Folded into the layers of romance between Ruth and Boaz is some extremely practical advice on why anyone should ever say yes to a wedding proposal. Stephen explores seven qualities that should be on every single girl's and guy's wish list. And for the married, these are seven qualities to never stop pursuing!
Seven Reasons to say “I Do”
In an email sent to me recently, a number of interesting facts were highlighted about our rapidly changing world.
In this list of rapidly changing dynamics in our culture today, one fact that stood out to me was that by the end of 2010, 20% of American couples who married met online.
One researcher on this subject recorded that conservative estimates indicate there are currently 50 million people who are using online dating services.
Rick Holland, quoted in Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong (Harvest House, 2009), p. 30
I happen to pastor a number of wonderful couples in our church who met through some kind of online dating service. One of them recently came up to me and laughed about their earlier “compatibility tests” online and said, “Now that we’re married, we’ve realized how entirely different we are from each other.”
Which is a good thing, right? I mean, who really wants to marry someone just like themselves? How weird would that be? Besides, if you marry someone who thinks exactly like you do, one of you is unnecessary!
Frankly, there aren’t any Bible verses on how to your mate or even how to communicate with someone in order to biblically fall in love.
Fortunately, by the time I started dating, the telephone had been invented; you remember – that black glossy plastic thing that used to hang on the wall of your kitchen.
However, there needs to be a warning in all of this newfangled meeting and dating enterprise. The troubling thing to me is that the leading principle – the key word – that has everyone’s attention, promised by online dating services and pursued by millions of people world-wide, is the word, compatibility.
One web-dating service promises to match you with numerous dimensions of compatibility which are, and I quote, “scientifically based predictors of long-term relationship success.”
eHarmony.com quoted by Holland, p. 33
That promise sounds like trouble, to me – scientifically based predictors of long term relationship success.
Reports are now estimating that as many as 90% of online daters are lying about something related to the real them.
One researcher wrote, “For men, the major areas of deception in an online relationship are their income and marital status; for women, the major areas of lying are their physical attributes and their age.”
id, p. 33
So, be careful. An online service that promises to provide you with scientifically based predictors for relationship success may actually be matching you with someone who isn’t exactly the person they are self-describing.
Online dating services are now estimating – and I’m telling you this to further terrify you – that at least 12% of online male suitors are indeed married.
And even more common problem is that singles are developing online relationships with more than one person at a time.
I’ll never forget watching one documentary where both a husband and wife were cheating online with someone they met on an online dating service for local singles. After weeks of online dating, they decided they were perfect for each other and decided to meet at a local restaurant. When they arrived, this husband and wife discovered that they were having dinner with each other!
Evidently, they had been exactly what they were looking for all along.
One of my pastoral associates who works with older singles informed me of several individuals in our fellowship who were stung by this very issue. One woman discovered the man she was falling in love with online was involved with another woman online at the same time. Another couple ended up canceling their wedding plans after dating in real life because they soon discovered that what had matched them online didn’t translate into real life.
My associate has encouraged our singles that online dating sites should only be viewed as providing an introduction. He advises them to spend no less than 6 months of dating that individual in person where they can be observed making decisions, relating to others, choosing friends and, most importantly, relating to the body of Christ.
That’s great advice.
The truth is whether dating online or on a live date, we all know the temptation of wanting to put our best foot forward, right?
Everyone does that . . . hopefully in an honest manner.
On my first date with the girl who would become my wife, I walked to her dormitory to pick her up and take her to a church service – I’ve kept her in church ever since. And did I ever put my best foot forward. I showed up at her dormitory wearing my best suit – it was thick wool, navy blue suit with wide, mafia-style pinstripes – never mind that it was 95 degrees outside, this was my best suit! I also had on my favorite dark blue dress shirt and my solid white necktie made of 100% polyester – think glow-in-the-dark. And to top it off, I was wearing my baby blue saddle oxford shoes.
When she opened the door to greet me, she nearly fainted. I assumed she was quite impressed.
Much later . . . much later, she told me what she really thought about my appearance; she remembered, “I really wanted to be with you, I just didn’t want to be seen with you.”
If probably would have gone better if I’d met her online!
Let’s be honest. We all are fallen creatures. Romance in real life is actually between two sinners.
And don’t get me wrong; similar tastes and desires and interests are wonderful things; but the differences and distinctives and tastes and perspectives in your God created spouse, are intended to compliment and broaden and develop and deepen who you are and how you think and, ultimately, how you live.
Think about that for a moment –we happen to be the bride of Christ. How compatible are we to Him?!
The search for Mr. Right or Miss Right is not a search for someone like you; it needs to be a search for someone who wants to be like Christ.
Consider the fact that a biblical view of marriage is not so much about compatibility as it is about character . . . and complimenting one another. Which means there are differences God actually built in, to iron out; He put you together so you could develop sharpened perspectives and thought processes and balanced, biblical thinking.
Two fallen sinners, seeking God’s grace and His will for their lives end up covenanting to love each other for better or for worse; which happens to be the greatest illustration of the love of Christ for the church on earth (Ephesians 5:32)
So the starting place is conversion – does that person know, love and trust the Jesus Christ in a living, genuine, demonstrable manner?
Ask yourself, is their Christianity a secret? If it is, your relationship will soon sour. In fact, if they don’t honor Christ, you may very well be treated dishonorably one day.
The next major step beyond conversion is character. That will make all the difference in world. Character goes way beyond personal tastes, sports interests and country music.
Character forms the foundation upon which a godly relationship is built.
So . . . how do you detect character?
If Boaz and Ruth each had a checklist for a spouse, what would have been on the list?
And by the way, no one would have ever matched them . . . talk about incompatible!
They were totally different in just about every way:
- different family backgrounds with different family traditions; they were geographically worlds apart;
- one had grown up in idolatry and pagan religion, the other had grown up a follower of God;
- one was rich, the other was poor;
- one was a business owner, the other a migrant worker;
- one was single and the other had been married;
- one had experienced the death of a spouse and the other hadn’t;
- one was a mature believer and the other a new believer;
- one was financially independent; the other lived hand to mouth
The list could go on and on.
But they had this in common – commitment to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and genuine character in following His leadership.
In fact, from their love story, and especially their brief encounter at the threshing floor, we can easily make several observations about genuine character.
These observations ought to be the checklist for every single individual who is praying for a mate. This checklist also serves as a wonderful set of goals for every married person to pursue on a daily basis.
This list is not for someone else to match as much as it is for us to mirror.
The scene at the threshing floor provides seven character qualities in the life of Boaz and Ruth.
The relationship between Boaz and God was no secret; it was daily and alive.
In the days of the judges when everybody did that which is right in their own eyes, Boaz lived with a sense of spiritual awareness.
When we first met him in chapter 2 he asked for God’s blessing on his employees. When he first met Ruth he prayed that God would shelter her under His wings.
And now at the threshing floor, after the love of his life asks him to become her kinsman redeemer – to marry her and buy up her late husband’s estate and pay off all her families debts – the first thing Boaz says in verse 10 of chapter 3 is, “May you be blessed of the Lord, my daughter.”
In other words, “God bless you, Ruth.”
This wasn’t an act . . . a put on. This was reality. Boaz had a vital, active, living, walking, breathing relationship with God. This is foundational.
This is where you begin. Unless the Lord builds the house, you labor in vain to build it. (Psalm 127:1)
Which is why whenever I marry a couple, before the vows are exchanged I ask each of them, “Can you say in the presence of these witnesses that you have accepted Jesus Christ into your life as Lord and Savior?”
For those of you who are single, it really won’t take very long for you to discover whether or not they are sincerely walking with Christ.
And it really doesn’t take very long for you to discover whether or not that other person is sincerely walking with Christ.
Do they talk about Him?
Do they want to please Him?
Do they live for Him?
Do they encourage you to follow Him?
Have you ever seen their Bible?
Have you ever seen them reading their Bible?
Do they love the church?
Are they involved in some sort of service for Christ?
Do they want others to hear the gospel?
Listen, a genuine spiritual desire for God and the things of God is more than attending church with you on Sunday. If that’s about all you ever see from them, I highly recommend that you stop seeing them.
Another character quality I also observe in Boaz is not only spirituality, but humility.
Spirituality and humility don’t necessarily show up in the same body.
When Boaz responded to Ruth’s proposal by saying, You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich (3:10)
He was effectively saying, “I can’t believe you chose me.”
The reference by Boaz to Ruth’s first kindness is probably a reference to Ruth’s care for Naomi.
A. Boyd Luter & Barry C. David, God Behind the Seen (Baker, 1995), p. 62
But he then adds, this act of kindness – wanting to marry him – is more amazing than choosing to care for Naomi.
In other words, Boaz responds with, “Ruth, you are so kind to want to marry me.”
Keep in mind that we are told nothing of Boaz’s age, although his reference to her as his daughter indicates he might be older.
Further, the Bible doesn’t tell us anything about his looks or his physique.
David Nettleton, Provision and Providence (Regular Baptist Press, 1795), p. 26
We don’t know if he was tall dark and handsome or tall, skinny and bald; which is so much better looking!
What we do know is that Boaz was wealthy enough to hire employees and own fertile fields.
So get this picture in your mind; here’s a destitute widow, one step away from being a beggar; from a foreign country, with nothing tangible to offer but debt and potential scorn . . . and Boaz says, “I am so thrilled you want me.”
His humility is staggering.
In his culture he was at the top of the food chain. He had many more reasons to be proud than humble. He had every reason to tell Ruth, “Are you kidding . . . me, marry you?”
But if you’ve been watching closely, just about every time he opens his mouth, the quality of humility comes out.
He doesn’t look down on her at all. In fact, we’ll discover that he’s well aware of her character and commitment to God – and as far as he’s concerned, that erases all those other incompatibilities.
Another character quality you might want to add to your list is the word priority.
In other words, he knows what matters most. And so does Ruth evidently.
Boaz goes on to say, listen, the reason I’m so pleased with your proposal and I want to say yes, is because, all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence (verse 11b).
Would you notice, Boaz doesn’t say:
- because you are a woman of great beauty
- because you are a woman of rare talent and personality
- because you are a woman fashion
- because you are a woman who likes softball and strawberry ice cream just like me
No . . . Boaz actually says for you are a woman of noble character.
This same word is translated virtuous in Proverbs 31. This Hebrew adjective refers to a person of moral strength.
Boaz and Ruth were incompatible in just about every conceivable way except character.
A fourth checkpoint in this godly list is the word, honesty.
There on the threshing floor everything is going so well. Boaz and Ruth are obviously in love with one another. This couldn’t be more perfect.
But then Boaz drops an atomic bomb, shattering the mood and the moment.
He adds in verse 12, Now, it is true I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I.
This is the law of the goel – the kinsman redeemer.
There happens to be deep anguish in this admission. Boaz effectively tells Ruth that he can’t redeem her because another man is a closer relative to her father-in-law than he is.
That other relative has the right to marry Ruth.
I can imagine Ruth beginning to cry. Had Naomi told her? Did Ruth already know and go to threshing floor anyway to inform Boaz that she really wanted him to redeem her instead?
We don’t know.
What we do know is that after Boaz told her that he effectively loved her and would be thrilled to marry her, he told her the truth; even if it ruined the party.
He basically says to her, “Listen Ruth, I would love to redeem you as your closest relative, but I’m not they guy . . . there’s someone older than I am and thus first in line who has the right to redeem you.”
Now in today’s culture, Boaz would have gotten a lawyer to sue the other guy for his rights or hired a hit man to bump the guy off.
He would have found a counselor to tell him to follow his heart and do whatever made him happy.
Boaz might have even found a spiritual leader to tell him the laws of kinsman redeemers were for a different context and culture and besides they were centuries old and no longer relevant.
He could have easily found some friends who would certainly encourage him, “Look Boaz, you’re not getting any younger; you love her and she loves you and these are the days of the judges where everybody does what is right in their own eyes and if it’s right for you, man, then it’s alright . . . get over your Victorian guilt and go for it.”
Any of that sound familiar?
Instead, Boaz simply says, “Ruth, I’ve gotta be honest and tell you there’s somebody closer in line than me.”
Spirituality, humility, priority, honesty . . . and that’s not all.
Now, as I read and reread this text, I found it hard to imagine any man in Boaz’s sandals saying these next few words
Remain this night; and when morning comes, if he will redeem you, good; let him redeem you. But if he does not wish to redeem you, then I will redeem you, as the Lord lives (verse 13).
Did we just read that right?
If he will redeem you, good; let him redeem you.
Are you kidding? Is Boaz some kind of concrete block with no feelings? Is his heart made out of cement?.
“Look Ruth, if that other guy wants to marry you, that’s fine and dandy with me!”
Not on your life . . . we’ve already read his first response.
Boaz just happens to be a man of character – to the point where he submits his emotions to the word of God.
This matter must be settled legally.
M.R. De Haan, Ruth: The Romance of Redemption (Zondervan, 1962), p. 116
Find someone and become someone who is willing to set aside personal feelings in order to do what is right and you’re well on your way to finding and becoming a man or woman worthy of saying I Do!
And if you’re on the hunt, ask yourself this question – does that other person I’m falling in love with submit their emotions and their passion and their feelings to the word of God?
Do they do the right thing, no matter how they feel?
Illustrated so well by that little seven year old girl who obviously had her emotions under control, much like Boaz here; evidently an eight year old boy in her Sunday school class asked her to marry him. She was overheard saying, “I can’t marry you”. He protested, “Why not?” She said, “Well, my daddy married my mommy, my grandpa married my grandma, and all my uncles married my aunts, so we can’t get married, because we’re not related.”
Michael Hodgin, 1001 More Humorous Illustrations (Zondervan, 1998), p. 271
I love that . . . we gotta do what’s right.
And here’s something easy to overlook – Boaz was willing to remain single and lose the love of his life rather than disobey the word of God.
Frankly, he had already thought it through. But instead of coming up with loopholes to the covenant of God, he would begin to strategize on how to approach the other redeemer who was closer in line to Ruth.
Boaz would settle for nothing less than settling the matter according to the laws of God.
Let me put this in practical terms: if that individual you’re interested does not honor the word of God, you have no assurance they will live an honorable life.
There’s another word that surfaces at midnight in Bethlehem; it’s the character quality of purity.
Boaz said, “Lie down until morning.”
And just where did Ruth lie down? The next verse reveals, So she lay at his feet until morning (verse 14).
There’s little doubt that Boaz could have taken advantage of this situation. They are both deeply in love with each other; they are committed to finding a way to get married; Ruth is clearly vulnerable as a widow – she’s expressed her love to him and he to her . . . what more do you need?
But there was no advantage taken that night; no solicitation offered; no dismissal of moral standards.
This midnight dialogue became an amazing demonstration of purity.
What you have here in Bethlehem this night were two sinners, highly committed to God.
Two people quietly pledging their love, choosing to wait in purity to see what God will do.
One final observation of character is often overlooked in our haste to the next scene. It’s a word that needs fleshing out in godly men and women.
In verse 15 Boaz fills Ruth’s bag with barley and tells her to take it home. Verse 17 gives us his specific command retold by Ruth to Naomi, “Do not go home to your mother-in-law empty handed.”
Why bother? At this point, Boaz has every reason to keep his money and his grain.
However, Boaz remains sensitive to the needs of these two widows. Bible scholars estimate that the amount of grain given to Ruth will sustain Ruth and Naomi for at least 2 weeks.
Which lets us know that Boaz is no doubt thinking that within two weeks the matter will be resolved and these women will be cared for permanently as members of his household – at least, that’s what he’s hoping will happen.
May I predict for you that if that person you’re interested in is stingy and selfish, you should not anticipate generosity to follow the wedding ceremony.
Watch how they use their money. Do they hoard what they have? Do they spend money only on themselves? Do they give money to ministry? Do they tip well and care for the financial needs of their parents?
Are they cheap?
Here in Bethlehem is a man showing genuine care and rare generosity. James the Apostle calls it pure religion, caring for widows in their need (James 1:27).
So here’s a checklist from the romance novel of Boaz and Ruth.
And remember, it isn’t so much about compatibility as much as it is about character.
And you should never stop pursuing these attributes of character – no matter how old you happen to be.
Recently I met with a middle aged man who was divorced. He told me his story. He was incredibly successful in business – rising to become one of the chief vice-presidents of his Fortune 500 Company; his wife was a stay-at-home mom who enjoyed the privilege of homeschooling their nine children.
This couple was committed to an expository, Bible teaching church and had known the Lord for many years. When their 25th Anniversary arrived several years ago, they planned a special trip away. At the time, their youngest was 6 and their oldest was 26.
On the morning of their special anniversary trip away, his wife looked at him across the breakfast table in their hotel room and announced, “I’ve given you and this family twenty-five years of my life; the rest of my life is going to be for me.” He said, “What do you mean?” She said, “I’m leaving you as soon as our trip has ended . . . I found another man online . . . and he’s exactly what I’ve needed and what I want.”
Her mind wouldn’t be changed. Her husband tried everything. Her kids pleaded with her. Nothing worked. She left them all, abandoning everything they had done together and everything she supposedly believed in.
The man she’d found was a divorced, wealthy, retired high ranking officer with money and connections. But even he didn’t meet her needs and after a couple of years she left him for another man. And then another. She began drinking heavily to try and settle her conscience. She lived with terrible guilt. Finally, she married yet another man with enough money to provide her with enough to drink . . . which she had begun doing all day long.
Just seven years after leaving her family, she died of cirrhosis of the liver.
What a tragic betrayal . . . what a terrible loss.
Frankly, you have no idea of what a person can become in such a short amount of time. And that goes for you and me.
Yes, these are the attributes to pray for in someone else as well as encourage in the life of your spouse.
At the same time, these observations of genuine character must be pursued by each of us.
At all costs.
Without letting up.
For the rest of your life.
This is the kind of person to find . . . this is the kind of person to become.