It was just Naomi and Ruth, a couple of widows with no permanent home and no one to provide for them. But through the kindness of Boaz, Naomi saw the hand of God extending grace to her pieced-together little family. She devised a plan to respond to God’s grace and to seize a God-given opportunity. Her plan was based entirely on the kindness and integrity of Boaz, but it would require an unusual act of faith from Ruth.
Naomi instructed Ruth to take advantage of a common custom in ancient Israel that sounds awkward and inappropriate to our ears. Ruth was instructed to find Boaz at the threshing floor, a community wheat processing station located outside Bethlehem where farmers would separate the wheat kernels from the stalks and husks. Because it was a round-the-clock operation, Boaz and others would spend the night on the threshing floor in the open air, using their cloaks as bedrolls.
Ruth was to wait until Boaz was asleep, uncover his feet, and lay down. She followed the instructions, just lying there until Boaz awoke around midnight (probably because his feet were cold!). He was startled to find Ruth at his feet, but I do not think he was altogether surprised. We may be tempted to read into Ruth’s actions some sexual innuendo, but if we do we miss the beauty of the quiet ceremony of family redemption that unfolds.
Ruth’s request in verse 9 was nothing short of a marriage proposal! By extending the corner of his cloak to cover the woman at his feet, Boaz would signal that he was accepting responsibility for her and “covering” her with his protection and his good name. Boaz accepted the proposal (contingent on a closer relative passing on the opportunity). Ruth must have slept well that night, knowing that she was at the feet of a man who thought she was worth saving, worth taking in, worth the effort. She rose early, taking with her a generous portion of grain — a gift from Boaz. Imagine the spring in her step as she went to tell Naomi about her night!
In the first chapter, Naomi had said, “I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty” (1:21). But now Ruth could say, “I left Moab empty, and the Lord has made my life full!” Again, there is a parallel here to every sinner who has come to Jesus for salvation. When we respond to His grace, coming to Him humbly, He covers us with the blanket of His grace. He takes us into His family. He is generous and merciful and amazingly kind. Jesus: what an awesome Redeemer!