September 14, 2015

Ruth the Moabitess: A Heritage of Grace

          The book of Ruth is the tale of a Moabitess widow, leaving everything she knows, and traveling with her mother-in-law Naomi to an unknown land. While gathering food for her and Naomi, she happens upon the field of a man named Boaz. Through the prompting of Naomi, Ruth offers herself as bride for Boaz, so that he might be her “kinsman redeemer*.” After convincing Ruth’s nearest relative to renounce his duty to her, Boaz marries Ruth, and they become the great-great grandparents of King David, from whose bloodline Jesus came. The question is, why would God allow a gentile woman to become part of the lineage of Jesus?

Throughout Biblical history, we often see the Lord commanding Israel to set themselves apart from the pagan nations surrounding them. From the moment when God first prophesied of the coming Messiah (Genesis 3:15), we see generations of genealogies, and the anticipation of the “seed” that would crush Satan’s head. This Redeemer is the only hope for humankind; if Satan can exterminate the seed, he will win. This is why God was adamant about keeping the Israelites set apart from the world. Often, when Israelites would intermarry with people who were not Jewish, the false gods from other spheres of the world would be accepted by the Israelites as well. Many times in the Bible, we see God order the complete decimation of pagan people groups (Joshua 6:24-25, 8:24-29, as well as many other times) Why then, after fervently protecting the Israelite’s purity, would God allow Ruth, a Moabitess, to not only marry an Israelite, but to become part of the lineage of Jesus?

          The very beginning of the book of Ruth holds what I believe is the key to understanding why Ruth was allowed to be in Christ’s bloodline. Ruth 1:16-17 says,

          “…For wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me.”

          In this verse, Ruth is not simply insinuating that she is willing to serve Naomi’s God, she is claiming that He will be her God as well. This is significant. To be willing to leave everything you have ever known, to go to an unknown land, to an uncertain destiny, and to love, serve and obey a God that your mother-in-law just claimed has been unkind to her (1:13) is the type of devotion that ravishes God’s heart.

I believe that when God sees a heart so willing to disavow its former life, goals, and dreams to pursue His heart, it mesmerizes Him. He not only accepted her into His family, He grafted her into the very bloodline of His only Son. Only He could have orchestrated the resplendent love story of Ruth and Boaz. For Ruth to, by “chance” find Boaz’s field, for Boaz to desire to be her kinsman redeemer, and for her to have the obedience to her Mother in Law to go to the threshing floor is proof to me of a God who is moved by our obedience.

So where does this leave us? As gentiles, we are always grateful that Jesus died to save all humankind (John 3:16), but have we ever considered that God placed a gentile woman in the ancestry of Christ? The truth we ought to take from the story of Ruth is this: God’s love for us is not based on anything we are. Christ died for us while we were dead in our sin. He was the ultimate kinsman redeemer. His heart is moved when we surrender all in obedience to Him. When we abdicate the throne of our heart, and relinquish the tight hold we have on our dreams, our plans, and our future, then He grafts us into a family with a far superior future, reigning with Him for eternity!

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”     -Galatians 3:28

*If a woman’s husband died without her having a son to carry on the father’s name, the dead husband’s next-of-kin (usually a brother) would be the kinsman redeemer. The duties of a kinsman redeemer are to marry the widow, and when she bore a son, the child was to carry on the name of the deceased, as well as receive an inheritance. This practice is described in detail in Deuteronomy 25:5-10. As is witnessed in the book of Ruth, one could reject the widow’s request.