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. 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. 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.”
The story so far: Naomi has left Moab, where she had been living for ten years because there was famine in her own land, and returned to Israel. Ruth, her Moabite daughter-in-law, returned with her. Boaz, Naomi’s cousin and a powerful man in the area, having heard of the way Ruth has been caring for her mother-in-law, allows her to work in his fields.
Suggestion: read the whole passage before focussing on the section allocated for the day.
Monday 13th February
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.
Ruth has taken the initiative and found work gleaning in the fields. As a result she has been able to provide for herself and her mother in law. She is proving that her loyalty or faithfulness to Naomi is genuine and long lasting. Now Naomi wants to make sure that Ruth will be provided for. You will recall that a woman in that culture had no means of her own and could only thrive in the household of a man. Otherwise she would be vulnerable in the extreme. Naomi says that she will help to find such a secure home for Ruth, who is still of marriageable, childbearing age.
Naomi is thinking long-term, but she also has to make sure that something happens now. The gleaning/reaping season is over – how else will she and Ruth be able to feed themselves? She also needs to make sure that Ruth will be provided for when she herself is gone. How easy do you find it to think long term in this way? Is there are any provision for others that you need to make just now? This may be in your own family or at work – or even for people whom you don’t know personally. Pray for wisdom as to how to support people who are in need.
Tuesday 14th February
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.
What do we know about Boaz? We know that he is wealthy and influential. He gets things done and can make sure that people are protected (or not). However, Ruth had to take the initiative in order to make sure that she and Naomi had enough to live on. He must have known that his cousin, Naomi, was in town, but he apparently did nothing to reach out to her. Some people find it easier to take the initiative than others. Is there something in your life at the moment that you feel needs to be tackled but that you have been putting off? Take some time to think and pray about why you have been doing that. It can help to think through our motives for action or inaction.
Naomi knows human nature. She knows that appearances make such a difference. She tells Ruth to put on her best clothes and go to see Boaz. Naomi, remember, wants Ruth to find a husband. And she encourages her to use every means at her disposal to make sure that this happens. In our everyday lives, the question often arises as to how much we should push ourselves forward. Should Christians be assertive or should we be “nice” and wait for things to happen to us? The fact that she is a foreign woman (and so virtually invisible in society as a whole) does not make her shy away as a victim – she knows that she needs to act. She and Naomi are not naïve – they have to take the initiative in order to get what they need. There are many areas of the world in which believers have to learn how to survive in oppressive regimes. They are constantly having to ask themselves how far they should comply, and how far they should resist. How far should they work against corruption or unjust practices, for example. When should we stand up to behaviour which is harming us? Take some time to talk to God about this today.
Wednesday 15th February
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.
Naomi is telling Ruth how to go about bringing herself to Boaz’ attention. The plan is very risky indeed. She is to hide, and watch while Boaz has his dinner. Some commentators suggest that he will be in a better mood when he has eaten and had a couple of drinks! The plan could easily result in physical harm for Ruth, or further ostracism as a foreign woman who has over-stepped the mark. Her reputation, and Boaz’, could be ruined! Naomi’s instructions are outrageous – she tells Ruth to go and lie down beside Boaz. He tells her to take his cover off. We don’t know why. Perhaps it was to make him feel cold so that he would wake up, or perhaps it was to make him feel exposed and vulnerable (some commentators say that “feet is a euphemism for genitals.)
Ruth is going to be at great risk – a lone woman out at night. Song of Solomon speaks of this risk – in chapter 5:6-7 a woman who is out on her own at night is beaten and robbed. Throughout the world there are women who are living in circumstances in which they are in grave danger as they try to support their families. They may have to take up dangerous work, or be vulnerable to abuse, both physical and sexual, and trafficking. Many Christians throughout the world are in ministries which reach out to women in dire poverty who are at risk in this way. Pray for these ministries today.
Thursday 16th February
6 So she 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.
Ruth does what Naomi asks. We have already seen that it is physically risky for her to go out at night and approach Boaz, but it is also extremely risky with regard to reputation. In a society in which honour is so important, Ruth is risking being very seriously shamed. She does not know how Boaz will react to her. And if others find out what she has done – the social consequences could be huge. The story demands that we ask ourselves if we are prepared sometimes to risk our safety or reputation for the sake of our own or someone else’s survival. Would we be prepared to do so in order to stand up for what we think is right? Whatever “uncovering his feet” refers to, the situation is certain to be viewed by others as scandalous. We need to ask ourselves if our reputation, both within and outside the church, is more important to us than doing what we believe to be right.
Ruth’s story is not dissimilar to others in the Biblical tradition – Tamar gets the better of Judah and Esther uses her initiative and becomes queen. There are other stories too of women who prove themselves to be clever and are prepared to go against social norms to get what they need and want. In the apocryphal book, Judith manages to seduce Holofernes and to behead him, saving her people from his vicious rule. There is a strand similar to each one of them. The socially inferior, apparently weak person proves herself to be the one through whom God works. This is a prominent theme in the gospel of course, and Oaul points out the the first believers had little or no social standing (1 Corinthians 1:26), yet the church grew. How does this help you to understand life as a follower of Jesus?
Friday 17th February
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.”
Boaz gets quite a fright when he wakes up and discovers that someone is lying at his feet. It is dark and he cannot see who she is and so he asks “who are you?” “It’s me, Ruth. You know, the one who has been working in your fields.” Ruth says that she is his humble servant – she is acknowledging and making a point of drawing attention to the social distance between them. What she says next is hard to understand but it seems that Ruth is inviting Boaz to take care of her and Naomi. Since he is Naomi’s relative – he is asked to be their benefactor and protector. Ruth is also being very bold and suggesting that Boaz marry her! Ruth’s behaviour is remarkable. She is a very courageous woman who is prepared to risk reputation and indeed living to do what she thinks is right. Later, as we know, she becomes the great grandmother of David, who will be King of Israel- that is, she becomes an ancestor of Jesus himself. Ruth is therefore honoured in the tradition. Her boldness is rewarded!
Sometimes, we can be overcome by anxiety and fear and fail to do things we know that we should do. This can make us avoid doing important things, procrastinate, or fail to face up to things. Have you ever experienced that? In 2 Timothy 1:7, the writer reminds Timothy that believers are given the Holy Spirit who gives us power, love and self-discipline. We may think that we are too fearful but the fact is that we have been given what we need to do God’s will already – we simply have to use it. We do not have to rely on our own devices. Is there something you know you have to do which is making you anxious or fearful just now? Give thanks that God has given you what you need, and pray for help to be able to use it.
Saturday 18th February
3 I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.
Sunday 19th February
6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. 9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.