When Love Makes You Risk--Book of Ruth 3
When Frodo finally threw the "One Ring to rule them all" into the fires of Mount Doom, the fierce battle on the Fields of Pelennor dramatically turned in favor of middle earth. The simple action of an ordinary, bumbling Hobbit altered the course of a grand cosmic battle between good and evil.
In the fields of Bethlehem, three ordinary people make simple, down-to-earth choices and, by those choices, enter into and dramatically influence God's grand purposes in history. Naomi, Ruth and Boaz get swept up into God's great Story.
Each made choices bristling with risk.
Naomi. In her love for Ruth, Naomi plays her role as match-making parent to find Ruth a husband. Did Naomi also know there was a kinsman-redeemer nearer in line than Boaz? If so, her risk in suggesting Ruth play her part is compounded. Naomi knew that there was no guarantee how Boaz would respond, other than her hunch about his gracious and good character. Boaz was under no legal obligation to care for Ruth and Naomi in view of the nearer kinsman-redeemer. Second-guessing other people's choices is tricky business.
Ruth. Did this young Moabitess know what she was getting into when she owned the Israelites as her "people"? Gleaning in Boaz's fields is one thing, marrying this older man because he was a near relative of Elimelech is another. I can hear Ruth ask, "Levirate marriage? What in the world is levirate marriage?" Deuteronomy 25:5-6 were new to her. Yet, for the sake of Naomi and Mahlon, her dead husband, Ruth accepts the religious customs of this new people and dutifully carries out Naomi's instructions. Risking both her life and Boaz's good reputation, Ruth, clean and perfumed, walks into the night and slips under Boaz's covers as he sleeps at the threshing floor. In the ancient custom of Bethlehem, Ruth asks a startled-awake Boaz, "Will you marry me?" as she says, "Spread your garment over me."
Boaz. After a good harvest and some hard winnowing into the evening, Boaz, having made his heart merry with wine, sleeps near the grain pile. In the middle of the night, somehow shocked into alertness, he turns and finds a beautful young woman between his legs (probably the meaning of the euphemism "at his feet"). Discovering it was Ruth, the alien girl, who pops the question then and there, Boaz, honored at being asked, tells the truth: "There is a kinsman-redeemer nearer than I." Boaz now takes a risk by saying that if the nearer kinsman does not do his part in redeeming her, Boaz will. Why does Boaz commit to this when he is under no legal obligation whatsoever to do it? Could it be...love? The plot thickens. Naomi's, Ruth's and Boaz's decisions all hinge on the pending decision of some unnamed relative. This is risky business for all of them.
The intertwining of human choices makes for a great story. The little Book of Ruth is a great story. We now wait as Boaz goes to the city gates (the courthouse) and initiates a negotiation with Mr. Nearer-than-Me.
Ruth chapter 3 reminds us that we do not just find meaning in life. God invites us to make meaning. As we make choices that interlock with God's will and the wills of others, a story unfolds. Famine and marriage and death and changing culture and happening to pick the right person's fields in which to glean are one thing. To get caught up in the uncertainty of other people's decision-making is another. Great meaning is forged out of daily, ordinary decisions by ordinary people.