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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
 
Title:God prepares a resting place
Text:Ruth 3 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Preached:2013
Added:2014-06-30
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Note:  all songs from the 2010 Book of Praise

Psalm 75:1-3

Psalm 102:1-3

Psalm 62:1-4

Psalm 116:1,4,5

Hymn 9

Scripture reading and text:  Ruth 3

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved brothers and sisters,

Some of you know what it’s like to immigrate.  You’ve come to Canada from places like Australia, or Korea, or the Netherlands.  Others of you have moved here from other places in Canada.  It’s hard to forget what it was like at first.  You come to a new place and you feel like you don’t belong.  It’s not home.  When you’re back home, you know everybody and everybody knows you.  Home is a place where you know the way things work, where everything makes sense.  For example, you know what people find funny and what they don’t, you understand their sense of humour.  Home is a place where it’s safe, where you feel like you  belong.

The Bible tells us that this world in its present state is not really our home.  The Bible teaches us that we are actually all pilgrims, just passing through.  Our real home is described in the last two chapters of the Bible.  We’re heading for an eternity in a new creation, a new heavens and new earth.  We have a promise from God that he is preparing a safe and secure home for us.  It’s a place that will right away feel right, a place where we will right away feel at home.  This is what God is getting ready for Christians.  In our text for this morning from Ruth 3, we see that God has been doing that for his people all along.  I preach to you God’s Word with this theme:

God prepares a resting place for Ruth and Naomi

We’ll consider:

  1. The uncertain tension as he does this
  2. The certain promises as he does this

As we come into chapter 3, we have things starting to look up for Ruth and Naomi.  God had graciously provided them with food through Boaz.  Ruth had the opportunity to work regularly in the fields of Boaz, both during the barley harvest and the wheat harvest.  For the moment, their needs were being met.  But what about the future?  That was still up in the air.  While things were looking good for the moment, the future could bring something different. 

At the beginning of chapter 3, Naomi has an idea that might help them.  She tells Ruth about it.  The first thing she says is that she wants to find “rest” for Ruth.  That’s a key word here.  It can also be translated as security or a resting place – a home.  This is a place of serenity, a place of no worries and concerns.  Right now, Ruth is not in such a place.  Right now, she’s in a place of uncertainty and apprehension.  But Naomi wants to see that change.  She has a plan for it. 

It has to do with the fact that Boaz is a relative through her husband Elimelech.  As we saw last time, that made him a potential kinsman-redeemer.  He was possibly a man who could redeem their family line and provide protection for Ruth and then also, by extension, for Naomi.  Through him, it was possible that the family would not be at a dead end, mired in poverty, destined for extinction. 

Naomi tells Ruth to get herself ready by washing and anointing herself.  That would be the equivalent today of taking a shower and washing up.  She was to get dressed (wear something warm!) and get ready to go and see Boaz that evening at the threshing floor.  Naomi gives her detailed instructions about what to do.  She’s to keep an eye on him after he’s finished his dinner.  When he lies down to sleep, she’s to go and lie down at his feet.  Then Boaz will tell her what to do from there. 

At this point in the story, everything is up in the air.  Who knows what might happen?  What will Boaz say to Ruth when she comes to him late at night?  What will he think?  What will he say?  We just don’t know.  Yes, we already know from earlier in the book that Boaz is a worthy man, a godly man, but that doesn’t mean that he’s a perfect man.  Will he do the right thing?  Will he do what Naomi expects that he will do?  There’s no way of knowing for sure what will happen.  Ruth and Naomi simply had to trust that God would make everything turn out.

Well, Ruth listens to her mother-in-law and goes to the threshing floor.  That was usually a flat piece of rock near the fields.  At the threshing floor, all the grain would be piled up.  The workers would separate the chaff from the grain at the threshing floor.  They would do that by tossing everything up into the air with big rakes, then the wind would blow away the dust and the chaff, and the grain would settle down on to the floor.  This was often done at night, a time when you could usually count on the wind to be blowing.  After the work was done, everyone sat down and had an evening meal.  After supper, Boaz is feeling good.  The work is done, he’s had enough to eat and drink, and so he’s happy.  He goes to the end of the heap of grain and he falls asleep.  Now you might be thinking:  why does he sleep there and not at his house?  Because as the owner of the farm, he has a vested interest in making sure that nobody steals his grain.

All that time, Ruth is somewhere lingering in the background watching and waiting.  She sees Boaz enjoying his dinner and then going to the grain heap.  She watches him fall asleep.  Then she creeps up to him very quietly.   She makes sure that nobody else sees what’s happening because she doesn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea.  Ruth doesn’t want to create a scandal for Boaz.  She goes to him and uncovers his feet.  Now that might seem a bit strange, so it raises the question of why.  Why does Ruth uncover the feet of Boaz? 

The Bible doesn’t directly say, but there are a couple of likely reasons.  One is a practical reason.  A person with cold feet might more easily wake up.  Ruth needs to speak with Boaz.  She needs to wake him up and getting cold feet might be one way of making that happen in an unobtrusive way.  But the other reason is more symbolic.  In Old Testament times, sitting at someone’s feet was a posture of submission.  Being at someone’s feet meant that you were ready to be taught or instructed.  Remember it was Naomi that told Ruth to do this.  It was Naomi who said that when she did this, Boaz would tell her what to do.  Laying at his feet indicated that she was waiting for his direction; it was an act of supplication or submission.

Finally, it’s about midnight.  It starts getting cold.  You have to remember that Boaz is sleeping outside, on this threshing floor, this cold flat piece of rock.  He shivers and wonders where the blanket over his feet went.  Then he looks and in the dark he sees a woman at his feet!  What’s Boaz going to do about this?  He could just tell her to go away and give him his blanket back.  But instead he asks who she is.  From his response in verse 10, we know that he’s happy to find out that it’s Ruth.

Then look at the second part of verse 9.  She says, “Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.”  That needs to be decoded for us.  It’s a special way of speaking that comes out of that culture and that time.  In chapter 2, Boaz had said that Ruth had sought refuge under the wings of Yahweh, the true God.  Now Ruth comes to seek refuge also under the wings of Boaz.  This was a poetic way of making a marriage proposal.  If she had Boaz as her husband, she would be safe like a baby bird under the wings of its mother.  She recognizes that there is the hope of life with this worthy man. 

Then she ups the ante by appealing to the fact that he is a kinsman-redeemer.  He is a go’el.   Last time we looked at what that meant.  There was a law in Old Testament Israel about married men who died childless.  A brother was supposed to then take the widow for his own wife and have children for his dead brother.  This was called levirate marriage.  The brother was the go’el, the kinsman-redeemer.  If it wasn’t possible for a brother to do this, then the responsibility came to fall on the next closest male relative.  Boaz is potentially a kinsman-redeemer for Ruth and she draws attention to that fact in verse 9. 

Boaz responds by blessing Ruth in the name of Yahweh.  She’s being rather forward, but he receives it well and he respects her for it.  Moreover, he’s humbled by the fact that she has taken notice of him.  She has not paid attention to age, love, or money.  He says that this is a kindness, this is loyalty and steadfast love – the word there again in Hebrew is chesed, a word we’ve encountered before.  Ruth is being loyal and faithful to her mother-in-law and her family, especially her deceased husband Mahlon.  Boaz shows honour and respect for Ruth.  Then he essentially indicates that he’s on board with her proposal.  He tells her not to fear and says that he is going to do exactly what she asks:  in other words, he will do what he can to spread his wings over her, to become her husband who will protect her.  He’ll do that because everyone knows of her virtue, the way that’s she’s conducted herself in Bethlehem.  This worthy man sees much of worth in this widow.  And in connection with that he goes on to recognize that he is indeed a go’el, a kinsman-redeemer.

But there is a hitch.  He mentions it in verse 12, “Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I.”  There is a closer male relative than Boaz.  That male relative has the first right to be her husband, and to carry on the line of Elimelech and the first husband of Ruth.  If that man wants to fulfill this, then Boaz is automatically out of the picture.  There’s a due process that needs to be followed here.  That’s just the way that it was.  Again, uncertainty enters into the picture.  Who knows what that other man is going to do or say? 

Boaz says that he will take care of it right away in the morning.  He affirms that if the closer male relative doesn’t want to do it, he will for sure do it.  In fact, he swears by God that he will.  But there is still this part of not knowing for sure what will happen next.  There’s some question about the future hanging here. 

Boaz then instructs Ruth to lie down until morning and stay close to him.  This she does.  Now we have to be careful that we don’t read anything into that.  We were told at the beginning of chapter 2 that Boaz was a worthy man, a godly man.  Here in chapter 3, Boaz himself says that Ruth is a worthy woman.  It’s exactly the same expression in Hebrew.  She’s godly and virtuous.  This was recognized by the Jews and you can see it in the placement of this book in the Hebrew Old Testament.  Our order of books in the Old Testament is based on the order of the Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint.  The Hebrew Old Testament has an order that is a little bit different in some places.  So, with respect to Ruth, in the Septuagint it was placed between Judges and Samuel.  That was done because of it when it took place.  The events in Ruth took place in the period of the Judges, so it made sense to put the book there.  That’s the way it is in our English Bibles today too, our order of books in the Old Testament follows the Greek Septuagint.  But in the Hebrew Old Testament, the book of Ruth is located somewhere else.  It’s found between the book of Proverbs and the Song of Solomon.  Why is that?  It’s because of a connection in theme.  The book of Proverbs ends with chapter 31 and its description of the virtuous woman.  The Song of Solomon is all about the love of a godly man and woman leading up to and inside of marriage.  Ruth naturally fits between those books.  Ruth was a virtuous woman who got married to a virtuous man. 

So that confirms that we have no reason to read anything into what happens in this chapter.  To put it bluntly, there’s no reason to think that they had sex before they were married.  Some commentators actually say that they did.  But there’s no warrant for that whatsoever.  Ruth stayed close to Boaz for that night, but there was no inappropriate intimacy going on.  She stayed close to him because it was night and it was safe near him.  For her to travel back to Bethlehem in the dark would have been foolish and dangerous.  No woman in her right mind would wander about in the countryside after dark.

As soon as the sun began to rise, Ruth left right away.  Boaz gave instructions to whoever might have seen what happened to keep it to themselves.  People would invariably get the wrong idea.  Before Ruth goes on her way, Boaz gave her six measures of barley.  We don’t know exactly what that measure involved (the text is ambiguous), but it would have been a bit of food and with that Boaz was demonstrating his sincerity.  He meant what he said. 

When Ruth came back to the house in Bethlehem, she right away had to tell her mother-in-law about how it went.  Ruth told her everything and then Naomi told her to wait and see what would happen next.  They had to wait and see if Boaz would indeed be the one to marry Ruth and bring hope for the future.  They had to see if he would be the one to bring them a resting place.

Life is often like what we see in this story.  There are so many times where there is uncertainty.  We don’t know how things will turn out.  For example, who knows what’s going to happen in the next year?  Will your health improve or deteriorate?  What about that family member you’re concerned about?  Or maybe it’s your work.  Will you still be doing what you’re doing next year at this time?  Will that be for better or for worse?  What’s going to happen?  There’s always some type of uncertainty about the future. 

But even when we have that, we always have some things that we can be sure about.  There is always some solid ground under our feet, even if we’re not always aware of it.  The truth is that Ruth and Naomi had that too.  By grace, they were both part of God’s covenant people.  Because of that, they had God’s promises for them.  God promised them that if they trusted him, he would bless them.  They could know that for sure, it was 100% certain.  Just listen to what God said in Deuteronomy 28:1-6 [read].  That passage speaks of God’s covenant blessings.  Those blessings are for us too.  If we trust in God and listen to him, we can be sure that because of Christ and his work for us, God will always bless us with what we really need at any given moment.  No, he won’t always give us what we want, but he has promised to give us what we need.  We can have certainty about that within the covenant of grace. 

We can always hold on to God’s promises.  They’re always there and they’re always sure and certain.  In 2 Corinthians 1:20 we read that all the promises of God are yes and Amen in Jesus Christ.  All the promises of God are true and certain in and through Jesus Christ, our Saviour.  Jesus was the one promised from the beginning, the one who came into this world to deliver a death blow to the skull of our enemy the Devil.  Ruth and Naomi could trust that promise too.  They probably didn’t realize how they fit into that plan to bring a Redeemer into the world, but they could hold to the promise just the same.  God was faithful and what he said he would do, he would do.  He would give them life and hope, peace and security.

Today we can look back at this Old Testament story and we can see how God did his work.  He made his promises come true, also through putting everything in order for a resting place for Ruth and Naomi.  He graciously brought Boaz into their lives so that, through this worthy, godly man, they could have a safe and sound place here on earth.  Through Boaz, God would also work to bring our Saviour Jesus into this world.  He would be the one to fulfill everything the Old Testament had said about rest.  Listen to what he said about himself in Matthew 11:28-29 [read].

Brothers and sisters, our text speaks of a resting place, a home, a safe and secure residence.  Somewhere you’ll feel like you always belong, where everything makes sense all the time.  With this, our God is pointing us to Jesus Christ.  He is the one who brings us our true home, our true rest.  As the church father Augustine once said, our hearts are restless until they find their rest with the Lord.  As we look to Christ in faith, we know that we are heading for home.  Our pilgrimage has a direction.  We are going to the place God is preparing for us.  A place where we will live in close communion and fellowship with God forever.  We’re going to a place where will have eternal joy and peace in our hearts, an eternal sense of belonging.  Loved ones, our God calls us this morning to eagerly anticipate our eternal rest with him in the new heavens and new earth.

You see, when we have Jesus as our Saviour, then we know that here on this earth, we’re always sort of out of place.  Even if we’ve lived in this city all our lives, it’s not our real home.  We’re all just pilgrims and we’re passing through on our way to something far better.  That has implications for how we live.  For instance, we don’t hold on tightly to our money and material possessions.  All of these things will be burned up, they will all pass away.  But our eternal home will never disappear, it is an imperishable inheritance.  Second Corinthians 5:1 speaks of this home and it says that we have “a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”  Now how should you live?  It’s simple:  live as a pilgrim, as someone just passing through.  Live as God’s child promised an eternal inheritance, trusting his sure promises in Christ, and someday you will live in God’s home forever.  AMEN.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father,

We live in an uncertain world.  We know there are so many things in our lives that we’re not sure of.  But we’re thankful that we can be sure of your love for us.  We’re glad that we can be confident with your promises.  Thank you, Father, that we know that our lives are in your hand and this is a good place to be.  We give you thanks also for the promise of rest in Christ.  Thank you that we know that we have an eternal rest being prepared for us in our Saviour Jesus.  We look forward to that home in the new heavens and new earth.  Please bring it quickly for us.  We also pray that you would help us with your Holy Spirit so that we live as pilgrims in this world.  Help us not to become comfortable with this world and its priorities.  Help us not to hold on tightly to earthly things that will someday disappear.  Please help us to live our lives with an eye to eternity and to the things that really matter.  We pray for your grace and help in these things, because we are weak and because we so easily stray.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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