Ruth week 3: Risky Business

Larry Walters had always dreamed of flying, but was unable to become a pilot in the US Air Force because of his poor eyesight. Walters had first thought of using weather balloons to fly around the age 13, after seeing them hanging from the ceiling of a military surplus store. Twenty years later he decided to do so. His intention was to attach a few helium-filled weather balloons to his lawnchair, cut the anchor, and then float above the city at a height of about 30 feet for several hours. He planned to use a BB gun to burst balloons to float gently to the ground.

So this retired vietnam vet, Larry Walters, and his girlfriend, Carol Van Deusen, purchased 45 eight-foot weather balloons and obtained helium tanks from California Toy Time Balloons. They used a forged signature from his employer at FilmFair Studios, saying the balloons were for a television commercial. On July 2, 1982, Walters attached the balloons to his lawn chair, filled them with helium, put on a parachute, and strapped himself into the chair in the backyard of a home at in San Pedro. He named his ride “Inspiration”. He took a BB gun, a CB radio, sandwiches, cold beer, and a camera. When his friends prematurely cut the second cord that tied his lawn chair to his Jeep, he streaked out into the sky as if he was shot from a canon where he leveled off at a nice cruising altitude of 16,000 feet. At first, he did not dare shoot any balloons, fearing that he might unbalance the load and cause himself to spill out. For several hours he drifted, cold and frightened. He slowly drifted over the primary approach corridor for LAX airport. A TWA pilot first spotted Larry. The pilot radioed to the tower and described passing a guy in a lawn chair… with a gun! Radar confirmed the existence of an object floating at 16,000 feet above the airport. LAX emergency procedures went into full alert. Larry finally shot enough balloons to lower himself down safely into some power lines in a nearby neighborhood.

He was immediately arrested upon landing ; when asked by a reporter why he had done it, Walters replied, “A man can’t just sit around.” After his flight, he was in brief demand as a motivational speaker and he quit his job as a truck driver. He was featured in a Timex print ad in the early ’90s.

There’s not much that we wouldn’t do for a good thrill or to gain some sort of significance. After all, “a man can’t just sit around.” We need life to be exciting, thrilling; we want to feel significant, wanted, accepted. This morning, we encounter a really crazy story in Scripture that seems to be a thrilling, nerve racking experience, with some sort of pursuit of significance in a very risky way. The unfortunate thing is in our day and age, this chapter often gives us freedom to find thrills and significance from relationships, and we miss the big picture of the message of Ruth 3. Ruth 3 gives us a glimpse of 2 hope-filled women who are trusting God for significance and put themselves out there in a way that could bring about more pain, more rejection, and more hopelessness.

THE PLAN
vv. 1-5: Naomi – She has a plan and she is not going to waste a stroke. We see Naomi in this story move from being an oppressed victim, to an awakened, hope-filled orchestrator of righteousness. As long as Naomi remained a victim, she would remain motionless with no strategy or never put to use what God has given her to work with. She doesn’t stay in her junk, but she chooses to see where God is working and work along side Him. Naomi’s plan is clear: to win for Ruth a godly husband and a secure future, and preserve the family line.

But we have to admit that Naomi’s plan is crazy. Naomi tells Ruth to wash up and anoint herself. In modern terms, she says, “Ruth, go take a shower, shave your legs and armpits, pluck your eyebrows, put on some nice perfume and lotion that makes your body shine, get all dressed up and then go to Boaz’s office, follow him home, and after he goes to bed, sneak in to his house, lay down at the foot of his bed and cover yourself up with his blanket.” That’s racy! That plan would sell box office tickets in our day, but none of us (in our right mind) would encourage our daughters to do this).

Everybody, including Ruth, must think she’s crazy! Not to mention what people would be thinking: “And just where do you suppose that will lead, huh!?” To which Naomi gives her hope-filled answer in the last part of verse 4: “…he will tell you what to do.”

Okay, this is what we do know: We do know that Naomi’s plan is for Boaz to marry Ruth, but why not just go talk to him the next day? Why plan something that could possibly blow up in a sinful way? What did she mean by “lie at his feet?” Does that mean sleep with him or just lie there and freak him out when he wakes up in the morning? We have to agree, that this is not prescriptive counsel for us today.

We don’t know exactly what Naomi’s strategy is and the author is okay not tying that up for us, but we do know that Naomi seemingly wasn’t intending for Ruth to get lucky that night with Boaz as many would think.

THE PROPOSAL
vv. 6-9: Ruth – She says, “Alright old bitter mom-in-law, I’m not sure of your plan, but I like that you’re livening up a little bit.” Ruth apparently goes right along with her plan and is placing her trust in Naomi (hope must be really contagious!). But we learn that Ruth doesn’t do all that Naomi tells her to do.

As Boaz wakes at midnight and is startled to find a woman at his feet, he asks, “Who are you?” Good question! I can just imagine what’s going through Boaz’ head at this point, so this question is a good start.

Ruth says, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” (v. 9) She was, in effect saying, “You are the one who can redeem our family and I would like to be the one to whom you pledge your faithfulness to in marriage.” In modern day language, “I’m not here for sex, but I am here to ask you to seal the deal and marry me, share your inheritance and give me a child for the clan of Elimelech.” Great proposal huh? Any normal man would run, but we soon find out that Boaz is anything but normal.

This is where Ruth doesn’t adhere to her mother-in-law’s instructions. Instead of leaving the situation dangerously open to misunderstanding, as a godly woman, Ruth wanted to make her intentions clear right away. Her goal was to be redeemed and get married, not to have a seductive night of passion to manipulate Boaz to redeem her and Naomi.

Ruth was not intending to give Boaz an invitation to have sex (They were both God-fearing and knew that pre-marital sex was forbidden by God; OT and NT Scripture forbids it), rather we see the depth of Ruth from this comment, “Spread your wings over your servant.” The same word that Boaz said to Ruth in 2:12 (referring to finding refuge under God’s “wings”).

Ruth tells Boaz that he is God’s agent to reward Ruth, not knowing that this was Boaz’ intentions in the first place. Ruth says, “You are the wings that God desires to use to redeem me and bring me to a safe place. Would you be that man?” I think Boaz had every intention of being this man, but didn’t want to presume upon the young beautiful Ruth. He respected her and wanted her to desire to be redeemed by him.

THE PROBLEM
vv. 10-12: Boaz – Now it’s time to see Boaz’ plan unfold. And out of the gates, he remarkably comes up with beautiful, mature words for it being midnight, and him being startled and presumably buzzed:

“10 May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter (this is how we know that Boaz got the message loud and clear from Ruth; he intends on treating her as an Israelite; purity). You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. 11 And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. 12 And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I.

Ok, this had to have been a bitter blow to Ruth. At this point she was probably feeling that things had been going well for her, but the DTR talk went bad. I can imagine Ruth wondering to herself whether she is going to have to repeat this midnight extravaganza with another man or not. Ruth launched off the ground in her lawn chair and is now uncertain about how to get down, and is likely cold and frightened.

THE PROMISE
But Boaz, the man, he will take care of it for her. Listen to what Boaz says:
v. 13: Remain tonight [sweetie], and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. [You can take that to the bank. So for now,] Lie down until the morning.”

The stars are out in all their beauty, the mood is right, they are alone, she is all dressed up, he is relaxed, it’s midnight; and he says this? What a man! What a woman! For the sake of righteousness he doesn’t touch her and he even is willing to go the extra mile to ensure that there isn’t a closer redeemer to redeem her. What a dude Boaz is!

Boaz tells Ruth to stay until dawn and secretly leave not because he had ill intention, but so that her mission wouldn’t be misinterpreted by witnesses. Oh that may we have more Ruth and Boaz’s! Oh that for the sake of righteousness we would turn from what feels right and good! Oh that we would choose what is right even when we feel that we deserve it! Oh that we would reject the tone of our culture that says “If it feels good, then do it!” There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Proverbs 14:12)

Ruth and Boaz chose what is right according to God’s good plan and the end was the protection of the line of Jesus, our savior! Let the morning dawn on your purity. Don’t be like the world. Be like Boaz. Be like Ruth. Profoundly in love. Subdued and discerning in communication. Powerful in self-control. Committed to righteousness.

THE PROVISION
vv. 14-18: 14 So she lay at his feet until the morning, but arose before one could recognize another. And he said, “Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.” 15 And he said, “Bring the garment you are wearing and hold it out.” So she held it, and he measured out six measures of barley and put it on her. Then she went into the city. 16 And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “How did you fare, my daughter?” Then she told her all that the man had done for her, 17 saying, “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said to me, ‘You must not go back empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’ ” 18 She replied, “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today.”

Boaz sends Ruth home with six measures of barley (80 lbs. worth; Ruth is no weak woman) as he has shown he is always committed to taking care of Ruth and Naomi and Naomi reassures Ruth that Boaz will not rest until he has followed through concerning her request. Game is on and this provision is just a glimpse of the kind of provision Boaz is going to offer Ruth. This is also a glimpse of the kind of provision (salvation) God ddesires to work on our behalf. God’s salvation is holisitc (body and soul).

As I read over this story in chapter 3, two words kept coming to my mind: thrill and significance. We are often moved by one or the other. Or maybe we are moved to do something thrilling in order to find significance, much like Larry the lawn chair pilot. This chapter is definitely thrilling and full of blood pumping action, and Ruth and Naomi are surely looking to find significance, and for a moment it seemed that Naomi was looking outside of God’s will for this kind of significance. But we see Ruth turn the corner and fall back on holiness and trust in God’s provision. Her motive to lay at Boaz’ feet was not a self-centered desire for thrill & significance. Rather, it was a God-centered thrill & significance that led her to do this seeming foolish, reputation ending act.

The part of the story I didn’t read about Larry the lawn chair pilot was that later in his life, he did volunteer work for the US Forest Service, then later broke up with his girlfriend and flight crew member of 15 years and could only find work sporadically as a security guard. Finally, 11 years after his “dream flight”, Larry committed suicide at the age of 44. The thrill and significance he sought never lasted, and actually left him more empty and lonely.

Thrill and significance: these two cravings are the very things that God uses to draw us to Himself, but they are also used by the enemy to keep us from being faithful to God in the way that Ruth and Boaz were in this story.

One quote regarding teen pregnancy says this: “Teenagers are far more likely to have babies when their lives begin to seem pointless and when the doors to the future seem closed.” There is a very close connection between saying “life has no point” and saying “life has no edge”.

Thrill & significance is what we all long for, but when we make thrill & significance our chief goal, we lose out. “I just want to have fun.” “I just want to be accepted (be significant).” “There’s noting I wouldn’t do to get (blank).” Thrill & significance pursued as a means to your happiness is empty and devastating.

If we put these two deep cravings together, I think what we’re saying is this: “I want my life to have meaning that is exciting to me and others. I want my life to be admirable. I want life to be a thrill; I want more joy in my life. I want to live for something that I would give my whole life for. I want to now that I’m gonna be somebody”

When we define ourselves by what we do, then when we don’t do (or fail to get) that thing that defines us, we cease to be significant (there is no thrill in life). Now oddly enough, the 2 things that keep us from being faithful to God are the very things that are satisfied when we are faithful to God.

Some of us would ask, “How in the world could Ruth and Boaz be this faithful, or generous?” They weren’t looking for cheap thrills and false significance. They were looking to be faithful to God. Their pursuit to be faithful to God gave them the very things they (and every human) longed for: thrill & significance. The other thing we find in Scripture is that you weren’t meant to try and be Boaz. The picture of Boaz is a picture of redemption that God works out on our behalf as we turn to Him for redemption. We can’t be the Boaz…we are Ruth, we are needy, we need to be redeemed and are relying on His power to save us. This is a glimpse into the gospel.

Can you identify times in your life where you have run to cheap thrills and false significance? Can you identify the affects the let down of those thrills have had on your life? Did those thrills make you feel significant? If so, how long did that feeling last?  What might you be overlooking today that God has already provided for you to receive the thrills and significance in Him? Or what has God called you to do, but you have not acted on it?

You are free to obey, and your obedience to God is the beginning of the thrill & significance you were meant to find in Him and His plans for you. You are not bound to the law. If you’ve made the wrong decision in the past, you will be ok! You will not be zapped dead by God. He will not forsake His promise to you. He has already redeemed you through Christ, if indeed you receive Jesus as your King. He will continue to redeem you, and give you the faith to obey and then you will walk in the thrill of being with God and receive your significance from you God says you are.

There is another One who forsook cheap thrills and false significance; He was deeply committed to God’s will; He trusted in God’s timing so much so that He obediently was led to the cross because of the hope set before Him, and the joy that would come to many. He forsook cheap thrills and false significance so that you could have eternal thrills and divine significance. This Jesus the Christ, the greater Ruth and Boaz.

Jesus is the One who set all things right.

Jesus’ righteousness makes many righteous.

Jesus’ plan gives us purpose, and thrill, and significance.

Jesus is the redeemer we need to turn to.

Let’s Pray!

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