Love Always Perseveres
“This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier…” vs. 10
How Do I Love Thee?
Poem by Eliz. B Browning
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
Read passage – Ruth 3
1 One day Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi said to her, “My daughter, I must find a home for you, where you will be well provided for. 2 Now Boaz, with whose women you have worked, is a relative of ours. Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. 3 Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.” 5 “I will do whatever you say,” Ruth answered. 6 So she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do. 7 When Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile. Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down. 8 In the middle of the night something startled the man; he turned—and there was a woman lying at his feet! 9 “Who are you?” he asked. “I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.” 10 “The LORD bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. 11 And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character. 12 Although it is true that I am a guardian-redeemer of our family, there is another who is more closely related than I. 13 Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to do his duty as your guardian-redeemer, good; let him redeem you. But if he is not willing, as surely as the LORD lives I will do it. Lie here until morning.” 14 So she lay at his feet until morning, but got up before anyone could be recognized; and he said, “No one must know that a woman came to the threshing floor.”
15 He also said, “Bring me the shawl you are wearing and hold it out.” When she did so, he poured into it six measures of barley and placed the bundle on her. Then he[c] went back to town. 16 When Ruth came to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “How did it go, my daughter?” Then she told her everything Boaz had done for her 17 and added, “He gave me these six measures of barley, saying, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’” 18 Then Naomi said, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today.”
The focal point of this story is Ruth, a young Moabite woman who is going about her “normal” life when disaster hits. She has married into a family where she has a mother-in-law, Naomi, and we know of at least one brother and sister-in-law, Orpah, (by the way Oprah was named after her but they got the letters wrong). Anyway, tragedy strikes. First her father-in-law dies and then her husband and Orpah’s husband dies as well. So we enter this story with Ruth learning to deal with being a widow at a young age, loyal to mother-in-law. Her mother-in-law encourages her, and Orpah, to go back to her family and try to start over stating that she is young enough to find a new husband and begin all over. Ruth has a sweet, sensitive, and caring spirit, at least that’s how I perceive it. So when she is confronted here, she answers with what has become a famous line in the Christian tradition:
But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” Ruth 1:16-17
This line has since been quoted over and over again through the ages as a standard for loyal to family, friends, and to God.
Orpah goes back to her family but from this point Naomi and Ruth travel back to Naomi’s family in hopes of finding a new life.
The Wedding Planner
As they arrive and try to settle in their new surroundings, Naomi realizes that she needs to take care of Ruth because not only is it too late for her to find a husband and start over, but she could die and that would leave Ruth without anything. So, she takes on a new role, the role of matchmaker and wedding planner. She is pretty forward about this and in verse 1 tells her;
“One day Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi said to her, “My daughter, I must find a home for you, where you will be well provided for.” vs. 1
What’s happened is Ruth goes to the local fields to glean grain to make bread and provide food for themselves. It would seems Naomi is too old or not in good enough health, or maybe they just feel Ruth has the best chance of being successful with this. She goes to the loc al field and begins following behind the harvesters and picking up a grain here and a grain there, anything they missed or left behind. The owner of the field shows up and notices her. He’s heard about Naomi and Ruth’s situation and is impressed with Ruth’s loyalty and devotion to Naomi so he instructs his workers to leave a little bit more behind, provide water for here and to make sure no one harms her in any way. When she comes home with a lot of grain and tells Naomi about the day Naomi remembers that Boaz, the owner, is related to them and he might be the solution to her matchmaking issue. So she instructs Ruth in vss. 2-3:
“Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor…” vss. 2-3
Ruth has so much respect and trust for Naomi that she doesn’t hesitate to do what she instructs her to do. Listen to her response:
“I will do whatever you say,” Ruth answered. Vs. 5
It’s pretty typical to focus on Ruth with this story. But this morning, I want us to focus on Boaz. To continue the story, Ruth goes to Boaz at night. He’s had a long day of work, the sun has goine down and he goes in for dinner. Probably had a little wine with dinner too and then he lays down on the winnowing floor for a night of sleep. Ah yes, the life of a bachelor; just sleep wherever. He goes out and while he is sleeping Ruth follows Naomi’s instructions and goes in, uncovers his feet, lays down art his feet and puts his shawl over his feet.
This may seem odd but here’s the idea behind it. Boaz in recognized as being the kinsmen redeemer, the one who could be the next in line to take care of a family member who was widowed. Ruth placing herself at his feet is showing that she recognized him as the kinsmen redeemer and laying herself at his feet was a sign of humility; that’s where servants would sleep.
Boaz Shows Real Love
So what do we learn from Boaz, a man of God, a business man, a practical and smart man, a man who was willing to do the right thing. He is a Good man, likes to help others, those down on their luck (in today’s world might volunteer at soup kitchens), he’s honest, and he has integrity, And don’t forget, he was a man who noticed Ruth and probably had some infatuation and interest in her.
- Love Protects
Boaz teaches us quite a bit about love and integrity. The first thing is that love protects:
“The LORD bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor.” vs. 10
He realizes that he is much older and not as attractive to her as many of the other young suiters around. This could be his one chance to actually get a girl. Don’t forget he saw her heart for her mother-in-law and he respected that. Now he sees that she goes beyond the norm of picking a man and he wants her to feel safe and secure, not just an old man trying to take advantage of her. He is going to protect her and her reputation. 1 John tells us:
“But perfect love drives out fear…” 1 John 4:18
The power of love is the opposite of the spirit of fear. Real love draws people in and protects. We are called to be people of love. That kind of love should be something people want and draw closer to. Remember when Ruth was in the field, Boaz saw her love for her mother-in-law and that endeared him to her. Aren’t you drawn to people of love? I am.
- Love Respects
The second thing that Boaz teaches us is that love respects. Notice what happens has Ruth is about to leave in the morning, verse 11:
“And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character.” vs. 11
Boaz doesn’t want to tarnish her character. He respects her too much to do that. So many people go into love relationships with what they can get out of them at the expense of others. Boaz teaches us what it looks like to enter relationships with what we can give to others and honor and protect them. It reminds me of Paul’s famous passage in 1 Cor. 13:7:
“It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Cor. 13:7
I love the words that are used here, protection, trust, hope and perseverance. Listen to howThe Message puts it: Love, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end. I love that line always looks for the best.
- Love Uplifts
Then we see the third attribute that Boaz brings out to us, love uplifts. Verse 15:
“He also said, “Bring me the shawl you are wearing and hold it out.” When she did so, he poured into it six measures of barley and placed the bundle on her. Then he went back to town.” vs. 15
He could have been upset that she put his integrity on the line, or suspicious that he was being used. Instead, he blesses her. He give her gifts as she leaves. This guy is a real gentleman with style. His protection nd respect now plays itself out in his actions. 1 John 3:18 says:
“Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18
An important aspect of our love is to not just say it but to live it out in our actions. This week we are celebrating Valentine’s Day. That is a day when we are expected to show our love in action.
A Businessman In Love
The end of this story is classic. Again, Boaz being a man of integrity realizes he is not the first in live to be the kinsman redeemer. So he calls the guy who is first in line and calls him to the public forum to make sure everything is on the up and up. So in front of everyone he tells the first guy, “Hey our relative died and his land is available and you’re first in line to buy it. You want it? The guys says, “Sure.” Then Boaz says, “Oh and buy the way, when you buy the land you buy the girl too.” Then the guy goes “whoa, whoa, whoa,. Girl? No way. I can’t do that.” Boaz wins! In the end, love wins! Or as the title says “Love Always Perseveres!”