Scripture frequently tells us to wait for the Lord to act (Ps. 27:14; Isa. 8:17; Lam. 3:25–26). But such exhortations are not calls to passivity. Trusting God is not incompatible with our actions, though we never rely on our own wisdom or skill. When we see a possible answer to our prayers, we should pursue it if that possibility is righteous. That is one lesson we learn from today’s passage.
As we have seen, Naomi, a Judahite widow, had no male heirs. Thus, her family and the name of her dead husband Elimelech were at risk of dying off, with his land passing to another family. Yet, hope was not lost. Naomi’s Moabitess daughter-in-law Ruth met Boaz, a Judahite man who could redeem Elimelech’s line and preserve Naomi’s family according to the levirate marriage laws (Deut. 25:5–10). So, Naomi told Ruth to ask Boaz to redeem them (Ruth 1:1–3:5).
Ruth 3:6–18 tells us that this request took place at the threshing floor. After the harvest, the workers would take the grain to the threshing floor and throw it into the air, allowing the wind to blow away the chaff and the heavy kernels of grain to fall to the ground. After a day of threshing, there was frequently a time of feasting and drinking, and we see that Boaz had a “merry” heart and lay down to sleep near the grain (v. 7). This does not mean that he was drunk but only that he was satisfied with the work and that the wine had relaxed him.
Having prepared herself for the encounter, Ruth went to the threshing floor and uncovered Boaz’s feet (vv. 1–7). Commentators differ as to whether the author of Ruth uses a euphemism here to say that Ruth made a sexual proposition to Boaz. That is a possibility, and if it is what happened, we must note that the author is not condoning that act in itself but is just reporting the events. What is clear is that Ruth was proposing marriage, as that was the only way Naomi’s family could be redeemed (vv. 8–9). Her heart was right, though perhaps the specific action was not, and while having a good intention cannot excuse a sinful act, it does affect how we treat people when they sin.
Boaz praised Ruth for proposing marriage, as it was a sign of her covenant devotion to Naomi (vv. 10–13). But note that Ruth asked Boaz to spread his “wings”—his garment—over her to signify his willingness to marry her (v. 9). Earlier Boaz had prayed that the God under whose “wings” Ruth had come would bless her (2:12). Ruth essentially repeated Boaz’s blessing, inviting him to marry her and be the answer to his own prayer.