Chapter Nine: “Good Night, Sweetheart” Ruth 3:7-11
Well, things certainly get interesting in this chapter! During media interviews I’m often asked by curious hosts, “What exactly happened on that threshing floor with Boaz and Ruth?” Let’s find out.
1. a. It’s not by chance that Ruth and Boaz meet at midnight. Throughout the Bible we find dramatic scenes unfolding at that dark hour. You’ll find two very different examples in Exodus 11:4–7 and Acts 16:25–31. In both situations God reveals his mighty power. Why at midnight, do you think?
Both these scenes definitely qualify as dramatic. And in both cases what takes place changes things in a major way for the people of God.
With the firstborn sons in Egypt, I wonder if the late hour was God’s mercy at work, so the sleeping parents would not be forced to watch their children die. It’s clear God was the One responsible—“About midnight I will go throughout Egypt” (Exodus 11:4)—and since he is light itself, perhaps he wished this severe judgment to be cloaked in darkness.
The story of Paul and Silas may take place at the same dark hour, but instead of ending in death, it ends in freedom and life. The lone jailer “woke up” (Acts 16:27) in more ways than one! He wakes up to the truth of God’s power and asks, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). The answer is not only for him in that time and place; it’s also for us, reading the story today: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).
And why is that time ideal for Ruth to wake Boaz?
The pivotal hour suits this occasion because it’s the turning point in the story. Boaz also “wakes up” to a new reality: a young woman wishes to be his wife! Practically speaking, the darkness served their immediate needs: to remain unseen and unidentified, and therefore keep their reputations safe.
1. b. Scripture repeatedly tells us that God shines in such settings, turning darkness into light. How might 2 Samuel 22:29 and Job 12:22 demonstrate that truth?
If 2 Samuel 22:29 sounds familiar, it’s because after David composed this for “his own harp,” as Matthew Henry puts it, David later included it among the psalms meant for corporate worship, with only a slight variation in wording: “You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light” (Psalm 18:28).
We can be sure that the light of God’s love was shining in the eyes of both Boaz and Ruth that night. If either of them was “in the dark” about what their future might hold, everything became clear when God showed them what steps to take next.
The verse in Job again assures us God works in darkness and “brings deep shadows into the light” (Job 12:22). I think the Lord loves the Big Reveal! In fact, the Word says, “He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him” (Daniel 2:22). Creation itself began in darkness, then God said, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). The movement is always dark to light with the Lord.
And how does Psalm 112:4 suit our hero, Boaz?
If Ruth is our Proverbs 31 woman personified, Boaz is our Psalm 112 man. In fact, both those chapters of the Bible are acrostic poems, each line beginning with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
Take a minute to read the whole of Psalm 112, and you’ll find it all suits Boaz! He fears the Lord (v. 1), his children will be mighty (v. 2), he is wealthy and righteous (v. 3), he is gracious and compassionate (v. 4), and on it goes.
1. c. Read Ruth 3:9, then note all the things she reveals about herself—not just the words she speaks, but the likely emotions and convictions behind them—as she asks Boaz to marry her.
“I am”: She is bold and confident, unafraid and unapologetic, hiding nothing. If this was tough for her to say, we have no indication of that. She answers his question about her identity without hesitation.
“your servant”: Both words are powerful, making her commitment to him clear and her willingness to serve him undeniable. Ruth manages to sound powerful and humble at once.
“Ruth”: Her name, spoken aloud, even on the threshing floor, even at midnight. She is not ashamed of who she is. And I believe she expects a positive response from him.
“Spread the corner of your garment over me”: Ruth is asking Boaz to be an answer to his own prayer and take her beneath his wings. Whoa. From the lips of another woman—Delilah’s or Potiphar’s wife—these words might sound provocative. From Ruth they sound poetic and utterly proper.
“since you are a kinsman-redeemer”: Ruth is a bright woman. She quickly clarifies why she has the right to ask for his hand in marriage. This speech, like her initial vow to Naomi, is well thought out. No wasted words. Right to the point.
2. a. Boaz may seem too good to be true, yet there are generous men all around us, quietly blessing others in God’s name. See how many such men you can list, if not by name, then by description—godly, giving men of all ages, married or single, who’ve crossed your path.
Forgive me for immediately thinking of the men dearest to me: my husband, my father-in-law, and my son. I can think of many instances when they each gave above and beyond what was expected of them.
I also had a coworker named Jack who quietly blessed others, and a speaking buddy named Bryan who honored God with his every deed. Stephen and John, the husbands of my closest friends in town, fit the bill as well.
Are you coming up with a long list too? Wonderful, to realize how many men we know who match Boaz’s description. If you’re longing to meet a Boaz, be encouraged: they truly are out there.
What instruction does 1 Timothy 6:17–19 offer those with means? And how might that truth apply to you?
Several dos and don’ts in these verses:
1. Don’t be arrogant
2. Don’t put your hope in wealth
3. Do put your hope in God
4. Do be rich in good deeds
5. Do be generous
These truths apply to all of us, of course, whether we have lots or a little. Looking over all five, the one I need to work on most is not putting my hope in money. I sleep better when I know we have our bills paid and some cash in our savings account. But I can’t rest my hope on anything so shallow (and so easily taken away) as that! I think this is the next passage I’ll put beside my bed to start and end my day, with these words underlined: put your hope in God.
2. b. Boaz could have rejected Ruth’s proposal, ruined her reputation, and ravished her body. Of course, he does none of those things. Instead he tells her, “Don’t be afraid.” Look at the following instances where that same message appears, then note who is speaking and why the listener need not fear:
Who is speaking? Why is fear unnecessary?
Genesis 15:1 God to Abraham God is his shield, great reward
Genesis 21:17 God to Hagar God has heard her son crying
Genesis 26:24 God to Isaac God is with him, will bless him
Joshua 8:1 God to Joshua God has already won the battle
Judges 6:23 God to Gideon God gives him peace, not death
How does reading these heavenly assurances from centuries ago ease your fears today?
It’s easy to say, “Well, they were extraordinary people.” But in truth they were simply people who served an extraordinary God. It’s a great comfort to know God shields me, God hears me, God is with me, God will fight my battles for me, and God promises me peace instead of death. I hope your fears are eased as well!
3. a. Matthew Henry wrote of Ruth, “The less she proclaimed her own goodness the more did her neighbours take notice of it.” How do we sometimes proclaim our own goodness—online, in print, or in person?
A few weeks ago we talked about being totally honest on Facebook and other social networking sites. It’s so easy to only show only our good side, especially when we’re limited to 140 characters!
Is that a temptation for you? Or do you find it easy to avoid the miry pit of self-promotion?
Yes, it’s definitely a temptation, and no, I don’t find it easy to avoid talking about my books and speaking events. In fact, publishers encourage, even expect their authors to do that. Groan.
Over the years God has come up with many clever ways to keep me humble. I get letters addressed to Liza or Lisa, Curtin or Carter, not to mention Higgins, Hicks, Haigs, Huggs, and—too close for comfort—Hoggs. My favorite bloopers were a letter addressed to Liz Taylor Higgs and the check I received made payable to that famous mystery writer, Liz Higgins Clark!
What do the following verses teach us about humility:
Proverbs 11:2: “with humility comes wisdom”
It almost feels like a chicken/egg thing, because the truly wise are often the truly humble too.
Proverbs 15:33: “ humility comes before honor”
Unlike the previous verse, this one doesn’t work both ways. If we’re honored, it often produces pride, not humility. So, humility first. Then, if honor comes, we’ll be humbly grateful. Please, Lord, may it be so!
Proverbs 22:4: “humility and the fear of the Lord bring…life”
We’re not simply to be humble; we’re to remain in awe of God. I’m guilty of sometimes thinking and speaking almost too casually about God, as if he’s my best friend. He is; but he is also the ruler of the universe!
3. b. Choose a small circle: all the people in your class, or all the people at your job, or all the people in your Bible study (or, in my case, all the altos in our church choir). Would they see you as a woman of noble character?
I definitely don’t want to proclaim my own goodness (see question 3.a.!). I hope anyone who knows me well would see me as a loving person. Noble? Not so much. But I can safely say they’d see me as a character!
How might God, who knows you completely, describe you?
I am content to know he calls me his.
What’s the most memorable truth you’ve learned from this chapter?
I’ve learned that telling the truth is hard. The story I shared about my college experience was very difficult to put on paper, let alone show to my editors, let alone disclose in print. But even before they read it or you read it, my dear son read it.
Matt has a degree in psychology and a love for words, so he makes a fine first editor. Still, I hated asking him to read this sordid story. Compassionate soul that he is, he wrote in the margin, “This is awful, Mom, and it still happens. I am so sorry.”
God made it very clear that I had to include those paragraphs. If my story helps someone know that she’s not alone, that God’s grace is real, that he covers us completely, then all the pain—then and now—was worth it.
Please take a moment and share what you’ve discovered this week. I love teaching you, and am really blessed when you teach me. I still have so much to learn.
Your sister, Liz