Inside: The third installment of my Ruth Bible Study, Seeing Jesus in the Story of Ruth.
Just a reminder:
- Be prayerful before reading,
- Keep a notepad handy, and
- Take your time!
Without further ado, let’s dive in and read Chapter 3!
Questions to Consider
- Why did Ruth need to cleanse and anoint herself before going to see Boaz?
- What is the significance of Ruth uncovering Boaz’s feet and lying down?
- How willing am I to be obedient to God when I don’t fully understand His plan?
- Who am I in light of who Jesus is and what He did for me?
- What does being the bride of Christ mean?
- In what ways is Jesus calling me to rest?
Cleansing and Anointing
At the beginning of this chapter, we see Naomi start to formulate a plan. In her own words, this is her way of taking care of Ruth, who has been such a faithful daughter-in-law. As part of this plan, Naomi tells Ruth to first go wash and anoint herself, put on her best outfit, and go to the threshing floor where Boaz is winnowing barley.
My Bible led me to 2 Samuel 14:2 as a cross-reference, which tells a special bit of information. A woman who is still in mourning will not anoint herself. But by anointing herself with oil, Ruth shows she is no longer in mourning of her deceased husband and is ready to remarry.
A look at the extended metaphor we’re using in this study: When we come to Jesus, our sins are completely cleansed away, and we are anointed with the Holy Spirit. We are no longer in mourning. We are no longer dead but have been risen to life with Jesus, and now we are members of His bride! This is the point where we enter into the church’s betrothal to Him. (More on that as we go along…)
But Ruth’s cleansing and anointing is only a glimmer because of course, she had to prepare herself for her betrothal. She cleansed and anointed herself. But we are cleansed and anointed by the One who has taken us in as His own. (Ephesians 5:25-27)
He then clothes us in a completely different way–with His own righteousness (Isaiah 61:10, 2 Corinthians 5:21). Scripture says that we are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). And since we’ve been made new with Jesus’ blood, we are to “put on” our new identity in Him (Ephesians 4:24).
An Act of Obedience
We know that after Naomi tells her what to do, Ruth does exactly as she asks. These customs are foreign to her. The law that she asks Boaz to uphold is foreign to her.
But she honors Naomi.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”
Ephesians 6:1-3 (NKJV)
We don’t know how long Ruth lived on earth, but we do know that her story lives on in the Word, encouraging and instructing those of us still on earth.
It’s also interesting to note: Ruth is truly an example of having God’s law written on her heart. She hadn’t been raised knowing what the Jews knew. And yet, she was a woman of virtue who seemed to naturally follow God’s way (i.e. honoring her mother, Naomi).
About the Threshing Floor
Alright, look alive, people! This is when we really start to get into the nitty gritty of this chapter, and some of the concepts can be difficult to fully understand because they’re foreign to many of us. I’ll try my best to make what I’ve learned clear and concise while still bringing the main points alive. I pray that God illuminates points of connection for you that I haven’t seen!
Okay, let’s do this!
The threshing floor plays a big role in this chapter. It was a place where the chaff (the unusable part of the wheat) was separated from the good grain. There was a smooth hard floor where wheat was trampled so that it could be cracked open. Then the people used large forks to throw the wheat into the air. The chaff would blow away while the heavier grain would fall to the floor and be gathered for use.
Throughout the Bible, this act on the threshing floor is used as a metaphor for judgment. What cannot be used is blown away in the wind while the stuff of substance is left in tact. (Job 21:17-18, Psalm 1:4, Psalm 35:4-6, Isaiah 29:5, Hosea 13:3… just to name a few references)
When considering the threshing floor and judgment within the context of the story and thinking about who Ruth and Boaz represent to us in this study, we see ourselves, coming before Jesus and laying at his feet. He’s the only one who has the right and authority to judge us (John 5:22-23, Matthew 28:18). And yet, His is the way of mercy.
Let’s keep that in mind when considering the rest of the chapter.
Why Uncover His Feet & Lie Down?
Naomi instructs Ruth to uncover his feet and lie down. I don’t know if you’ve ever looked it up, but there is A LOT of speculation about exactly what this meant. Some even suggest that “feet” was a euphemism for something else. But looking at the character of both Ruth and Boaz, I don’t believe that.
There is another group who say that the act of uncovering his feet was to wake him. If she hadn’t done it this way, the only other way to wake him up would have been to:
- speak loudly enough to stir him or
- physically touch him
If she had spoken loudly, she could have woken others who were sleeping. And it would have been improper for her to shake him.
But I think it also serves three other purposes.
A Humble Servant
Uncovering someone’s feet or lying down at their feet is an act of humility toward them and would only have been done by a servant. Feet were usually very unclean. When she uncovers them, there is nothing between her and him. In this act, Ruth is showing humility toward Boaz and even goes on to call herself his maidservant.
In Jesus’s life, we see him wash the feet of his disciples. It made them uncomfortable because He was lowering Himself to serve them. He was taking the posture of a slave.
When we come and lay at the feet of Jesus, we are humbling ourselves before Him and acting as servants.
To be Intimately Known
But Ruth was also showing a desire to fully know and be fully known by Boaz.
Like we mentioned, feet were seen as unclean. Her closeness with them could symbolically represent her desire to fully know every part of Boaz, even the unclean ones.
How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace,
Who brings glad tidings of good things,
Who proclaims salvation,
Who says to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”
Isaiah 52:7 (NKJV)
Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace…
Ephesians 6:14-15 (NKJV)
In terms of Jesus and the new covenant, feet are often mentioned in conjunction with peace. So when we look at Ruth uncovering the feet of Boaz in our extended metaphor for Christ, we can be reminded that He came and removed the veil between God and His people–the ushering in of the covenant of peace.
Under His Wing
Ruth asks for Boaz to take her under his wing. In my Bible, there’s a reference that took me to this verse:
“When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love; so I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine,” says the Lord God.
Ezekiel 16:8 (NKJV)
By asking Boaz to take her under his wing, Ruth is asking for a marriage covenant, which starts with a betrothal. In biblical times, betrothal was an important step in the marriage process, similar to engagement today but even more serious.
Let’s look again at the verse from Ruth. This is a true historical event that happened between Ruth and Boaz. But as we look, we can also continue to be reminded of the parallels between this story and our relationship with Christ. As Gentiles, we were without covering. But He chose to spread His wing over us. And we became His.
The bride of Christ.
First, like he normally does, Boaz speaks a blessing over Ruth. Then we see him connect with her on a heart level. He commends her for her kindness and comforts her, telling her not to fear.
Then comes the oath. Essentially, Ruth has asked to enter into the covenant of marriage with Boaz. This is the first time though, that we hear about the other relative. There is one man who could redeem Ruth before Boaz. But if he denies, Boaz will do it. We’ll talk more about this relative in the next chapter.
But for now, we focus on Boaz’s oath. Aside from a technicality, this is the night Boaz has agreed to take Ruth as his own.
Rest Until Morning
At this point, Boaz tells Ruth to rest until morning.
At first, it may seem a little scandalous that he allowed her to sleep there and didn’t send her away after their conversation. But first, again we know that they both are of strong character.
Second, betrothal is a serious matter. Unlike engagement, it could only be ended by divorce, much like the couple was already married. It was a binding contract. Of course, consummation of a marriage would be improper at this point. But as we read, Ruth slept at his feet the entire night. We have no reason to believe anything improper happened. She only rested under the care of her redeemer until morning.
Even though our marriage to Christ won’t happen until He returns from preparing a place in His Father’s house for us (a part of Jewish betrothal tradition), we are considered His bride and as such, enjoy the benefit of our holy betrothal to Him. He paid the price. We belong to Him.
And what does He tell us to do?
Rest in Him.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)
Work or Rest?
In the last chapter, we talked about work. And now we’re seeing rest. How does it line up?
Let’s step outside of the context of our metaphor for a moment to talk about how work and rest interact.
No amount of striving and “work” can ever make us right with God. Only the blood of the Perfect One can do that. But the word “work” in this sense is referring to self-righteousness. We could never be holy enough. We could never do enough. All of our “good works” are filthy rags because we are tainted with sin. Even the good things we do are imperfect because they’re flowing from an imperfect vessel.
Beyond that, every sin we do is deserving of death. That may seem extreme. But there is a God and Creator whose way is perfect. When we go against what He said, I’ve heard it described as cosmic treason. And that’s a fair assessment.
All of that can feel heavy, but the good news is that Christ came.
When we come to Him, that means we are IN CHRIST and He is in us. We are adopted into the family of God and sealed with His precious Holy Spirit. And that changes everything. Being in the family means that though our works are still imperfect, He uses them for His glory. It means that when we sin and fall short, it’s not charged to our account. Death does not come for us because He took it upon Himself!
With this shift, our works still don’t save us. Instead they come AFTER salvation. And they don’t add anything to our salvation. They don’t make Him love us more than what He did before. There is no such thing. Instead, our works as people who are IN CHRIST flow from our position in His kingdom.
There is rest from trying to earn our righteousness. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing to be done.
Work is still something we’re designed to do. There was work pre-fall in the garden. It makes our souls feel fed and rejuvenated. We’re given gifts by the Spirit for us to use in edifying the body of Christ and making disciples of the nations.
So concerning our justification before God there is perfect rest. Jesus paid the price to redeem us and has justified us (shown us to be in right standing). Not because of our good works, but because He was perfect and took our place so that we could partake of His reward.
The Man Will Not Rest
Then she said, “Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out; for the man will not rest until he has concluded the matter this day.”
Ruth 3:18 (NKJV)
Boaz wouldn’t rest until Ruth’s redemption was secured–until he knew that she would either become his own wife or the wife of the closer relative.
We know that our redeemer now rests at the right hand of the Father. That’s our guarantee. “Our divine receipt”, as I’ve heard it called. Jesus wouldn’t rest until His work was complete, until we became His bride, grafted into the family of God and glorified with Him. We need no more proof than that.
♥ We are no longer in mourning! The Holy Spirit of God anoints us and prepares us for our marriage to Christ.
♥ God has given us a new garment to wear–our new identity in Him.
♥ We come before Jesus as our judge, but His answer is mercy and redemption.
♥ Our obedience (even when we don’t understand the full plan) leads to powerful elements of our story.
♥ We are betrothed to Jesus, and this covenant is sealed by the Holy Spirit. Right now, Jesus has gone away to prepare a place for us in the home of His Father. When He comes back for us, our marriage and complete union with Him will take place. (Revelation 19:7)
♥ Since our betrothal is as binding as marriage, we have already been redeemed! Our proof is in Jesus resting at the right hand of the Father and the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.
Until next time,
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