Playing by the Book
I don’t know about you, but my first read of Ruth chapter 3 was, “Wait. What’s going on here?” On the surface, it seems like Naomi’s direction to Ruth is a bit risqué and a bit risky. She is asking a young widow to climb in bed (albeit the foot of the bed) with an older man. Many, many things could have gone wrong. Boaz could have become angry and shunned Ruth. Boaz might have been dishonorable and taken advantage of her. Others might have seen Ruth and her reputation would have been ruined. So, “Why did Naomi do this? Is she trying to force God’s hand? Was this acceptable to God?”
We’ll come back to that, but let me pause here and direct those questions to our everyday lives. One of the beautiful mysteries of God is that He is fully knowable yet never fully known. We will never get to the end of Who He is. We may be surprised by what He does and find that He is not black and white but rather a wonderful blend of all color – including shades of gray. In tandem, one of the beautiful things about living in faith and under grace is our freedom from the Law. As a result, your faith will not always look like my faith, and a decision that is right for you might be wrong for me and vice versa. That can be important in dealing with transitions because no one else’s answers are guaranteed to work for you, and no one else’s judgements matter. And when we look at others’, we need to acknowledge we don’t know everything about God or the situation. There is likely more to the story. Which takes us back to Naomi. What is the rest of her story?
The answer to that is in the cross references of your Bible where it points to Deuteronomy 25:5-10. There it states the that a male family member is to take a family widow as his wife if she is without a son. Under Jewish law, Boaz, as a kinsman to Ruth’s husband, would be in line to support Ruth. So, you see, Naomi wasn’t being strong-headed or desperate or forcing God’s hand. She was “playing by the book,” doing what God commanded, and was gently encouraging Boaz to do the same. That may not have been our first impression of the passage – sometimes looks are deceiving – but what a lovely, gracious example for us to do the same, to encourage one another to play it by the book, not the book of the law but the book of faith. God is good; God is great; we are free.
Additional verses to consider: Genesis 50:18-21; Joshua 2:1-7 & Hebrews 11:31; 2 Samuel 6:6-11; Romans 3:27; 1 Corinthians 10:23-30
- Consider the passages above from Genesis, Joshua, Hebrews and 2 Samuel. What do you find surprising in these passages? How have they impacted your understanding of God?
- Consider the passages from Romans and 1 Corinthians. What does it mean to live by faith?
- What does it mean to allow others to live by faith?
- How do you respond when someone does or says something you think is spiritually or morally incorrect?
- How can you encourage others to live by the book of faith?