Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Dannah Gresh: The Bible calls a husband to protect his wife. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says when he doesn’t fulfill that role, a wife can still experience protection.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Regardless of how well your husband does or does not fulfill that responsibility, you can know that you have refuge under the wings of God—that He is your Kinsman-Redeemer.

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, for Monday, February 1, 2020. I'm Dannah Gresh.

Imagine getting dressed up, approaching a man while he’s sleeping, and then lying down at his feet. Sounds pretty strange to our ears, but it was the appropriate action for a godly woman of the Bible. Nancy will explain in a series called "Ruth: The Transforming Power of Redeeming Love."

Nancy: We finally come today to chapter three of the book of Ruth. A word that I would perhaps use as a title for this chapter is the word “Request.”

We come to the place where Ruth makes a request of Boaz, who is her near kinsman, the one qualified to serve as her redeemer—her goel, if you remember that Hebrew word. She makes the request for him to fulfill that function and to continue the family line.

As we walk through this chapter, you’ll see that in the approaching marriage of Ruth and Boaz, there’s a beautiful, powerful picture of our relationship with the Lord Jesus, who is our Kinsman-Redeemer, our Savior, our goel, our protector. Then we’re going to see how we as women fulfill the role and responsibilities God has for us as it relates to other men and to human authorities. So we’re going to approach this passage from a number of those different directions.

Let’s begin in verse 1, chapter 3: “One day Naomi her [Ruth’s] mother-in-law said to her, ‘My daughter, should I not try to find a home for you, where you will be well provided for?’”

The phrase that’s translated “find a home” really should be translated “find rest.” “Should I not try to find rest for you?” If you’ve been with us through this study, you remember that rest is one of the key words in the book of Ruth. Naomi has been looking for rest all along. She’s a restless woman, because our hearts really are restless, as one great Christian said, until they find their rest in Him.1

When I read that verse, I’m reminded of the gospel of Matthew 11:28, where Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Ruth had to learn, Naomi had to learn, and we have to learn that, ultimately, rest for our hearts cannot be found in any husband, in any man, in any friend, in any counselor, in any situation, in any job, in any geographic location. Ultimately, rest for our souls is found in our relationship with Jesus Christ, and we’re going to see a beautiful picture of that here in the last portion of the book of Ruth.

As we enter into verse 2, we’re going to see a scene that will sound a little strange to our modern ears, because it’s going to draw upon some ancient Jewish culture that is Jewish, and that is ancient culture that most of us are not familiar with. If the things that took place in this chapter happened today, they might not be appropriate. They would be out of the realm of what would be right. But in this context they’re going to be absolutely appropriate.

Naomi is planning for Ruth to ask Boaz to act for her and for them as a goel, as a kinsman-redeemer—to take over their family situation and their family loss as his own. In doing this, Naomi is not just being a scheming, conniving, manipulating woman. She’s fulfilling what was understood to be, in that culture, the responsibility of the parents to make arrangements for the marriage of their children.

So she is acting, I believe, appropriately when she says to Ruth in verses 2–3, “Is not Boaz, with whose servant girls you have been, a kinsman of ours? Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. Wash and perfume yourself, and put on your best clothes.”

She’s telling Ruth that she is to prepare herself as a bride prepares for marriage, believing that God has brought into their path a man who can act as a redeemer for their lost family situation.

Naomi has the faith to believe that God is going to bring this man to be a husband; again, not in any highly romanticized sense here, I don’t think, but in a sense of fulfilling God’s plan and God’s purposes for this family.

So Ruth takes this step of obedience, this step of faith—surely it was that—and as she has done at every point to this point, she just does what is required of her. She does the next thing. She’s faithful to the direction she’s given without seeing or comprehending what will be the outcome.

We pick up in verse 3: "Naomi said, 'Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he is finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.' 'I will do whatever you say,' Ruth answered. So she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do."

When you are a woman who trusts in God, as we have seen that Ruth did—she had found refuge under the wings of God—then you can trust God to work through human authorities and through counsel that He brings into your life. You don’t have to figure everything out, but you can have a trust and a confidence that God is leading and moving through your circumstances.

Verse 7: “When Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile. Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down.”

When she lies down at his feet, this is a picture of humility. She’s coming not as anyone who has rights, not as anyone who’s in control of this program, but as a woman who says, “I’m a poor, needy widow, and God has raised you up to be our near kinsman.”

She’s coming to let him know he’s in a position to meet her at her point of need, but she comes as one to plead, one to appeal, not one to give instruction or direction.

Dannah: Nancy will be back to continue in the story of Ruth. So far, we’ve seen constant examples of Ruth’s humble attitude. Let’s take a moment and look deeper into this characteristic. Here’s Erin Davis and Portia Collins discussing that in the Ruth Women of the Bible podcast.

Erin Davis: We see humility where Naomi gives Ruth this very elaborate, weird plan to go to Boaz on the threshing floor. And then, in her approach to Boaz . . . Portia, how do you see humility in her approach?

Portia Collins: There is such gentleness. When I read the text, I often pay attention to the adjectives, and so where it says, “. . . then she came softly and uncovered his feet.”

Erin: “Softly . . .”

Portia: Yes. God is intentional about His Word and so there is just such a meekness and a gentleness that kind of leaps off the page at me.

Erin: Yes, she doesn’t demand, which in some ways she could have. Boaz was in line as a kinsman-redeemer. But she goes in and it’s a soft approach. Some translations of these verses use the word “handmaid” to describe her. I once heard a momma pray—she had a lot of daughters, I can’t remember how many—she committed to pray that all of her daughters would be handmaids in the kingdom of God. That so impacted me!

I only have sons, but I want them to be servants and I want the women they marry to be handmaids. But this is the picture we get of Ruth, this willingness to serve, to do for others. And she did not demand that he fulfill his obligations, which is an extreme posture of humility and a beautiful picture of how we come to Christ—without much to offer.

Dannah: Do you see this quality of Ruth in your own life, in your actions? We just heard a sneak preview of an upcoming episode from the Ruth Women of the Bible podcast. Stay tuned for the full episode coming soon on ReviveOurHearts.com and the Revive Our Hearts app. Let’s pick up where Nancy left off with Ruth and Boaz.

This is not a case of a woman initiating a courtship, initiating marriage. This is a case of a woman responding to the initiative that God has taken to make provision for her needs as a widow in that particular culture.

Verse 8: “In the middle of the night something startled the man, and he turned and discovered a woman lying at his feet. ‘Who are you?’ he asked ‘I am your servant Ruth,’ she said.” (Again you see the humble heart.) “‘Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are [a goel] a kinsman-redeemer.’”

He was a relative of the deceased father-in-law and husband, and Ruth is saying that she’s requesting marriage—not for herself primarily or initially, not for her own benefit or blessing. I don’t believe Ruth is looking here for a husband for herself as much as she is for an heir for her husband and the restoration of the family lands that had been lost.

There’s nothing improper here. She is simply invoking the law of the goel, which was God’s provision for needy Israelites, and she’s asking that Boaz would fulfill this on her behalf. She’s really just fulfilling her duty, which is to help keep the family line intact.

It’s possible, as Boaz suggests later, that there were other younger men whom she might have been attracted to and gone after, but she says, “No, I’m going to follow the situation that will help redeem my family’s situation. That’s the choice I’m going to make.”

Now, she might have felt that she was really disqualified, as a poor widow, to go and approach this wealthy landowner with her request; but it’s actually her need that qualified her to have a kinsman-redeemer.

And it’s our need that qualifies us to go to Jesus and say, “Will You redeem my life? Will You redeem me from destruction? Will You redeem my situation?” Satan tempts us to think that if we have failed and blown it, as we all have, and have blown it, that we’re not worthy to approach Him.

And we’re not worthy to approach the Lord to be our Redeemer—but that’s the point. It’s our unworthiness that makes us a candidate for His grace and for His provision as our Redeemer.

So we go back to verse 9, and we hear her request. She says to Boaz, “‘I am your servant Ruth. Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.’”

What Ruth is asking Boaz to do for her is a picture of what God does for us when He redeems us. She’s saying, “I want to come under your covering, under your protection, and to let you take on our whole family mess, our whole situation as your responsibility,” for it was the responsibility of a kinsman-redeemer to do that.

When we come as needy sinners to God, when we come to through Christ as needy sinners, we’re really saying to God Him, “I’m coming under Your covering. I’m letting You spread Your wings, Your garment, Your mantle over me and take my whole messed up, sinful, broken, depraved life as Your own.”

We’re coming to Him, approaching Him, asking Him because He has told us we should ask Him to take on our poverty and our losses and our need as His responsibility. But then we’ve got to be willing to let Him be responsible, and not try to continue to manage it on our own.

When Ruth asked Boaz to spread his garment over her, I’m reminded of the passage in Ezekiel 16:8, where we have a parable of God taking Israel as His bride. God says, “I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine.”

That’s what salvation is all about, and that’s what living as a saved person is all about. It’s coming under God’s covering, under His protection, under the covering of the wings of God and the blood of Jesus Christ and His name. It’s saying, “I’m no longer my own. I'm handing myself, my life, my whole situation over to You. You’ve expressed Your desire to have a covenant with me, to take me on as Your responsibility, and I’m going to let You do that.”

There’s a wonderful old hymn, written in the 1700s by Charles Wesley, and part of that hymn reads this way:

Other refuge have I none,
   hangs my helpless soul on Thee. . . .
All my trust on Thee is stayed,
   all my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head
   with the shadow of Thy wing. . . .
Plenteous grace with Thee is found,
   grace to cover all my sin. 

So Ruth has been in the field of grace. She comes to Boaz now, who is going to act as her kinsman-redeemer, and she pictures for us what happens when we come to the Lord Jesus and pray to Him, as I have many times over the years, having come to Him initially in salvation but now realizing my need daily for His covering and His protection.

I say, “Lord, cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Your wing. Spread Your garment over me. Take me this day, this moment, as Your own. I come under Your covenant, I come under Your protection, and there I know that I am safe.”

I believe in this story, by way of application, there is something else the Lord wants us to see, and that is that we have, in this story, a powerful principle and insight into the marriage relationship—human marriage between a husband and a wife.

It’s kind of hard to separate that from the story of redemption because, as we learn in the New Testament, marriage on earth between a husband and a wife is intended to be an earthly picture of a heavenly, unseen, invisible reality of our relationship with Christ as our husband.

You can’t always tell in the Scripture which exactly it’s talking about. Sometimes the two blend together. I think of Ephesians 5, where Paul is talking about marriage, and then he’s talking about the Church. He’s saying they’re really one and the same, in a sense. There are some things that apply to both.

Ruth says to Boaz, “Spread your garment over me, cover me, because you are my kinsman-redeemer.” In saying that, she is giving a powerful, visual image of what marriage was intended to be: a picture of the husband as the protector, as the savior (lower case “s”)—not in the sense of salvation from sin, but a husband who is given the responsibility to wash and cleanse his wife by meeting her needs and by protecting her, and who is given responsibility over his wife and his family line.

But in order for the husband to fulfill his responsibility, the wife has to be willing to let him fulfill his responsibility. The wife has to be willing to say, “I’m coming under your covering. I’m coming under your protection.”

Hasn’t Satan done a number today on both husbands and wives along this line? We see husbands who won’t provide covering, who are not meeting the physical, material, emotional, and spiritual needs of their families. And we see wives who are not willing to let their husbands be a provider, a protector, and a covering for them.

Now, it doesn’t do any good to cast stones. It doesn’t do any good to say, “Well, if the men would be better leaders, we would be better responders.” The pattern of Scripture is that every one of us before God has to take personal responsibility for our own life, for our own calling, for our own responsibilities.

Some of you, as I look around the room, are married currently. Some of you have never been married, and some of you have been previously married. So what I’m going to say applies a little differently depending on your life situation.

I think it’s important for some of you younger women who have never been married to understand that when you do get married, what you’re doing is coming under the covering and protection of your husband. You’re coming under the covering of his authority, of his provision, of his leadership—and that is a blessing.

Ruth is not gritting her teeth here and saying, “I don’t think I can bear this.” She’s desperate; she’s needy; she knows that is God’s provision, and she is taking advantage of what God has offered. It’s an offer of grace.

Let me say to some of you younger women who have never heard this kind of truth that the authority of a husband in the context of marriage is not a curse. It’s a blessing. It’s a benefit. It’s a provision of God’s grace to meet your needs as a wife.

Now, we need to focus not so much on the husbands and their responsibility, but on the wives and what is the their responsibility as the wife. The responsibility is simply to put herself in a position where her husband can cover her.

I read an article not too long ago by a well-known columnist who was talking about this whole matter of manliness and what it means to be masculine; and then by implication, what it means to be feminine.

The writer of this column is a product of the feminist revolution and this is not a believer, as far as I know. She said, “You know, I’m part of the reason that men today don’t act like men.” (I’m paraphrasing.)

She said, “I was one of the women who, a generation ago, as a young woman, when I would walk into a room and a man would stand up and offer me his seat or want to open the door, I would in effect slam the door in his face and prove my independence by saying, ‘I can handle this. I don’t need your seat. I don’t need you to open the door.’”

We’ve heard about this kind of response, and she’s saying, “I’m one of the reasons that men today are so reluctant and scared to be men.”

What she was saying in effect, though—I don’t know if she knows this biblical principle—is, “I was not willing as a woman to put myself in a position of being protected. I was not willing to put myself in a position of being covered.”

Now, there are some ways that as women, whether married or single, we can allow men to be men, as we talked about in an earlier session; but nowhere is this more important than in the relationship of marriage.

When we come to the New Testament, in 1 Corinthians 11 the apostle Paul talks about this matter of head coverings for women and how women in the public worship were to have a sign of being under authority—that they were in order, that they were in place.

Theologians have debated, and we won’t enter into that in this session, about whether that means women should wear a literal head covering. But one thing we do know is that we need the spiritual covering and protection that God provides for us by means of authority.

Authority is not a dirty word. Submission is not a dirty word. Authority is a word of blessing. Jesus said in Matthew 28:18, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given unto me in heaven and on earth.” The picture there is, “Because I have authority, I’m going to take care of you. I’m going to meet your needs.”

Now, I realize that there is no human husband who is just like Jesus, and there are many human husbands—perhaps you were married to one or are married to one—who don’t fulfill the role God has given them to fulfill as husbands. There are some men who do not provide, do not lead, do not provide covering and protection.

Let me say this: If you put yourself in a position where you welcome the leadership, where you welcome the authority, where you say, “I’m willing to come under your provision, under your protection, under your leadership,” then if your husband doesn’t provide that for you, you can be assured that God will provide that for you.

We have widows in this room; we have single women. Who is to provide for those women? God does. He provides a covering, a shelter. The Scripture says God is a husband to the widow. So no matter what your situation in life is, if you’ll let yourself be covered, you are covered. You can be provided for.

Now, where it gets difficult is in a marriage where there is still a husband alive, but he’s not fulfilling that responsibility. Women, it is so important that you not focus your attention on how your husband needs to repent. He may have great need of repentance, as we all do. But we’re much more conscious, typically, of the failures of others than we are of our own responsibility.

God’s calling to us is to say, “What is my responsibility?” Have you created in your marriage a climate and an environment where your husband feels the freedom and the motivation and the desire—because of your heart—to provide that leadership and that covering for you?

If you’ve never come to him in this position of needing his covering and his protection, and expressing that to him, you may not know whether he would do it or not.

If you’ve just tended to take the reins on your own, to run things on your own, to be your own independent thinker in that marriage, you may think that your husband would never provide that for you. But you don’t know until you put him in a position where you give God a chance to work in his heart and to provide that covering and that protection for you, regardless of whether he does or doesn’t.

The best of husbands will do it inadequately, just as the best of wives will be inadequate and will not always be all God wants a woman to be. But regardless of how well your husband does or does not fulfill that responsibility, you can know that you have refuge under the wings of God, that He is your goel. He is your Kinsman-Redeemer.

I have found myself many times over the years going to the Lord and saying, “Lord, I’m your servant. I’m here again. Would You spread the corner of your garment over me? Would You cover me? Would You cover my situation? I don’t want to run this life independently of You. I need You. I need Your authority. I submit to it. I need Your protection. I receive it. I receive Your provision of grace for my life; and all of this I can come and boldly ask, because You are my Kinsman-Redeemer.”

Dannah: That’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth talking about our need for God and His grace. Hey Nancy. Thanks for that thought-provoking look at a scene in the Old Testament that, if I'm honest, has always left me with questions! It can be kind of confusing!

Nancy: Yes, if you are reading this passage with twenty-first century eyes for the first time, you would probably raise your eyebrows and say, "What in the world is that all about?" It takes some unpacking to see the beauty of submission and humility. Dannah, since we are talking today about the beauty of submission and humility, I just want to say one more thing: anytime I mention submission in the context of marriage—a wife submitting to her own husband—I want to be sure to emphasize this: If your husband is misusing that God-given authority or abusing you, you are not called to submit to his sinful treatment of you. There are constructive, appropriate, and godly ways to get yourself to a safe place. You probably will need the help of another mature believer—maybe a leader in your church, maybe an older woman who walks with God. Someone who  can help you rightly deal with any harsh or unhealthy treatment in your marriage.

Let me say it clearly: Submission in marriage does not mean saying, "Go ahead and hit me, I'll just submit to it." No! That is not God's plan. As we saw today, that wasn’t the situation at all with Boaz and Ruth.

Dannah, as I hear that, I know that some women are thinking, If I were married to a Boaz, or someone like the men Dannah and Nancy are married to, my life would be full of love and loyalty, godliness and joy. But it's just not that way for me.

Let me just remind us that the book of Ruth doesn't point us to the perfect marriage; it points us to a perfect Savior—to Christ who is our heavenly Boaz as we live in this broken, fallen world. We can know that we are loved perfectly, beautifully, and well by Him, no matter what else may be going on in our lives.

There’s a lot to learn from the life of Ruth and maybe you’re thinking to yourself, I want to dig in a little deeper. We want to tell you about two resources to help you do that. Dannah, your ministry, True Girl, which is a sister ministry to Revive Our Hearts, has just released a study on Ruth, and it’s available as of today!

Dannah: Yes, I have a deep burden to call young girls to build the habit of studying God’s Word when they are young. This new Bible study tool is called Ruth: Becoming a Girl of Loyalty. It walks eight to twelve year-old girls through the book of Ruth, verse-by-verse.

Nancy: I love that! It's in this age range (eight to twelve) that I really first started studying the Scripture seriously verse-by-verse and grew to love God's Word. What an incredible foundation that has built for my life. Think of all the young girls who are going to do this study. Who knows, a generation from now, what they will be doing as mothers who get their daughters into the Word of God.

I know for many young girls, this age may be the first time they do an in-depth study like this.

Dannah: It is. We take that into account when we create the resource. It's a deep dive, but we use graphics, puzzles, and other elements to guide them through it in a way that is easy to digest. 

Nancy: So if you’re a mom with a daughter, or a grandmom, or you have some young girls in your life, this would be a great tool to help you guide these young women as you dig into the Bible together. You’ll look at Ruth’s example and help that young girl  discover what it means to loyal to God and how to respond to life in difficult times. This study is available today. And, Dannah, you're planning to guide moms and daughters through this study personally. 

Dannah: Yes! Moms and grandmas and their girls can join me for an online study coming up in a few weeks. I’m excited to see what the Lord will do in our time in the book of Ruth. You can get your copy and sign up for the study at MyTrueGirl.com.

The other resource we want to share with you is the Women of the Bible study called Ruth: Experiencing a Life Restored. This is a six-week study from Revive Our Hearts.

Nancy: As you walk through the book of Ruth, you’ll see how every story is really God’s story, even your own. Get your copy of Ruth: Experiencing a Life Restored when you give a gift of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. We appreciate your support of this ministry, and it’s our way to say “thank you.”

Dannah: Visit ReviveOurHearts.com to give, or call us at 1–800–569–5959.

Well, where do you get your courage? Scripture suggests those who respond most bravely to life are often the most needy. Hear why on tomorrow’s Revive Our Hearts. Now, Nancy’s back to pray with us.

Nancy: Thank You, Lord, for giving us pictures in Your Word pictures to help us understand Your heart and Your ways. In this passage we see a mighty picture of the plan of redemption, and we see a mighty picture of Your plan for marriage.

Help us in whatever season of life to embrace our calling as women and to see in authority—Your authority or that of a husband or that of a parent— to see in that authority a gift of grace, a provision that You have made for our protection.

May we take our place and trust not ultimately in the human authority, but trust in You. You are always fulfilling Your purposes. You are our Kinsman-Redeemer, and we bless You for that. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you life under the Lord's protection. This program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the New International Version.

1Augustine, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in You.”

2Charles Wesley, “Jesus, Lover of My Soul,” 1740.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.