Have you ever heard the story~/joke about the man who was trapped in his house during a flood?
Well, he was praying for God to save him.
When the flood waters flooded his basement, he went to the second story.
A rescue boat came by to save him, but he said, “No, I’m praying God would save me!” Then the flood waters got up the second story and so he went to the roof and another rescue boat came by, but he said, “No, I’m praying.
God will save me!” Then finally his house starts to sink and he is struggling in the water, when a helicopter comes by.
He still refuses by saying, “No, I have faith!
God will save me!” Well, finally he drowns.
He gets to Heaven and in front of God he says, “Why didn’t you save me?
I was praying the whole time!” God replies, “I answered your prayer 3 times!
I sent two boats and a helicopter!”
This is a popular story out there and it is really asking a question of God’s providence.
I know God is sovereign and He is good and He is working all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes (Rom.
8:28), but what am I supposed to do in light of the fact that God is a God of Providence?
Should I sit around and wait for a sign of some sort?
Should I open the Bible and play Bible roulette and look for a verse?
What does the human side of divine providence look like?
What are our responsibilities in light of the fact of God’s goodness and sovereignty?
Ruth 3 will shed some light on this for us today.
We saw God’s hidden hand of providence brining Ruth and Naomi back to Bethlehem in Ruth 1 and guiding Ruth on to Boaz’s field in Ruth 2.
Here is our first thought.
The human side of divine providence means we are:
**Seizing opportunities regardless of previous disappointments** (Ruth 3:1-5).
As we left off last time at the end of chapter 2, we were left waiting.
Ruth was diligently and faithfully working in the fields for several weeks, but we are not told if Boaz made any moves.
The two widows had shown up at Bethlehem with two major worries: food and family.
The food problem seemed to be solved with Ruth gleaning enough food for the rest of the year.
However, what about her widowhood?
The temp job is over for Ruth, what’s next?
This chapter is the turning point of the entire story.
Yet it is a very tricky passage with everything happening between sunset and sunrise of a single day.
Most of the events of this chapter happen in the dark.
There is an element of secrecy and lots of whispering going on.
Yet we see that behind it all and in the darkness, God is incognito, acting and working behind the scenes.
I do need to preface this message by saying that when we interpret narratives, we need to make sure we see the stories as descriptive not prescriptive.
Narratives explain what happens, but they are not necessarily to be imitated exactly.
Judas hung himself when he felt guilty.
Obviously from that story we are not encouraged to do the same thing when we feel the same way.
We need to go to the New Testament epistles to find prescriptive texts.
So keep that in mind as we go into Ruth 3.
Naomi finally shows some life here in Ruth 3:1.
She too has been wondering about the future.
Is Ruth going to keep gleaning like this forever?
Is she going to try to provide for her, a poor old mother-in-law for the rest of her life?
Knowing Ruth, she would work until her back was bent and her womb was dry.
But was it fair that Naomi sit by and watch Ruth slave away rather than running a household and raising children of her own?
Who else is going to care for Ruth’s future?
Since Ruth had no one else to help, Naomi feels like it is her responsibility to perhaps jumpstart something.
Typically it was normal for parents to arrange marriages for their children.
Now in Ruth’s case, it would have been her father who would go to find the next relative in line according to the kinsman redeemer law, and approach him about the possibility of redeeming the land and marrying the daughter.
There was no obligation to do this however.
If the man refused, he would go down to the next in line of single men in the extended family and see if any would do such a thing.
If not, the widow is left in poverty to survive.
Over the past several weeks, Naomi had seen Yahweh’s kindness to them through Boaz.
For the first time, probably since Naomi and Elimelech decided to take leave for Moab, hope had filled her heart again.
Bitterness has been replaced with blessing.
Then one day Naomi says to Ruth, “I think it’s time we think about a permanent home for you.”
She calls it “rest” so that it would “go well” for Ruth.
Both of those terms means the security found in having a husband, the basic necessities of life (food, shelter, clothing) and children.
Then we see her plan.
First of all, Boaz is a “relative” meaning he is qualified to be a potential redeemer.
His earlier kindness toward Ruth sounded the knock of golden opportunity at the widows’ door; Naomi intended to answer it without hesitation.
Secondly, he will be winnowing barley that night.
Naomi’s point was that Boaz would be in a secluded spot where he and Ruth could have some time to speak freely without any gossipers around.
Winnowing was the festive, joyous climax of the harvest season.
Harvested grain was first bundled in the field, then carried manually or by cart to the threshing floor, which was an open space of either exposed bedrock or hard, stamped earth (see slide).
There the grain was threshed, which meant beaten with a hammer or trampled under by animals or crushed under cart wheels.
The purpose was to remove the husks from the kernels.Winnowing then separated the kernels from the husks, chaff and stalks.
With a fork or shovel, the winnower repeatedly tossed the mixture into the prevailing breeze (see slide).
The wind scattered the lighter chaff a distance away and the heavier grain fell near the winnower.
After being sifted with a sieve, the kernels were collected in piles, the straw fed to the animals and the chaff used for fuel.
To winnow well, one needs a steady breeze; not too strong or gusty.
This is why Naomi said to go at night, partly because most people would be winnowing then, trying to take advantage of the evening breeze.
After this, the grain was then removed from the threshing floor and placed in heaps, either to be sold in the morning or carried manually on carts for storage in the granary.
But Ruth is not to rush off to the threshing floor without making some preparations for herself first.
So Naomi says take a bath and put on some sort of perfume.
Remember deodorant was not invented yet; so with the hot climate, certain oils were used to combat body odors.
She was to then put on an outer coat, probably to keep herself anonymous.
Now remember that Ruth is a widow.
When a widow is mourning, she wears certain clothes, even when working out in the fields.
This may be the reason why Boaz was not making any moves toward Ruth at this point.
As a noble believer, he would never want to impose on Ruth if she needed more time to grieve.
So in effect, when Naomi is giving her these instructions, she is telling Ruth that it is time to move on with life, letting Boaz know that she is ready to resume with normal life, including marriage, if that was possible.
So really these instructions were more than just getting all dressed up to make Ruth seem attractive.
Naomi has this whole plan all mapped out with all possible scenarios thought through.
She tells Ruth to hide out and try not to be noticed.
She advises Ruth to wait until Boaz had eaten and drank and is lying down.
This is a free tip to all women here.
If you want to establish good communication with us men, feed us first!
They would be celebrating because of the harvest.
It was a long harvest season, the famine was over, and Boaz would be enjoying the fruit of his labors.
They would sing, dance, laugh and eat.
So Ruth, make sure he is in good spirits first; you know, the contentment over having had a good meal.
Keep your eye on him, Ruth, because it would be really bad to go and lay next to the wrong man!
Besides, it would be dark and no lanterns would be lit; the risk of fire would be too great.
Boaz would be sleeping on the threshing floor that night to guard the heap of grain from thieves and robbers.
According to Naomi, if everything worked according to plan, both Ruth and Boaz can talk privately, away from people.
Well, there is more to the plan.
Ruth needs to make sure Boaz is asleep.