What person in the Bible do you most identity with? I hear busy moms often say Martha. The bold, but sometimes wavering people say Peter. The doubters say Thomas. Those that have endured great trials, say Job. I would have to say; I feel a special connection to is Ruth. Like me, Ruth was a gentile. She was a simple girl from Moab that married into a Jewish family. Now, I did not marry a Jewish man but the spiritual covenant is so cool! I will explain as we go…
Ruth’s first husband, Mahlon, his brother, Killon, and his father, Elimelek, all died during the famine that hit at that time. So Ruth, her mother-in-law, Naomi, and her sister-in-law, Orpah, were all left widowed and destitute. Naomi, who was originally from Bethlehem, had journeyed with her husband and boys to Moab- which is where her boys found their wives. But after the deaths of the three men and the scarce work because of the famine, the women were forced to find work elsewhere. They decided to return to Bethlehem, their original home. Ruth began gleaning the fields that belonged to a man named Boaz.
It was a Jewish law that if a woman lost her husband, the next of kin to the husband was to marry the woman- to ‘redeem’ and preserve the family name. He was also obligated to take on all the financial duties and pay off any debts that may have been left with her. This role is called the kinsman redeemer. In Ruth’s case, the next of kin to her husband declined the offer, so the next in line was Boaz, and he graciously accepted the responsibility (Ruth 4:1-9).
Fortunately for Ruth, Boaz was a generous, kind and wealthy man- and a man that quickly became smitten with her. It was love at first sight. Their courtship is a beautiful story of love, commitment and grace. Boaz married Ruth and gave her a new identity, a new purpose and a new life!
The story of Ruth also describes a unique friendship that grows between Naomi and Ruth. A popular verse we often hear recited is Ruth 1:16, where Ruth is declaring her loyalty and commitment to Naomi. She chooses to stay with her- leaving her old identity and life as a Moabitess and following Naomi to Israel.
‘But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”
And then in chapter 4, there are two very prophetic blessings and promises that are spoken – first by the elders at the city gates (:11-12) and then by the women in the new city (:14-15).:
‘Then the elders and all the people at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.”
‘The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”
So this amazing story is now taking place in Bethlehem. How awesome, that Boaz, the Kinsman Redeemer of Ruth, was from the same town our Messiah and Spiritual Kinsman Redeemer, Jesus Christ was born! Boaz is a beautiful picture of Jesus- one whose name means, “Strength is with him,” who is full of love, forgiveness and grace. (He ‘forgave’ Ruth of all her debts, remember!)
This story keeps getting better and better…. Ruth and Boaz of course got married, gave birth to a son named Obed, who then had a son, Jesse, who then had a son, David. David becomes king! So Ruth is the great-grandmother of King David! Isn’t it amazing how the Father wove a woman from Moab into the royal lineage of Israel? And it didn’t stop there. The royal and priestly lineage of King David continued all the way to Jesus Christ- the King of Kings, Lord of Lords and Prince of Peace!
Ruth is a picture of all gentile believers in Jesus who are spiritually brought into the lineage of our Savior!
Well, we can’t forget Naomi in this story. She is a picture of Israel- a natural descendant of Israel. Ruth’s commitment was first to Naomi. As gentile believers, we must also remember our relationship with Israel. And it is because of this lineage that we are given the opportunity to have a covenant relationship with the King of Kings.
Gentile believers don’t become Israel, but Jews and Gentiles are reconciled and become ‘one man’ through Christ. Let’s examine this passage in Ephesians chapter 2 for a better understanding:
‘Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.’
This in part, is happening right now, and has been happening for over 2,000 years! Both Jews and Gentiles are being redeemed by the same Lord, Jesus Christ (or Yeshua HaMashiach, in Hebrew)! This promise will eventually come to complete fruition in God’s perfect time!
How eternally grateful I am, to be given the invitation to enter into the Lord’s family- just like Ruth. To be sought out, loved and cared for. To be redeemed and forgiven of all sin. And to be given a new name, a new life and a new destiny! To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen!
*** Here’s a cool side note…. The name, Bethlehem, is ‘bet lekhem’ in Hebrew-, which means, ‘house of bread.’ When you read the full story in Ruth, you will see that the story takes place in a field that belonged to Boaz. And Boaz is the prophetic picture of the coming Messiah, who declared hundreds of years later, “I am the Bread of Life.”
Just as Ruth gleaned the field belonging to Boaz, may we all experience the blessing of gleaning the treasures we find in our Savior’s field! Reap and be satisfied!