Faith that Takes Calculated Risk

Ruth 3 has long been a challenging passage to interpret. It is this chapter that records Naomi’s instructions to her daughter-in-law, Ruth, and the carrying out of those instructions. Recall that Naomi told Ruth to sneak down to the threshing floor where Boaz was threshing barley, to uncover his legs in the night, and to wait to see what would happen.

Some interpreters have presented the actions of Ruth as inherently sexual and seductive in nature. Scholars have debated the meaning of several key words contained in Ruth’s instructions and in the description of Ruth’s carrying out Naomi’s instructions. Three in fact (glh, sakab, and regel) have semantic domains that include euphemistic references to genitalia or sexuality. The careful interpreter must admit that to a small degree the text is ambiguous (though the sexual interpretation is not in line with the narrator’s portrayal of Naomi, Ruth, or Boaz).

The interpretation of these words aside, the possibility exists that Boaz may indeed misinterpret Ruth’s actions. Her actions, though not sexually suggestive, are bold, even daring. By carrying out Naomi’s plan, Ruth is taking a risk. Block summarizes it well: “Remarkably Ruth’s faith appears to be equal to that of her mother-in-law, for she gives herself wholly to carrying out Naomi’s scheme in full. Meanwhile the narrator challenges the reader to trust God the way these women do.”

Somewhere there exists a fine line between faith and foolishness. I suppose we all draw our own line. What is clear to me as I read this passage is that Ruth has drawn the line differently than I. She is willing to step out in true faith. The risks I am willing to take for the Lord are a bit more ‘calculated.’

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