Valor and Faithfulness: Meditation on Ruth 3

This is the third of four meditations on the book of Ruth.

The book of Ruth is many things. Among them are ‘misunderstood,’ ‘underappreciated,’ ‘forgotten,’ and ‘abused.’ Also among them are ‘inspired,’ ‘powerful,’ ‘wise,’ and ‘one of my favorite books of the Bible.’

This is not the place to learn contextual insights or study deeply about what the book means. If you want to do that, I highly recommend Carolyn Custis James’ book The Gospel of Ruth.

What I invite you to do here is to experience Ruth. You may learn some things along the way, but truly, I want to allow you to live the story as fully and richly as possible.

These are not essays on Ruth, nor are they sermons. They are meditations. Orient yourself toward God and rest in the Spirit. Listen to the words as they wash over you, and allow them to reach deep into your being and form you.

Perhaps you may find God, if you listen closely.

Below is the third of four audio recordings, each focused on one of the chapters of the book of Ruth. All you have to do is rest and allow your imagination, the words, and the Spirit to do their work.

If you prefer to read and reflect, the transcript is posted below.

 

Ruth 3 Meditation

The harvest has been completed and the grain is being processed, separating the usable grain from the husks, and Ruth is home with Naomi. One day, Naomi breaks the thoughtful silence, sharing what has been on her mind.

“My daughter, shouldn’t I do something for you to find security? You need to be taken care of, and I certainly can’t do that. Look, isn’t Boaz family? Haven’t you spent the whole harvest season working with his workers? Listen to me. This evening, he’ll be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. Get yourself ready. Wash up, put on some perfume, and wear your best clothes. Then, go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let anyone know you’re there. He’ll be sleeping there to guard the grain. After he finishes eating and drinking, notice where he lies down for the night. Go in and uncover his feet, and lie down. Then he’ll explain to you what you should do.”

Ruth, to her credit, trusts Naomi, and says, “I will do everything you say.” [Feel the mix of emotions Ruth must feel. Warmth that Naomi cares so deeply, anxiety over what she is being asked to do and how Boaz may respond, responsibility to continue caring for Naomi.]

Ruth readies herself as Naomi prompted, and while she does, she thinks.

That evening, she goes down to the threshing floor and does everything her mother-in-law has instructed her to do. She hides and waits. After Boaz eats, drinks, and is in ‘good spirits,’ he goes and lies down at the end of the pile of barley. After he falls asleep, Ruth follows him in secretly, uncovers his feet, and lies down to wait.

At midnight, Boaz is startled. Something isn’t right. He turns over and looks around, fearing thieves there to steal the grain. It’s dark, the only light the glow from the embers burning low.

Wait, what in the world? Is that a woman lying by my feet? [Feel the swirl of emotions, confusion, anxiety for her safety, anxiety for his reputation.]

“Who are you?” he whispers loudly.

Ruth answers much more calmly than she feels. “I’m Ruth, your humble servant.” Then she adds her own extra touch to Naomi’s instructions. Instead of waiting for Boaz to tell her what to do next, she tells him instead. “Spread your cloak over me, for you are a family redeemer.” There. She’s said it. Then she waits, trembling.

Boaz is stunned, and it takes a moment to confirm he understands in the fog of broken sleep. “May Yahweh bless you, my daughter. You have demonstrated even greater faithful love [hesed] now than before when you bravely made an unusual request for Naomi’s sake, for you haven’t gone off and pursued a nice young husband for yourself but instead sought out one of Elimelech’s family redeemers to provide for Naomi.”

They both sit a moment processing the incredible events of the night.

Boaz continues after a moment, “Don’t worry, my daughter. I’ll do for you whatever you say. Bethlehem’s a small town, and everyone knows you’re a woman of valor [hayil].” [Reflect on the powerful reputation for strong character she must have to be so renowned, as a destitute woman with no future.]

Boaz goes on. “Yes, it’s true I’m a family redeemer, but another redeemer is more closely related than I am, so he has the right to have a chance to fulfill the redeemer obligation before I can. Stay here tonight, and I’ll look into it in the morning. If he wants to redeem you, great. Let him redeem you. If he’s not interested, then as sure as Yahweh lives, I will do it.” She expresses her appreciation, and then he says, “Now try to get some sleep.”

[The Torah requires the next of kin to a man who dies without an heir to serve as a surrogate. He is known as a family redeemer, and he redeems the man’s inheritance, the portion of the Promised Land given by Yahweh, the sign of God’s favor on his people. He marries the man’s widow and has a child by her. That child is considered the heir of the man who had died, not the redeemer, and the land that would have been lost from the family is passed on.]

Ruth, satisfied that she has done all she can for Naomi, lies down at his feet again until the early morning. While it is still dark and before anyone else is up, Ruth and Boaz get up. Boaz says to Ruth, “Don’t let anyone see you or tell anyone you were here. It would be scandal if anyone knows a woman stayed the night on the threshing floor with me.” He adds, “My daughter, bring your shawl over here and hold it out.”

When she holds it out, he fills it like a sack, and loads it with six hefty shovelfuls of barley. Exhausted and excited, she takes it and walks back into town.

She gets home and finds Naomi. Naomi, who seems to have gotten as little sleep as Ruth, asks, “Well, how did it go, my daughter?”

Ruth tells her all about it. She tells her what she said to Boaz and how he had responded and everything he said he would do. She finishes the tale by opening her shawl to show Naomi the barley and tells her, “He gave me all this barley, because he said, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’”

“Oh, my daughter,” Naomi says, anticipation showing in her face, “Just wait until you find out how things go. He won’t rest until he swiftly resolves everything today.”

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