The whole story of the book of Ruth hinges on the pivotal third chapter. Naomi devises a plan for Ruth to essentially propose to Boaz. And Ruth, astonishingly, agrees to the plan and throws caution to the wind. Christopher Ash says Ruth demonstrates “six facets of covenant faith” in this midnight rendezvous with Boaz. Let’s see how he describes these facets of faith in his commentary from the Teaching the Bible series by Christian Focus.

Facet 1: Faith is intentional.

Naomi has made a plan, and a daring one at that. This initial scene between Naomi and Ruth demonstrates the first facet of faith we are to see, that true faith is intentional. Faith is a deliberate reaching out. It is not just a passive waiting. Faith is indeed a gift of God; it is not something we can decide autonomously to exercise. But because God gives faith at the level of the human spirit, it is not something imposed on us from outside, but rather something we ourselves really and actually exercise.

Facet 2: Faith is vulnerable.

The second facet we observe is that faith makes us very vulnerable. True faith abandons all other securities. What we are going to watch Ruth doing is a very risky thing. Ruth, an unaccompanied young woman, is going after dark to a harvest threshing-floor full of relaxed and off-duty men (and only men, see 3:14). In most places in the days of the Judges such action would be to lay oneself open to the possibility or most likely, the probability of drunken abuse. In doing what Naomi says, Ruth abandons all the vestiges of safety and security that she might have held on to. She is going to entrust herself to one redeemer, believes that he will protect her and treat her right; she has no other hope. It is important for us to feel the scariness of what Ruth now does.

Facet 3: Faith is intimate.

The third facet of faith demonstrated in this scene is that true faith is intimate and personal. What happens now happens between two individuals, one believing Moabite woman and one trustworthy redeemer. No one else sees, no one else knows, no one witnesses, no one intervenes or interferes. Here is one young woman and one senior man in the darkness and privacy of the night. In this intimacy we see something of the deeply personal and individual nature of saving faith.

Certainly, to exercise faith is to transfer from one community (the world, ‘this corrupt generation’ Acts 2:40) to another community, the church. Nevertheless, each man or woman exercises faith alone; each of us needs to enter one by one through the narrow gate (Matt. 7:13). In The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan pictures Christian going through a wicket-gate, a narrow gate that each must go through one by one. You and I cannot have faith credited to us on the coat-tails of our parents or friends in some second-hand way; faith must be individual and personal.

Facet 4: Faith is grounded in covenant promises.

This brings us to the fourth facet of faith. Faith is grounded in covenant promises. It is not a subjective personal quality or capacity that some people just have and others don’t, as might be inferred from our loose expression ‘people of faith’. Faith is rather a conscious decision to trust what God has promised. Ruth does not rest her hope on her own attractiveness or some possible sexual chemistry between her and Boaz. We have no idea whether or not such chemistry was present. We do not know if Boaz ‘fancied’ Ruth, or if Ruth liked, admired, or was attracted to, Boaz. Perhaps there was such attraction, perhaps there wasn’t.

The point is that Ruth grounds her appeal on covenant promises. By virtue of being a guardian-redeemer of Naomi’s family, through being a relative of Elimelek, Boaz had a covenant obligation to raise up offspring for Elimelek. Ruth is calling in this implicit covenant promise. In the same way, faith in Christ calls in the promises to which God has committed himself in Christ. It is to say to Christ, ‘you promised to be a redeemer to me; now do what you have promised.’

Facet 5: Faith is effective.

The fifth facet of faith we see pictured here is that when faith calls in the covenant promises it is always effective. The redeemer will accept the claims of faith. Boaz is a trustworthy redeemer; when called upon to do this intimate and life-changing action, he does not hesitate. There is this paradox about faith: although it is the gift of God, it is really exercised by us, and God really responds to the faith we exercise. At the start of the chapter Ruth expresses faith when she says to Naomi, ‘I will do whatever you say’ (3:5). Now the redeemer promises full redemption when he says, ‘I will do for you all you ask’.

Jesus Christ our Redeemer hesitates no more than did Boaz. When called upon to fulfil His covenant promises, He will always perform. The words, ‘Don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask’ come more definitely and immediately still from Christ’s lips to us. When the leper asked Jesus, ‘If you are willing…’ he immediately replied, ‘I am willing…’ (Mark 1:40, 41).

Facet 6: Faith involves waiting.

And this brings us to the sixth facet of faith. There is a necessary tension about faith. Precisely because faith is not sight, it carries with it a waiting for resolution. Faith reaches out to claim a future redemption. But until redemption is completed, there is this tension, epitomised for us by the dramatic tension of this story. ‘Wait…until you find out what happens.’ In the waiting faith rests on the character of the redeemer. Naomi can say with confidence that ‘the man’ (still just ‘the man’ to continue the atmosphere of privacy!) ‘will not rest until the matter is settled today.’ The chapter that began with the hope of a ‘home’ (3:1) ends with a redeemer not ‘resting’ until he has delivered on the promise to which he is committed.

Application Questions

The above facets were only some of the notes from this section in Ash’s commentary. He also includes additional notes on the text and tips for preaching and teaching. Here are some questions he suggests using in a Bible study group that draw attention to each of these facets.

1. Naomi and Ruth act deliberately and intentionally in this chapter. This is what faith means for them. How is faith today a deliberate and intentional reaching out to our Redeemer? What difference does this make from thinking of faith as a purely passive ‘waiting-for-something-to-happen’ thing?

2. During this scene, Ruth is unprotected and vulnerable. She depends entirely on the noble character and trustworthiness of the guardian-redeemer. What will it mean in practice for us to cast ourselves entirely on the mercy of Jesus our Redeemer, abandoning other possible sources of security?

3. This is a very intimate scene. Why is it important to remember that our faith in Christ must be an intimate and personal relationship with our Redeemer?

4. Ruth grounds her faith on covenant promises. What difference does it make for us to realise that faith in Christ is not a subjective quality – that some people have and others don’t – but a claiming of promises made by God to us in Christ? How will this affect the way we appeal to others to trust in Christ?

5. How does Boaz’s reassurance to Ruth help us grasp and be cheered by our Redeemer’s reassurance to us, when we call out to him in faith?

6. At the end of the chapter Ruth has a verbal assurance but no consummation of the relationship she needs. How does her waiting help us feel what it is like for us, betrothed to Christ our Bridegroom but still waiting for our wedding day?

Tools to Help with Teaching the Bible

The Teaching the Bible series aims to provide help to anyone involved with teaching the Bible in any setting. Whether you are preaching every Sunday, teaching a class, or leading a small group study, this series can help hone your skills and help your hearers. Pick yourself up a copy of the Teaching the Bible series today!

Write A Comment