A story of redemption, love, hope, and restoration
Some of you may recognize this line from Fiddler On the Roof*. While I only watched this musical once and remember just this one little line from the entire movie, it came to mind as I was reading and studying Ruth 3.
Take a look at chapter three, and the introduction to another one of Naomi’s great ideas…
“Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, ‘My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you? Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor.’”
I often wonder what prompted Naomi to pursue this line of thought. As you see from the text, Boaz is winnowing barley, so this took place immediately after the end of the harvests. So why was Naomi so quick to push Ruth towards Boaz? What did she see between them that made her think of this idea? I doubt Ruth, the receiver of Boaz’s grace, had any thoughts of marrying the lord of the harvest! She was busy working away to provide food for her and Naomi.
So what was Naomi doing? If you notice in chapter two, Ruth was the one who thought about going out to glean in the fields, and she was the one who did the back-breaking labor of gleaning and beating the barley so that they could have food on their table. So again, what was Naomi doing?
According to the text, the answer appears to be nothing. Naomi’s sole action in chapter two was to tell Ruth to keep gleaning in Boaz’s fields. She didn’t offer to go out and help Ruth glean or to in any way contribute to the labor of preparing food to eat. And contrary to what some think, she didn’t have the excuse of being elderly! Back in chapter one, Naomi hinted at the possibility that she could bear children should she remarry (1:12). So she obviously wasn’t beyond childbearing years. Therefore, why didn’t she help Ruth out with the gleaning and processing of barley? Why didn’t she play an active role in the work of chapter two?
She was too busy having a pity party.
Upon her entry into Bethlehem, Naomi announced her bitterness of heart and depressed state, and since then we haven’t really read anything about her or her thoughts and heart mindset. Until now. Now she’s suggesting Ruth marry Boaz. But was Naomi really proposing this union for the benefit of Ruth, or was she really thinking of herself? Even though she opens the topic with these nice words of “should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you?”, was Naomi really thinking, If Ruth marries the wealthy Boaz, she’ll take me along with her and then I’ll be well taken care of and provided for. Were these types of thoughts going through her mind as she started matchmaking?
We’ll never really know. However, I do find it interesting that so far, all of Naomi’s actions and ideas have stemmed from a desire to improve her life. She left Bethlehem for Moab because her and her husband were looking for food. Then when Elimelech dies along with Naomi’s two sons, she heads back home, but only after hearing that the Lord had again blessed Judah. Now, when she hears that Boaz is showing Ruth special favor, Naomi begins planning their wedding!
I kind of picture Naomi sitting in a little mud house, and each evening asking Ruth about her day in the fields and who she talked with. Then after hearing about the generosity and kindness of Boaz throughout the three months of the barley and wheat harvests, she starts planning on how to bring Boaz and Ruth together.
Whether this was the case or not, Naomi obviously put a lot of forethought into this topic, because she immediately approached Ruth with her plan—instructions and all—once the harvest is over and Boaz began working on the threshing floor. Why Naomi was spending all her time scheming, planning, and thinking and not working is beyond me. However, we see that up to this point all of her decisions and actions have sprung from an attitude of discontent and a “grass is greener on the other side of the fence” mindset.
But how often are we just like Naomi? We may point fingers at her and act all surprised and astonished at her actions, but at the end of the day, we are often just like her. We look around at our current state and season in life and then look at others and wonder what we could do to improve and make our lives better. We plot and plan about how to grow our resources and assets, improve our livelihoods, and achieve a certain level of happiness whether through changes in marital status, children, location, vocation, friends, churches, etc. But the crux of the issue is not our lack of things or people in our lives, but our heart attitude.
We get so busy being discontent and planning life improvement projects, that we neglect our work in the harvest fields. Just like Naomi stayed home and didn’t glean in Boaz’s field, so often we sit fretting about lives and miss the blessing of gleaning the bountiful harvest of the Lord. On the other hand, Ruth worked in the fields and therefore, received the blessing, grace, and provision of Boaz, the lord of the harvest. The former is remembered as a matchmaker, while the latter a faithful worker.
So the question is…which do you want to emulate and be associated with?
May we be faithful workers in the fields of the kingdom of God, that we may receive the blessing, grace, and provision of our Lord of the harvest. And may we remember this valuable lesson from Naomi and be careful to not let discontentment dictate the course and direction of our lives.
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? … But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
~Matthew 6:25, 33
*Although I am referencing and quoting from it, I do not recommend or endorse this movie. My family and I only watched it once at the recommendation of some friends and did not enjoy or appreciate it.