by I Gordon
‘Anyone can sing in the day. When the cup is full and wealth rolls in abundance around him, any man can sing the praises of a God who gives a plenteous harvest… but no man can make a song in the night by himself… Songs in the night come only from God; they are not in the power of man.’
The book of Ruth, chapter three, takes us into the next stage of our Christian lives. We have seen the commitment of Ruth in her determination to follow the true God. We have also seen her grow in her relationship with Boaz, consistently relying upon his grace. This chapter is all about the three R’s – reading, writing, and arithmetic. Um, no, it’s about refining, rest and rewards. As a Christian grows, their faith has got to be tried and refined. Our faith is of little use to anyone until this has happened. But this chapter doesn’t leave us there, as it also shows us the rest and fruit that is produced in such a time. So among other things we can learn the following from this bible study and chapter:
- the process the Lord uses in bringing us closer to Himself
- what the true rest of God is
- where fruit and growth in your Christian character comes from
3:1-2 Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you? “And now is not Boaz our kinsman, with whose maids you were? Behold, he winnows barley at the threshing floor tonight.
Chapter 3 starts then with the next step in drawing closer to the Lord. Ruth had known the provision of Boaz, and had ‘sought refuge under the wings of the God of Israel’ as Boaz himself had earlier stated. We have also seen her working in Boaz’ field and seen his gracious commitment to her in return. But Naomi had a greater vision for Ruth. She could see something better for Ruth than just being a worker in Boaz’s field. She could see Ruth fully redeemed, loved, and honoured as a wife. So Naomi becomes a matchmaker! But it wasn’t going to be easy and would involve Ruth placing herself at the feet of Boaz, totally reliant upon his will. As we go on in our Christian life, there are times also when we must also be found at the threshing floor, where he is. It is a time of testing and refining, and just as the threshing floor was used to separate the true grain from the chaff so these times in our life are used to refine and purify our faith in Him. But as we shll see, through this testing she would learn what it is to rest in him, and his provision would be greater than in any time before!
Washing, anointing and wearing
3:3 “Wash yourself therefore, and anoint yourself and put on your best clothes, and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.”
We see then that which is needed in preparing ourselves at this time. Three things are given for Ruth to do – wash herself, anoint herself, and put on her best clothes! Each of these acts are quite common in the Old Testament and each is interpreted for us in the New Testament.
1) Wash yourself – is being washed with the water of the word as Eph 5:26 tells us. It means examining ourselves by the word and allowing it to govern our attitudes, motives and desires. In times of testing the word of God is a light unto our path, giving us hope to persevere.
2) Anoint yourself – always speaks of the enabling of the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 5:18 tells us to be filled (or controlled) by the Holy Spirit and this is crucial in times of refining when our natural reaction is to be anything but controlled!
3) Put on your best clothes – speaks of a righteous life. Revelation 19:8 says ‘It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen… for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.’ This is only possible to the extent that we’ve got the first two tasks in place.
Leaving it all in His hands
3:4-5 “And it shall be when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies, and you shall go and uncover his feet and lie down; then he will tell you what you shall do.” And she said to her, “All that you say I will do.”
Ruth had to cast herself at Boaz’ feet! She didn’t know what would happen next or what his reaction would be but she just knew that she needed to be where he was and this meant the threshing floor! Ever felt like that? You’re going through a time of testing and all you can do is throw yourself down at the Lords feet not really knowing what will happen next? To us it seems like a huge risk but to the Lord it is the very place He wants us to be.
Into the place of refining
3:6-7 So she went down to the threshing floor and did according to all that her mother-in-law had commanded her. When Boaz had eaten and drunk and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came secretly, and uncovered his feet and lay down.
Unsure of how events would transpire, Ruth followed Naomi’s advice and went down to the threshing floor. Notice also that the threshing floor, the place of trial that refines our faith, is down! It’s a place where, as John the Baptist testified, ‘I must decrease and He must increase’. It’s easy to talk about but never nice in reality. Maybe it means coming and acknowledging to the Lord that you have been a failure as a Christian, a failure as a husband, or a failure as a mother. When God creates, He starts with nothing, and creates something. And when God makes a ‘somebody’, He always starts with nobodies! But it always starts by laying yourself down in humility at His feet.
Our need: To rest at His feet
3:8 And it happened in the middle of the night that the man was startled and bent forward; and behold, a woman was lying at his feet.
The middle of the night! You’ve got to be kidding? I mean, it probably doesn’t sound long for us, but here was Ruth, laying at Boaz’s feet, thinking ‘will He marry me? Will he redeem me? Oh hurry up and wake up!’ It would have been a long wait for Ruth, believe me! How long it can be also when you find yourself on the threshing floor, in the midst of a trial. And often, God seems asleep or at least oblivious to the whole ordeal. But He isn’t, and there will always come a time when Boaz awakes and though it takes longer usually than we would like, there will always come the time when God hears and acts on your cry. What would have been best for Ruth during this time? Well, to rest as much as possible and worry as least as possible. And it is the same for you. So would laying her life and hopes at Boaz’s feet pay off?
The Lord’s response we are after!
3:9-12 And he said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth your maid. So spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative.” Then he said, “May you be blessed of the Lord, my daughter. You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence.”
You bet it would! Pay off that is. Boaz was amazed at her commitment, faith and kindness stating that she was a woman of excellence. Not only did she show commitment to Naomi but also she had now shown that same commitment to Boaz. Does it not also please the Lord Jesus when we choose to seek after Him instead of wealth or other worldly pleasures? I once read a quote that said you can test whether you love God by whether you seek after Him or His gifts. Boaz was pleased with Ruth’s choice and responds by the same words that Jesus said more than any other – ‘do not fear!’ Now what about you? Do you feel that you’re currently taking a beating down at the threshing floor, wondering how circumstances will turn out? If so, have you laid the result before Jesus and rested at His feet? Have you washed yourself in the word and allowed the Lord Jesus Christ to speak those words ‘Do not fear!’ into your life? May we continue to turn away from our problem and also hear those words from the Lord. Notice also that he said ‘I will do whatever you ask… for you are a woman of excellence.’ That is his response once we have put ourselves into this position at His feet.
Introducing the ‘mystery’ closer relative!
3:12-14 “And now it is true I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I. “Remain this night, and when morning comes, if he will redeem you, good; let him redeem you. But if he does not wish to redeem you, then I will redeem you, as the Lord lives. Lie down until morning.” So she lay at his feet until morning and rose before one could recognize another; and he said, “Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.”
Boaz, like the Lord Jesus Christ, is willing to redeem her but there is a closer relative than Boaz! Who would have the first choice to redeem you before the Lord? ‘Tis a mystery but we will have to save that for chapter four. But for now what is important is the Lord’s response to someone trusting and looking to Him. After telling Ruth not to fear the next thing he says is for her to remain resting for the night. The rest! She had to rest on the threshing floor knowing that Boaz would look after her! The picture couldn’t be any clearer for us. Testing and trials will come for the refining of our faith but what the Lord is after is that attitude which places the problem at the feet of Jesus, remaining restful in the midst of the trial.
Rewards through Refining
3:15-18 Again he said, “Give me the cloak that is on you and hold it.” So she held it, and he measured six measures of barley and laid it on her. Then she went into the city. And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “How did it go, my daughter?” And she told her all that the man had done for her. And she said, “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said, ‘do not go to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’” Then she said, “Wait, my daughter, until you know how the matter turns out; for the man will not rest until he has settled it today.”
One final thought as we close out the chapter. In her early relationship with Boaz, Ruth had worked all day in Boaz’ field and beat out 22 litres of barley. Here, after being at the threshing floor, Boaz gives Ruth a gift of six measures, which according to the Bible Knowledge Commentary was six seahs or 46 litres! Have you found that in your own life? Have you noticed that hard times produce far more growth in your character than any amount of normal daily living. We may not like it but it is true. If you have been a Christian long enough I'm sure you can look back at specific difficult times and testify that that was when you truly learnt more about the character and faithfulness of the Lord. We may read our books and hear our sermons for years but we only truly know something once that knowledge has been tested. May we like Ruth, desire to go deeper, learning to rest and lay all at the feet of Jesus.
1 Peter 1:3-9 seems appropriate here.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.
|Other Bible Studies in the Ruth Series|
 The threshing floor is all about separating the true wheat or grain from the chaff and this process is used in the N.T as an example of Jesus’ judgement between the righteous and the unrighteous (Matt 3:12, 13:24-30) Grain is produced through this refining process. This also happens in our life and usually involves trials that refine our faith and cause us to put our life back into the hands of the one who owns it anyway – God.
 Why did Boaz have to be down there? Why couldn’t he have been out in some nice flowery field and have Ruth meet him there? Likewise why did Jesus have to be where he was when he said ‘If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am my servant will be also… Now my soul has become troubled; and what shall I say ‘Father save me from this hour?’ But for this purpose I came to this hour.’ So where was Jesus at this point because it is the place he said we would be also? Jerusalem? Should we go there? No, he wasn’t speaking about a physical location but a place in his life. He had just said that unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it abides alone. But if it dies it will bear much fruit. He was contemplating the cross and the enormity of what that meant. But he was also at the place where he was willing to lay down his life and let God take the consequences! This is where he said we had to be as well. It’s life out of death and rewards out of refining. (John 12:23-27)
 This reminds me of the attitude Esther took in going before the King – an act which was not lawful (Esther 4:16) She had to bring herself to the place where, having committed it to God, she steps out in faith stating ‘If I perish, I perish’. If you want to read an awesome book about this and how it applies to our Christian life then I would recommend ‘If I perish, I perish’ by Major Ian Thomas.
 Same picture I guess as when Jesus slept on the boat in the midst of the storm. The disciples were frantic but Jesus kept on sleeping. The best thing they could have done would have been to sleep as well! Jesus slept because He had power and control over all things, including this storm. And that is what His disciples then, and His disciples now, have to learn.
 Might be a good time to recap on Ruth’s character. If Boaz is a picture of Jesus Christ and Ruth is a picture of His gentile bride then we should look at what in Ruth pleases Boaz so much that he would call her a ‘woman of excellence’? It just might be what Jesus would like to see in us! We know that Ruth was dedicated and committed in what she did, willing to leave her life in Moab behind to follow the true God. She worked hard in the fields yet was always humble and came to Boaz by grace. She was kind always sharing with others what she received. She was also teachable, following Naomi’s instructions even if it meant stepping out in faith and putting herself on the line. Probably heaps more but I’m getting tired. Definitely a woman of excellence though.
 Don’t you hate it when prosperity teachers take a promise like ‘If you ask me anything in my name I will do it’ and use it to say that if we had faith then Jesus would give us everything we want blah blah blah! I do. It seems that a verse like this is ripped out of context so much and not weighed up with other verses that show the need to pray in accordance with the will of God. But here in Ruth’s life we see Boaz, like Jesus, saying ‘I will do whatever you ask.’ Why? It’s because Ruth has laid her life down at Boaz’ feet and has submitted herself to his will. That is the condition for that type of response. Which is exactly what Jesus meant by ‘ask in my name’ – it means to ask in accordance with His desires and His will. Sorry, it’s not a magic formula.
 There is only one thing that prevents us from entering into the rest and that is unbelief. After Boaz told Ruth to rest, not to fear and that he would look after everything, do you think she spent the rest of the night tossing and turning thinking ‘will he, won’t he, he loves me, he loves me not – Oh what’s going to happen?’ No way! She believed him and had a good nights’ sleep! Read Hebrews 4 – it states that there remains a rest for the people of God and that ‘we who believe enter the rest’. The rest is not one day a week, but ‘Today’ as Hebrews states. Like the children of Israel we often fail to believe but let’s hear God again say ‘do not fear’ and allow faith to rise as faith comes by hearing.
 One of my favourite passages in the Old Testament that shows the rest in the face of disaster is in 2 Chronicles 20. Jehoshaphat was alarmed as the armies of Moab and Ammon were coming against Israel. He was going to be defeated so he turned his attention towards the Lord. What does the Lord get him to do? He goes out against the enemy army with his singers and worshippers first! Not much of a contest you would think but in doing so the Lord confused their enemies and a great victory was gained. Likewise, the Lord calls us to praise and He is able to give us a song in the night. It is a song of thanksgiving in the midst of the trial that benefits us so much more than endless moaning to the Lord. This is the rest.