"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path". Ps 119:105
WOMEN OF FAITH: Ruth the Moabitess
If you have ever tried to trace your ancestry, you will appreciate how difficult it is to go back in the records. Few can find records that go back more than 200 years, yet the Bible provides the ancestry of Jesus Christ back to about 4000 B.C. This must be unique in human history.
The chart shows the record from Adam (4000 B.C.) to Noah (3000 B.C.) to David (1000 B.C.) to Jesus, as given in the accounts in Genesis chapter 5, Luke chapter 3 and Matthew chapter 1. The records essentially agree from Adam to David but the Matthew record gives what is recognised as the regal line through Solomon down to Joseph, while the Luke record gives the line of Mary, descended from David through Nathan.
The two lines converge on Shealtiel and Zerubbabel at the time of the captivity. This could be due to the dying out of one line which would then be re-established by their kinsmen.
The lineage of Mary includes two with the name Levi and we know that Mary*s cousin Elisabeth was ‘of the daughters of Aaron’ (Luke 1:5) so this may indicate some intermarriage between the tribes of Judah and Levi but the lineage of Judah was maintained.
The Matthew account leaves out three names between Joram and Uzziah which we can find from the records in Kings and Chronicles to be Ahaziah, Joash and Amaziah*. It also has the distinction of referring to four women in an otherwise all male genealogy. These are Tamar, Ruth, Rachab and Bathsheba. What can we learn about the purpose of God from the inclusion of these four women, two of whom were Gentiles?
The Barley Harvest
In the narrative it refers to the gathering of the barley harvest (Ruth 1:22) which occurs in the Spring. In the gospel of Matthew Jesus refers to his followers as the harvest.
The Jewish feast of ‘Firstfruits*, two days after the Passover has obvious relevance to the resurrection of Christ who was the ‘firstfruits of the resurrection*. (1 Corinthians 15:20) So, too, the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost, which follows 50 days later, is significant of the completion of the harvest. (The Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost as we can read in Acts chapter 2). It may not be surprising then that the Jews, by tradition, read the book of Ruth at Pentecost. We can expect from this that there may be more significance to the story of Ruth than just an account of a name in the genealogy of Christ.
The Character of Ruth
Ruth, the central character, is a symbol of friendship and fidelity as the meaning of the name implies. Although brought up in Moab on the other side of the river Jordan from Israel, she recognised the truth of Israel*s beliefs and she wanted to be a part of the hope of Israel, the people of God. Her declaration to her mother-in-law, when it was suggested that she return to the idolatry of Moab shows her allegiance to the God of Israel.
She recognised that salvation is of the Jews, and like Abraham she showed her faith by leaving the land of her birth and her family ties, to become a follower of the God of Israel. Every follower of Christ has to emulate this example and get their priorities right.
Ruth was indeed blessed for her faith and trust in God.
Ruth showed not only fidelity in going to Israel with her mother-in-law but also humility and obedience. She went into the fields to glean according to the law and followed Naomi's instructions.
Boaz, her kinsman recognised her virtues and befriends her, providing for her needs generously. Ruth followed the maidens of Boaz and worked to support her mother in law to the end of the harvest.
When the time came for the threshing of the grain Ruth prepared herself, and then went to lie down near Boaz. Boaz awoke at midnight, realised his duty to Ruth as the kinsman redeemer of her inheritance and promised to help her. The narrative concludes with Boaz declaring his purpose to the elders of the city and he legally married Ruth who bore him a son Obed. This son was the grandfather of King David so he was a royal prince of Israel. Naomi looked after her grandson and was comforted for the loss of her two sons.
It is a lovely story. The righteousness of Ruth is rewarded and there is a happy ending. However there is more to this book than the simple narrative. It is easy to recognise Boaz, the redeemer, as prefiguring the work of Christ. Ruth therefore represents the Gentile bride, justified through faith.
Boaz the Redeemer
Throughout the account there are many details that emphasise the relationship between Boaz and Christ. Boaz was a royal prince in the line of Judah and the Lord of the harvest. He exactly followed the law in every detail. He gave Ruth the water of life (Ruth 2:9) and promised her a reward. (Ruth 2:12) Like Christ to his disciples, Boaz gave Ruth bread and wine. (Ruth 2:14) In order to follow Boaz, Ruth had to separate from the rest of the women and she worked to the end of the harvest. Each of these aspects have a parallel in the disciples of Christ and are reflected in the parables like that of the sower, (Matthew 13:3-23 and vineyard. (Matthew 20:1-16) Ruth was purified with water and anointed (a type of baptism). She was judged to be a virtuous woman at midnight (Ruth 3:9-11) and Boaz redeemed her inheritance in the morning. Boaz paid the purchase price for the redemption of his bride, just as Christ paid the price for the redemption of the saints.
These are a few of the details in the narrative that identify a beautiful type and point to the purpose of God in Christ. Boaz represents Jesus Christ and Ruth represents the bride of Christ, his followers.
So this simple story is not only historic but shows that God's plan of salvation was determined from the beginning and can be seen throughout the Old Testament.
What about the other characters? Naomi represents the mother of Israel. She came from Bethlehem so we discern a link with Rachel who wept for her lost children and died at Bethlehem.
Naomi lost her sons Mahion and Chilion whose names mean "sick" and "pining". They were Jews who made alien marriages so were lost to Israel. But through the faith of Ruth, Naomi's bitterness' (Ruth 1:20) was turned to joy, just as the faithful remnant of Israel will rejoice at the coming of Christ and the saints. Just as the near kinsman in chapter 4 was unable to redeem Ruth's inheritance so the Jews are unable to establish the Kingdom of God through the law. It required the work of Christ to redeem spiritual Israel and to raise up children of Abraham through faith.
In these things we see our own hopes. If we separate from the idols of the world and worship the God of Israel; if we are baptised into Christ and work in his vineyard to the end of the day; then when our Redeemer comes we, like Ruth, may be judged worthy of an inheritance in the Kingdom so soon to be established on the earth.