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Living in Light of God’s Providence

August 14, 2022

Teacher: Daniel Baker
Scripture: Ruth 3:1–18

Living in Light of God’s Providence

Ruth 3:1–18 – The Unexpected Kindness of God (Series in Ruth) – Aug 14, 2022


A reading from Ruth 3:1–5.

I mentioned Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice last time. There’s another moment from the book that fits our passage today.

In Austen’s book the prideful Darcy gets smitten by the very prejudiced Elizabeth Bennett. In fact, he’s so smitten that he proposes.[1] It’s a surprise and comes halfway through the book.

In such a proposal, there’s some risk. He’s confident Elizabeth will say yes, but he certainly doesn’t know if she will. The risk is that she’ll say no, which would mean embarrassment and maybe some humiliation, but not much more.

But some things sabotage the proposal. One is something he did earlier, which was to stop the marriage of Elizabeth’s sister to a worthy man. The man was Darcy’s friend, and Darcy didn’t think Elizabeth’s sister a worthy enough woman. To Elizabeth this was unforgivable.

And then there was the fact a character in the book spread a lie about Darcy which put Darcy in a terrible light. Elizabeth believed the lie and thought Darcy an unworthy man.

But what really kills the proposal is what he actually says to Elizabeth. The more he talks the worse it gets. He explains his love for Elizabeth—but also that his desire to marry her is really against his better judgment, against his character, contrary to the advice of friends and family, and makes no sense in light of his own superior connections and the inferiority of Elizabeth’s condition in life. Yet, he still loves her and wants to marry her.

If you’re trying to win a girl’s heart, don’t say that. Not surprisingly she says she wouldn’t marry him if he were the last man on earth.

But in the second half of the book Austen orchestrates circumstances to help the fictional Elizabeth and Darcy truly know each other. Their opinions change—and the story ends with their marriage.

Our passage this morning is from the Old Testament book of Ruth. Like Pride and Prejudice it also has a couple experiencing orchestrated circumstances that eventually lead to their marriage.

But where Jane Austen writes fiction, Ruth is biblical history—God’s inspired written history of what God orchestrated in actual historical events.

We call God’s control over all things his providence. The book of Ruth teaches us much about God’s providence and how to live in light of it.

Last week Chip quoted from the Heidelberg Catechism:

Question 27

  1. What do you understand by the providence of God?
  2. The almighty and ever present power of God by which God upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty—all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.

Question 28

  1. How does the knowledge of God’s creation and providence help us?
  2. We can be patient when things go against us, thankful when things go well, and for the future we can have good confidence in our faithful God and Father that nothing in creation will separate us from his love. For all creatures are so completely in God’s hand that without his will they can neither move nor be moved.

Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 10

Providence and how to live in light of it: “be patient” with hard things, “thankful” for good things, “have good confidence” in all things.

Our series on Ruth has highlighted The Unexpected Kindness of God. This morning we’re reminded that he works that “unexpected kindness” in our lives through his providence.

Sermon: Three sections: A Risky Plan (3:1–5); A Shocking Proposal (3:6–9); A Firm Resolve (3:10–18). Teach us about Living in Light of God’s Providence.


I. A Risky Plan (3:1–5)

Remember where we are in the narrative: In this four-act drama, we’re in Act 3. Act 1: Return from Moab. Act 2: Gleaning in the fields of Boaz. Act 3 is this morning.

Ruth 3:1 – Naomi: “Should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you”

  • “Rest” and 1:9, The LORD grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. (Ruth 1:9). Words from the same root.
  • Naomi’s hesed to Ruth in wanting it to “be well with you.”

Ruth 3:3 – Naomi’s directives: “wash… anoint…put on your cloak”

  • Very similar to King David’s actions after he loses his baby: Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped. He then went to his own house. And when he asked, they set food before him, and he ate. (2 Sam 12:20)
  • This helps us interpret Naomi’s instruction. She’s not saying, “Dress to seduce the man.” She’s saying, “It’s time to lay aside your garments of mourning and begin anew to live your life.”
  • ESV has “cloak” here, where many translations use “best clothes.” I think the ESV has it right.

Ruth 3:3 – Naomi’s directive: “make yourself known to the man” when “he has finished eating and drinking”

  • Naomi’s plot is designed so that Boaz will know of Ruth’s feelings.
  • She will “make herself known to the man” in dramatic fashion.
  • Not just a physical appearance, but what’s in her heart and mind.
  • After that, it’ll be up to Boaz.

Ruth 3:5 – Ruth’s response: “All that you say I will do”

  • Ruth hears Naomi’s surprising plan and is a willing vessel.
  • She’ll do it.

Providence and Faith:

  • Those opening words from the Heidelberg Catechism remind us that all that is and all that happens is from “all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand” (Q27).
  • But faith in God’s providence doesn’t mean we live passive lives, waiting.
  • Naomi acts.
  • She plans, considers, initiates.
  • And then…she acts with all the risk that entails.

Sending Ruth into such a situation is filled with risk.

  • Ruth could be falsely accused by someone seeing her.
  • Boaz might not be the man they thought and take advantage of her.
  • The couple could marry and not take care of Naomi.
  • When Naomi sends Ruth, she doesn’t know how the story will end.

A deep knowledge of God’s providence doesn’t take away risk.

  • But we need to see risk in light of God’s providence—in light of the fact “all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.”
  • A deep knowledge of God’s providence doesn’t take away the need to act.
  • Life demands that we act, we initiate, we move forward.
  • Trusting in God’s providence means when we do act, we can face whatever happens with patience, thankfulness, and confidence.

II. A Shocking Proposal (3:6–9)

Read Ruth 3:6–9.

A Shocking Proposal: Shocking Marriage Proposal, that is.

This is another passage where the strength and character of Ruth is revealed. Her commitment to Naomi and her God and people (chp 1). Diligence in gleaning (chp 2). Now this.

The moment is the threshing of the grain, where the grain and chaff are separated. Involved hours and hours of tossing the harvest grains up in the air. Letting the wind blow away the chaff. Grain falls to the ground. Done in the evening to take advantage of the evening breezes.

Time of celebration, too, because this was the last stage of the harvest. After this the grain could be sold or eaten.

Ruth carefully makes her plans. Watches things unfold. Lifts the blanket or garment off Boaz’s legs and then waits. It’s cool night. Eventually Boaz will get cold and wake up because of the chill.

There is a lot of discussion about whether this was a romantic action or not. The best reading is that it wasn’t a romantic action.

BUT—it was absolutely something that could be interpreted that way. Ruth was doing things that have a perfectly good explanation as being done by a woman of purity and integrity—but also would be believable as actions done by a sinful woman trying to seduce a man.

So, in some ways this was a test for Boaz. He would make up in the middle of the night after a day of hard work and celebration with a young woman at his feet. Ruth had already been married, so maybe she’s in her 20s.

Ruth 3:9 – Then in v9 is her powerful statement, a mere 10 words in Hebrew.

  • 10 words that would change a lot of lives.
  • “I am Ruth, your servant” (Ruth 3:9)—no longer sip̄ḥāh from 2:13 but now ’āmāh. She still understands her place as a “servant,” but this term is more elevated. The āmāh servant could become a wife, where the sip̄ḥāh servant would not. It’s an indication that Ruth is seeing herself differently than before.
  • “Spread your wings over your servant” (Ruth 3:9)—This is the marriage proposal. “Spread your wings over” is saying, “Become my protector and provider.” It’s using similar words to Boaz himself in 2:12, “The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” (Ruth 2:12). Ruth is asking Boaz to become the answer to his own prayer.

“You are a redeemer” (Ruth 3:9)

  • We encountered this word first in Ruth 2:20 when Naomi called Boaz, “a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.”
  • It’s saying that Boaz is in a special place of obligation that’s called the “kinsman-redeemer” or simply “redeemer.”
  • In the law of Moses (Lev 27; Deut 25) family members could “redeem” family members in different ways.
  • If a person was forced to sell their land, a family member could “redeem” that land” (Lev 25:23–28).
  • If a person became poor and was forced to become an indentured servant, a family member could “redeem” that person (Lev 25:35–55).
  • And here there’s another law in view. In Deuteronomy 25:5–10 is what’s called Levirate marriage. From the Latin word for brother-in-law, Levir.
  • A brother might marry but die without a son. If that happens, his brother is to take his sister-in-law and marry her. The first son born to that woman take the name of the dead brother.
  • If a brother refused to do this, the widow was to come up to him and take his sandal off his foot and then spit in his face.
  • Then his house would become known as “The house of him who had his sandal pulled off” (25:10).

In these 10 words, Ruth has said A LOT.

  • And also demonstrated true courage.
  • Daniel Block:

Here is a servant demanding that the boss marry her, a Moabite making the demand of an Israelite, a woman making the demand of a man, a poor person making the demand of a rich man.
Daniel Block, Judges, Ruth[2]


  • Once again, the point seems to be that trusting in God’s providence does not mean being passive.
  • Ruth takes a massive risk in doing what she does.
  • But this risk brings about a whole chain of events that blesses many.
  • Leads to provision for herself and Naomi.
  • Leads to provision of an heir for Boaz, in the royal line of David.
  • Trusting in God’s providence helps us when we consider the possible outcomes: (1) Patient when it’s bad; (2) thankful when it’s good; and (3) “Good confidence” in all things.
  • Because all things come from his fatherly hand for his good purposes:

God's providence is His constant care for and His absolute rule over all His creation for His own glory and the good of His people.
Jerry Bridges, Trusting God[3]

III. A Firm Resolve (3:10–18)

Read Ruth 3:10–18.

Ruth 3:10 – Ruth’s hesed—“this last kindness greater than the first”

  • It’s in choosing Boaz and not someone younger.
  • Not elderly, since he’s still working a full day in the fields and staying up late with the workers.
  • Her hesed is in making this happen, since it will honor Naomi and Elimelech. No mention of her own husband’s name, though he will be honored here, too.

Ruth 3:11 – Boaz: “I will do for you all that you ask.” Now Boaz is becoming her servant.

Ruth 3:11 – Ruth worthy: “All my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman”

  • “All of the people who gather at the gate.”
  • Remember how Proverbs 31 ends: “Let her works praise her in the gates” (Prov 31:31).
  • “Worthy woman” ties Ruth to Boaz himself. Exact same phrase used of Boaz in 2:1, “a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech.”
  • Also used in Proverbs 31:10, “An excellent wife, who can find?”

Why significant?

  • Interesting to imagine the great King Solomon looking back on his great-great-grandmother Ruth and holding her up as part of what defines “the excellent wife” of Proverbs 31.
  • And when you think on the life of Ruth, it’s easy to find in her the qualities of the Proverbs 31 woman.

Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land…. 

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. (Prov 31:23, 26–31)

  • She was truly a “worthy woman.”

Boaz the Redeemer

  • As soon as Ruth finishes, Boaz springs into action.
  • Ruth speaks 10 words in the Hebrew (3:9). Boaz hears it, and he takes it from there. Lays out the whole plan.
  • It’s the equivalent of Ruth saying, “I’m interested.”
  • And then Boaz, “You’re interested? Yes! Okay, here’s what I’m going to do….”
  • It’s clear he’s already thought through the situation.
  • He knows what needs to be done.
  • Another man is a closer relative and needs to be asked first.
  • Boaz promises he’ll go later that day and ask him.
  • If the man doesn’t, Boaz vows that he’ll marry Ruth.

Then he does something a bit curious.

  • He asks her to hold out her cloak and gives her “six measures of grain” (Ruth 3:15, 17).
  • Hard to say how much grain.
  • Best guess is that it’s in the 18–30 lb range.
  • Easy to imagine them laughing about this later in life.
  • “What were you thinking when you gave me that much grain to carry in my dress?”
  • “I don’t know. I was excited. It seemed like you needed to bring something home with you. I didn’t want you go back to Naomi with nothing.”
  • But to Naomi, this would have been a powerful gesture.
  • It was really Boaz telling Naomi, “Your days of being empty are over. I will take care of you.”

The kindness of Boaz—taking care of his wife’s mother-in-law from her first marriage.

And then Naomi adds the final comment—a comment that indicates she gets men: “The man will not rest but will settle the matter today” (Ruth 3:18).


  • Since we’re talking about marriage, good to see how God’s providence intersects with our marriages.
  • How we meet, our situation when we marry, what life brings after marriage.
  • One of the most significant ways we encounter God’s providence is in the spouse we have.
  • Heidelberg, “be patient” with hard things, “be thankful” for good things, “have good confidence” in all things.


  • A “worthy man” and a “worthy woman.”
  • Worthiness is proven by how they live their lives and care for the people they’re connected to.
  • Both diligent.
  • Both God-fearing.
  • Both self-controlled.
  • A marriage of equals—We don’t get a lot about Ruth, but what we do get tells us she’s not weak. Humble and submitted. But not weak.
  • She’s aware of who she is in the society, but that to her isn’t a reason to say nothing and do nothing and be nothing.


“All things, in fact, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand” (Heidelberg Catechism, Question 27).

The Book of Ruth shows us what it is to live in light of this: “Patient with the hard things, “thankful” for the happy things, “good confidence” in all things.

In Ruth, just like Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, there’s a wedding at the end. A couple gets together.

And with God’s providence, there’s also a wedding at the end. A couple gets together.

The end of God’s providence is also a wedding—Rev 19 and 21:

6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; 8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. (Rev 19:6–8)

But this wedding won’t happen without a great redemption. A greater redemption than Boaz paying a sum of money and buying back land and gaining a wife.

To accomplish the “marriage of the Lamb,” the Lamb “gave himself up”:

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Eph 5:25–27)

To share in this marriage, you don’t clean yourself up to get ready.

  • You come to Christ and admit your unworthiness, uncleanness, impurity.
  • This is no marriage of equals. This is us as the sinful and undeserving.
  • Turning to Christ for forgiveness, for cleansing, for help.
  • And Christ cleanses us—“that she might be holy and without blemish.”

He’s always ready to receive a sinner—no one who turns to him is rejected.


[1] Chapter 34 of the book. Available at

[2] Daniel Block, Judges, Ruth, NAC, 692.

[3] Jerry Bridges, Trusting God (NavPress, 2008), 13.

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