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
Not proclaiming your own goodness is such a hard one. I’ve been given the task of raising young men (all boys here!) for God’s Army and have been told (from prospective in-laws) as they reach adulthood, that they have become such honest, hard-working, dependable, god-fearing men that I have done a good job raising them! I humbly say that it’s nothing I did. God worked in each young heart to mold them the way He wanted them to go. I simply steered them in the direction of His guidance.
Thank you, again, Liz for the fun, informative Bible study time. I look forward to hearing you speak in Hershey next week!
I hear you, Betsy. When it comes to raising children, it’s hard not to take the credit if they are honest, hard working, dependable, and fear the Lord, and equally hard not to take the blame if they are dishonest, lazy, irresponsible, and ignore God. Ayeee!
We do all we can do, trusting God every step of the way, but ultimately each child goes where he will. That may be THE hardest thing about parenting: putting them in God’s hands and letting go.
But I digress. ;>) You’ve clearly done a stellar job of parenting, Betsy. Though you may not want to praise yourself, hope you won’t mind if the rest of us applaud!
It is good to know God hears us, will fight our battles for us, etc. It’s great to be able to turn over these kinds of burdens to the One who can actually do something about them!
I did so much wrong as a single mother. What did I know? But my son has turned out to be a great man of God’s and God gets all the credit…He took my little and turned it into a lot! He is so faithful!!
When Ruth proclaimed “I am your servant Ruth” it reminded me of who I am. I am a blue-blooded Princess, daughter of the Most High God. I am therefore a servant of all who cross my path. That’s the job a princess is called to, service. My Papa is King but I still desire to wash my brother’s feet. I know when I do that for others I do it to Him. But I long for the day I may literally drop down to my knees and wash His scarred feet, probably with my tears.
I know it sounds all soppy, but it makes me cry thinking about it.
“Soppy”? Not for a minute, dear Cathy. I usually have tears in my eyes at least once while I’m answering these questions, either overwhelmed by God’s grace or undone by some new truth he’s uncovered for me. A princess serves: well said!
Amen, Janet. Often we can do nothing to change a given situation, yet he can do EVERYTHING!
Knowing that God brought these two people together for a purpose, reminds me that He gave me my husband also for a purpose. Though our lives have not been smooth and disappointment free, He is still in control..if we honor Him. I can’t fix my relationship with my younger brother, but Jesus can! I can’t heal myself of fibromyalgia, but Jesus the Great Physician can…if it is His will. I have only to ask and I have been asking for many years now. As was mentioned last week, it is His plan and we must wait upon Him.
The purposefulness of God is a great comfort, Becky. To think of our challenges and difficulties being random and pointless would be so disheartening! To know that God is in charge gives us HOPE: “And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” Colossians 1:18
Becky I will remember to lift you up in prayer as I have had fibromyalgia for over 20 years. I know how much it can affect your life. I encourage you today to know that even though God did not physically heal me He has given me strength in those times when I didn’t want go through another day of pain and fatigue. Through this chronic illness I have learned to know my limits. He has given me His word that He will be with me. I now have my illness under control but it has taken me on a long journey one I a stronger for. I pray for your strength today.
Thank-you, dear Liz, for being so transparent in an effort to reach those of us blessed enough to walk through this study with you. I know many Godly men…my husband, our Pastor, our Sunday School teacher, a former co-worker. Thank-you for teaching us about both men and women of noble character. Bless you!
Bless you, Laurel. It might be an interesting Thanksgiving activity to sit around the dinner table and name all those men and women of noble character who have crossed our paths this year. Certainly something to be thankful for!
I loved the tidbit that Ruth follows Proverbs in the Hebrew scriptures. Proverbs 31 has always made me cringe a little, “who can find” indeed. I love that there’s this great example right after showing us it’s not a hopeless search. Now I’m no Ruth and I’m even further from being the reflection of Christ that I should be, but I think I’ll try to follow Ruth’s example of being faithful one step at a time. When she left Moab she didn’t know that she would be called to marry Boaz, I just need to look at how I can be faithful today and maybe someday I’ll end up a little closer to Proverbs 31.
“One step at a time”…real wisdom there, Shelly. As I say on page one of our book, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). It gives me such comfort to realize God knows where I’m going, even if I don’t! ;>)
Over and over this study is speaking to me about obedience to God’s will for my
life. To cease struggling and look to Him as the source of my strength. I am so
thankful that even as I age, God is not finished with me yet. He is here by my side ready to love me, fight my battles and calm my fears. My desire is to always seek His face as He molds me into a woman of noble character. Liz, thanks so much for
stepping out and helping me see the book of Ruth in a whole new way. Also over the
last few months I have read every one of your historical fiction books. They captured
my heart and spoke to me over and over. I was sad when I finished the last one of
a series. I didn’t want them to end.
Here’s how amazing the Lord is, dear Linda. I wrote this book, right? Yet God is teaching me new things about Ruth every time I open his Word! I also think there’s a real power in sharing what we’re learning with one another. Keeps us honest, you know? Thanks, too, for reading my historical novels. Very dear to my heart, every one. More coming, lass!
I am so excited to hear there will be more. Can’t wait!!!!
I, too, am excited to learn that there will be more historical novels coming. I’ve found a few other Christian novelists, but none can compare with your approach that brings tears, enjoyment, and inspiration to my favorite pasttime of reading. Be blessed in your inspiring work.
you teach me to see so much more in the words of our Lord, to dive deeper…. to reach farther…. to see clearer. What a blessing. These few verses hold so much in them as evidenced by my 3 pages of journal notes from the chapter questions. Thank you for showing me how to see God’s word’s so beautifully.
Hard to believe we only covered 5 verses this week! But I learn more when I go slowly and listen carefully. So glad that works for you as well, Brandi.
Thank you for reminding me that God turns darkness into light. Rehearsing His power and greatness really helps when things look bleak. I’ve spent the week wondering about this current dark period and your words brought back to mind that God is able and willing- darkness becomes light when He is present!
As our days grow shorter and the skies more gray, I’m even more aware of the change in a room when you flick on a light. Everything that was unseen becomes visible. That’s exactly what God does inside us. Although that can be scary to think of (eeek! did he see me do that?), it’s also incredibly freeing (yes, he saw me do that and loves me still). Thank you, Lord, for dispelling the darkness!
Hey Chicks! What a wonderful week I have had! God has been with me and I have so totally enjoyed this weeks Bible Study. This has been a week of forgiving, receiving, loving, embracing, and learning that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord. The truth I hold close to my heart is that He will never leave us or forsake us, when we are going through tough times , it hurts , but He is there. And we will have hard tough times come ’cause we are not done -yet. Love you Liz, you teach me and encourage me every week. I feel like I could sit with you and talk so easily. Kathy
You HAVE had a week, Kathy! “Forgiving, receiving, loving, embracing, and learning.” All the things that make up a life lived in the Lord’s embrace. How he must delight in your teachable spirit…I know I do!
God led me to read Matthew this morning. OK. Where to start? The beginning. There sat the genealogy of Jesus. There was Boaz and his mother, specifically stated as his mother, Rahab. I wonder if he was so tender toward women because he heard the gossips whispering about who his mother used to be and what she used to do. God forgets after He forgives but people do not. We keep a record of wrongs others have committed but conveniently not our own. I wonder if this prepared him to step out and do what a man ought to protect vulnerable Ruth.
My friend’s father died when he was fourteen. His mother and three sisters remained along with him. He took being the man of the house quite seriously and fished his sister’s out of many a sticky situation during their teens and young adulthood. All his life he was tender to the plight of women and served as brother, uncle, father figure to so many of us.
Another example of how God uses the difficulties in our life to prepare us for the position of service He has planned for our future. Nothing is wasted with God. In the end, it all fits.That just amazes me. How each little person on this planet is of such consequence to HIm. Amazing!
Cathy, I agree with you completely. Surely the tender heart of Boaz was the sweet result of growing up in a household with Rahab for a mother. He would have understood Ruth’s plight and looked for ways to serve. I so appreciate the story of your friend who stepped in when his family needed a kinsman-redeemer. Very inspiring!
Oh dear Sister_ so TRUE! I can think of so many men that have that gift and use it. My biggest hero would be my son-in-law. Being raised on a farm there was lots that needed his rescuing from tiny animals to his big ole cows! Than oneday – my daughter and granddaughter walked into his life. They fell in love and he came to my husband and I and said, “I love your daughter and your granddaughter I want to marry them” He had me from that day forward. He is a kind, gentle man with lots of character. A chosen one from God for our family. My daughter went through so much pain because of a bad choice she had made. She ask forgiveness, accepted responsibility and God saw fit to send her a Boaz. We serve an awesome God.
Such a happy ending for your daughter, Kathy! Sorrow to joy, just like Ruth’s story. We DO serve an awesome God, who does not make us pay for our mistakes, year after year after year. Though there are often consequences when we sin, guilt and shame do not need to be counted among them. God’s mercy scrubs us clean and puts us on a new path. Oh, happy day!
Liz, thanks again for yet another powerful lesson on Ruth! I just love this study! Once again, you have made the scripture come to life, giving me a deeper understanding of what happened back then. Seeing how the pieces all fit together reminds me of God’s great plan for all of us. Reading Boaz’s blessing to Ruth earlier, then seeing Ruth’s obedience and bravery carried out, how the garment symbolized a marriage contract, and how God blesses her with her kinsman redeemer! May we be as brave, obedient, and as trustworthy as Ruth, to do what God is calling us to do! Clearly God provided for both Ruth and Naomi.
I also liked God’s promise in Psalm 147:3 God heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds. Not only does God do this for us, but He also calls his children to do the same for others. Praying God will show me ways to share His love with others!
**Liz, I was so glad to meet you at the ‘Among Friends Conference’ in Albany this past weekend. It was my first time attending that conference. It was amazing! I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time! I really enjoyed all you shared and taught! What a fun time! Thank you!
Sherry, it was SO fun to meet you in Albany! I’m thrilled that hundreds of sisters are following along with our Bible Study Blog, and especially blessed by those who take time to leave a comment…like you! This is a great prayer: “May we be as brave, obedient, and as trustworthy as Ruth, to do what God is calling us to do.” Amen, beloved!
I also affirm your reminder that we need to heal the wounds of others. Being a Christian isn’t simply about, “Yippee! Look what God has done for me!” It’s about, “Yippee! Look what God is doing for others, allowing me the joy of being part of his plan.”
Again, so good to meet you!
What’s the most memorable truth I’ve learned from this passage? It’s hard to pick just one but for me, it’s the heavenly assurances from centuries ago that echoed from the page. 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. He is all I need. The inerrancy of God’s word means that everthing God tells us in the Bible is true. We can count on God. Thanks, Liz for sharing your God given talent to bring Ruth’s story to us in such a fresh way.
Wow, Pam, you’ve summed things up beautifully! Bless you for studying with us and participating as well. His Word is living water, waiting for us to drink deeply!
Liz I have enjoyed this Bible study on the book of Ruth and Boaz–no one I know has ever put itnin words like you have–I know God is leading you to help us understand more about his word and what he wants from us and how every day to live like he would have us to. I am sometimes reminded of that song—“what would you do if Jesus came to spend some time with you” —
How this thrills my soul, Reeda! Jesus DOES come to spend time with us–all day, every day. I think we’re more aware of his presence when we’re reading his Word and doing his will. So glad you’re part of our study!
Ruth’s answer to Boaz and the way you took it apart to show us how not to be ashamed who we are, willing to serve, spoken in a poetic way but at the same time well thought true and to the point.
I pray that the Lord will work in my heart so that I can have this kind of answers to those who ask my motivations.
But my biggest prayer is that I will become more and more humble so that I can glorfy my Lord in that virtue.
Blessed be all who teaches and helps us understand!
I read the words of the scriptur, yes. But I cannot paint a picture of What
It means, how to understand it. This helps me alot.THANK YOU!
Love and mercy to you all. From Elisabeth in Sweden
The most memorable truths from this chapter for me were:
Your actions speak louder than words and are usually notices and remembered first.
I know there were words epokrn in this passage, but to me it was all the words that weren’t spoken and the actions done during the silence that spoke to me. At times words just aren’t necessary.
When I first start reading, On your website I start wanting to read more and more of your Bible studies,I want to Learn more about The Bible,Thank You Liz and God Bless!!!