While You Were Sleeping

While You Were Sleeping
Ruth 3

The Book of Ruth is a rags-to-riches story with all the ingredients of a triple-hanky chick-flick. No time is wasted introducing the main character – a damsel in distress from the wrong side of the tracks. Ultimately she wins the affections of Prince Charming, who delivers her from misery and poverty. Before the ending credits roll, they ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after.

At this stage, Ruth and Boaz are hitting it off well, but things have yet to get serious. It’s time for someone to make the first move. Naomi nominates Ruth. Together, they hatch the perfect plan. Tonight’s the night! And Boaz is in for quite a surprise.
“Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you?” (Verse 1)
What Naomi wants for Ruth is security; that’s the real bottom line. She wants her daughter-in-law cared for, by a man to be exact. This is why she hesitated bringing Ruth to Bethlehem. Naomi felt she might have a better shot finding security among her own people. Before leaving Moab, Ruth told both daughters-in-law:
“The Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” (Ruth 1:9)
The words rest (Ruth 1) and security (Ruth 3) are both translated from the same Hebrew expression: menuwchah. It literally means resting place. We read on Psalm 23:
“The Lord is my shepherd;
 I shall not want.  He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
 He leads me beside the still waters.” (Psalm 23:1-2)
In the original Hebrew, menuwchah was used where it says ‘beside the still.’ David also wrote in the Psalms:
“This is My resting place [menuwchah] forever;
 here I will dwell, for I have desired it.” (Psalm 132:14)
The prophet Isaiah saw a day when God’s people would find rest in Jesus:
“And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse,
 who shall stand as a banner to the people; 
for the Gentiles shall seek Him,
 and His resting place [menuwchah] shall be glorious.” (Isaiah 11:10)
This is precisely the kind of rest we find in our redeemer. In Him we find peace and security. Jesus says:
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
With Jesus as the ultimate role model, this is what husbands are to provide for their wives: a resting place, a place of peace and security. Naomi knew she couldn’t provide this for her daughters-in law. She told them up front:
“Are there still sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?” (Ruth 1:11)
Things have now changed. Ruth has found favor with a wealthy fellow by the name of Boaz. Naomi plans to help Ruth secure him as her husband. She is quick to tell her:
“Now Boaz, whose young women you were with, is he not our relative?” (Verse 2a)
Naomi informs Ruth of an important fact: Boaz qualifies as kinsman redeemer. This means he has a duty to perform. The kinsman redeemer was to provide security in the following areas:
1. The family name was to be secured. The firstborn son was to be given the name of the widow’s deceased husband.
2. Property was to be secured. The kinsman redeemer assumed all debts so the widow didn’t lose the family estate.
3. The widow was to be secure. The kinsman redeemer was to take her under his wing and care for her.
Naomi recognizes that Boaz is more than qualified in each of these areas. She is anxious to get the ball rolling. There is no time like the present, in her mind.
“In fact, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor.” (Verse 2b)
Naomi sees this as the perfect opportunity for Ruth. She knows exactly where Boaz will be come nightfall. He won’t be going anywhere!
“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.” (Verse 3)
Naomi gives Ruth some pointers on how to best approach a man. It’s no secret that men appreciate women who smell nice. Naomi has been around long enough to know that. She advises Ruth, “Be sure to bathe. Oh, and splash on some perfume.”
That’s good advice, ladies. If you really want to impress a man, a little perfume goes a long way. Now, some use fragrances in lieu of washing. If you really want to make an impression, do both. This goes for guys and gals.
Ruth is further advised to put on her best garment. This also speaks volumes. It demonstrates the value a woman places on a man. It says he’s worth the effort. Plus, men are visual. We like our women dolled up.
Timing is also important. It’s better to approach a man after dinner as opposed to right after work when he is starved. Naomi surmised that Boaz would be laboring hard on the threshing floor. By the end of the day he would be hungry, exhausted and maybe even cranky. “Wait till his stomach is full,” Naomi cautions. I concur. At least that’s when I’m most agreeable.
“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.” (Verse 4)
Ruth is told to cuddle up to the feet of Boaz then wait for further instruction. Honestly, I wouldn’t know what to say if this were to happen to me. I might think the gal was a bit nuts. Nor would I advise any of you single ladies to try this. You’d surely be misunderstood.
In ancient Hebrew culture, this wasn’t so unusual. It was the posture of total submission, a way of saying, “Your wish is my command.” By lying at his feet, Ruth would demonstrate to Boaz that she was prepared to submit to his leadership.
“And she said to her, “All that you say to me I will do.” So she went down to the threshing floor and did according to all that her mother-in-law instructed her.” (Verse 5-6)
“Done deal!” Ruth assured her mother-in-law. She washed up, dressed up and headed up to the threshing floor where the man of her dreams would be resting.
Perhaps you’re wondering why he would camp out in such an odd place. Well, these were the days when judges ruled, when everyone did what was right in their own eyes. Therefore, it was necessary for Boaz to keep an eye on things. Otherwise, thieves would clean him out.
“And after Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was cheerful, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came softly, uncovered his feet, and lay down.” (Verse 7)
The saying is true: the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Just look at Boaz. Eating and drinking has made his heart merry. I’m the same way. After a good meal I’m happy as a clam.
After chowing down, Boaz found a comfortable spot to snooze. That’s when Ruth tiptoed up and lay by his tootsies. I do hope he bathed as well. This would be awful if he didn’t.
“Now it happened at midnight that the man was startled, and turned himself; and there, a woman was lying at his feet.” (Verse 8)
Can you imagine? Suppose you were camping out in the middle of the night and suddenly, you felt a warm body pressed up against your feet. That would be quite frightening! Is it man, woman or beast? You just don’t know.
It was too dark for Boaz to distinguish what kind of visitor he had. He finally figured out it was a woman. I suspect Ruth’s perfume tipped him off. But that wasn’t enough to put his mind at total ease. He had no clue as to who the gal was.
“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.” (Verse 9)
Boaz asks, “Who are you?” That’s a good question when you discover someone at the foot of your bed. In my case, it’s usually the cat. We named her Hank because she was believed to be a male, but he is a she. Perhaps we should redeem her by renaming her Ruth. It makes sense, since she seeks my covering.
The Ruth in our story quickly identifies herself. She also looks for a covering. She invites Boaz to take her under his wing.
“Then he said, “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.” (Verse 10)
Boaz is quite relieved to learn that his night visitor is none other than Ruth. I can almost hear him letting out a big “whew!” He is quite excited that she would consider him as marriage material. There’s an obvious age difference. This is probably why Boaz never approached her. He assumed she would want someone younger. That was hardly the case. Her eyes were on Boaz and no other.
“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.” (Verse 11)
Ruth was known more for her virtue than her looks. This is what Peter refers to as “incorruptible beauty.” In his epistle, he encourages women to focus more on “the hidden person of the heart” rather than on outward adornment. (See 1 Peter 3:3-4)
Obviously, there is nothing wrong with outward adornment. We know that Ruth dressed to the nines when she visited Boaz. But Boaz didn’t tell her, “Because you’re drop-dead gorgeous, I will do for you all that you request.” He consented based upon her virtue. The wise man Solomon wrote:
“Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.” (Proverbs 31:10)
Solomon went on to say:
“Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” (Proverbs 31:30)
Outward beauty has its merits. But it doesn’t last forever. Virtue, on the other hand, offers incorruptible beauty. It reveals the hidden person of the heart, which is far more precious.
“Now it is true that I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I.” (Verse 12)
This is what we call good news/bad news. Boaz wants Ruth but, according to Hebrew law, he’s not first in line. He can only pursue her if the other fellow opts out, which would be considered a disgraceful thing to do. Such a one would be thought of as a real low-life.
“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.” (Verse 13)
“Let’s get some shuteye and revisit this in the morning,” Boaz advises. “If the other guy flakes, I’m all yours.” As the Lord lives, Boaz is determined to see Ruth redeemed one way or another. It’s obvious that He truly cares for this gal. And Ruth surely loves him. I imagine the butterflies kept them both awake all night.
“So she lay at his feet until morning, and she arose before one could recognize another. Then he said, “Do not let it be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.” (Verse 14)
Knowing how people talk, Boaz encourages Ruth to be discreet about their overnighter. He doesn’t want anyone jumping to conclusions or thinking there was a plot to bump the closer relative.
“Also he said, “Bring the shawl that is on you and hold it.” And when she held it, he measured six ephahs of barley, and laid it on her. Then she went into the city.” (Verse 15)
I don’t know why the New King James Bible inserts “ephahs” into the text. It doesn’t appear in the original. That would have been 150 pounds! I seriously doubt Ruth carried that much barley home by herself. Plus it’s hard to be discreet when you’re dragging that big of a load. The Old King James is correct. It was six measures of barley, which would have been six heaping handfuls.
“When she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “Is that you, my daughter?” Then she told her all that the man had done for her. And she said, “These six ephahs of barley he gave me; for he said to me, ‘Do not go empty-handed to your mother-in-law.'” (Verse 16-17)
How can you not like Boaz? He’s such a thoughtful fellow. He not only looks out for Ruth, he looks out for her mother-in-law as well. That’s a true man of God – one who cares after widows. Scripture says:
“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27)
Single gals, hold out for a man like this. Hold out for a man who is caring. It’s an indicator as to how he will care for you.
“Then she said, “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.” (Verse 18)
Naomi advises Ruth to remain calm. Because Boaz also has personal interest in this matter, Naomi suspects he will move on things rather quickly. Her intuition is correct. Boaz immediately goes looking for the closer relative.
Ruth must wait on her redeemer and trust that he will return. In the meantime she must be still. So it is with us. We must wait on our Redeemer. We must place our hope in His soon return. In the meantime, be still. Be still and know that He is God.

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