Sermon series: Building Lasting Relationships - Ruth
Over the past 30 years, our society has greatly diminished the value of love, marriage, and the home. Charles Swindoll captured our casual, if not irreverent, attitude toward love, marriage, and the home in the words of one woman who wanted to marry four men. "First she wanted to marry a banker. Then she hoped to marry an actor. Next, she desired to marry a preacher. And, finally, she wanted to marry a funeral director. When asked why in that order, she responded, "one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, and four to go!" [Swindoll, "Tale of the Tardy Ox," 364].
While many desire a culture without responsibility and commitment, love and marriage have hardly died. As we have seen in our study of Ruth, many circumstances stress the home. Some walk away from their commitments. Others stay in the relationship out of obligation, yet experience bitterness and emptiness. Meanwhile, some experience fulfillment because of their disposition toward adversity.
In Chapter 2 we saw four foundation stones for long lasting relationship: faith in God, virtuous living, mutual respect, and redeeming love. As we begin reading the third chapter we quickly sense that love has fully blossomed. You can see it in their actions and hear it in their words. While we may not be able to fully define love, we sure recognize when we see it. That part of us that desires to be loved seems to come alive when we witness love in its innocence and purity. Only the hardened and bitter among us can remain untouched by genuine love.
Yes, love is possible for you and through you if you realize this one simple truth: Love is an act of the will not the emotions. The passage before us greatly illuminates that truth. Ruth 3 is a beautiful portrait of human love. While we can feel love, the pillars of true love are all actions or acts of the will. Under the veneer of this true love story one will also find a parable of divine love.
I. A portrait of human love
There are three scenes in this love story.
A. Scene one: A match-making mother - 3:1-5
Early in the story Naomi realized what Ruth could not have known. She understood both the kinsman's obligation to marry the widow of a close relative and the interest that Boaz obviously had in Ruth. So Naomi takes action on behalf of her daughter-in-law.
1. Notice her concern for Ruth [3:1]
Naomi knew "it only takes a spark to get a fire going."
2. Notice her counsel to Ruth [3:2-4]
Naomi offered two types to Ruth. First, she told her to fix herself up [3:3]. This meant that Ruth had to remove the garments of mourning. This would indicate that she was finished mourning and ready to move on with her life. You can't have a new beginning if you continue to live in the past. Next, Naomi told her to make herself known to Boaz [3:4].
3. Notice Ruth's compliance to Naomi [3:5]
Even here we see unique and trusting relationship between these to women.
B. Scene two: A midnight meeting – 3:6-13
Ruth follows through with the rendezvous at destination "grain heap." Now doesn't that sound romantic? Concerning this meeting there are some things you need to understand.
1. An unusual practice [3:6-7]
There was nothing immoral or indecent about this custom. It was simply the woman's way of letting him know that she was interested in marriage. Men still need a little prompting.
2. An unusual proposal [3:8-9]
While we live in the liberated new millennium, men tend to do the proposing. When Boaz awakens from his slumber and his shock at a woman lying at his feet, he receives a twofold proposal that reads more like a demand.
a. "Take me under your wing" was like saying "Take me, I'm yours."
b. "for you are a close relative" indicated something more. "Close relative" comes from the Hebrew "goel" which means "kinsman-redeemer." According to Mosaic Law, a kinsman had the responsibility to marry Ruth to preserve the inheritance of Elimelech. While she had a legal right to make this request, consider how unusual it is. Daniel Block noted that this was unusual in four ways:  A woman proposed to a man,  A young person proposed to an older individual,  A field laborer proposed to a field owner, and  A foreigner proposed to a citizen. [New American Commentary, 687]
3. An unusual promise [3:10-11]
After praising her for not chasing after younger guys, he tells Ruth not to worry. He will do all that she requested (v.11). That is, he will redeem her from widowhood regardless of the cost. Only love can blind a man in that way! But he goes on to say that Ruth was worth it for she was "virtuous." It reminds us of Proverbs 31:10, "Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies." Yes, "above rubies" is only the starting level.
4. An unusual problem [3:12-13]
Legally, another man could have served as the "goel". But his love is greater than this problem. Despite the obstacles, Boaz was determined to see Ruth cared for even if it meant losing her himself [3:13]. Notice that he even made this vow before "the Lord." Now that's real love. What's beautiful about this problem is that he already knew it. He wanted to marry her and had checked into the details of getting it done.
C. Scene three: A man on a mission – 3:14-18
Boaz now does two additional things to confirm his love and intentions.
1. He protected her reputation [3:14]
At harvest time prostitutes were known to go to the threshing floor and proposition the laborers. Boaz did everything he could to avoid even the hint of impropriety by Ruth or himself. He was honorable.
2. He paid a dowry to Naomi [3:15-17]
The grain was for Naomi. It was like a down payment or earnest that guaranteed his intention. Ruth may not have understood its significance but Naomi certainly did. After she saw the grain [3:17], she knew his intentions perfectly [3:18].
II. The pillars of true love
Woven in that portrait of love are four pillars of genuine love. Each relationship highlights one.
A. Naomi's love for Ruth demonstrated concern – 3:1
Naomi had Ruth's best interests at heart.
B. Ruth's love for Naomi demonstrated trust – 3:5
Even when Ruth did not fully understand Naomi she trusted her. Trust is built on honesty. Trust is a form of security. When trust is broken a relationship suffers.
C. Ruth's love for Boaz demonstrated risk – 3:8-9
In going to the threshing floor to declare her love she took two tremendous risks.
1. The risk of reputation
Her actions could have been perceived as an indecent proposal.
2. The risk of rejection
If Ruth and Naomi had misread Boaz she would have felt significant embarrassment, shame, and humiliation. After all, they had only known each other for only 4 to 5 months. What have you risked to demonstrate love?
D. Boaz' love for Ruth demonstrated commitment – 3:11
The one who won't commit to a relationship for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, does not truly love.
III. A parable of divine love
The context of this passage uses the language of redemption. Ruth, as a young widow, was essentially sentenced to poverty and hardship unless someone redeemed her from this plight. Each character represents a player in God's loving plan of redemption.
A. Naomi – The loving parent (God)
She longs for her child's redemption.
She made a plan of redemption.
Redemption was only possible because of a relationship to the redeemer [Elimelech 4:3].
She moved on Ruth's heart to act - to claim salvation.
B. Ruth – The lost sinner
She could do nothing to save herself.
She responded to Boaz' grace [2:2, 10, 13].
She repented of her past [3:3 She removed the garments of mourning which represented her past].
She requested that He redeem her [3:9].
She received both the promise of redemption [3:11] and a pledge for the future redemption [3:15].
C. Boaz – The Lord Jesus
He was worthy to redeem her [3:9 a kinsman-redeemer see Phil. 2:5-11].
He was willing to redeem her [3:11].
He was waiting to redeem her [3:13].
Love is the same - God's love for us, and our love for others. Therefore, give it and receive it!