Ruth 3:6-18

"The Covering"

So she went down to the threshing floor and did according to all that her mother-in-law had commanded her.

When Boaz had eaten and drunk and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came secretly, and uncovered his feet and lay down.

It happened in the middle of the night that the man was startled and bent forward; and behold, a woman was lying at his feet.

He said, "Who are you?" And she answered, "I am Ruth your maid. So spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative."

Then he said, "May you be blessed of the LORD, my daughter. You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich. 11 Now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence. 12 Now it is true I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I. 13 Remain this night, and when morning comes, if he will redeem you, good; let him redeem you. But if he does not wish to redeem you, then I will redeem you, as the LORD lives. Lie down until morning."

So she lay at his feet until morning and rose before one could recognize another; and he said, "Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor."

Again he said, "Give me the cloak that is on you and hold it." So she held it, and he measured six measures of barley and laid it on her. Then she went into the city.

When she came to her mother-in-law, she said, "How did it go, my daughter?" And she told her all that the man had done for her.

She said, "These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said, ĎDo not go to your mother-in-law empty-handed.í"

Then she said, "Wait, my daughter, until you know how the matter turns out; for the man will not rest until he has settled it today." (Ruth 3:6-18).

One feature of the Bible that continues to astound me, is the Bibleís ability to analyze the inner workings of human beings. Martin Luther said; "The Bible is alive! It speaks to me. It has eyes. It sees me. It has feet. It runs after me. It has hands. It lays hold of me."

No wonder itís called the living and active word of God.

Before there was ever such a field conceived as that field of study called psychology, the Bible was busy analyzing the psyche of humankind. The complexity of the Bibleís analysis of mankind amazes me and reminds me, as I look at the Bibleís insights into the soul of man, that the author of the Book is also of the author of the soul and thatís why Heís able to analyze it perfectly - even beyond what we ourselves can see.

I think about the complexity of Paulís insights, thinking about his own spiritual dilemma in Romans 7: "The things that I want to do I do not do. But the things that I do not want to do, these are the very things that I do."

How many of you have not experienced that very same dynamic at work in your lives. Things that you want to do, for some reason you donít do, things that you donít want to do - you tell yourself youíll never do it again, but I do them again and again.

Or I think about the insight into suffering that you find in the Book of Job where Job is suffering for an inexplicable reason and his three less than comforting comforters come and try to deal with this whole idea of why people suffer.

Or I think of the inner wrestlingís of the Psalmist, "Why are thou downcast O my soul?" How many times have you gotten up in the morning and wondered that about yourself? "How come Iím in the dumps today?" "Why are you downcast, O my soul?"

Or I think of the wrestlingís of the prophet Jeremiah: "My soul, my soul, you are in anguish, O my soul, my soul."

But the passage of Scripture that I come back to again and again for its ability to expose me, that one which sweetly haunts me, it psychologically, spiritually, and emotionally diagnoses me is the record of manís first sin.

You remember how it goes that Adam was given one rule, one law, against which he immediately transgresses, he disobeys, he does wrong, he commits evil, he sins. The process, which goes on right after Adam sinned, is a process that has been repeated countless billions of times in the history of mankind. He is left spinning - his world has gone spinning out of control and he is left disoriented, spiritually dizzy, and he is suddenly introduced to the pain of guilt and shame. He turns almost instinctively, immediately, to try to get rid of this pain and guilt. He is self-conscious all of a sudden, self-focused, and self-obsessed. This self-awareness is not a pleasant thing for Adam - itís unbearably painful. The one thought that Adam can not ignore, something that he has never noticed up until now, is that he is naked. He never noticed it before even though he had been naked from the beginning, he was never aware of his nakedness and it never really mattered to him, but all of a sudden, after committing this sin, he sees and perceives his nakedness. In fact, thatís all he can see. Itís as if the Garden has faded out of his vision and the only thing thatís visible to him is his shame and his nakedness.

Man, the sinner, is exposed and unprotected and his overwhelming urge is not for sex, not for food, not for wealth, but for cover. He wants to hide - he wants to cover his guilt and his shame. "Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they knew that they were naked and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings and they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the Garden in the cool of day and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the Garden."

Now, this is the natural condition of every person you have ever known, and this is the natural condition of every person you will ever know - unprotected, vulnerable, and looking for covering by which I might hide my moral failures, my guilt, and my shame.

This hiding place, this covering for my nakedness, I find that Iím able to camouflage it behind fig leaves and we find that Adam quickly sews fig leaves together. Then he hides in the wilderness among the trees and begins to point to other people. He tries to hide his guilt and his shame behind them. "The woman, she gave me to eat." And then, when that doesnít work, he even resorts, and mankind has followed his pattern, even to this day, to blaming God, Himself. Have you noticed that? He doesnít only say, "Itís the woman." but he says, "Itís the woman Thou hast given me." If you only gave me a better wife, I never would have entered upon this sin.

Now, weíre much advanced over Adam. Weíve become more subtle at it, more refined - today our fig leaves are made out of silk and we labor to put on appearances before other people, we labor so strenuously to convince other people of our worth, our goodness, and of our innocence. We even labor to convince ourselves, "Hey, Iím not really that bad." And if we could, we would even God Himself that Heís wrong about us and weíre not really guilty - weíre not really bad in heart and in action.

Not only are our fig leaves made of silk, but our hiding places are more refined as well. People hide today, not in the wilderness (though some do - they run to the mountains) but we hide in the work place, working 50, 60, 70, 80 hours a week. We boast about the number of hours we work as though they were a badge of honor, trying to prove how needed we are, but all the while itís a hiding place which keeps me from confronting my own moral nakedness and exposure.

We hide behind Christian service. We can boast or complain, "Iím so busy for the Lord." But even that can be a hiding place.

People hide behind entertainment, behind hobbies, behind relationships, behind achievements. Jesus even made it clear that itís possible to hide behind spiritual disciplines, behind giving, behind fasting, behind prayer. "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men, to be seen by them." Hiding behind spiritual disciplines.

People will hide behind anything to avoid facing their true nakedness, their shame, their bad records, and their bad moods.

Just as Adam was skillful at shifting the blame, we have become seemingly, infinitely more skillful, more complex, more subtle, more sophisticated in shifting the blame. "My badness is not my doing itís caused by my mom, by my dad, my environment, itís my genetic make-up - God, You made me the way I am! I canít help it, Iím not to blame."

But all the while, even though weíve become quite sophisticated in hiding, in masking, in shifting the blame, in taking cover behind garments woven out of our own pseudo-righteousness, we know that none of these will cover, and we dread that awful day when we will stand before Him, who will past the garments of our own making and will see our nakedness, our exposure, our guilt, and our shame, no longer able to hide in that day. When I stand before God I will be incapable of camouflaging my failures and my badness. Iíll be powerless to blame other people.

Such is the vulnerability of fallen man. Itís really a frightful condition, this nakedness of our moral shame, naked and ashamed.

When we turn to the Book of Ruth we find a picture of this kind of exposure in that period when everyone did what was right in their own eyes, we find a picture of a woman, a stranger, vulnerable, itís a rough time and sheís living in a rough neighborhood. Thereís no order in this society- thereís no one to protect her. Sheís an alien without rights. Sheís without a husband or a family. Sheís without resources and is impoverished. She is exposed and without covering and comes to one Boaz, who is qualified to buy her back and redeem her. She approaches him. She has no legal right to stand. She has nothing to commend her to him. She comes to him, sheís aware of her vulnerability, sheís a single widow in this rough time, but she comes boldly to him, and she bothers this secure man. She takes the blanket off of his legs so to make him cold in the middle of the night, so he will have to reach down for the blanket and wake up. He does get cold, and he does become startled in the middle of the night, and he does reach down to grab for the blanket. Sheís bold to do something like that to a powerful man. Sheís bold, but sheís also humble. She refers to herself as "your maid, Ruth." Humble, but bold. She says, "Cover me." "Look, Iím your maid and I need covering. Youíre qualified and I know it so spread your covering over me."

At the sight of this bold but humble woman, in the cool of night laying at his feet, Boaz, the kinsman redeemer, does indeed cover her and he blesses her and says, "Now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask."

And the spreading of his garment over her was a very significant act. Garments are very significant in the Bible. I thought about Samson. You remember Samson went to a wedding and engaged in a riddle about honey coming out of a lion. He said, "If you can guess this riddle Iíll pay youÖ" gold? No. Silver? No. Rubies? No. "...Iíll give you clothes if you can guess this riddle."

Clothing was very precious in that day. You couldnít just go to the local Old Navy or Gap store and buy something, but you had to go and pay dearly for garments and they had to last you a long time.

The symbolic use of garments was widespread. You remember that David came upon Saul sleeping in a cave and cut off a piece of his garment. Later David held it up and said, "See, I have power of you, you are in my hand because now I have your garment."

When the kingdom was divided from ten tribes to two, tribes, Jeroboam, a mighty man of valor, was clothed "in a new coat." And Ahijah, the prophet, came up behind Jeroboam as he was calling the shots in battle, tore the garments from Jeroboamís back and tore it up into ten pieces, symbolic use of the garment.

Mordecai, when he is vindicated before the king, Xerxes, is allowed to wear the royal garment.

And the prodigal son comes back naked, clothed in rags, and the father says, "Put a robe on him."

Now, when Boaz spreads his garment over Ruth, it was a declaration of intent that it was his plan and intention to protect her, to marry her, to cover her.

Then he sends her away, promising to care for her and giving her provision he loads her down with six measures of grain, wrapped up in the cloak she was wearing, and says, "Go to your mother-in-law because it is not good that you would go to her empty-handed."

It dawned on me as I was studying this, remember Naomi came back into Bethlehem, and all the ladies came out to see her. She said, "Donít ask me any questions. I went out full and the Lord has brought me back empty."

Now, Boaz says, "Donít let your mother be empty any longer. Donít go to her empty-handed. "Once empty, once naked, but no more.

Thereís a very graphic passage, "R-rated," in the Book of Ezekiel 16. Itís a kind of parable where God is saying He is one day walking in a field and He looked in the field and there was an abandoned newly born baby with the umbilical cord untied and still attached. God said, "No one would help that baby." "But I picked the baby up and I cleaned the baby off, and I cared for, covered, and protected that baby." Itís a picture of Israel.

Then, in the next scene of the parable God comes again and finds Israel grown up. Now, she is a young lady, physically developed, and of marrying age. It says she was in the time of "her love." She stands also in the field, but she is naked for all to see. God says that He "saw her, naked and exposedÖ.so I spread my skirt over you and covered your nakedness."

Just like Boaz, God spreads His garment over His bride, He covers her shame, He removes her reproach, He vows to bless and to protect her.

This covering is what we celebrate, here, in the Lordí Table, that while our efforts to cover our sin and our shame and our guilt and our moral and mortal embarrassment before God, and our bad records and our bad hearts were futile, while all our attempts only masked the problem, put a band-aid over a huge, gaping, surgical wound, still the Lord Jesus lived the life that was truly pleasing to God. His thoughts, His actions, His words, each of them, like a strand, came together to form a seamless, beautiful garment. And when we come to Him, like Ruth came to Naomi, humble, saying, "Behold, your servant," but bold, saying, "You can cover, so do it." When we come bold and humble, He covers us and weíll never be naked again.

We come humble when we come admitting who we are, acknowledging our nakedness, when we come to Him with words of confession, "Lord, I am full of prideÖ"

This is not only for unbelievers, but also for us who believe in Him and who are already covered by Him, when we come to Him, He covers us again, so to speak. When we say, "I am guilty of worry," "I am prone to prayerlessness," "Lord, my heart is cold toward you," "Lord, I have been a Christian a long time, but Iíve been hiding in my job, Iíve been hiding behind my Christian service and Iím unconcerned for people." When we come, not blaming others, not camouflaging or renaming our need and our sin, but when we come saying, "Lord, behold Your needy servant." and when we come bold and say like Ruth, "You are able to cover, You are able to redeem" it pleases Him and "He clothes me and He covers me."

When we depend on Him this way, He not only covers us, but He pronounces blessing on us. As He fills Ruthís garment with grain, He fills us with His Holy Spirit and He sends us, covered in His righteousness, filled with His Spirit, if only we come to Him humble and bold.

We have an opportunity to come to Him just that way, right now. We can put the sermon into action, immediately. We can come boldly and come humbled to the Lord Jesus.

Father in heaven, we thank You for giving the Lord Jesus as a cover for us, not only covering us, but filling us. So, Father, we pray that we would be found in the same spirit which animated Ruth, humility and boldness as we come to Christ and say, "Fill us, Lord Jesus, and cover us with Yourself."

In Jesusí Name we pray, Amen.

 


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