June 26, 2022
Ruth 3: 1-18
If you ever want to scandalize someone who’s studying the Bible, just tell them that when a body part is mentioned, it really refers to a different body part.
A few years back, I was in an Old Testament course at Conrad Grebel in Waterloo.
For some reason, the seminary wasn’t offering enough classes for prospective pastors, so a couple of us had to take a course over at the other school. The upside was that the instructor was the school’s top Old Testament scholar.
Well, we went through Genesis, Exodus and 1 Kings without any issue. The, Psalms and Jeremiah without a hitch. But when we got to Ruth, that was when the fun started … especially with today’s passage.
The instructor began the discussion by telling the class, “You know, they’re not really talking about Boaz’s feet.”
The class was filled with students from different denominations. Everyone went silent and just looked at the instructor. “In the story,” he said. “feet actually mean something that’s higher on his body.”
It took a moment or two for some of the students to realize what the instructor meant.
Then, there were some giggles … some stares … and then a lot of flipping of pages as people were heading to the passage to reread it through the lens of this new information.
You have to admit, it does spice things up when you consider that feet aren’t feet.
Last week, we heard about Ruth gleaning grain in Boaz’s field.
Boaz took notice of the Moabite woman and directed her to the most productive places on the field and offered her protection by telling her to stay with the other young women gleaning and not to travel to any adjacent fields.
At the end of the work day, Ruth took 30 pounds of barley back to Naomi.
Now, with the harvest done, it was time to celebrate … after years of drought, famine and poor harvests … the season’s abundance was cause to have the biggest party of the year. There is an abundance of food and drink at the gathering.
So far in the story, Ruth has been committed to Naomi and has done what she could to help her mother-in-law to survive. Now, Naomi wants to ensure that Ruth has a secure future … a future she is convinced that she cannot provide.
As widows, with no male relatives, Naomi and Ruth have no security and live at the whim of the world’s uncertainty. Boaz is a relative of Naomi’s late husband, so he is considered a kinsman to the pair and is the prime candidate to help Ruth.
The women decide to take a bold step to secure their future.
Naomi instructs Ruth to go get dressed up, get anointed and go to the threshing floor and wait for the celebration to end … to wait until after Boaz had enough to eat and drink. Then, while he is sleeping, Ruth is to go to him … and uncover his feet … remember … we’re probably not talking about feet here.
Naomi tells Ruth that, from that point, Boaz will tell her what to do.
Ruth tells Naomi that she will do it and things pretty much go as planned.
Contented after an evening of eating and drinking, Boaz crashes on a pile of grain.
At midnight, Boaz awakens to find a woman lying next to him.
Naturally, he asks the woman her name. Ruth explains her actions and asks Boaz to throw his cloak over her … a symbol of protection that comes with marriage.
Rather than wait for Boaz to propose marriage … Ruth takes the reins and proposes to him … despite Naomi’s instructions that he’ll tell her what to do. Boaz blesses her and makes a commitment to marry and protect Ruth if another kinsman declines.
In the morning, before anyone is awake, Ruth prepares to leave. Boaz fills a cloak with grain so that people wouldn’t suspect what happened amongst the barley during the night.
For Boaz, this was more than a one-night tumble in the barley. There is something more to this growing relationship.
Looking past the sexual undercurrents, this is a story of redemption and faithfulness that lie within a relationship.
The two widows are looking for a redeemer, someone who would be as faithful to them as they are to each other. They are looking for someone who can offer them a new life.
And the women believe they have found a redeemer in the person of Boaz.
He has protected Ruth in the fields, fed Ruth and Naomi, he has protected Ruth from the possible gossip of the morning workers. Boaz appreciates the loyalty that the women have shown to each other.
He values Ruth.
In Ruth’s time, a woman’s worth was viewed in relation to their husband, fathers, brothers or male children. With none of these men present, the two widows held little value in the eyes of the world.
Boaz, on the other hand, values Ruth and Naomi … he recognizes the faith and loyalty within the women. He appreciates the journey and the hardship he can assume Ruth endures as a foreigner living in Judea. He sees her worth when the world says otherwise.
So, perhaps, we can consider how we value others as we consider a relationship with them.
Is it by what they can offer us?
Is it … as some believe … by how productive they are to society?
Is it by some other subjective measurement?
Do we see a person’s worth by their heart?
Or do we value a person … friend and stranger alike … unconditionally?
Ruth and Boaz … and Naomi … show a faith that mirrors the faithful love that God shows each of us. It is a love that calls us to recognize a person’s worth … even when the forces of the world say there is no value to them.
When we do this … when we unconditionally value a person … when faith leads us to boldly enter into a relationship with the stranger or the foreigner … then, like Ruth … there is promise of redemption … of new life … one that is blessed with abundance and joy.
A new life marked by God’s hesed … God’s love … the invaluable gift of grace … and that is … most certainly … a bountiful harvest worth celebrating.