Orpah sought rest in Moab, but she sought it there in vain. Rest is centered in a person not a place, and Orpah never found that person. Ruth did. She met Boaz, and her life was never the same again. It was Naomi, the restored backslider, who taught Ruth how to find her rest in Boaz.
First, there had to be cleansing. "Wash thyself," she said. Obviously Ruth could not go to Boaz bathed in perspiration from a hard day's gleaning in the field. Gleaning was hot, hard work. It involved a great deal of physical activity—bending and stretching, cutting and gathering—all through the burden and heat of the day. She needed to be cleansed from all that.
"Wash thyself." When God sought to convey to the Hebrew people the fact of sin's defilement, He did so by means of the tabernacle. At one end He sat in the Holy of Holies, enthroned in unimpeachable righteousness and holiness. At the other end stood the guilty sinner. Between them stood the brazen altar and the brazen laver, blood and water.
A sinner could approach God only by way of the altar and the laver. He would arrive first at the brazen altar to present his sin offering or his trespass offering. Blood was shed. This recognized the fact that there had to be a radical cleansing from sin. Next (if he was a priest), he came to the brazen laver, which was made from the mirrors of the women. He saw at once that he had been defiled in his walk, even going that short way. He needed a renewed cleansing from sin. He needed what Paul would later call, "the washing of water by the word" (Eph. 5:26). "Wash yourself," said Naomi to Ruth. And so she did. Next, came consecration. "Anoint thee," Naomi said. Anointing, in both the Old and New Testaments, points us to the person and work of the Holy Spirit. There must be no odor of the flesh about us when we come to our heavenly Boaz seeking rest. There must be a fragrance of God about us. Mary of Bethany could tell us about that. She brought her costly perfume and used that precious ointment to anoint the Lord Jesus. Instantly the whole house was filled with fragrance (John 12:1–3). Likewise, Ruth was taught to come to Boaz bearing the fragrance of one anointed. It advertised her presence in a bold but silent, unmistakable, and pleasing way.
Finally, there was character: "Put thy raiment upon thee," said Naomi. This raiment evidently was not what she wore to work, stained with sweat, drenched with perspiration. No, indeed! This raiment was fresh and fit for the master's house. In the symbolism of the Bible, raiment speaks of character. We are to "put off" the old man and his deeds and "put on" the new man. Ruth's true character was already known to Boaz. He had already acknowledged her to be a virtuous woman.
Thus prepared, Ruth came to Boaz, and he responded at once. Before long, he took her to himself and made her his very own. All of this points us to Christ. When we are united to Him, we can sing in the words of the gospel hymn:
I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary and worn and sad;
I found in Him a resting place,
And He has made me glad.