Naomi’s instructions to Ruth are as dark and mysterious as the night she sends her out into. “What?” is the proper Biblical response to this plan. Previously, Naomi showed concern for Ruth’s safety during the day, and now she sends her out into the darkness. Bathed. Anointed. To lie at the feet of a man enjoying the fruits of his labor, with a heart merry with food and drink. Do you remember the backstory of the Moabites (Genesis 19:30–37)?
While our hearts should sink with disappointment and be charged with anxiety as we read this narrative, and while sin should always be recognized as nonsensical, we shouldn’t be shocked. Don’t be so naive as to think that some sins only became common following the sexual revolution of the ’60s.
Beware of the person who wants to go back to some golden age. They’re dangerous. There are two reasons we shouldn’t long for some idealist lost nostalgia. First, no such golden era ever existed. Second, the saints are a people of the future, of the age to come, and of hope. There has never been a pure age. In colonial New England, bundling was a common practice wherein the suitor of a young lady was bundled up in a bag with his head sticking out to sleep next to his potential spouse in the home of her parents. Weddings sometimes necessarily followed. Jonathan Edwards condemned and preached against the practice.
We shake our heads at Naomi, but we readily send our daughters out into the night, dressed alluringly, with young men of far lesser character. We send them out, not to find a single suitor, but simply to have fun with a serial number of non-committals. “Modern American dating,” writes Voddie Baucham, “is no more than glorified divorce practice. Young people are learning how to give themselves away in exclusive, romantic, highly committed (at times sexual) relationships, only to break up and do it all over again.” We treat our daughters like prostitutes and authorize our sons to pursue the woman folly. We are not teaching our sons and daughters to tell the story of Christ and His bride. We’re letting them role play Satan’s whoredom.
Targetless dating is as dangerous as targetless shooting. If two young people want to spend great amounts of time together, alone, at night, and their aim isn’t covenant, what is it? Lust! Jesus makes it clear what it is when a man looks on a woman with desire outside of covenant. Yes, Naomi’s plan is dumb, but give her this, it isn’t 20th century dumb, and it certainly isn’t 21st century dumb.