The Life of Ruth
Shadows of Christ
I. There are only two books in the whole of the Bible that are named after women. The first is called Ruth and the second is called Esther. Remarkably, these are not biblical books that are quoted very often and yet, concealed within their pages, are to be found some of the most profound and priceless Gospel principles ever written. So remarkable are these stories, in fact, that one commentator exclaimed: "In Ruth and Esther I see more than mere coincidence. I see the design of an Omnipotent and Omniscient Elohim."
These two books have three important similarities: (1) They both depict a woman who was brought by Yahweh into an unusual marriage; (2) They are both set against a background of serious national peril; and (3) They both teach a valuable lesson about Yahweh's providential dealings with His people.
In a world that pays lip-service to the concept of the equality of the sexes, though in reality still perpetrates the pseudo-patriarchal hegemony of men, the stories of Ruth and Esther bring a refreshing perspective of the true nature of womanhood at a time when true femininity is being bled dry by the mad rush of feminists and their male allies in the societies which both dominate politically and socially, to make a more macho, male-like woman.
I have the greatest admiration for Ruth who in many ways is one of the New Covenant's ideals of womanhood. So important is this woman that she was to providentially play a significant rôle in bringing forth the Messiah: indeed, she was one of the progenitors of the Master Yah'shua the Messiah.
Why does this woman's history appear in the Bible at all? Is it solely because she was an ancestor of Messiah of Nazareth? Or can we perhaps find in her life some of those divine qualities which remind us so much of Mary, the mother of Messiah? And do these two women, in fact, provide us with ideal rôle-models for Christian womanhood?
Under Jewish law woman were not listed in the genealogies of the families of Israel.Men alone were given this recognition. Yet in the ancestral list, given in Matthew 1, her name, along with Mary's, appears alongside the names of some very famous men. Why is this? Why should Ruth be given this special status and honour? Is not the Scripture showing us that when a person is linked to Yah'shua the Messiah then they appear in a new and different light? Related to Him they are lifted above the categories of earth. You and I achieve our greatest significance in this world when we are rightly related to Yah'shua the Messiah. In Him all bigotry is banished, and all national and cultural barriers are broken down.
II. The historical setting of the book of Ruth is the period when the judges reigned in Israel. The children of Israel had been in the land for some time now and the country had been distributed amongst the various tribes. The peace and prosperity that filled the land was changed, however, after Joshua's death, whereupon the people immediately returned to their disobedient and evil ways. The condition of Israel at the time this book was written reminds me very much of our modern world and its liberal thinking: "In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judg.17:6). As a result of the nation's rebellion famine soon stalked the land. When men and women turn from Yahweh and persist in doing what is right in their own eyes then the inevitable result is spiritual barrenness and famine.
Is this a description of your soul's condition at this moment? Does the "Living Yahweh" seem as if He is far away..or even dead? Do you read the Bible dutifully to find that its words do not speak to you as they once did? Has the fount of revelation dried up in your life? Are you beginning to question Biblical teachings which once you accepted in faith? Do Christian virtues strike you as dull and unattractive? There is always a reason for spiritual dryness. Something has gone wrong which needs to be put right. Have you committed a sin or been disobedient to Yahweh's commandments? If you have, this will be enough to hinder the flow of Yahweh's power and glory. The saying, "He who will not heed the helm must heed the rocks", is most certainly true. Unless we live as Christ's obedient subjects then we will have to settle for a life that is less than the best.
III. As the famine continued to ravage the land of Israel, Elimelech and his family made the decision to emigrate. Was it the right decision -- or was it a wrong one? Judge for yourself. The country to which they emmigrated was the land of Moab in modern south-western Jordan. The Moabites were the result of the incestuous relationship between Lot and his daughters (Gen.19:29-38). The people had opposed Israel on a number of occasions. It was the Moabites who hired Balaam to curse Israel and had also refused them bread and water along their journey through the wilderness. Yahweh clearly instructed the children of Israel to have nothing to do with the Moabites and commanded them not to seek their peace or prosperity (Deut.23:3-6).
Who are the modern Moabites? Lot, Abraham's nephew, chose to lead the easy life in the cities of the plains, scorning the more rigorous life in the mountains which Abraham gladly accepted. We know what happened to the cities of the plain -- Sodom and Gomorrah -- don't we? Lot escaped with only his daughters who ended up getting him drunk and having an incestuous relationship with him in order for their seed not to die out. The result -- Moab -- was catastrophic. How many Christians do you know who choose the "peace and prosperity of the city life" -- the diluted Gospel of the world -- rather than the rigors of the true Gospel? Which, given a choice, would you choose -- the "easy life" of watered-down Christianity or the vigorous life of the Gospel of the Firstborn? As Lot choose where he would settle his family, so you are are free to choose what kind of gospel you will live. Lot lost his wife and his sons-in-laws, and his daughters led him into sin against his will and against his even being aware of it before it was too late.
Quite clearly, then, the little family moved into Moab against Yahweh's will. It might have been a good choice economically, but it was a bad choice spiritually. Have you chosen the "Christian" course that you have taken because it was "easier"? If you have, you may have put the spiritual life of your family into serious jeopardy. Consider it!
Of course, it could be argued that when one considers the subsequent events that took place in the life of Naomi and Ruth that it must have been the will of Yahweh for the family to move into Moab, or to be more precise, Yahweh's permissive will. These events were the result of Yahweh's amazing sovereignty working through the mistakes of His people, showing how He overrules decisions to accomplish His will without denying free-agency. It should be the constant practice of every Christian never to try and forsee the results of an action, but to decide everything on the basis of Yahweh's will displayed in His Word. We live dangerously when we allow expediency and not the clear guidelines of Scripture to determine our direction.
IV. Whilst Elimelech's decision to provide for his family must be applauded the decision to move to Moab was clearly against the commandment of Yahweh. Apparently everything went well at first and the improved economic condition was much to their liking. So often I have seen the same thing happen with those who have rebelled against the commandments and tried to find an easier route. At first everything seemed to go fine. There was a sense of freedom at having "broken free". But slowly, almost imperceptibly at first, things began to go wrong...
One day, however, tragedy struck. Ehimelech was taken ill and died. Noami then faced the devastation of bereavement. Later her two sons, who had both married Moabite wives, also died, and she had to bear the further desolation of this double tragedy. Suddenly she was alone, in a foreign country, with the Israelite home environment gone. It was bad enough losing her husband and sons, but now, suddenly, she realised that she was a stranger in a foreign land. Gone also was her economic means of survival -- now she had no choice -- she had to leave Moab.
The circumstances of this story rise up to warn us against the danger of making decisions that are based more on expediency than on the Word of Yahweh. How prone we are in our decision-making to allow materialistic values to influence our spiritual judgment. I remember a Christian family who were struggling to live the Gospel. It was not easy for them but Yahweh upheld them. Then they decided they would move away from the Messianic Community and set themselves up as "independents" and become like one of their friends who had done something similar. The friend had a mental breakdown. I remember another family who did the same. The wife died shortly thereafter leaving the husband to struggle alone with a large, young family. I have seen so many take the "easy way" out only to be struck with tragedy. Yet men and women will persist in doing this, because the flesh is so strong, and they suppose it is easier to follow the flesh -- themselves.
Life is a single whole. We make a serious mistake when we focus on the benfits of one part of it -- a good paying job that will take us away from our families, a beautiful wife who has contempt for Yahweh, a Church that makes few demands on us but which leaves us spiritually hungry. Life is one. There are no compartments or departments. Every decision we make must be set against the background of Yahweh's perfect will. Otherwise we may find that while we have gained the world, we have lost our souls.
V. After Noami had recovered from the shock of losing her husband and two sons in the land of Moab, she received news that Israel was once again a flourishing land, so she decided to return home to her people. When she announced her intentions to her daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, they decided to join her on her journey home. As the three made their way to the border, Naomi pointed out to Ruth and Orpah that they would have little hope of marriage in the land of Israel, and urged them to return home. Indeed, what mother in Israel would allow her son to marry a Moabitess? Noami made it clear that if she had had more sons she would have been happy to give them in marriage, but as this was impossible the girls ought to return home to their own people.
What a dilemma both for Naomi as well as for her daughters-in-law. When a Christian departs out of the way and comes to an awful realisation of his sin, fears crowd into his mind. Will those whom he deserted receive him into fellowship again? Would anyone wish to marry his children who, because of his rebellion, were now well leavened by the world and its thinking. What mother of the New Covenant would want her son or daughter to marry a daughter or son of a man who had led them in false ways and who, spiritually-speaking, were "Moabites"? This is the next hurdle to overcome. The result, alas, is only half-happy.
First, though, let us consider the returning apostate himself. In the story of Ruth we see something of the turmoil of Naomi's mind as she sensed the deep responsibility for the situation she had created for her daughters. She said: "It is exceeding bitter to me that you have suffered" (Ruth 1:13). It is one thing for an apostate to deeply regret a wrong decision that has led him into the spiritual wilderness, but the bitterness that comes in knowing that you have led your beloved into the error of your ways is a double cursing. Naomi was bitter as she saw the mess she was in. Unfortunately, she did not know or understand the fullness of the message of Salvation, for had she known the Messiah's doctrine, she could have taken the next vital step of forgiving herself. Noami did not know that when Yahweh forgives a sinner we are supposed to forgive ourselves and put our sin behind us.
This is one of the problems which Christians grapple with all the time. We make a mistake, obtain Yahweh's forgiveness, then short-circuit our spiritual system by failing to forgive ourselves. Whenever we seriously hurt Yahweh and wound His love then, even though we have His forgiveness, some sense of sorrow and remourse will inevitably remain. We can, however, find great comfort in the thought that Yahweh can do more with our sin than forgive it -- He can use it in ways that our beyond our imagination to conceive.
VI. Following Naomi's advice to her daughters-in-law that they should return home, Orpah, albeit reluctantly, took her leave. Ruth, however, had other ideas. So deep was her love for her mother-in-law, Naomi, that she plead her case in what many consider to be one of the most beautiful and most moving of all the Old Testament passages. Ruth realised that there were deep problems facing her in the land of Israel -- nationality, culture and, above all, religion. Her determination was such, however, that she poured out her heart before Naomi pleading to be taken to the Promised Land. "Where you lodge, I will lodge" -- the fact that she might have no permanent home made no difference to her. "Your people shall be my people" -- imagine giving up your friends and family to seek a new life in the land of an enemy. "Your Elohim shall be my Elohim" -- Ruth had evidently seen and heard enough from Naomi to realise that the Yahweh of the Israelites was vastly superior to the deities of Moab. Naomi, recognising that Ruth was "steadfastly minded" accepted the inevitable, and so the two set out on their journey towards Bethlehem.
Do you see the prophetic symbolism here? They are setting out to Bethlehem, the birth place of the Messiah of whom Ruth will be a foremother. Enclosed in this life story is also a prophetic picture of true conversion. Orpah and Ruth stand at the crossroads. Orpah draws back to end her days in the darkness of heathen idolatry. Ruth, however, moves on to have her name inscribed forever in the sacred record. How sad it is that we can be deeply religious, travel for a time with Yahweh's people, yet fail to make that "leap of faith" that entrusts all we have and all we are to the Saviour.
But that is not, important to say, enough. Having made that decision, we can't just sit back and say, "I've made it." For Ruth it was but the beginning. We are, spiritually-speaking, still single, and though united to Messiahforensically, the mystical wedding has still not take place. It is here that so many Christians make the fatal mistake of believing that once they have been "born again" that they are guaranteed a place at Christ's right hand side. The story of Ruth tells us otherwise.
VII. When at last Noami, in company with her daughter-in-law Ruth, finally reaches Bethlehem she is welcomed by the community who seemingly turn out in force to greet her. We can read the crowd's reaction to Naomi's appearance in this one simple question, "Is this Naomi?" It is suggestive of surprise, amazement and also consternation. "Is this Naomi? Can it really be her? How she has changed. Moab has certainly left her mark upon her." Naomi's response is swift, full of self-judgment, yet understandable. "Call me not Noami (sweet or pleasant), call me Mara (bitter): for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me." Naomi senses, of course, that she is a living testimony to the discipline of the Almighty, and seeks to draw attention to the fact that those who take any other way than Yahweh's way must also suffer the consequences. I can't help feel, however, that she is really passing judgment on herself before Yahweh has finished His purposes with her. She did not know how wonderfully Yahweh was going to turn the mistake into a message; if she had known, she might have reacted differently.
I remember reading the story of a man who had a badge on his desk which read: PBPWMGHFWMY. It stands for this message: "Please Be Patient With Me - Yahweh Hasn't Finished With Me Yet". I would like to pin that badge on many Christians who have lost sight of the fact that Yahweh's work is still continuing. OK, you've made a disasterous mistake, maybe even hindered Yahweh's purpose in your life and in the lives of others. But take heart - Yahweh hasn't finished with you yet...if you'll let Him take charge of your life again and return home.
VIII. "And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband's, a mighty man of wealth... Boaz" (Ruth 2:1). This passage lets in a flood of light on Naomi's family background. It is obvious that her deceased husband Elimelech came from a wealthy family, and that now most of that wealth was in the hands of a young man named Boaz, a relative of Elimelech, whom the Scripture describes as, "a mighty man of wealth." Ruth, though undoubtedly aware of Naomi's family connection with the wealthy Boaz, did not wait around and hope for some charitable 'hand-out' (such as we have come to expect of the modern Welfare State), but set about the task of finding herself some gainful employment.
When we examine the record in the Scriptures of those whom Yahweh called to special service, we discover that He usually approached them while they were busily engaged in some sort of task or work.
Moses, for example, was approached by the Almighty while he watched the sheep. Amos received his call while trudging behind a plough. Peter, James and John were called to Christ's service while they were mending their nets.
But some Christians sit around idly waiting for Yahweh to call them to some special service, and wonder why they never hear His voice. Yahweh expects to see us make a success of what we are doing before He entrusts us with bigger or more responsible things. When the disciples said to Messiah, "Rabbi, the Jews seek to stone you; will you go there again?" He answered, "Are there not twelve hours in a day?" (Jn.11:8-9) In other words, it is not a question of what they will do or not do -- there are twelve hours in a day -- I must complete my task.
Bend to the task Yahweh has given to you today -- do it well and Yahweh will give you something bigger and greater to do for Him.
IX. So, you have seen the error of your way and you have made a choice and returned home -- taken a big "leap of faith". What next? Ruth had no difficulty in finding a task to occupy her attention for as the last verse in chapter one puts it: "and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest." At harvest time there was always work to be found in the fields -- cleaning up after the reapers. In the Church of Yahweh it is always harvest time, and there is always work to be done. When the reapers worked their way through the fields, they would, because of the speed at which they worked, leave some parts of the field unreaped. This was then picked by people called gleaners who came behind them, picking up the grain that was still standing which then became their own property under Jewish law (Lev.19:9-10; Deut.24:19). At harvest time all the fields were open to the gleaners. No employment agency. No special selection system. No union card. They simply went and worked wherever the inclination took them, much as missioners and evangelists ought to serve...as the Spirit leads them.
Ruth decided on a certain field not by chance, but by the direct guidance of the Almighty. Listen to what the Scripture says: "Her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging to Boaz" (Ruth 2:3). A great deal of divine guidance takes place when we are not conscious of it. How wonderful this is. No ringing of bells, no flashing of lights, just the quiet guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit at work amongst those who have not specifically received the prophetic gift. How many times, as you look back, can you see the hand of Yahweh at work in your life in this way? A telephone call you thought was coincidence becomes a sign-post to a new ministry. A delayed letter stops you from moving in the wrong direction. Give Yahweh thanks for this today -- He is working for our highest good even when we are not conscious of it!
X. The fact of Ruth being specifically guided to the field which belonged to Boaz is so rich in spiritual meaning that we must spend a little longer meditating on it. What, to Ruth, might have appeared as blind chance was, in fact, the direct guidance of Yahweh. Eliezer, you may remember, experienced the same thing in his search for a bride for Isaac: "I being in the way, Yahweh led me" (Gen.24:27). Can you recollect a "chance" meeting with someone that ultimately led to a complete change of your life's direction? At that time you were not aware of anything significant happening, but as you look back you realise that Yahweh wonderfully planned it all. This is because Yahweh has not only a general providence (one in which all the creatures of creation participate) but a special providence incolving all those who, by faith, have come to a personal relationship with their Creator through His Son, the Master Yah'shua the Messiah.
We see this special providence beautifully illustrated in the Bible. Think of Philip's eventful meeting with the Ethiopian eunuch (Ac.8:29-39), or Saul's meeting with Ananias (Ac.9:10-18). These incidents (as well as many others) tell us that, even though Yahweh is far, far above our highest thoughts, He is willing to stoop to take an interest in the smallest details of our lives. After a lifetime of knowing Yahweh's guidance, the great Samuel Chadwick said: "The divine attention to detail is amazing. Nothing is too trivial for Omniscience. Though the universe revolves at His Word, we dare to believe that He means it when He says, 'I will guide thee with mine eye'."
XI. Although such a doctrine is not popular with all Christians (or even non-Christians for that matter), New Covenant Christians believe that Yahweh opens doors to those situations which will best prosper us spiritually whilst taking into account our free agency and the needs of others whom we shall meet who are also trying (albeit usually unconsciously) to work out their salvation, even if this means becoming Muslims, Toaists, Mormons, or whatever. Yahweh never forces us to do anything but permits us to enter those situations, where even false doctrine is believed and practiced, so that we can progress spiritually. Of course, once we have opened our hearts wide enough to receive the fullness of His Gospel, and will no longer resist going through the doors that lead to the Kingdom, then He causes those doors to open. So we must never assume that simply because someone rejects the Gospel Message that he is doomed -- it may not be his time (though it could be many other reasons too, like our preaching without the Spirit, or whatever) -- or maybe he is called to another level of light.
The reception Boaz received from his workers when he arrived in his field was as far removed from today's management-labour relations as chalk is from cheese. Boaz greeted his workers with the words, "Yahweh be with you," to which they replied, "Yahweh bless you." Can you imagine that kind of greeting taking place on the shop-floors, offices, or factories in today's society? Yet when Yahwehlessness prevails in a nation, one of the first things to be affected is management-labour relationships.
In Wales, during the 1904 Revival, the workers and management of a coalmine near Llanelly met every morning at 6 a.m. to pray together before the day's work commenced. An old Welsh miner, who participated in that daily prayer meeting, said that 'dead on' the stroke of six, the manager would appear accompanied by other members of the staff and greet the miners with the word, "Bendegelig" (Welsh for "Everything is wonderful") to which all assembled would respond, "Gogoniat I'r Oen" ("Hallelujah to the Lamb").
Stanley Collins, in commenting on Boaz's relationship with his workers, asks: "How did relations between employer and employees get into the mess they are in today?" A leading Christian industrialist in Korea once said: "My factory was in turmoil before I found Christ. I gave as little as possible, and my employees did as little as possible. Knowing Messiahenabled me to look at my employees in a new light. I worked out ways of how I could give more to them. The result was that they, in their turn, gave more to me." This kind of approach never fails.
XII. As Boaz quietly made his way through the field, talking to his workers, his eyes fell upon the figure of Ruth. Immediately he asks, "Who is she?" His workers quickly inform him that she is the widowed daughter-in-law of Naomi, a Moabite by birth, and now a convert to the Yahweh of Israel. We are not sure whether it was love at first sight for Boaz, but he certainly showed all the signs of it. Listen to him as he walks over to Ruth and says, "Don't work anywhere else...stay here with the other gleaners...and don't be afraid of these young men; they won't hurt you for I have given them special orders...when you are thirsty, don't wear yourself out fetching water; just help yourself to that which the young men have drawn..."
This protective care and concern prompted Ruth to ask, "Why are you doing this for me?" Boaz explains that the story of her devotion to Naomi has touched him deeply, and he summarises his appreciation for her fine qualities in a prayer that has become a spiritual classic: "May Yahweh repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by Yahweh, the Yahweh of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge" (Ruth 2:12, NIV).
Take this word directly into your heart at this moment. It is Yahweh's message of love to your tired and weary spirit. He has seen all your tears, your heartaches, your sacrifices, and He promises you one day a full and perfect reward. Draw close to Him and feel the security of sheltering beneath His outstretched wings. Look up and see them spread over you this very moment. They are an unfailing canopy of love.
XIII. We have now seen how Boaz, eager and anxious to keep Ruth in his field, sets about doing everything possible to ensure that her work as a gleaner is free from problems as possible. His protective love and concern now leads him to invite Ruth to join him during the meal break. "Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar," he tells her. Then, a little later we read, "he offered her some roasted corn." Once Ruth had completed the meal, she returned to her gleaning, but here again Boaz intervenes on her behalf by instructing his servants to deliberately let fall whole handfulls of grain so that Ruth would not become discouraged in her task. "Handfulls of purpose," they were called. What a beautiful expression! It is a picture of how Yahweh goes before each one of His toiling servants, and lets fall "handfulls of purpose", some special encouragement that serves to push them forward, and keep them focused on the divine task.
Has there not been a time in your life when, overcome with the weight and burden of some task, you were ready to give up, when suddenly Yahweh let fall some "handfulls of purpose"? Have we not all experienced such divine encouragements? Perhaps it was a word in a sermon, a smile from someone you thought was angry with you, a gift of money arriving at the right time -- and all so unmistakably brought about by Yahweh's hand that there was no mistaking it. How gracious and loving is our Yahweh! Just when our ministry appears to be unproductive and barren, and we feel like giving up, He steps in and lets fall some "handfulls of purpose" just for us.
How often we have experienced this in the Messianic Community is uncountable. Just when things were looking bleak and hopeless, when friends were deserting us, persecuting us, and even prophesying our doom in the name of their Yahweh, so Yahweh stepped in and let fall some "handfulls of purpose" to see us on to the next stage of our journey.
XIV. It is not difficult to imagine the kind of thoughts running through Naomi's mind as she thought about Ruth spending her first day in the harvest field. How would she fare? How would the men treat her? A beautiful widow in a strange land is vunerable indeed. Would she be successful in bringing home enough corn to hold body and soul together? Naomi's anxious fears were laid to rest, however, as Ruth returned at the end of the day with a whole ephah of barley. An ephah was no small measure. The equivalent in today's terms is approximately half a bushel or 22 litres. It is easy to picture Ruth walking into the house weighed down with the weight of the day's work and her countenance radiant with the joy of what had been accomplished. Naomi is hardly able to believe her eyes. Her questions come fast and furious..."Where did you work? How did you come to gather so much? Whose field did you find yourself in?"
As soon as Ruth mentioned the name of Boaz, Naomi's heart leaped within her, and for the first time in this book, she begins to praise Yahweh. "May he be blessed of Yahweh who has not withdrawn his kindness to the living and the dead." Her joy knew no bounds because she sensed that Ruth's meeting with Boaz was providential. Boaz was a close relative who had the right to redeem. Together Ruth and Naomi looked back over the day, and gave thanks to Yahweh for the evidence of His guiding hand. How true it is that so often we fail to sense Yahweh's guidance in our lives until we look back. Be assured of this:
Messiah knows all about our struggles
He will guide till the day is done.
XV. As the days and weeks and the barley harvest slipped by, Ruth continued her gleaning in the field of Boaz, happy and secure in the knowledge that, when the barley harvest was over, she would be able to stay on and participate in the wheat harvest as well. Noami, too, was equally elated as she sensed that Ruth's meeting with Boaz was no mere accident, but part of Yahweh's wonderful providence and care. One can almost imagine Noami saying to herself: "How strange that Ruth should go out to glean in the fields, happen to fall upon a field owned by Boaz, become the object of his personal interest and concern, and, if that is not enough, that he should also possess the qualities of being a redeemer."
Deep down in her heart Noami knew that, in this combination of circumstances, the Almighty Yahweh was at work. With Noami, each one of us must see that, beneath all the flux and change of this mortal life, Yahweh is seeking to work out a profound purpose. Many witnesses speak in this confirmation. The Bible is full of such stories. Think of Joseph's journey to Egypt (Gen.37) or Peter and his opportune visit to the house of Cornelius (Ac.10). All through the ages Yahweh's people, in all walks of life, have testified to the fact that Yahweh has condescended to guide them. We, as New Covenant Christians, can give the same testimony. Sometimes, as I have already said, the guidance has not be realised until after the event and only when the people have looked back. So my advice to you today is to remind yourself of this truth both in good times as well as "bad", in calm and storm, when the beacon of the Light of Messiahburns brightly as well as when it only weakly glows, and say, in the words of King David: "He leadeth Me" (Ps.23:2-3, KJV).
XVI. As Naomi pondered the sovereignty of Yahweh in the meeting between Ruth and Boaz, she began to realise that there was a distinct possibility of Boaz taking on the responsibility of marrying Ruth and providing the security she needed for the future. She began, therefore, by formulating a clear and daring plan to ensure the continuance of the budding romance between Ruth and Boaz. This was not meddling or matchmaking, but simply moving along the road which Yahweh had opened, providing insight, wisdom and the benefit of her long experience. Most people about to enter marriage can do with a little advice and counsel. "After all," said Dr. Clyde Narramore, "marriage is probably the most important thing that can happen to someone outside his conversion." If ever guidance is needed, it is in relation to this most serious and solemn decision.
One minister, after years of careful consideration along this line, came to the conclusion that one of the greatest indictments of the Christian Assembly in the 20th Century is the lack of guidance it has given to those about to enter into marriage. Another minister refuses to marry couples who do not agree to at least five sessions of pre-marital counselling: He says: "Three out of ten of the couples I counsel in this way decide not to go ahead." And why? Because they come to realise, in the light of objective counsel and advice, that it is not Yahweh's will for them. The more careful thought and prayer that goes into planning a marriage, the more likely it is that the couple concerned will spend the rest of their lives together.
The New Covenant Assembly of Yahweh takes marriage guidance very seriously and gives considerably more than five sessions to prospective couples. Though there are some who say that marriage partnerships should be decided by the spontaneous feelings of the heart, circumstances. and/or chemical attraction, experience has taught us that a good 50% of marriages fail based on such things. And the divorce statistics in the Western world confirm this analysis.
Speaking of the former Edomites, Yahweh told his prophet: "Is there no longer wisdom in Teman? Has counsel perished from the prudent? Has their wisdom decayed?" (Jer.49:7, NIV). When a people are no longer willing to take sound advice from the wise and prudent, then the result is always disaster and divine punishment (v.8). "All this comes from Yahweh Almighty, wonderful in counsel (advice) and magnificent in wisdom" (Isa.28:29, NIV). It is always sensible to speak with "wise men who understand the times" (Esth.1:13, NIV) because "the teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death" (Prov.13:14, NIV). Though the final decision to marry must always be the couple's, it is only right that they be armed with prophetic counsel so that the decision that they make may truly be Yahweh's and based on all the factors in the equation of holy marriage, and not the result of some fleshy impulse. Receive the counsel of the wise who are in Yahweh! (1 Tim.5:14; Rev.3:1).
XVII. During the time of winnowing of the grain, it was customary for the workers to sleep on the threshing floor. It was precisely at this point that Naomi's carefully formulated plan began to take effect. Her first piece of advice to Ruth was: "Wash yourself, put on some perfume..." (Ruth 3:3, GNB). But note the second piece of advice: "Don't let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking..." (v.3, NIV). And then came the third piece of advice: "When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do." (v.4, NIV).
What was Ruth's response? Was it typical of modern youth? "I will do whatever you say" (v.5, NIV). Was Ruth willfully blind? Was she letting her mother-in-law match-make? Or was she allowing Yahweh to order everything up? How would you have responded in this situation?
In giving these instructions to Ruth, Naomi was not indulging in some cunningly devised scheme calculated to trick Boaz or to compromise Ruth's free agency. What she did was perfectly in accord with the Law of Yahweh and in harmony with the principle of choice. Before we examine the background to these instructions, we must remember (a) that Yahweh had been guiding all the way up to now, and (b) that both Naomi and Ruth were aware of this. They understood the providence of Yahweh and were responding. Had they not understood this, then what followed not only would have been wrong according to spiritual principle but it would have been against the heart of the Law of Yahweh.
Naomi was following a clear and specific design. She knew perfectly well that, according to the laws of Israel, a widow was entitled to approach the nearest male relative, and remind him of his obligation to take care of her. In fact, if, as most commentators believe, Boaz was a brother of Naomi's husband, Elimelech, then it was Boaz's duty according to the Israelite Law of Levirate to marry his brother's widow, even if he was already married (Deut.25:5-6). Naomi knew that she had the right to claim Boaz as her husband. But what did she do? She yielded that right to her daughter-in-law, since the Law prohibited a man marrying both a mother and her daughter from another marriage. That is why Naomi was so secretive about her instructions to Ruth. She was sacrificing her right to be married again just as Boaz was to (later) redeem Noami by taking her into his household and care. Had Ruth known, she probably would have protested.
Naomi was merely claiming her legal rights that Yahweh had provided in His Law. Similarly, we, as Yahweh's children, have an inviolable right to approach Yahweh, and remind Him of His obligation to take care of us day by day. The reason why some of us don't have what we need is, as James says, because we don't ask Yahweh for it (Jas.4:2). In addition, Yahweh is also reminding us that our marriages are fore-ordained if only we will follow His ways. No woman who is in Messiahcan say that she cannot find a Yahwehly husband -- she will be provided with one, however odd (from our worldly perspective and prejudiced traditions) the avenue of her providence may sometimes seem (Isa.4:1-2).
But there is far more in this prophetic picture lived out by mortals that witnesses to us of Yahweh's goodness and omniscience: just as Naomi turned to Boaz as her earthly redeemer and then sacrificed her right to be m,arried to Boaz to her daughter-in-law, so Messiahredeems us through an act of total selfless sacrifice. Naomi is a type of Christ, Boaz of the Father, and Ruth of the redeemed sinner. Thus we see an eternal principle or pattern reflected on many different levels of life. Yahweh is truly everywhere!
XVIII. In compliance with Naomi's instructions, when the midnight hour came, Ruth moved quietly to where Boaz was lying, gently uncovered his feet, and lay across them. Boaz was startled: "Who are you?". The answer that came must have filled Boaz with unbelievable joy: "I am your servant Ruth...Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer" (Ruth 3:9, NIV). In the simple custom of laying at Boaz's feet, Ruth was really saying, 'I belong to you, and you must take care of me.' Boaz did not hesitate: "Yahweh bless you, my daughter. This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier. You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. And now, my daughter, don't be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character" (vv.10-11, NIV). With that, Ruth's request to be covered with his robe was presumably met, for by that action he would officially demonstrate his willingness to protect her, and meet the obligations of a redeemer. The custom of covering a bride with a Talith or fringed garment is still part of Jewish matrimonial procedures to this very day (Ezek.16:8).
Boaz was an elder, or a local judge, what we in the New Covenant call a Patriarch. Ruth, if she had wanted to, could have gone chasing after the young men of the town to find a husband, as was her right. But, as "a woman of noble character", she had a higher vision. She saw in Boaz a man of nobility and righteousness with which she wished to be united, even though he was likely much older than her and already had at least one other wife.
Similarly, Christians have a higher vision than unbelievers and desire to unite with that which is noble and righteous -- Yah'shua the Messiah and His Law. As free agents we have the right to unite ourselves with mediocrity, watered-down Christianity, unbelief and even paganism, but the rewards are not the same as for those who embrace the fullness. Ruth chose to unite with Boaz and became the ancestor of the Master Yah'shua the Messiah, a Moabite woman, Israel's enemy! We too, as sinners, and therefore Yahweh's enemies, may unite with sinlessness, and become the progenitors of much righteousness on the earth, if we choose to do so, and become Yahweh's friends.
If these things are not glorious enough there is yet another level of joy that yet awaits us. For one day, if we are faithful, the people of the universal Church will one day be joined to Yah'shua the Messiah in a celestial wedding. "What is the way the world ends," cried a great philsopher, "will it be with a bang, or a whimper". The Good News of the Gospel is that, for the Messianic Community -- the redeemed of Yahweh -- it will end in a wedding! We shall be joined to Messiahto be His for evermore.
XIX. The more we see of Boaz in this story the more evident it becomes that his heart had been set on Ruth right from the beginning. It is obvious that there was an age difference between Ruth and Boaz as here Boaz exclaims, almost with a sense of relief: "You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor" (v.10). So excited is Boaz at the turn of events that he at once proceeded to enter into a kind of "moonlight sonata", in which he bore testimony to Ruth's virtue, dignity and bravery.
There was, however, one major problem to be faced. There was someone alive who was a closer relative than Boaz. Hebrew Law specifically required the next of kin to act the part of a kinsman, but Boaz was second in line. He covenanted before Yahweh that he would seek a settlement of the matter as quickly as possible, and then urged Ruth to rest comfortably until the morning.
Here we must ask ourselves the question: If there was a kinsman nearer than Boaz then why did not Ruth present herself to him? It is safe to assume that Naomi with her knowledge of the family would have been aware of this fact so why did she ignore it, and send Ruth to Boaz? This is not, at first sight, an easy question to answer, but will become apparent as we consider the last verses of this book. For the present, let us simply recognise in this action the governing, guarding and guiding hand of Yahweh. Let us remember also that precious things, as they grow familiar, begin to lose their first bewildering thrill, whether it is human love, success, parenthood, or whatever. But not so with the deep, inner spiritual things of Yahweh. awareness of the divine hand at work in our lives, transforming us more and more into sons and daughters of Christ. It is these things which have an everlasting quality. And it was these things that Ruth and Naomi sought above all else.
XX. Naomi's plan was a bold and risky one, as is so often the case with the things Yahweh's servants must do. As Boaz was anxious to preserve and protect Ruth's good name, he urged her to return home before the rest of his workers awakened, and the general activity of the day began. He was well aware of the fact that her visit to him at night could be misinterpreted and, to avoid embarrassment, he urged her to return to Naomi.
What happened next makes it obvious that when Ruth had previously dressed herself for this visit to Boaz, she had attired herself suitably for one about to be married. Her dress included a veil which covered her face, the wearing of which was the custom with women about to be joined to a husband. Boaz then asked Ruth to take off her veil and, as a token of his love for her, he poured into it six measures of barley. This was something for which she had not laboured. It was not the result of her gleaning. It was a special gift. A dedication (engagement) present, if you like.
When she returned home without the veil on her face, this immediately prompted Noami to ask, "Who art thou?" (v.16, KJV). This does not mean that Naomi did not recognise her, nor, as the NIV wrongly translates it, "How did it go?" The question really implied something else. She was asking, "What is your name now? Are you Mrs. Boaz? Has it been changed, or has the whole thing fallen through?"
Ruth immediately reassured Naomi that all was well. The dedication (engagement) had taken place. All that was necessary then was for Boaz to work out the legal problems with the next of kin, and the marriage would immediately take place.
Marriages made of Yahweh do not always come easily. Sometimes there is opposition because local customs and conventions must be broken. There are obstacles to be overcome, complications to be sorted out. When the Master Yah'shua the Messiah came to the earth the people were expecting a political Messiah and the usshering in of the Millennium. He soon crushed those expectations, saying that was for another era. Our heavenly Boaz, the Master Yah'shua the Messiah, who, in His desire to woo His Bride (the Messianic Community), win His Bride and wed His Bride, overcame every obstacle, every entanglement and every difficulty. Blessed be His Name forever!
XXI. After Ruth had shared with Naomi the details of all that had happened the night before, Naomi's final piece of advice to Ruth was this: "Be still!" (v.18). This is difficult to do at any time, but especially so when matters of the heart are involved. I wonder, does Yahweh want to take His word. and bring it home to your heart in a special way this day? Are you restless, eager and anxious to press ahead on some point that needs further thought and prayer? Then "sit still", for a higher hand than yours is leading. "Sit still," for an infinitely more loving heart than yours is leading. "Sit still," for a purpose far wiser and more wonderful than you could ever conceive will open up in the days that lie ahead.
How often do our lives become entangled and complicated because of precipitate and premature action? I sometimes wonder whether we make more mistakes in our Christian life through our haste than we ever do through our slowness and sluggishness. One of the greatest lessons we can learn about life is that Yahweh is rarely in a hurry. How slow and unhurried He seems to be at times. "Lord, why don't You do something?" we cry. Yet the heavenly voice seems to give no answer
Hold to your heart today Naomi's closing statement: "The man will not rest until the matter is settled today" (v.18, NIV). To Ruth, sitting at home waiting, it must have seemed the longest day she ever lived. But Yahweh was at work. And He is just as truly working for you. Maybe the next important stage in your life involves other people -- if so, they need to be moved upon by, and respond to, Yahweh's Spirit too. So be patient. "Sit still". Remember Yahweh always says, "Halt," when there is a major road ahead.
XXII. In order to appreciate the meaning of redemption, we must pause in our story to consider some important aspects of the word. The word "redeem" means "to buy back" or "to set free". It is the act by which a person's property or liberty is purchased by the payment of a price set by law. In order to be eligible to redeem something or someone, a redeemer must meet certain conditions.
He must first of all be related to the person to be redeemed. By birth, he must be a near kinsman (Lev.25:47-49). Secondly, the redeemer must be financially able to pay the redemption price. Thirdly, in addition to being a kinsman, he must be willing to redeem as redemption must be a voluntary act on the part of the redeemer.
All three of these conditions Boaz was able to meet. He was a near kinsman to Naomi, and, therefore, to Ruth. He was wealthy and well able to pay the required price. One condition remained -- was he willing? Most certainly so. His love for Ruth was so great that he was willing to lay aside his reputation, and marry one who was cursed by birth, and frowned upon by Hebrew law.
A Patriarch in the Millennial New Covenant to come must also meet the three requirements of redemption. If a woman asks to marry him, he must: (a) Be related to her in the Covenant, meaning, have they entered the same spiritual covenants, been blessed by the same, and obtained the same spirit-nature in Christ; (b) Be able to pay the redemption price, which in the New Covenant, is to have paid the spiritual and physical price to obtain the spiritual keys of knowledge that will allow them to flourish together under the Patriarchal Covenant; and (c) He must be willing to accept her in his heart and embrace her fully in his bosom.
How beautifully our Master Yah'shua the Messiah meets all these conditions too. He joined Himself to us at the Incarnation so that he could be a member of the human race, and thus a near kinsman. Although divesting Himself of heaven's riches, He kept the one thing that was needful to pay our redemption -- His deity. But did He do it willingly? Let the Bible answer: "Yahweh demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Messiahdied for us" (Rom.5:8, NIV).
XXIII. What a day it was! Ruth, the Gentile widow from Moab was to become the bride of wealthy Boaz of Bethlehem! But before this could take place, a special meeting had to be arranged with Naoimi's next of kin so that the matter of redemption could be satisfactorily settled. This meeting was held at the gate of the city, the customary place for the elders to meet for the settlement of all civic matters. What was decided at the gate of the city by these elders then passed into law. Their decisions were final and authoritative.
Boaz waited until the kinsman arrived, and then proceeded to explain the situation: "Naomi who emigrated to Moab with her husband and two sons has returned with a widow. She wants to sell the piece of land that belonged to her husband. I would like to buy that land, but as next of kin you have prior claim. Do you wish to buy it?"
This was the first stage in the redemption process, but for a moment it appeared as though Boaz's plans were thwarted when the kinsman replied, "I will buy it." Some might have turned away at this stage and said, "There is nothing more I can do" -- but not Boaz. In his heart burned a passion for Ruth that nothing could overpower. Drawing on his resources of wisdom and ingenuity, he argued his case in a most effective way. In his heart burned the fire of a love that longed to liberate. Isn't this precisely the kind of love that led our Saviour to rescue us from sin, and its thraldom? He overcame every obstacle, overwhelmed every argument, and argued our case so effectively in the courts of heaven that now we find ourselves owned by Him for ever.
XXIV. Boaz's plans to redeem Ruth were temporarily thwarted when the kinsman gave a definite 'No' to his proposal. This presented Boaz with a serious problem. If the closer relative purchased the ground from Noami, then Boaz would no longer be able to claim Ruth as his wife for the law said that whoever acquired the ground had legal rights over the family. It was at this point that the resourcefulness and ingenuity of Boaz becomes apparent. When faced with his legal problem he drew on his deep wisdom and experience: "If you buy the land from Noami then you realise that you will assume full responsibility for caring for her, and also Ruth, the Moabitess, because she is the wife of Naomi's dead son. Ruth has no son so you will have to fulfil the conjugal duty of a husband in the hope that a son will be born to carry on his father's name according to the law" (Deut.25:5-10).
When presented with the facts, the kinsman's enthusiasm waned. "Then I cannot redeem it," he cried, "because I might endanger my own estate." (v.6, NIV). The thought of having a Moabitess in the family (a stranger from a despised people) was obviously too much for him. "Redeem my right yourself," was his answer. How this beautifully mirrors the fact that, when Messiahdecided to redeem us, He, too, faced a colossal problem. The Scripture says, we were "sold under sin" (Rom.7:14) and, by reason of this, we belonged to the kingdom of Satan. Drawing on the infinite resources of His knowledge and wisdom, however, our blessed Lord found a way to redeem us. Nothing can deter the Deity -- not even sin.
XXV. The ceremony through which a man, unwilling or unable to redeem another, passed in order to relinquish his legal claim was both dramatic and colourful. The law required that the man, unable or unwilling to pay the redmeption price, should take off his shoe and hand it to the other person. This ceremony could on some occasions be anything but pleasant. A widow, for example, would face an unwilling kinsman, spit in his face, and say, "This is what is done to the man who will not build up his brother's family..." (Deut.25:9, NIV).
Boaz, of course, did not humiliate the near kinsman in this way for he was only too thrilled to be in reach of his ultimate goal. Another thing the law required of this transaction was for it to be done publicly, out in the open where all could see, then sealed, settled and completed by the giving of a shoe.
Does this not remind us of the way in which Messiahsecured our salvation? Paul says, speaking of Christ's work on Calvary, "this thing was not done in a corner" (Ac.26:26). Our Saviour was not pummelled to death in some quiet corner of Jerusalem, but nailed to a Cross that was set up on a hill -- something everyone could see. There, as Messiahtook on Himself our sins and sorrows, He purchased us from Satan's dominion, not by the giving of a shoe, but by the giving of His own precious blood. Now the matter is sealed, settled and completed. The songwriter put it beautifully when he said:
He signed my deed with His atoning blood.
He ever lives to make the purchase good
Should all the hosts of hell march in to make a second claim
They'd all march out again at the mention of His Name.
XXVI. We have now seen that Torah required those involved in a redemption purchase to have the transaction validated in the presence of many witnesses. We have also seen in this a picture of Christ's death, and are reminded yet again of the unique relationship between the Law and the Work of Messiahin every respect. Messiahpaid the price of our redemption not by dying in a quite corner of Jerusalem but high up on a Cross for all the world to see. So full of deep spiritual suggestiveness is this thought that we must spend some more time to consider it.
When Boaz began his statement to the elders, he began and ended by saying; "You are witnesses this day..." Why did he begin and end in this way? In legal circles there is a saying, "Justice must not only be done, but it must be seen to be done." Boaz with his legal mind wanted to be sure that the transaction would never be called into question at some point in the future, so he stressed the fact that what had been done had been witnessed by all. It wasn't every day of the week that a Jew married a Gentile, especially a Moabite. People could have brought the legality of the issue up later, if not then clearly sealed, settled and certified.
This is why Christ's death was enacted before a large number of witnesses. The crucifixion and the resurrection are all one piece. As Messiahwas to come back from the grave then it must be known that he had come back from the grave. The easiest argument people could advance to gainsay His resurrection would be, "He could not have died." So it was certified by many witnesses. He had a certified death and, thererfore, an undeniable resurrection.
XXVII. By modern standards there is something rather incongruous about the wedding of Boaz and Ruth. The ficus of attention seems to be on the bridegroom, rather than the bride. Compared to today's customs, this is certainly a strange procedure. Nowadays the bride steals the show from beginning to end and becomes the focus of all the attention. Whose photograph appears in the newspapers when a society wedding is written up in the local press? The bride. And what music is usually played as the wedding formality is about to commence? "Here comes the bride." The wedding between Ruth and Boaz is quite different. Boaz receives most of the attention, and Ruth seems at this stage to be almost pushed right out of the picture. All this, however, is in perfect harmony with the spiritual import of the book of Ruth. It is, after all, the story of a poor Moabitess, a penniless widow, an outcast finding favour and salvation through the intervention of another. The law barried Ruth's way to happiness and prosperity until grace intervened in the form of Boaz, and provided for her redemption and security. Law knows no mercy -- only justice. Grace, however, looks for a way to satisfy the law's demands, and bring happiness and joy to the guilty. Like Ruth, we had no claim to the blessings of Yahweh's salvation, but Messiah, our heavenly Boaz, moving in infinite grace, paid our past account, cleared all our debt to the law, and made Himself responsible for all our future obligations.
XXVIII. We must not suppose, however, that once redeemed, Ruth sat around and did nothing. As a married woman she had domestic duties and other responsibilities. The relationship was not, moreover, one way: though Boaz had purchased her in what was a highly unequal act. Relationship means two-way action and communication. No wife in her right mind would expect her husband to do everything for her whilst she did nothing. No wife expects to be able to do whatever she likes or expects automatic forgiveness everytime she does something wrong. The law is not suddenly "set aside", as many Christians would have us believe. The family still has rules and regulations to follow, as does society. Therefore we must not fall into the dangerous trap of believing that "once saved, always saved." Grace came to make the Law beautiful and kind, not to sweep it aside. A wife cannot expect to murder a member of her family and expect to be protected by her husband -- there are sins which lead to death which no redeemer can protect...at least not automatically.
Let us now consider the wedding arrangements between Boaz and his bride because the patriarchl way is so very different from the modern western one. Where was Ruth during the wedding plans? Where was she after we last saw her waiting patiently in the haouse of her mother-in-law, Naomi.
We need only consider the relationship between Messiah and His Messianic Community to realise what was going on. Where is our Saviour at this very moment in time? Is He not in heaven preparing the wedding arrangements between Himself and His Messianic Community -- the saints? Here on earth the Messianic Community waits patiently for the day when he will come to receive us unto Himself. Just as Ruth waited patiently to hear the voices of ten maidens (a Jewish custom at all weddings) crying out at her door, "Behold, the bridegroom cometh!", so we, too, wait for that sound which we know will herald the return of our blessed Lord.
The book of Revelation gives us a picture of that coming wedding. It is not called the wedding of the Messianic Community but the wedding of the Lamb. Even the wedding gown which the Bride will wear is a gift of the Bridegroom! There we shall confess we are what we are because of Him. The Bridegroom will steal the show, and from the hearts of redeemed millions will come a song a praise similar to this:
From sinking sand He lifted me,
With tender hand He lifted me,
From shades of night to plains of light,
O praise His Name, He lifted me.
XXIX. The more time we spend in the book of Ruth the more more spiritual lessons leap out from its pages. We have seen how in our western traditions the centre of marriage is all wrong -- the focus is on the Bride instead of the Bridegroom. That is not to say, of course, that men are more important than women. Far from it. Central to all patriarchal marriages is the truth that Yah'shua the Messiah is the head of the marriage. The Bridegroom is not representing himself but the Master Yah'shua the Messiah -- he is a symbol of what true Christian marriage should be -- a marriage not of two, but of three. And without that third Person the marriage is, arguably, no marriage at all, at least not in the eternal perspective. Is it possible that the subtle change from Bridegroom-centredness to Bride-centredness has something to do with the devil's plan to undermine Christ-centredness in marriage? It's worth thinking about.
I would now like to consider the blessing given by the wedding guests to Boaz: "Yahweh make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel..." (Ruth 4:11, KJV). Do you remember who Rachel was? She was one of the four wives of Jacob, the mother of Joseph and Benjamin, and one of the most illustrious personages in Israelite history. She is, to this very day, held in the highest esteem by all members of the Jewish race and by many Christians.
In this statement, the elders of Israel express to Boaz their wish that Ruth, his wife, should become as honoured and revered a woman as Rachel. When we consider that Ruth was a Moabitess, born in a land that was cursed by Yahweh (and which no longer exists), then something rather remarkable must have happened to their thinking for them to make a statement like this. What caused it? Just one simple fact -- Boaz gave himself to Ruth (not Ruth to Boaz!), and, in the giving, broke down, by the sheer weight of his love and personality, embraced her in the covenant of Israel.
And this, I need hardly remind you, is precisely what Chrisy has done for us in the courts of heaven. There in heaven, according to the Bible, we were classified as "children of wrath...aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise" (Eph.2:3,12), but now, because of Messiahhaving joined Himself to us, we are given a new status, a new citizenship, and a new identity. We become a part of a New Covenant, a Covenant of Grace and Law in perfect balance.
XXX. The elders of Israel, in addition to their wish that Ruth would become as honoured as Rachel and Leah, expressed the hope that Bethlehem and Ephratah would carry a similar distinction too. Were their wishes fulfilled?
Well, let us examine them at once, and in detail. Following the marriage of Ruth and Boaz, in due course a son arrived whom they called Obed. When Obed grew up and reached maturity, he then married and had a son called Jesse who, in turn, became the father of David. As we trace the ancestry down through history, we come at alst to the record we referred to right at the beginning of thus study,. when we said that in Matthew 1:5 the Scripture lists the name of Ruth alongside those of the famous men who are recorded there as part of the genealogy of our Master Yah'shua the Messiah. Ruth's name is, therefore, stamped with an honour and dignity that Rachel never found!
Then what about Bethlehem? It has a cherished place in history for two main reasons: (1) It was the city of David and (2) it was the birth place of our Saviour, the Master Yah'shua the Messiah. But there is one more place -- Ephratah. Ephratah was in the area in which Bethlehem was located. Micah said of it: "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little...out of thee shall come...He that is to be ruler in Israel.." (Mic.5:2).
This promise received its fulfilment hundreds of years later, when the angels visited the shepherds of the Judean hills. All three wishes were, therefore, fulfilled. Again a triumphant testimony to the fact that the sovereignty of Yahweh was at work in the words of men, again a triumphant testimony that ALL of the Bible is Yahweh's Word. Amen!
XXXI. We come to the last of our meditations in the book of Ruth in which we shall examine together the main theme and message of this delightful story. What is this book really saying to us? Is it not this -- that through all the mistakes, blunders, heartaches, problems and difficulties in life, Yahweh is continually at work, guiding, guarding, and governing our earthly affairs so that ultimately all things contribute to His praise and glory?
We saw this truth dramatically demonstrated for us in the life a a little family, who, leaving Bethlehem in time of famine, made their way to Moab where they met with tragedy, bereavement and crippling disappointment. When at last, Naomi, the only survivor of the original family, returns to Bethlehem, in company with her Moabite daughter-in-law, Ruth, it is to discover that Yahweh turns the tragedies into triumphs, and the defeats into victories. So drop your anchor into the depths of the reassuring and encouraging revelation -- out of every mess Yahweh is able to make a message.
"Many things," said Thomas Erskine, "appear irretrievable to us, but there is nothing irretrievable with Yahweh." He went on to say, "I believe Yahweh says to me every morning, 'Begin again thy journey; thy sins which were many are not only forgiven but they shall be made by my wisdom the basis on which I will build my blessings.'"
This we must believe. Our sins, when confessed, together with our mistakes, become the foundation on which Yahweh builds his blessings. Yahweh does not merely put up with our mistakes. He uses them.
Modified and expanded from Selwyn Hughes' Ruth and Esther, CWR, 1979
This page was created on 16 October 1997
Last updated on 1 November 2007
Copyright © 1987-2007 NCCG - All Rights Reserved