3:1 Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you?
This word security means a resting place, a permanent home. It’s a synonym of the word she used back in chapter 1 vs.9 May the Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.”, and so we see again that Boaz is being used by God to answer a prayer.
When she says that she wants Ruth to be well-situated, that it may be well with her, she’s using a common idiom associated with blessings from God, and especially those blessings which come from keeping our covenant with Him, just as there are benefits in marriage of keeping our covenant with our spouse. For example (Jer 7:23, Deut4:40,Deut 5:16).
In their culture, it was customary for parents to arrange marriages for their children, and so Naomi is treating Ruth as her daughter, by making sure that she finds security in the house of her husband.
2 Now is not Boaz our [b]kinsman, with whose maids you were?
Everything that Naomi is going to say from now on, hinges on the fact that Boaz is their close kinsman. We can’t help but smile at her excitement—this is a pretty big change for someone who wanted everyone to re-name her bitter only one chapter ago. Now, we see matchmaker Naomi. Naomi is going to make sure that whatever relationship has built up between Ruth and Boaz continues.
Now was a convenient time to remind Boaz of his family obligations. It is Boaz’ demonstration of character over the past couple of months that has encouraged Naomi to hope that he would fulfill his obligations. And she is looking for one thing from Boaz at this juncture—commitment!
Behold, he winnows barley at the threshing floor tonight.
Winnowing grain is the process where the grain was threshed by pulling a heavy sled over it with bumps or stones laid into the bottom, so that it would crush the grain. Although they started harvesting barley, then moved on to harvesting wheat, they’re still finishing up the barley winnowing after all the wheat has all been harvested—meaning they had a lot more barley than wheat to harvest.
Israel was growing a lot more barley than wheat at this time in their history. Because Israel had failed to drive out all of the tribes that God had intended them to, they didn’t have access to some of the more fertile lands in Israel, where the more nutritious wheat would grow.
In our own lives, we may not always understand why God is telling us to do something or not to do something. But, we should always obey. God knows what He is talking about, and will not steer us wrong. The only thing we can do wrong is fail to obey God.
Winnowing time was traditionally considered a time of celebration, since it was the last step that had to be accomplished in order to bring the harvest in.
3 Wash yourself therefore, and anoint yourself and put on your best clothes, and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.
Naomi has four commands that Ruth must accomplish
Now our Lord Jesus accepts us and asks us to come to him as we are. When Ruth met Boaz, she was sweaty and working hard in the field—that’s how they met. But Ruth was now wanting a deeper relationship with Boaz. In the Old Testament, the law required ceremonial washings and taking a bath and changing clothes often was done before a special event. (e.g. Gen 35:1-2, Exo 19:10-11)
If we want to enter into a deeper relationship with the Lord, we must (2nd Corinthians 7:1) “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Or as James 4:8 tells us Draw near to God and He will draw near to you Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Or, as Jesus says in John 17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. We are cleansed and washed as we read the Word and apply it to our lives.
So Ruth is going to anoint herself with oil. Oil, in Old Testament and New Testament times was rubbed on the skin for refreshment. It was a sign of abundance, so we read verses like Ecclesiastes 9:7-8 7Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a cheerful heart, for God has already approved your works: 8“Let your clothes always be white, and never spare the oil for your head.”
Put on your best clothes
We also need to understand that Ruth is getting washed and dressed like someone getting married. She’s putting on her best outer garment, not her work clothes. She’s going to present herself to Boaz and let him know that she wants him to be her kinsman redeemer.
go down to the threshing floor;
She was to go down to the threshing floor where Boaz was, but she had to be careful:
but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.
So, Naomi wanted to make sure that Boaz was in good spirits, after having a great meal and celebrating the harvest. She was giving her plan the best chance possible to succeed.
4 It shall be when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies,
Naomi says that Ruth will carefully notice the place on the threshing floor where Boaz lays himself down to sleep. Remember that this was before flashlights, and she couldn’t very well light an oil lamp if she doesn’t want to be seen by everyone. Everyone looks pretty much the same in the dark when they’re bundled up sleeping. I’m sure she did note carefully where Boaz laid himself down. After-all, she wouldn’t want to propose marriage to the wrong person!
and you shall go and uncover his feet and lie down;
By uncovering his feet, she’s probably making sure that, as the night got colder, he would wake up after everyone else was asleep, so that they could talk. But this also has another meaning. Remember, that everyone slept in their outer garments. This is why, in Exodus 22:26-7 God commands the Israelites that if they take a man’s outer garment as collateral for a loan If you ever take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you are to return it to him before the sun sets, 27 for that is his only covering; it is his cloak for his body. What else shall he sleep in? When you put your outer garment over someone and covered them with it, it meant that they were under your protection—that you were taking them in—keeping them from the cold, as it were.
5 She said to her, “All that you say I will do.”
These instructions to Ruth are quite risky. Naomi is trusting in the character of Boaz, that he will not take unfair advantage of Ruth. She’s trusting Ruth to follow her instructions carefully, so that Boaz knows exactly what’s being asked of him.
We’re talking today about how Ruth prepared to meet the groom Boaz, and of course it calls to mind how we, throughout our Christian life are preparing ourselves, as a member of the Bride of Christ, to meet our Redeemer someday.
We wash with the water of the Word
We anoint with oil of the Holy Spirit
Put on our best clothes—covering us with the righteous acts of the saints as a garment
Go through the threshing floor of this life until we meet Jesus
But God is the one who ultimately gives us this ability to prepare to meet Jesus. These bridal preparations that Ruth goes through, and this preparation that we go through in our Christian lives is only made possible by God. (Ezek 16:8-10). God is the one who notices us, and spreads His skirt of protection over us, just like Ruth asks Boaz to do.