Naomi sees how hard Ruth is working. She has a plan to fix that. She has a leg up on that because Boaz has already noticed Ruth.
Ruth chose Naomi over her own family. She continues to choose her every day. There are plenty of men in Bethlehem that she could choose to pursue for a husband. She doesn’t even look. She uses all her energy and attention to make a good life for Naomi and herself.
Naomi knows Israelite law and the possibilities open to Ruth through it. She also knows that if Ruth wanted to she could seek a husband on her own. But she sees Ruth’s determination to care for her and how she has put her own future completely out of her mind. Naomi’s heart can’t stand by and let this happen. Ruth is working herself to death for the two of them. Naomi has to intervene.
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The barley harvest is completed and the reapers have moved onto the wheat harvest. Ruth still gets up early, with the chicken, and goes into Boaz’s field to glean. She is there until after sunset gathering and threshing grain that she faithfully brings home to Naomi. No matter how tired she is, there is never a cross word or a frown upon her face. She also is never very long without a song.
Ruth has been working in the fields for about a month and a half. Her hands are dry and cracked and stained with dirt. Naomi notices her hands and remembers the smoothness of them from before. They were never the soft hands of a woman of leisure but neither were they the hands of a farmer. Naomi also notices the stiffness in Ruth’s shoulders and back that she tries to hide each night. “Ruth is working herself to death on my account. Her beauty will be gone and her spirit ground into dust if I don’t do something soon” she thinks.
Ruth returns home this evening and Naomi is determined that their situation has to change. It’s time to think about Ruth’s future. As they sit at table together for their meal Naomi broaches the subject that has been weighing heavily on her heart. “My daughter you are working too hard! ‘Should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you?’ (verse 1b).”
Ruth starts to object but Naomi raises her hand to still her. “Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were?” (verse 2a). Ruth nods and Naomi continues with outlining her plan. “See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do” (verses 2b-4).
Ruth has been intently listening to everything Naomi has been saying. She knows Naomi’s heart is fixed on only good for her. “I will do exactly as you have instructed me mother.”
The two women leave the table to begin the preparations. THIS night may well determine both their futures. Naomi goes to warm some water for Ruth to bathe while Ruth gathers clean garments. After Ruth finishes washing Naomi carefully braids her hair for her and anoints her with perfume she had received from Elimelech on her wedding night. This is a very special night for Ruth.
Naomi looks Ruth over once more before kissing her on the cheek and sending her out the door. “May the Lord watch over you tonight daughter and repay all the kindness that you have lavished on me.”
Ruth is nervous as she makes her way to the threshing floor. She is both excited and scared at the same time. “What if he rejects me? What if someone sees me? What if I make a fool of myself or embarrass him? But what if he accepts me? What if he is the Lord is giving me a new future? Oh! I wish I knew what will happen!” All these thoughts run through her mind and heart as she slips into a dark corner near the threshing floor. Her cloak is large enough to conceal her from sight as she watches the men at work.
Boaz, his manager and two servants are working the barley from the harvest. They are beating the grain on the ground and drawing a flat cart across it to break the husks. After several rounds with the cart the grain on the ground is sifted into the air where the breeze catches the chaff and blows it away while the grain settles back on the ground. They then gather up what remains and pile it into a heap. Boaz’s fields have yielded much this year and his heap is already of considerable size. It will stand nearly as tall as he is by the end of this night.
Once tonight’s grain is heaped the men sit down to a well-earned rest and meal. They are all tired from their work but in good spirits. Laughter and wine flow around the circle as they relax and enjoy one another’s company. After their meal is finished the two workers take their leave and go home. Boaz and his manager will be staying with the grain tonight to guard it, least thieves break in and steal it.
Ruth has been watching the whole time from her hiding place. She smiles at the way Boaz laughs. He has a big hearty laugh that lights up his whole face. He treats his servants well. It is easy to see that they love their master and would do anything for him. “He is a good man; a worthy man” thinks Ruth. “I will be very careful and not dishonor him.”
Boaz and his manager both gather their blankets and choose a spot on the threshing floor to sleep. It is a large floor and they each choose an end. Ruth watches carefully to ensure she approaches the right man. After the light has been extinguished Ruth still waits. She remains hidden until she hears sounds of sleep coming from both ends of the threshing floor.
Holding the hem of her skirts, Ruth silently makes her way around the edge of the threshing floor to the place where Boaz sleeps. Once she reaches the place where Boaz sleeps she settles herself at his feet. Very gently she lifts is blanket from off of his feet and then silently lies down to wait. She doesn’t know how long she will have to wait but she is determined to wait in silence. She isn’t worried about falling asleep herself because she is too nervous. Her heart is beating so loudly she fears it may wake Boaz on its own.
After about two hours Boaz suddenly sits up. It is close to midnight. He was awoken by something but he isn’t sure what it was. As he starts to settle himself back down he notices someone at his feet! “Who are you?” (verse 9a) he whisper/shouts.
“I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer” (verse 9b) she replies in a hushed voice.
Tears well up in Boaz’s eyes. He is overwhelmed by Ruth’s request. He has wrestled with his feelings for her since the day he first saw her in his field. She is a beautiful woman who could easily have any man she set her sights on. He knows that he is not a young man any longer and not the most handsome either, yet she is choosing to follow and call upon the traditions of the redeemer instead, and choosing him as her redeemer. She is a woman of integrity and love. His heart swells with love for her and pride that she has made this request of him. “May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worth woman” (verses 10-12a).
Ruth breaths out a sigh of relief and happiness. It seems she hasn’t breathed since speaking her name to him.
Boaz next words stop her breath again. “And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I. Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it” (verses 12b-13a).
“Who could he be speaking of” she wonders. “Oh please don’t reject me. My heart has already opened to you while in the fields but I dared not speak of it. I want no other” she thinks.
“But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning” (verse 13b).
Boaz’s last words loosen the hand of fear that had taken hold of Ruth’s heart. She is able to breathe again but just barely. She knows hers and Naomi’s future will be secure but what of her heart? Will the man she has grown to love be the one who will take her as his own or will it be a stranger? She will do whatever the Lord wills but she prays her heart will not be broken in the obeying.
Ruth sleeps in snatches. Excitement and fear wrestle one another in her heart and mind until morning. She forced herself to lie still so as not to disturb Boaz. Little does she know he did the same from his position. These same two emotions are running through him as well.
Boaz prays that the closer redeemer will choose not to act on his right. He has come to love Ruth. He had never acted himself because he was certain she would have preferred another. “Oh Lord, please give me the opportunity to love this woman as my own. She has seen so much sorrow in her life, yet it has not dampened her soul. Her presence lifts my soul whenever she is near. Would that I could bask in her presence daily and share with her how she touches me.”
As the day is first beginning to lighten, Ruth rises from the floor. She wants to be gone before anyone can recognize her. Boaz hears her stir and rises with her. They both know it could raise a scandal if she is seen leaving the threshing floor. Boaz is determined to protect her reputation. He sees the eyes of his manager watching them. He looks him directly in the eye as he speaks. “Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor” (verse 14b).
His manager nods in agreement and willingness to follow his command. The two of them will talk once Ruth has safely left.
Boaz turns back to Ruth with a smile. “Bring the garment you are wearing and hold it out” (verse 15a). As she holds her cloak out he scoops out barley from the heap into her cloak. He puts as much in his two cupped hands as he can, SIX times before he stops. Any more and the cloak may be too heavy to carry or spill over. Ruth watches in amazement as her cloak is filled. Boaz finally dusts his hands off and ties the corners of her cloak together. “You can’t go home to your mother-in-law empty handed” he says with a smile and hands her the wrapped bundle.
Ruth quietly leaves the threshing floor and heads home to Naomi, making sure she is not observed as she leaves. Her wraps her bundle in both arms as its weight is more than she is used to carrying for long distances. She can’t wait to show Naomi the gift Boaz has given her and to tell her EVERYTHING about her night!
As soon as Ruth is gone Boaz and his manager gather to talk. The manager has long suspected that his master’s heart favored Ruth. “She has asked me to exercise the right of redemption. I am most eager to fulfill her request but I must ascertain first if that right is mine or another’s. Tell no one she was here tonight. I want her name to remain pure for she has done nothing to dishonor it.”
“Never will it be heard from me my lord. I would be honored to call her my lady. I look forward to hearing the answer too.”
Naomi is already up when Ruth returns home. She slept little last night too. She is anxiously awaiting news. As soon as Ruth walks through the door Naomi knows it is good news. “Tell me what happened” Naomi urges as she ushers Ruth into the room.
Ruth goes straight for the table and puts her burden down. “I was so nervous I thought I might not be able to move when I first arrived. I did exactly as you instructed me. I waited until I knew everyone was asleep before even attempting to move from my hiding spot. Boaz discovered me at his feet in the middle of the night and I asked him for his covering as my redeemer.” She stops here to fuss with the knots in her cloak.
“Go on daughter! What did he say?”
“He said that there is another who is closer that he who would have first right of redemption.”
“OH!” Naomi gasps. “I’m sorry. I should have realized.” Naomi is crestfallen. She has put Ruth through a very humbling ordeal, simply to be told she has asked of the wrong person.
Ruth smiles and then continues her tale. “He said that he was going to find out this other’s intentions and if he didn’t claim the right that he, Boaz, would claim it ‘as surely as the Lord lives’ he said!”
Naomi is overjoyed at this news. Even if the other does claim the right of redemption, Ruth’s future is assured. She will no longer be a widow. They will once again have the covering of a husband as the Lord had intended.
Ruth finishes untying the knots in her cape and opens it. “Boaz insisted that I not return to you empty handed. He sent me away with this gift” she says pointing to the mound of barley heaped in her cloak.
“OH MY! He IS serious about you!” Naomi is even more excited for Ruth now that she has tangible proof of Boaz’s heart towards Ruth. “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter TODAY” (verse 18; emphasis added by me).
Ruth and Naomi embrace. Ruth will wait with Naomi at home today. They will wait patiently, but excitedly for word to come from Boaz. They will also both rest this morning for a little while as neither were successful in sleeping last night. They are secure in the knowledge that the Lord has seen their struggle and is working on their behalf.
(to be continued)
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Father God, You know my struggles. You know my joys. You know my triumphs. You know my sorrows and my fears. And You care about each one of them. You saw Ruth’s needs even before she knew what they were. You saw her struggling. You saw her joys. You saw her triumphs, sorrows and fears. And You saw her love. You rewarded her love by showering her with Yours. Not in major miracles or diamonds and pearls, but with love in return. You would fill a hole in her heart that she had been covering over and pushing out of the way in an effort to care for Naomi. You would soon fill the holes in both their hearts.
I LOVE how You walked Ruth step by step to this place. She had no idea whose field she was working in. She had no designs on finding a husband. She put one foot in front of another each day and walked in love at all times. YOU took notice of her and met her needs.
You do the same for me. I had NO idea the skills I would need during this time in my life. I lived and worked with whatever I had at the time and went where I felt I should. Little did I know that those very skills would be the ones that carry me through each day now. Such unconnected and diverse courses of study have melded together to make the life I live with my husband today, possible. Keep directing my paths Lord. I don’t know where I am going next but I trust You to lead the way. And I KNOW wherever it is it will be perfect for me.