Last week we paused in our series through Ruth to ask: what does this story tell us about God? We saw firstly that it illustrated God’s extravagant kindness to his people – and urged us to show that to others (like Boaz did).
The second thing I noticed story is the way in which both Ruth and Boaz behaved honourably; with integrity. In chapter 2 Boaz is introduced by the narrator as ‘a man of standing’ – a noble man. And in chapter 3, Boaz responds to Ruth’s actions by saying something similar about her:
3:11b ‘All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character.’
In fact, in chapter 3 we see the noble character of both Boaz and Ruth in action. Firstly, we see Ruth praised by Boaz as a noble woman because she hasn’t run after the younger men. That is, she hasn’t taken the ‘easy option’ by chasing after the first young man she sees. She’s made a wise choice by waiting for a man of character, like Boaz. By waiting for a man who will also redeem her family’s land. Ultimately, by waiting on God.
Boaz, for his part, shows his noble character not just in the kindness he displays to Ruth. When an attractive young woman meets him in the middle of the night and implies marriage, he doesn’t give in to temptation then and there. He does what is right, rather than giving in to what feels right. He respects the right time, rather than the right now.
And despite their mutual interest, he even has the character to wait for the law to take its course. Knowing that there’s another, closer relative, he allows this man the opportunity to fulfil his duty – despite the fact that this relative hasn’t shown any interest until Boaz raises the issue, as we’ll see next week.3:12-13 ‘Although it is true that I am near of kin, there is a guardian-redeemer nearer than I. Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to redeem, good; let him redeem. But if he is not willing, as surely as the LORD lives I will do it.’
That takes character; that takes self-control. To do the right thing, no matter what the consequences. To wait on God, despite being tempted with the ‘easy option’.
Again, their actions remind us of Jesus. He was tempted to take the ‘easy option’ – the shortcut to becoming the ruler of the world, when Satan tempted him in the desert:Matt 4:8-9 ‘Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”’
But Jesus refused the shortcut offered to him. Instead, he waited and did it God’s way:Matt 4:10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'”
By waiting and doing it God’s way, Boaz and Ruth produced a child who would become the grandfather of King David; all Israel benefited because of their obedience. By waiting and doing it God’s way, Jesus became the sacrifice for the sins of the world; and people from all nations still benefit from his obedience.
So the pattern is there for us, too. Don’t take the easy option; wait on God, act honourably. Don’t marry that person who isn’t a believer because you think it might be your only opportunity; wait on God. Don’t give in to sexual temptation outside of marriage because it ‘feels right’; wait on God. Don’t take a shortcut in your taxes; wait on God. Don’t skimp on giving to God’s work so you can build up security for yourself; wait on God. Don’t go along with something unethical at work so you can advance your career; wait on God. Don’t take the easy option; wait on God.
Now listen carefully: the reason for doing this is not because it guarantees happiness and fulfilment of your wishes. We can’t apply this story in Ruth by saying: wait on God, and he’ll make everything turn out OK for you in the end. It’s not a transaction: I do it God’s way, and he’s obliged to give me everything I want. Things did turn out well for Ruth, yes. They may also turn out well for us; but they may not.
We might wait on God in our relationships… and never find a believing marriage partner. We might wait on God in our finances… and not be comfortable in our retirement. Behaving honourably in this life may not have a pay-off in this life.
So why do it? Why wait on God?
We do it for Jesus’ sake, and for the sake of the gospel. As we’ll see in chapter 4 tomorrow, the ultimate good that came from the obedience of Ruth and Boaz was of benefit to all Israel. It was all about God’s plan of salvation; not just the happiness of Ruth and Naomi.
So if we can extract a principle from the story of Ruth, I think it’s this: if we act honourably, if we wait on God, then he will use us in his plan of salvation. He will use us to reach others. We do it for God and his gospel, not for ourselves.
Yet as a result of being used by God in this way, we find our satisfaction and our joy. Maybe not our comfort; maybe not our financial security; maybe not our health; maybe not all of our wishes. But we will find deep joy and satisfaction in being part of what God is doing in his world. Just like Boaz; just like Ruth.
To think about
In what ways have I not waited on God, and taken things into my own hands?
In what ways have I acted with honour and integrity, waiting on God as a testament to his kindness and trustworthiness?