Spirit and Ruth Laid to Rest

This article is based on a talk given on Sunday, 11th July, 2021.

A little girl asks her grandmother “Grandma, what is it called when people sleep on top of each other?”. Thinking the little girl is old enough, she begins to explain to her about the birds and the bees.

Before she could finish, the little girl runs off to her mummy, but comes back quickly saying:
"Grandma, mummy is really mad and wants to see you right now. She said it’s called bunk beds."

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Has anyone ever misunderstood you, but it’s actually ended up working out better?

On New Year’s Eve in 2013, I prayed God would help me get to know a girl called Carrie better over the next year. 11 months later, we were married, and almost seven years on we have three beautiful children.

In the third chapter of the Book of Ruth, we see Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, rushing ahead because she doesn’t yet fully understand what God has planned for her and Ruth. Fortunately, it all works out for the best in the end, better than she could ever imagine.

I like to think that the Prophet Samuel was giggling away to himself as he wrote this chapter. It is full of innuendo, but there are wonderful secrets that God reveals to us about who he is and what he is really like through Samuel’s cheeky one-liners.

In the first two chapters, Ruth loses her husband and moves to a foreign land with Naomi. Ruth has been allowed to gather leftovers for herself and Naomi from a field owned by a rich man called Boaz. She’s worked hard, but Boaz has made sure that there is plenty left over and that no harm has come to Ruth. It’s coming to the end of the harvest season, and Ruth has presumably gathered enough to keep her and Naomi going until the next harvest season. So it’s almost time to put her feet up.

So in that context, what Naomi says next might seem a little strange:
Then Naomi her mother in law said unto her, My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee?
Ruth‬ ‭3:1‬ (‭KJV‬‬)

So what does Naomi mean by rest? We first see this same word back in Genesis 6 in the story of Noah after he sends out a dove to look for dry land.
but the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭8:9‬ (‭KJV‬‬)

The ark was a place of rest for Noah, his family, all the animals and this dove. In fact, it was the only safe place on the Earth at the time. But Noah knew it was not God’s plan for them to stay in the ark forever.

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The food that Ruth had gathered was going to eventually run out. Beyond that, she had no children to look after her as she grew old, or to inherit the land that belonged to her dead husband. But I don’t think even that fully encapsulates everything God means by rest.

The Bible tells us that God has much bigger plans for our future and for the generations that will come after us, but it also talks of his plans to give us peace and hope.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
‭‭‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29:11‬ (N‭KJV‬‬)

Naomi knows this, but she’s getting impatient. So she hatches a plan. It’s a little unconventional, but she has seen the way Boaz has treated Ruth. She also knows that he is a close relative, which means he has a legal right under Jewish law to marry Ruth and buy the land which once belonged to her husband.

“Now Boaz, whose young women you were with, is he not our relative? In fact, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. Then it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you should do.” And she said to her, “All that you say to me I will do.” So she went down to the threshing floor and did according to all that her mother-in-law instructed her. And after Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was cheerful, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came softly, uncovered his feet, and lay down.
‭‭‭‭Ruth‬ ‭3:2-7(N‭KJV‬‬)

As I’ve said, I believe this chapter is full of innuendo. Take the phrase “do not make yourself known to the man”. This word “know” means more than just knowledge of a person. In fact we can head back to the first chapters of Genesis again, and we see this same idea of knowing.
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the Lord.”
‭‭‭‭Genesis‬ ‭4:1‬ (N‭KJV‬‬)

When I prayed on that New Year’s Eve in 2013 that God would help me to get to know Carrie better, there were probably a few giggles in heaven before the angels got to work.

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I’ll leave you to research all the other innuendos in this passage, but I firmly believe Ruth, the Moabite, had every intention of really getting to know Boaz that night while he was drunk.

And if you don’t believe me, let’s head again to Genesis.
And Lot went up… and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters. And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father… And the firstborn bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day.
‭‭‭‭Genesis‬ ‭19:30-37 (‭KJV‬‬)

These are Ruth’s direct ancestors. Ruth, like Lot’s daughters, was taking a huge risk. That is why they waited until they had had a lot to drink. This was not some beautiful, innocent thing that Ruth was doing. This was devious and manipulative.

So, what happened next may have shocked Ruth just as much as her lying at his feet shocked Boaz.

Now it happened at midnight that the man was startled, and turned himself; and there, a woman was lying at his feet. And he said, “Who are you?” So she answered, “I am Ruth, your maidservant. Take your maidservant under your wing, for you are a close relative.” Then he said, “Blessed are you of the Lord, my daughter! For you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning, in that you did not go after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman.”
‭‭‭‭Ruth‬ ‭3:8-11 (‭NKJV‬‬)

What we see is a beautiful picture of how God sees us. He sees us as blessed and he sees pure, undefiled hearts, regardless of our background or how we might see ourselves. And God, like Boaz, responds in promising to do for us all that we request.

While Ruth may have seen herself as no better than her ancestors, that is not how Boaz saw her, even though, let’s face it, her plan was almost identical to that of her ancestors. But Boaz had spiritual insight. He was awake physically, unlike Lot, and he was also awake spiritually.

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True rest is knowing that God is pleased with you. When we have this revelation of God’s love for us, a spiritual insight into how God sees us and how he sees others, it stops us trying to do everything in our own strength. Instead we can do things from a place of rest, knowing that God knows the bigger picture.

We see this type of spiritual insight and how it plays out more clearly in Acts 7.

But [Stephen], being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” … And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
‭‭‭‭Acts 7:55-60 (‭NKJV‬‬)

Stephen saw the men who were stoning him not how any normal person would see them, as vicious thugs, but how God saw them, as sinners in need of forgiveness.

God loves us more than we can possibly imagine. The more we get to know God, the more we can be at rest, because we can stop scheming our way to success, safe in the knowledge that God has a much better plan for us, if we just wait for him to show us.

Be stable and stay blessed.
 

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