chesed as this Ruth had shown herself to be toward Elimelech’s widow, Naomi, was worthy of all the blessings she could receive. I intended to give her more.
I summoned her to appear before me so that I could give her the reassurance she clearly needed. She came with some obvious trepidation, but her head was held high. She was sure of herself and was filled with a righteous determination. I remember thinking then that a woman such as this would make a good, strong wife and mother. Those thoughts were only reinforced when she was finally standing before me. She was even more beautiful than I had reasoned from a distance. I barely kept my wits about me. And yet, blathering like a love-sick puppy in front of my workers would not do so I held my composure. I made certain she knew she was welcome in my fields. I even cautioned her against going to any other fields lest she not receive treatment at the level I was prepared to give her. I also praised her faithful dedication to Naomi. She didn’t understand how I knew this—a point of confusion I intentionally left in place—but she would once she told Naomi about these events. She went back to work glowing a bit more than when she had first approached me—if that were even possible. She had a decided bounce in her step as well. But I wasn’t finished. I had to see her again.
When it came time for the day’s meal, I could see that she wasn’t going to stop working. This wasn’t going to do. So I went to her and invited her to eat at my table. You should have seen the looks on the faces of the men I ate with every day. They sat there in utter disbelief. How could I offer such an intimate experience to this Moabite widow? When I personally served her the roasted grain, though, a couple of the men nearly fell off their seats! I gave them clear instructions as to how they were to frame their behavior toward her. They thought I was out of my senses, but I didn’t care. There was just something about this woman; an attractive quality that I couldn’t resist. Fortunately, by my being able to give her free reign to glean in my fields, I didn’t have to.
Well, things from that point went better than I had hoped. Ruth was in my fields working each day from sunup to sundown. She worked harder than many of the men in the field whom I was paying for their labors! Each day I invited her to dine at my table with me. Eventually the other men, as they learned more of her character, grew to accept her. They began to see what I did from the start. There was only this: she was a widow and still wore her clothes of grieving each day as she worked. This provided her a small measure of safety from the interests of unscrupulous men, but it kept a distance between her and me as well. All the same, the friendship between us grew each day. Although I privately desired more—and I think she might have as well—I never once broached the issue. Her time of grieving was for her alone to determine its end. I have been there once before and it was a long road back to sanity.
This all continued for the rest of the harvest season. By the final day of harvesting we had grown quite close, but there was no movement to the relationship. I was coming to the point where this was not such an unfortunate situation. To be able to simply bask in the glow of her loving faithfulness to Naomi as it reflected off that of Yahweh Himself was a blessing for me. I wondered, though, what Naomi thought about the state of things. I was one who was legally capable of taking Ruth as my wife, but still she wore her grieving garments. I would not intrude. I hoped Naomi would respect her time of mourning as well.
At last came the time of winnowing the barley. This was a season of late nights for me, but it was good work and I was excited about it. This had been an especially good year. Our God had clearly smiled down upon my fields and I would return thanks to Him with my firstfruits gladly. Each afternoon during the threshing season I went to the threshing floor with the other men and set to work. I worked hard, but there was always a great meal when we finished for the night. After finishing, I always slept on the hilltop, next to the grain, lest someone try to steal the fruits of my labor. I slept the same way each night—wrapped up in my cloak to guard against the cool night winds and with my sword close at hand. Every night the same thing…except last night.
I’ll never forget last night. There’s something you should know before I tell you about last night, though. During the threshing season, there are many farmers who take their grain to one of the hillsides around Bethlehem to winnow. Everyone knows this happens. Everyone…including some of the more unsavory members of the community who are looking to take advantage of the men who are working.
You can imagine my shock then, when I awoke last night to discover a woman lying beside me. I work hard enough that I don’t often rouse until first light. But last night I woke with a start when a stronger breeze blew against my feet and sent shivers up my spine. I never sleep with my feet uncovered. I wrap them up tightly as I lay so I will stay warm as I told you just moments ago. As I reached for my sword in preparation for defending my grain, my arm brushed against something solid, but soft. The pleasant aroma told me quickly that this was a woman lying beside me and not merely some animal. Yet what woman would attempt such an obviously foolish thing as this? Had my reputation in the city changed? In the past, when I was still in the process of establishing what kind of attention I would tolerate, I politely and firmly refused such advances and sent the women away empty-handed. But it has been many years since that had happened. I was prepared then to take things further now so that there were no more questions regarding my distaste for such forays into lawlessness.
With a slight edge to my voice I demanded to know who this woman was. I wanted her name before I turned her over to the local authorities. When I heard her voice, though, the momentum I had built fell completely flat. It was Ruth. Her beauty was evident even in the dark of that moonlit hilltop. Last night, though, it was her words that struck me the hardest. She identified herself, saying, “I am Ruth, your servant.” This was appropriately humble. I would have expected no less, but I still could not grasp why she was lying next to me, bathed and perfumed in a manner not unlike the women of the city on one of their hilltop forays, and yet also like a bride prepared for her wedding. Her next words hit me in the face like a bucket of cold water. “Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” Using the words from the blessing I had spoken over her on the day we met, she was proposing marriage to me. She was calling me to fulfill my duty—not to mention the desire of my heart—as a family redeemer and take her as my wife. For a long time I was silent. My ears were still ringing with her words and I wanted to react to them in a manner appropriate to my feelings.
As I processed, I marveled at the courage it took her to do this thing; to come and sneak to my threshing floor and, uncovering my feet so that I would wake in the night, lie next to me. I could have had her arrested and charged with infidelity since she had still been wearing her grieving garments only the day before. I could have taken advantage of her and casually thrown her to the side like a piece of trash. I could have slain her on the spot and claimed to be defending my grain. Yet she came here with the faith that the character I had displayed during the day was the same character I would display in the middle of the night. I cannot remember when I have observed such tenacious faith before. She took a huge risk of faith in hopes of receiving a reward of life, not death.
Consider her story and this becomes ever more incredible. Her husband died. Her brother-in-law died. Her closest friend walked away from her. She left her home and everything familiar to seek life in a new and foreign land. Everything in her world had fallen apart and yet she kept looking forward, picking up the pieces, somehow confidant that if she honored Yahweh with risks of faith, He would honor her with life. That such a woman as this who was raised to hate Yahweh could embrace both Him and His ways and receive the empowerment of His Spirit to such boldness as this suggested to me in a powerful way that He was at work here. How could I resist His efforts when they were so obviously in line with the desires of my own heart?
All of these thoughts swirled in my mind for what seemed like hours yet could not have been more than mere moments. All the while she looked right at me with those beautiful, determined eyes. Finally I spoke. I praised her courage. I praised her kindness. I told her that this act of devotion and kindness was much greater than the first one that so drew me to her. What acts of devotion you ask? Her devotion to my relative, Naomi. She left her land and her family and her gods in order to support her mother-in-law. This when there are some who would rather not have a mother-in-law. And now, she had chosen to come to me as a husband and hopefully father of the son who would be able to provide for Naomi as she continues to age. She has developed such a reputation in town that she could have had anyone. No longer was she derided for her nationality. Now she was admired for her faithful courage and determination to provide a life for the two of them. She could have sought younger men much wealthier than myself or perhaps much more physically attractive. And yet she has made the decision to give her heart to me. Who am I that I should receive such a gift as this? Perhaps I finally won her heart not by seeking it, but by simply seeking her.
But there is a problem. I am not the kinsman redeemer for her. As she rightly stated I am merely a kinsman redeemer. The other man knows little of the situation of Ruth and Naomi but the opportunity to lay hold of that which belonged to Elimelech will be sorely tempting. Perhaps there is some way I can convince him to cede his right to me. I will not rest until this is settled. Such courage and faithfulness as Ruth has shown deserves no less.
After telling her all of this, I suggested that she stay on the threshing floor with me for the remainder of the night. By our God’s good favor the other men had heard neither her arrival nor our conversation. It wouldn’t do for them to discover her now lest her reputation become suspect. Yet the road between here and her home is not safe. It is in fact a small miracle that she made it safely here at all. Perhaps Yahweh does indeed guard her steps. We slept on opposite sides of the grain and both awoke early in the morning. She wanted to leave before people started moving around in order to preserve both hers and my reputation. I agreed, but sent with her a small bride price of six generous scoops of grain into her cloak to take back as a blessing to Naomi. It was a considerable load, but one I’m confident she could bear home.
There is perhaps a lesson in all of this, friends. Such a risk of faith as Ruth has taken this past night I cannot even fathom and yet she has found life because of it. Indeed, by reaching and risking in this manner she has shortened considerably the road out of the valley she and Naomi have been walking since they arrived in town from Moab. Some might look down on such presumption as she has shown, and yet I defy you to show me how Yahweh has not been involved in what has come to pass. She has taken a risk of faith in hopes of finding life. Risks of faith such as this, when aimed properly—and to be aimed properly they must be selfless as Ruth’s has been and not selfish in nature—may result in life. Indeed, it would seem that such risks of faith are rewarded with gifts of life. Risks of faith are rewarded with gifts of life. But now, though, I must be getting myself to town. It is time to sell this grain. I will need the money from the sale this time. With God’s help my family will soon be expanding. Blessings on your journey. And remember: risks of faith are rewarded with gifts of life.
It’s really hard to miss just how scandalous Ruth’s boldness here would have been. But lest we run the risk of somehow thinking less of her for it, she was following the instructions Naomi had given her. These two women were in pretty dire straits had Boaz not taken Ruth on as his wife. They decided to let their character do the talking for them and take a huge step of trust that the Lord would have their back when they did.
I’m curious: When was the last time you took a risk of faith? When was the last time you did something that put you in the position of having to trust completely in Jesus or else fall flat on your face? The truth is that most of us live most of our lives in a place where if God was either absent or even non-existent, it really wouldn’t matter all that much. I want you to think for just a minute about someone in your life you love and who is pretty actively involved in the day-to-day activities of your life. For many of you, that may be your spouse. For others it may be a close friend or other family member. Now, think about your life and this person’s role in it. There are probably some things you assume will happen because of the mere presence of this person. You assume on these things, and that allows you to do some other things you would not otherwise be able to do as well or even at all. That’s the kind of role Jesus wants to have in our lives. And when we give Him that kind of a role, He’ll reward us with life. Risks of faith are rewarded with gifts of life.
He wants for us to depend on Him so completely that we are willing to go places and do things we wouldn’t otherwise even dream of tackling because of our trust in His power and presence. Sometimes this will mean going way out on a limb to do things that are big and flashy. That could be going on a mission trip. It could be actively, intentionally sharing our faith with someone else. It could be accepting a volunteer position. It could be taking a step of radically sacrificial generosity. I don’t know what this may look like for you. Trust that He will reveal it in the moment when it matters. But sometimes this won’t seem like nearly as big a deal in a given moment because we’re programmed to only countenance the worth of the big and flashy things. Sometimes, though, the small and seemingly out of the way risks of faith can have the longest lasting impact. It could be that the risk Jesus wants you to take is to simply invite a neighbor to church. It could be making your commitment to this particular church formal and official. It could be showing kindness to someone who doesn’t expect it. It could be sharing a meal with someone who is not as far along in their faith journey as you are and talking about your faith journey with them to encourage them further along in their own. These don’t seem nearly as risky as the first few we mentioned, but they are rewarded with gifts of life all the same. Risks of faith are rewarded with gifts of life.
Ruth went way out on a limb here with Boaz, putting her fairly newfound faith in the God of Israel entirely to the test. The result in the moment seems like not such a big deal at all. I mean, for her and Naomi it certainly was, but not beyond the span of their lives. Ruth got married and had a baby. Yay for her, but big deal for us. Except it was. Because the gift of life this risk of faith garnered was bigger than Ruth could have ever imagined. It just happened to come long after she was gone. You may not ever see the gift of life your risk of faith brings, but you can trust that someone will. And they’ll be just as glad that you did as you are that Ruth did. Risks of faith are rewarded with gifts of life. Come back next week as we wrap up our story and celebrate just what this incredible gift of life turned out to be.