Faithlife Sermons

Fever Pitch - Ruth 3

The Big Story - Ruth  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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(Read the scripture as you go. Begin with 3:1-5) One Wednesday night, an eighth grade girl came to church crying. All of her friends were huddled around her, but she wasn’t talking to any of them. Just crying. And, I realized that I was going to have to intervene. I sat beside her, but she wouldn’t say anything. So, I decided that I needed to get her away from her friends to talk. After this had went on for a little while, she finally was able to muster the words, “He broke up with me.” “I loved him so much, but he broke up with me.” And, that’s when I knew. That’s when I knew that my days in youth ministry had come to an end. This girl was really hurting. She needed real care and concern. But, I had this conversation so many times that I didn’t know how I could muster it again. I just wanted to say: “You don’t love him! You feel emotional about him. You feel excited about him. You feel attached to him. You feel attracted to him. But, none of those things is love!” Of course, what I didn’t realize at the time is that adults seem to have the same flaky definitions as eighth graders only in a more sophisticated tone.
Love seems to be something that everyone pursues but that no one knows exactly how to define. The definition of love is as flaky as we are unless we can establish a moral foundation for it, unless there is one in whom it originates that can define it for us.

God’s Word

That’s one of the purposes of the great love story that we read in Ruth. It’s to teach us the nature of God’s love for us that we might both experience it and express it to others.
Ruth is a rare book in that every character is presented to us as commendable, essentially unblemished. There’s not one character in the book of Ruth that stands head and shoulders above the others in their love or morality. That is, each of them have something to teach us about God. In fact, Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz all at one point or another demonstrate “hesed” lovingkindness throughout the book.
In chapter three, this love story reaches fever-pitch. In this scene, we learn even more clearly about the nature of “hesed” love, covenant love, true love from each character. We learn “What Love Is:” (Headline)

Love is “responsible”.

3:1 Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you?
Love pursues one another’s “wellbeing”.
“rest for you” The idea here is security. It’s the type of security that a young woman could find if she had a good husband who provided well for her and protected her and cared for her. Further, finding a kinsmen-redeemer would provide her the opportunity for offspring so that her husband and his family’s inheritance could be secured for the next generation. It was the opportunity to not cease in being.
This isn’t rest from labor. This is rest from worry. This is rest from carrying a load that you aren’t strong enough to carry. This is the rest all of you are looking for, too.
Beautiful: Naomi takes responsibility for Ruth’s happiness and well-being. And, it’s a portrait for how YHWH had taken responsibility for the well-being and happiness of Israel. It’s a foreshadowing of how Christ will take responsibility for ours.
Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
This is how we are loved, and it’s how we are to love. The Christian life can be framed up as a relief and a responsibility. ILL: Holding GK for the first time. (Baptizing her today!) When you become a parent for the first time, you realize two things: 1) You realize how much your parents love you. 2) You realize what a responsibility you hold to love your own child just as ferociously. It’s a relief in one sense, a joy, an awareness of their commitment to you. And, it’s a responsibility on the other.
We are given rest so that we can work. Christ has given us rest from our worries so that we are set free to help as many others find relief from theirs as possible. The essence of “love your neighbor as yourself” is to seek the happiness, security, and well-being of your neighbor just as vigorously as you seek your own.
Love bears one another’s “burdens”.
3:2-3 Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.
“our” Naomi speaks with solidarity with Ruth. He’s “our” relative. This is “our” family. This is “our” concern. We’re in this together. They had been in this together from the start. They had both endured incredible loss and hardship in their lives. In fact, that’s what makes Naomi’s concern for Ruth so extraordinary, such a picture of “hesed” love. Naomi had lost even more than Ruth had, but she was still thinking of what was best for Ruth.
Suffering can make us selfish. I learned this through personal experience. “A person with good health has a thousand dreams, but a person with poor health has only one.” Marc Leach As I’m coming out, I’m realizing more and more how self-consumed I’ve been. But, here is Naomi not living so obsessed with her own grief that she is uncaring or unconcerned about Ruth. She still says, “Let me help you.” In fact, this is a path forward for both of them. One of the primary paths toward joy in suffering is loving someone else and helping them.
“Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor” Naomi is instructing her to take off her mourning garments. It’s time to start the next chapter of her life. Think of it. A grieving mother helping her daughter-in-law move on from her son. She’s unburdening her. This is what love looks like. God had unburdened his people from every other god and every other law and every other worry. He had joined them in Egypt and bore their burdens. And, He had done it so that through them all people might be blessed by him. It’s a picture of how Jesus has loved us. He took the burdens of my sin upon himself on the cross. He’s sent his Spirit to me and me to his church so that every day, in all of life’s ordinary hardships, I have real and present help. This is how we’ve been loved, and it’s how we are to love. Love bears burdens.

Love is “vulnerable.”

3:5 And she replied, “All that you say I will do.”
So, Naomi gives Ruth all of these specific instructions. And, quite frankly, these are dangerous instructions for Ruth to follow, especially when you consider that Ruth is likely grappling with her own grief. This is during the ‘threshing’ season; so, it’s after the barley harvest — May or June. All of the men would have been sleeping away from home at their threshing areas, and they would’ve stayed there in groups. It was a time, especially during the time of Judges you can imagine, in which many men were unfaithful to their wives. It was common for prostitutes to make their rounds during the nights when many of the men were drunk and vulnerable. So, this is the setting into which Naomi sends Ruth all gussied up. It was risky to her physically, and it was risky for her reputation. It’s remarkable when Ruth responds unequivocally: “All that you say I will do.” “I will take the risk because you have told me to.”
(Read 3:6-10) v. 7-8 And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down. At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet!
Ambiguous words with sexual connotations: “uncover” “foot” “lay”. Tension is building for the reader: What’s about to happen? What is this woman who has committed to YHWH doing? How will this ‘worthy’ man respond? So, the picture here is Ruth taking as vulnerable a position as a young lady could take, especially during a time when so many of them were treated like property. She was placing herself in a submissive position at Boaz’s feet, and if he decided to take advantage of her, there’s nothing that will stop him. Yet, she’s going to become even more vulnerable yet.
Ruth 3:9-10 He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.”
It speaks of Boaz’s character that he’s shocked to find a woman in his bed. It would’ve been common. But, Ruth’s response is jaw-dropping. It goes even beyond what Naomi had instructed her to do. She takes a position of utter and total vulnerability, putting herself as far out there as she could.
“spread your wings over your servant” = “make me warm beneath your blanket”. I’m cold, and I need you to warm me. I’m hungry, and I need you to feed me. I’m vulnerable, and I need you to protect me. It was a Hebrew euphemism for marriage. We’ve got a proposal on our hands! And, it’s a proposal that shatters every social convention and norm. It’s a woman proposing to a man, a servant proposing to her boss, a poor servant proposing to a rich land owner, a moabite proposing to a Jew.
Ruth reminds us of what we all know: There is no love without risk. It’s a reminder of that famous song by Haddaway: “What is love? Baby don’t hurt me. Don’t hurt me, no more.” If you’re unwilling to be vulnerable, you’re unwilling to be really known. If you’re unwilling to be hurt, you’re unwilling to be intimate. This is how we’ve been loved. YHWH did not need Israel, but entered into a relationship with him because of his own love. By way of his covenant with Israel, He made himself vulnerable, not to be taken advantage of or to be manipulated or to be diminished in any way, but to be rejected by those to whom He’d shown his love, to have his Name denigrated before the very nations He intended to bless through them. It’s how Christ has loved us, taking on a human nature that was vulnerable. He took on a nature that suffered and cried. He came with a face that could be kissed in betrayal. He had hands and feet that could be nailed in rejection. It was love that made him vulnerable.
That’s how we’ve been loved, and it’s how we must love. If you’re stonewalling your husband or wife, you’re not loving them in the way of Christ. If you’re pretending that you’re better than you are, healthier than you are, you’re not being a friend in the way of Christ. If you’re unwilling to be hurt, you’re unwilling to be close, and you’re assured to be lonely. Confessing your sins going to open you up judgement or gossip or love and mercy. Goodness, don’t miss out on love and grace and mercy because you’re locked up over potential judgement and gossip. Loving our community is going to open us up to criticism. Loving the nations means we’ll be taken advantage of, perhaps. The failure is not if someone mistreats us or takes advantage of us. The failure is if we don’t really love to begin with.

Love is “secure.”

This is the question of the chapter. Will Ruth find rest or not? Will she be made secure or not? We see that in verse one and Naomi’s concern. We see that in Ruth’s proposal to Boaz. And, what’s her hope for rest and security? Her hope is to find “hesed” love from Boaz. The truth is that’s our hope for finding rest and hope, too. It’s that we would find that we would experience in our real, ordinary, every day lives the intervening, providing, protecting, devoted, consistent love of God. There’s two ways I want you to see this from Boaz.
Love is “voluntary.”
(Read 3:11-18) 3:11-13 And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I. Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.”
He’s not compelled by his hormones. “daughter” “hesed” “worthy”. He’s drawn to her character. She’s loving and kind. She’s worthy of praise.
He’s not compelled by the Law. “Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I.” It’s not actually his duty. It’s his delight.
Love that is compelled is always insecure. If it’s compelled by hormones, it will waver as the attractiveness does. If it’s compelled by duty, it will waver as soon as the duty becomes too much. But, if it’s delight, if it’s joy, if it’s passion, if it’s voluntary, well, then that’s a love you can trust. It’s a love of desire, not duty.
Why did God choose Israel? It was his delight. Why has Jesus loved you? It is his delight. Jesus is not our begrudging groom being drug down the aisle. He has chosen us. We are his prize. We are his passion. We are his beloved. His suffering was voluntary. The price that He paid was voluntary. His nails were voluntary. No one could compel him. Only his own love for us could hold him there.
That’s how we’re loved, and that’s how we’re to love. It’s our delight to serve and love and help.
Love is “assured.”
3:16-17 And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “How did you fare, my daughter?” Then she told her all that the man had done for her, saying, “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said to me, ‘You must not go back empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’ ”
Boaz gives her an assurance that he will follow through. Down payment of the bride price.
She has been already been secured.
She can rest today because her future is secured.
She is not yet home.
She knows it’s coming. It’s secure. It’s assured. It’s proven.
You have already been secured. You’re just not home yet. That’s how you can live at rest. That’s the certainty of the resurrection. That’s the gift of the Holy Spirit.
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