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By: Larry Shaffer
Over the Christmas break, while we were in Bulgari visiting my daughter and her family, I worked on a book I am compiling from some of my past writing. For some of the book, I will be using the book of Ruth. The next couple of posts are from Ruth and I thought I’d post them as they pertain to planning and taking initiative to improve one’s life. I thought it would be good as we start the New Year. The key caveat is taking initiative within careful, prayerful introspection.
The Book of Ruth
She (Ruth) gleaned in the field until evening…Her mother-in-law (Naomi) then said to her, ‘Where did you glean today and where did you work?…the name of the man with whom I worked today is Boaz.’ Naomi said to Ruth, ‘The man is our relative, he is one of our closest relatives.’
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? Behold, he winnows barley at the threshing floor tonight. 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. 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.’ She said to her, ‘All that you say I will do.’
The story of Ruth, a Moabite, is a story of redemption and rescue. Ruth needed both; she was in a tough place in life. But she didn’t just wait and whine about her sad state, hoping for someone to rescue her. She took action! More specifically, this posting is a calling to Prayerful Action & Initiative! That is, acting under the careful and prayerful guidance of God.
Have you ever gone through trials and difficulties in life and it feels like a black cloud is going to be over you forever? Naomi had been going through such a period in her life. She moved from Bethlehem to Moab to avoid a famine. She moved with her husband and two sons. Ruth, a Moabitess, married one of her sons. Within a few years, Naomi’s husband and two sons died.
Consequently, Ruth,now a widow, never left her side. Ruth put the needs of her mother-in-law before her own. Rather than return to her family and her formers gods, Ruth clings to Naomi and claims that Naomi’s God, the God of Israel, is her God and Naomi’s people are now Ruth’s people. Ruth came into true saving grace under the wings of the God of Israel. Ruth made the right decision spiritually, but life was still difficult.
Naomi and Ruth returned to Israel but without their men, they had no income to live on. Ruth took action and as a beggar, she sought to gather stray grains from fields owned by Jewish farmers. By taking action, she found favor with a wealthy farmer named Boaz. She is now working hard to glean and store grain for Naomi and herself for the coming year. It’s very hard work but things are looking up.
An odd custom
The next morning, Naomi shares a plan with Ruth that will redeem Ruth from the challenges of being a widowed foreigner in Israel. It involves a Near-Eastern custom that is odd to us in the West. It will take courage and initiative on Ruth’s part. It turns out that Boaz is a relative of Naomi’s late husband. Therefore, as a close kinsman through marriage to Ruth, Boaz has the option, not the requirement, to redeem Ruth through marriage and redeem her from the difficult life of a foreign widow. But because Boaz is older than Ruth, it would not be honorable for him to propose. So, Naomi set forth the plan and Ruth acted!
The Plan seems very forward with hints of impropriety
Naomi says to a Ruth, Now, is not Boaz our kinsman? Behold, he winnow’s barley at the threshing floor tonight. Wash yourself therefore and anoint yourself and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing floor. It shall be that when he lies down, that you should notice the place where he lies, and you shall go and uncover his feet and lie down; then he will tell you what to do.
To our current way of thinking, this plan is very forward with hints of impropriety. Do your best to view the virtue of this plan within the context of the culture and the two very honorable, God-fearing people involved. Naomi is simply putting a plan in place that allows Ruth to show her desire to be redeemed by Boaz without making a spectacle or risking Ruth’s shame of being denied.
Will you marry me?
Ruth went to the threshing floor and waited until after Boaz had eaten and lied down. She came secretly and uncovered his feet and laid down at his feet. Later in the night he awoke and was startled that a woman was at his feet.
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. Boaz knew this was a proposal from Ruth to marry her and become her kinsman redeemer. More next time.
Lord, we want to better our lives. Help us to prayerfully submit all our desires to You and to Your guidance. This is especially important for us as we move into a new year with renewed hopes and dreams. May all our plans be FULLY AND PRAYERFULLY SUBMITTED TO YOU! Keep us within the sphere of Your will. Give us the push we need to take initiative when You are calling us to act. Also, keep us from selfish pursuits and from following our wishes above Your clear guidance for our lives. We submit to Your Sovereign, kind and gracious hand. And we bow before Your Majesty. Amen!