By Jaime Sherman
God consistently puts images in our viewfinder to remind us of His faithfulness, love, and protection. He gives us the rainbow as His promise to never again send a flood to destroy the earth. He gives us beautiful flowers of the field and birds of the air to remind us that there is no need to be anxious, for God will provide for all our needs.
Last week my children and I studied how we see God’s love and protection in the stunning auroras in the far north and far south of our earth as solar flares shooting from the sun’s surface collide with our earth’s protective ionosphere. The “oohs” and “aahs” from these beautiful light shows — even just seen in pictures — should bring us to worship the Lord.
Another visual reminder — and a beautiful word picture — of God’s protection is of a hen, who patiently and repeatedly fluffs up her feathers and rearranges herself over her brood to keep each little chick safe from the elements and from predators. She is like many other birds that instinctively care for their young, providing a shadow of protection over them.
God is often described symbolically by the psalmists as covering us with His wings. In Psalm 91:1-4, we read:
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge,
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
When Boaz and Ruth met in his barley field, he blessed her for how she had chosen to place herself under God’s protection. He said…
“All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to people that you did not know before. The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” (2:11-12)
As a man of God, Boaz may have been familiar with the “Song of Moses” from Deuteronomy 32, which describes God with the symbolic nature of a bird protecting its young.
“He found him (Israel) in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the LORD alone guided him” (verses 10-12).
When Ruth arrived in Moab at the start of the harvest season, she wasn’t content to sit in her sorrow and poverty. Yes, she trusted God, but she was also faithful to work hard. She got up each morning to glean in the fields, and God directed her feet to reach Boaz’s field, where he found her and with compassion poured out generosity.
At the end of the barley and wheat harvests, Ruth was continuing to trust God as she followed Naomi’s instructions to climb into Boaz’s personal space at the threshing floor. When he awakes in the night to find Ruth lying at his feet, he asks her, “Who are you?” And she uses the same word picture of the protective covering of a bird that he had bestowed upon her.
She answers, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer” (3:9).
Ruth was essentially asking, “Boaz, will you be my physical protection? You rightly noted I trust God, and coming to you here at the end of the harvest is part of that trust in action.”
Yes, commentators differ on their interpretation of Ruth’s bold, nighttime request, going so far as to suggest Ruth was seducing Boaz to force a marriage proposal — and thus, not trusting God’s provision. But we look at her character, her previous trust in God, and sense that Boaz saw the same Ruth that we have come to love.
He knew that Ruth insisted on following Naomi to Bethlehem to care for her, and now here she is risking her personal safety and reputation to ask him to cover her with his physical protection. Her request honors this older man, and he protects her purity, her reputation, her future — not touching her in the night and then sending her away discretely while he sets to work to sort out their futures.
We can be a Ruth, placing ourselves under the shadow of our Lord in whom we find protection and provision. And we can be a Ruth at the end of chapter 3, waiting patiently for our Redeemer to act. Boaz was a man of character and would not leave Ruth waiting long, just as God will not allow us to wait indefinitely as we place ourselves under His wings of protection. A hen will in due time release her chicks from her protective covering, but only at the right time. Until then, she will be persistent in her care, just as our Lord will be with us.
Let us pray this week as we wrap up our study of Ruth, “Keep me, Lord, as the apple of Your eye. Hide me in the shadow of Your wings (Psalm 17:8). I want to trust You always. Help me obediently stay under your wing even when the wait seems so long. Amen.”