Naomi

Spread the Corner of Your Garment Over Me

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“Spread the corner of your garment over me because you are a close relative who can take care of me.” Ruth 3:9 GW [see full devo text in NIV below]

It’s good to have a sense of purpose. It’s also helpful to have the vision to see how to pursue and fulfill our purpose. But along the way, things we don’t know about may hinder our way or become obstacles to overcome.

This is true for all of our lives. We make plans based on what we know. However, we don’t know all there is to know. But God does. He is omniscient—all-knowing. God knows all there is to know—past, present, and future—because He is eternal in nature.

What is amazing to me is how the Lord works in concert with us. He neither ignores or rejects our free will but includes it as He orchestrates how His will is worked out.

This short segment of the story of Ruth (see text below) gives some insight into how God incorporates and works with our free will and plans in conjunction with His will.

When different plans converge

As this chapter begins, Naomi lays out her plan for Ruth to follow. Ruth does what she’s told but also has her idea of how things should go. Our third person in this story, Boaz, brings to light new information Naomi and Ruth are unaware of and sets in motion his own plan.

Each of these three main characters have their own view of things and what they see in the future, but God has an overarching plan that reaches beyond their lives.

But there’s more to this short story segment than grand plans. This encounter between Boaz and Ruth on the threshing floor further reveals insight into each of their characters.

This scene unfolds late in the evening after Boaz finishes his work of separating the grain from the husks. It was hard but rewarding work to prepare the final product of the harvest for sale to others.

Once the work is done for the day, Boaz eats his evening meal and drinks to a point of contentment to rest for the night. Ruth watches for her cue to set Naomi’s plan in action. Once Boaz is asleep, Ruth quietly tiptoes to where he is laying and uncovers his feet and lays down in the darkness.

Later in the night, Boaz wakens because of a chill and realizes someone is lying at this feet. Startled, he asks who it is. Then Ruth sets in motion her plan. She tells Boaz why she’s there and requests him to cover her with his garment.

Now we see the character of these two people come to light while they’re alone in a dark room. Ruth submits herself first to Naomi then to Boaz with the innocence and trust of a child.

Instead of taking advantage of this young foreign woman, Boaz upholds her integrity of character, as expressed in verse 11—All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character.

A nearer kinsman-redeemer

Boaz also expresses his willingness to be the kinsman-redeemer for Ruth and Naomi but shares some new information which interrupts all their plans. There is a relative more closely related to Elimelech’s family line than Boaz.

This puts everything on hold but not for long. Boaz vows to resolve the dilemma the next morning and assures Ruth of his commitment and willingness to take her as his wife and preserve the legacy of the property and lineage of Elimelech and his sons.

This nearer kinsman-redeemer will be addressed in chapter four as the story comes to a climax. We’ll see how this dilemma is resolved in the next chapter and get more insight into the role of a kinsman-redeemer.

consider what this short story reveals.

Naomi’s plan was to set Ruth in a situation she hoped would develop into a marriage relationship to preserve her husband’s and son’s legacy and their family share of property.

Ruth looked to Boaz as a provider and protector, not just for herself but for Naomi, as well. Her request of Boaz reveals this when she says—

Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer. (Ruth 3:9 NIV 84)

It is more than an attitude of submission. It is an expression of trust. It reaches back to her commitment to Naomi and trust in the God of Israel. It looks forward to a hoped for union with Boaz as her kinsman-redeemer, which foreshadows the Kinsman-Redeemer of all.

Although Ruth would have no concept or understanding of a future redeemer, what she says to Boaz echoes the confidence Job had in God when he said—

I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. (Job 19:25 NIV 84)

We all have plans within any given day—whether small or great, intentional or routine. But life tends to interrupt our plans and reality breaks into our daydreams and ideal intentions.

We can allow these interruptions to throw us into fretting and worrying, anger and resentment, or peace and trust. It depends on what or where or who we put our trust in.

So, the question is—

How do you handle the interruptions of life?

Reflection—

We can allow the interruptions that come in our lives to throw us into fretting and worrying, anger and resentment, or peace and trust. It all depends on what or where or who we put our trust in.

Prayer Focus—

When you find your life interrupted, choose to lift the eyes of your heart and the thoughts of your mind to the Lord. Not to question but to listen and in trust. Learn to trust in God as a first resort rather than in desperation or frustration.


Devo Scripture Text

So she [Ruth] went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do. 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.

In the middle of the night something startled the man, and he turned and discovered a woman lying at his feet. “Who are you?” he asked. “I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.”

“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. And now, my daughter, don't be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character.

Although it is true that I am near of kin, there is a kinsman-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. Lie here until morning.” (Ruth 3:6-13 NIV 84)


Click this link if you’d like more background on the Book of RuthRuth Background

Here are some Study Questions for a more in-depth study of RuthRuth Study Q’s

When We Try to Help God

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Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, said to her, “My daughter, shouldn’t I try to look for a home that would be good for you? Ruth 3:1 GW [see full devo text in NIV below]

“God loves you and people have a wonderful plan for your life!” This is what a good friend of mine would say when people made suggestions to the pastor or other people. It was a rephrasing of one of the Four Spiritual Laws by Bill Bright of Cru and had a ring of truth to it.

My friend and I, along with countless other pastors, have heard well-intentioned suggestions from people in the church many, many times. It goes something like this—”Pastor, I think you should…” or “Pastor, it would be good if you….” You get the idea.

It is human nature to do this. We all have thoughts about what others should or should not do, or how we might do something better or differently. Even if we don’t verbalize these thoughts out loud to others, we still have them.

This is the byproduct of our self-centered nature. It’s our attempt at helping God or even acting like Him in other people’s lives. It’s something we inherited from our ancestors Adam and Eve.

Our plans or God’s way?

In chapter three of Ruth, the story takes an important turn. It zeroes in on one relationship within one day. Although God has His plan and His way for bringing Boaz and Ruth together, Naomi sees the need to step in to help. She spots a way to secure a better future for herself and her daughter in law.

When we view things from Naomi’s point of view, as best we can, we get an idea of why she sets this plan in motion for Ruth to encounter Boaz in a closer way. Here’s a glimpse into what motivates Naomi—

  • Bethlehem is Naomi’s homeland not Ruth’s

  • Naomi feels responsible for Ruth the Moabitess whom she brought to Bethlehem

  • Naomi understands the customs and traditions of her people in a way Ruth would not

  • Naomi sees an opportunity to help Boaz and Ruth come together in marriage

  • Naomi understands the role of a kinsman-redeemer (Lev 25:25) and how it benefits her

  • Naomi knows Ruth will submit to her and whatever advances Boaz makes toward Ruth

This is putting the best construction on things as far as Naomi’s motives. But the reality is this—Naomi is trying to manipulate a situation—as well as Boaz and Ruth—for her own purposes.

Naomi sees an opportunity and sets her plan in motion (see text below). She explains the timing and describes how Ruth should make herself available to Boaz. Naomi also instructs Ruth how to look and smell her best for the occasion. Naomi adds her final advice to let Boaz take the lead when the time comes.

This is manipulation, nothing less. When we try to do similar things in the lives of others, we’re being manipulative. When we do such things, we are interfering with God and His ways. In a sense, we see ourselves—like Naomi—helping God in some way.

Some things to consider

Was Naomi just trying to help move things along with the relationship between Boaz and Ruth? Yes!

Do you think Naomi expected Boaz to take advantage of Ruth in this situation to force something to happen between the two of them? I’ll let you decide but it should be obvious.

What isn’t obvious, or perhaps expected, is how both Ruth and Boaz handle themselves in this manipulated situation. We’ll see this in the next episode of our stories of redemption in the Book of Ruth.

Are there ways you have or are currently trying to help God in some way?

Reflection—

When we try to do similar things in the lives of others as we see Naomi do, we’re being manipulative. When we do such things, we interfere with God and His ways. As has been said before—we don’t need to be the Holy Spirit in other people’s lives.

Prayer Focus—

When you find yourself trying to suggest how others ought to be or what they ought to do, stop and repent. Ask the Lord to help you see how you might be doing this with others, and ask Him for the grace to let go and for His forgiveness.


Devo Scripture Text

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. Now Boaz, with whose women you have worked, is a relative of ours. 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, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking.

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.”

“I will do whatever you say,” Ruth answered. (Ruth 3:1-5 NIV)


Click this link if you’d like more background on the Book of RuthRuth Background

Here are some Study Questions for a more in-depth study of RuthRuth Study Q’s

It's All a Matter of Perspective

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They happened to enter Bethlehem just when the barley harvest began. Ruth 1:22 GW [see full devo text in NIV below]

Basically, there are three ways to see things in life—our own outlook, the viewpoint of others, and the way things are in an objective sense. Only one person sees all three perspectives—the Lord.

When we or others view people, life events, or whatever else, we see things subjectively. Each of us have our own biases. How we see the world and all that’s in it—including ourselves and others—is viewed through our beliefs, emotions, experiences, and values.

We can claim a sense of objectivity but that’s all it is—a sense. Only the Lord sees things in the truest objective way because He is eternal. When God reveals His perspective, as in the Scriptures, we still tend to see it through our own biased lens.

3 Perspectives

This final vignette of this first chapter of Ruth gives us a glimpse of all three perspectives—Naomi’s, the viewpoint of other people, and the actual situation.

The arrival

After Ruth’s declaration of commitment to stay with Naomi, they traveled from Moab to Bethlehem in Judah—a journey of at least 2-3 days by foot.

As they enter Naomi’s hometown, everyone is excited to see her and the women wonder at Naomi’s presence with a young Moabite widow and no husband—Can this be Naomi?

Naomi’s response is telling. It reveals how she sees her situation and why it happened. Not only is it subjective, it’s somewhat typical for most of us.

Naomi’s outlook

Let’s consider each of Naomi’s three statements.

  1. Don’t call me Naomi…Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.— Naomi’s name can mean both pleasant or sweet and Mara means bitter. It’s a play on words to describe both her inner state and her outlook on life. And she holds the God responsible for her situation.

  2. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty.— Do you see how she puts the blame for her situation on the Lord? Naomi sees her life’s misfortunes as God’s hand against her and uses a play on words to make her point. Her statement about going out full but coming back empty is her view now but it will change by the end of the whole story of Ruth.

  3. The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.— It’s pretty clear Naomi is playing on the sympathy of others as a victim of circumstances though it was her husband and her choice to leave Judah ten years before. She only returns because things have reversed—they left because of a famine and she returns because of God’s provision for Israel. Her answer may be posed as a question but it’s rhetorical—the answer is clear—the Lord is the cause of her problems.

When things go wrong, most if not all of us are quick to find some reason it happened and someone else to blame. Many people blame God for all the problems in the world. Somehow He’s responsible for everyone’s choices and all the bad and evil things that happen.

Here’s our conundrum—we want God to intervene when and where we think He should but don’t want Him to interfere with our own choices and pursuits. It’s as if we want to be in control of God. This is one of the many consequences of eating the fruit of the forbidden tree.

A full circle

Ancient writings followed the common literary structures of their time. Some of the literary devices are more obvious than others. The use of contrasting words and concepts is one of the most common.

Chapter one of Ruth begins with a famine but ends …as the barley harvest was beginning. The scope of the book starts out with a timeframe of ten years but telescopes down to one day and a pivotal meeting in the last chapter.

The heart of the story begins in the next chapter where Ruth becomes the main character in this story of redemption. Even this first chapter ends with a redemptive focus—going from famine to harvest and coming from a far country to home.

Naomi can’t see this for now but she will in the end.

It’s all a matter of perspective.

Reflection—

When things go wrong, we tend to blame something or someone else rather than ourselves. We’ll even blame God because of our own expectations in life. We don’t see things from a clear and objective perspective.

Prayer Focus—

When you find yourself shifting blame to someone other than yourself and not facing your own responsibilities, ask the Lord to show you His perspective of your situation. Ask Him to help you learn a better way to handle things.


devo Scripture Text

So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”

So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning. (Ruth 1:19-22 NIV)


Click this link if you’d like more background on the Book of RuthRuth Background

Here are some Study Questions for a more in-depth study of RuthRuth Study Q’s