Obedience and love
We start with Naomi telling her daughter-in-law Ruth that she wants her to be well looked after. Naomi asks her to go and find Boaz in his place of work (Winnowing barley on the threshing floor), wait for him to go to sleep, uncover his feet and then do as he says.
Ruth doesn't question this at all, she just says “I will do whatever you say”. Initially this confused me, but thankfully my quest bible comes with a cheat sheet! By asking Ruth to do this, Naomi is essentially asking Ruth to present herself to Boaz as a potential wife. Ruth would have known this, and she also knew Boaz was an older man, but still she happily respected Naomi's wishes.
We can also see that Naomi isn't wanting Ruth to do this “because I said so”, but rather out of love – she knew Boaz was a good man who would be able to care for her daughter, and since he was older, he would make a wise husband and wouldn't just be after an heir.
So, Ruth does as she's asked: she gets dressed up, finds Boaz, approaches him quietly and uncovers his feet. Once woken up, they talk, and Ruth refers to him as a “Guardian-Redeemer” – in a nut-shell, this was a close family relative who's duty was to provide for family members in need through sacrifice. Boaz acknowledges this, but points out there's actually another Guardian Redeemer in the family who is more closely related than Boaz (he isn't named).
Now, legally, Boaz could have told Ruth to get lost and go find the closer related Guardian Redeemer herself. But, being a loving family member, he gives Ruth some food for the family, tells her to go home discretely (to save her from the potential embarrassment of people thinking she had been being denied) and sets off to find the closer Guardian Redeemer.
We can see that Naomi, Ruth and Boaz all have impeccable character here and show several amazing qualities God wants us to aspire to:
- Naomi Sending her daughter out to find a man so that she will be cared for and provided for (they were both widows, so life was going to be difficult). This was purely selfless (not a legalistic order, but a recommendation out of love).
- Ruth She understood and respected her mother, and was obedient to Naomi's wishes (even though Boaz was an older man). She didn't argue or grumble – she appreciated Naomi's loving/wise intentions, and followed them through.
- Boaz He was generous (giving food for Ruth's family and seeking out the rightful Guardian Redeemer himself) and went above and beyond what was required of him. Instead of asking Ruth to find the rightful redeemer, he offered to do this himself, and failing this, offered to step up as a Guardian Redeemer for the family and marry Ruth.
We later see that Boaz finds the rightful Guardian Redeemer, makes him aware of the situation (with a wise group of witnesses present), and respects this man's wishes (he opts not to accept the offer) and keeps his promise to marry Ruth and provide for the family.
Let's aspire to be like Naomi, Ruth and Boaz – Loving, selfless, obedient, respectful and going above and beyond what's required of us to help those in need.