August 10: Ruth 3-4

If, yesterday, we saw in Ruth 2 a depiction of godly woman, Ruth 3 gives us the counterpart depiction of a godly man, one that emerges in the unbearably tense situation to which he was exposed. For, at dead of night, the text announces one of the most exquisitely nuanced statements in Scripture: "At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet!" (Ruth 3:8). Naomi had lost her mind; running ahead of God's providence, she had urged Ruth to put on perfume and lie at Boaz's feet near the threshing floor. It is not mere prurience to suggest that the sexual danger to which he (and Ruth) was now exposed was extreme. Naomi's counsel, despite commentators' insistence that one must understand the culture, had bordered on the desperate.  But it is the integrity of Boaz that emerges in the wise and delicate way in which he handled the situation. Reading between the lines in the gift he sends back to Naomi - "you must not return empty-handed to your mother-in-law" (3:17), shows the care he takes not to impugn Ruth in any way.

Note should taken of the way Boaz fails to read opportunity as God's permission. He could so easily have done so, arguing that God had provided him with an opportunity to indulge his lust. But integrity and love for God's law marks Boaz in this midnight encounter. His tenderness and complete control shows him to be a man of spiritual resourcefulness. And it is important to remember that such godly control in a moment of sudden temptation comes as a result of a life given over to a pattern of godliness. He was able to maintain godliness in this moment because he was godly man. It is reminiscent of one of resolutions of young Jonathan Edwards: "Resolved not to do anything in soul or body but what will tend to the glory of God."

Lord, grant to me such resolve, now and always in Jesus' name. Amen.