Christian Churches of God
(Edition 2.0 19940515-200000802)
The Book of Ruth deals with specific aspects of the laws of inheritance. It is also the story of an aspect of the lineage of Christ and is an analogy of the relationship between Christ and the Church. It is not just a simple story of a girl seeking the love and protection of a husband.
The Bible we have today does not reflect the original order of the books of the Hebrew Scriptures. The Hebrew Scriptures, or Old Testament, were originally divided into three collections of books known as the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms. When Jesus had been resurrected and appeared to his disciples during a meal they were having, he opened their understanding to his identity using the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms.
Luke 24:44-45 Then he said to them, "These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled." 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, (RSV)
In this original arrangement, the book of Ruth belonged to that collection of books named “the Psalms” (they were so named because the book of Psalms was the first book in this collection). Specifically it was the fifth book within "the Psalms". Along with four other books it was part of a smaller subgrouping of books known as the Festival Scrolls. These were called "Festival Scrolls" because they were read during different festivals of the year. Specifically, the books and the festivals during which they were read and even read today are:
Song of Solomon
Feast of Weeks (i.e. Pentecost)
Fast on ninth of Ab
Feast of Tabernacles
Feast of Purim
The obvious purpose of Ruth is to help recount the origins of the house of David and thus a vital part of the lineage of Messiah. But there is more to this little book than these things. Through analogies it contains instructions and guidance for Christians, as we prepare collectively and individually to be the Bride of Christ at his coming. It also shows us the reponsibilities for conversion of the gentiles.
However, before we go into the spiritual lessons of this book, we will take a quick tour of its story line and get an overview of its material. Ruth is one of only two books of the Bible to be named after a woman. The other is Esther. Interestingly, in Ruth a Gentile woman marries a Hebrew husband, while in Esther a Jewish woman marries a Gentile husband. In the book, Ruth ends up marrying Boaz who is descended from Salmon, who married Rahab the harlot, who repented at the time Israel took possession of the Promised Land. Rahab was another Gentile woman, and both Rahab and Ruth are specifically mentioned in Matthew's account of Christ's lineage (see Genealogy of the Messiah (No. 119)). The stories of these women also show that the message of God was not just for Israel, but also extended to the rest of the nations.
The book opens during the days of the Judges with a famine in Judah. A man named Elimelech (meaning My God is king) and his wife Naomi (meaning My pleasant one) and their two sons, Mahlon (Sick), and Chilion (Pining) moved from Bethlehem to the land of Moab to escape the famine. Elimelech dies and his sons take wives for themselves from the Moabites around them, namely Orpah (Gazelle) and Ruth (Friendship). The Moabites were descended from Lot, by his daughters, after the overthrow of Sodom and the cities of the plain. So the Moabites were in that sense related to the Israelites, though not of their religion or culture. According to the Law (Deut. 7:1-3), Israelites were not to take Canaanite wives, but Moabite wives were permitted. (However, a Moabite man was not permitted to enter the congregation of the Lord (Deut. 23:3) even to the tenth generation.)
Ten years after Elimelech died, so did his two sons Mahlon and Chilion. (Given the names of these sons it is possible that there may have been some genetic predisposition towards sickness in this family and thus perhaps an additional reason God permitted them to die rather than raise up David's line through Elimelech). The term pining may also indicate an unfulfilled desire, or some symbolic Scriptural intent in the selection of the names of the sons. It is also possible that they were tempted by the idols of a foreign country. It appears though that Naomi held fast to her heritage, culture and beliefs and taught these things to her daughters-in-law. Naomi learned that the famine in Judah had ended and with nothing to keep her in Moab, she decided to return home. Both her widowed daughters-in-law decided to follow her but only one, Ruth, ended up doing so.
Without a husband to provide for either of them, both Naomi and Ruth were poor and so Ruth went out to glean in the fields during the spring harvest. Under the Law, when crops were harvested the corners of the fields were to be left untouched and any grain which fell during the reaping was to be left behind for the poor to come and gather (Lev. 19:9). Similarly, vineyards were not to be stripped bare nor were grapes that fell to be collected, again for the sake of the poor (Lev. 19:10). By providence, Ruth came to glean in the fields of Boaz. Boaz was a relative of Naomi's deceased husband and extremely wealthy. He offered her protection and encouragement.
Sensing God's hand was in this, Naomi instructed Ruth to approach Boaz at the end of the harvest and to indicate her desire to marry him. Ruth did this, but another kinsman of Elimelech had prior claim to marry Ruth. Boaz redeemed her from this kinsman and married her. The book closes with Boaz and Ruth having a son and Naomi rejoicing in her grandson, from whom David and ultimately Joshua (Jesus) the Messiah were descended.
Ruth and Christian Commitment
One of the most profound qualities of Ruth was her willingness to abandon everything in her life. She left all that was important to her – her homeland, her family, her friends, her culture, her religion, in short, her whole identity – to follow Naomi back to Israel and cleave to her and her people, and her God.
Ruth 1:1-18 Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons. 2 And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehemjudah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there. 3 And Elimelech Naomi's husband died; and she was left, and her two sons. 4 And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years. 5 And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.
Interestingly, according to The Companion Bible in its note to verse 6, Naomi’s return to Bethlehem took place in 1326 the year prior to the second jubilee in 1325/24 BCE. The jubilee started from Atonement of the Sabbath year and went to Atonement of the jubilee year in 1324. 1326 was thus a treble harvest year. The drought had ended in Judah and her people were able to harvest their produce and be prepared for the time of the land Sabbath year of rest. God works according to his own Calendar and rules (see the papers God's Calendar (No. 156); Law and the Fourth Commandment (No. 256); Reading the Law with Ezra and Nehemiah (No. 250) and Outline Timetable of the Age (No. 272)).
6 Then she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the LORD had visited his people in giving them bread. 7 Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters in law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah. 8 And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother's house: the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me. 9 The LORD grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept. 10 And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people. 11 And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? 12 Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons; 13 Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me. 14 And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her. 15 And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law. 16 And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: 17 Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. 18 When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.
Ruth's level of commitment was quite different to that of her sister-in-law. When Naomi first announced her intention to leave Moab and return to her homeland, both Orpah and Ruth began the journey with her. But when Naomi protested, Orpah ended up leaving and returned to her people, while Ruth clung to Naomi.
Ruth 1:19-22 So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi? 20 And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me? 22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter in law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest.
The time of the barley harvest means that it was the time of Passover. The first cut of the barley is the wave sheaf offering, which is the first day of the week following the weekly Sabbath within the Feast. There are a number of important lessons in this for the Christian. Naomi had lived as a stranger in a strange land, as the representative of the true God and his way of life. In this she was rather like the Church of God. Both Orpah and Ruth had come into a relationship with her. Together they had seen terrible tragedy. Now was the time for Naomi to return home, and to move on. One daughter-in-law said that she was committed to Naomi but was able to be dissuaded from this "commitment". The other daughter-in-law, however, was truly and completely committed and was willing to pay the price of that commitment, which meant completely turning her back on her former way of life.
The type of commitment Ruth displayed is the type of commitment we as Christians ought to have. For us, repentance and baptism symbolise a total renunciation of the self and a total commitment to a new identity and new destiny.
Romans 6:1-5 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (RSV)
Colossians 3:3-4 For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (RSV)
Orpah, however, displayed a kind of worldly sorrow – a kind of remorse that did not lead to real commitment and change. She looked back at what she would be leaving behind and ended up returning to it. Unfortunately there are some Christians like this, who make claims that they are committed ("surely we will go with you") and stay for a time, but when the crunch comes, they turn back and return to that from which they were called.
2Corinthians 7:10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death. (RSV)
Luke 9:62 Jesus said to him, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." (RSV)
Ruth on the other hand is a shining example of genuine and total commitment and she typifies those Christians who are willing to give up everything, including their lives if necessary, in order to follow Christ.
The local people remembered Naomi who was obviously grieving for her husband and sons. She indicated her bitterness at her loss when she said to call her Mara (SHD 4755 bitter). Nevertheless, while she felt that she had seen great trials she did not lose faith, hence her return to her own country and her own people, possibly in time for Passover and Unleavened Bread.
We all have to deal with loss of loved ones and various trials in the course of our lives and it is part of our spiritual growth that we do not lose faith.
Ruth and Gleaning
When Naomi and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem, Ruth took it upon herself to go out and glean in the fields and so provide for her mother-in-law and herself.
Ruth 2:1-3 And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband's, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz. 2 And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter. 3 And she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers: and her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech.
Ruth went out to glean and it "happened" that she came to glean in the field of her future husband Boaz. This has considerable meaning for us. The term glean in the Hebrew means to pick up, gather, glean, gather up. It meant to pick up the left over and spilt pieces of grain, as the crop was being harvested. Now a gleaner did not sow the crop. A gleaner did not irrigate the crop or tend it as it matured. These jobs were the responsibility of the husbandman who owned the field. A gleaner was therefore someone who was allowed to share in and benefit from the efforts of another.
In many ways this typifies the relationship of Christians to their future husband, Christ. It was God who called us. The parable of the sower is in Matthew 13.
Matthew 13:3-9, 18, 23 And he told them many things in parables, saying: "A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they had not much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched; and since they had no root they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell upon thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear." …………..
18 "Hear then the parable of the sower. …………
23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is he who hears the word and understands it; he indeed bears fruit, and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty." (RSV)
This example is interesting because as the “seed" of the gospel is scattered around, some of it falls on good ground where it grows up and brings forth fruit. Christ said that the good soil is those who hear the word and understand it. Luke 8:15 adds:
Luke 8:15 And as for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience. (RSV)
It is quite obvious that not all of the world understands or acts on the gospel of the Kingdom of God. It has to fall on good soil. It has to be received, then grow and come into fruition amongst the people who understand it.
There are several things involved here. Firstly, there is the scattering of the seed and the hearing of the word. Next, there is the understanding of it. Lastly, there is the holding fast to it, with an honest and good heart. The last point is something we have control over. However, the first two points are something that God – or Christ, acting under his direction – must do for us.
It is Christ who prepares the "soil" of our lives to make us able to receive the things of God's word, or the "seed". Why is some “soil" good "soil"? It is because Christ works in our lives, often it seems, years in advance, to create in us those conditions where we will be ready for and receptive to God's "seed" when the time comes for it to be scattered in our lives.
In the Bible we find numerous accounts of people who were called in fascinating ways and whose lives were prepared for the seed when it came. For example, there is the calling of the Ethiopian Eunuch:
Acts 8:26-39 But an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." This is a desert road. 27 And he rose and went. And behold, an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a minister of the Can'dace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of all her treasure, had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, "Go up and join this chariot." 30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?" 31 And he said, "How can I, unless some one guides me?" And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the scripture which he was reading was this: "As a sheep led to the slaughter or a lamb before its shearer is dumb, so he opens not his mouth. 33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken up from the earth." 34 And the eunuch said to Philip, "About whom, pray, does the prophet say this, about himself or about some one else?" 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this scripture he told him the good news of Jesus. 36 And as they went along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, "See, here is water! What is to prevent my being baptized?" 37 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught up Philip; and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. (RSV)
The Ethiopian had obviously been guided and prepared for this by Christ, so that when God's time for his calling came, he was ready, willing, and able to receive the "seed" of the gospel.
This Ethiopian and many like him were prepared and baptised. Philip was miraculously removed, indicating that the Holy Spirit would now work with the Ethiopians. The Ethiopian church was established as a new and independent Church from this activity and the Abyssinian Churches grew into spiritually powerful structures. So much so, that by the second century they were established and by the fourth century when Christians in Asia Minor were being persecuted, the Abyssinians could dispatch the bishop Mueses into Asia to found and organise the churches in China (cf. General Distribution of the Sabbath-keeping Churches (No. 122)).
Not only does God first prepare the soil of our lives before He scatters the seed in our direction, but He also leads us along the way, giving us experiences and opportunities so that the seed can grow and flourish and produce fruit. Paul wrote:
1Corinthians 3:6-7 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. (KJV)
We each have our part to play in Christian growth and overcoming as Paul explains the verses that follow. All the same, it is God working through Christ, who provides those experiences which lead to our growth.
God does not "orchestrate" our lives, but there is little doubt that He does direct and inspire and either causes conditions and events, or otherwise uses happenings in our lives to produce further growth in us. So we are like Ruth, the gleaner. Christ is working in our lives and we have the privilege of receiving the benefits of his efforts.
Boaz is a type of Christ
When Ruth began to glean in Boaz's fields, he took notice of her and made enquiries as to whom she might be. Upon learning she was Naomi’s daughter-in-law, he made special arrangements for her, making sure she would be safe and her labours profitable.
Ruth 2:4-14 And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The LORD be with you. And they answered him, The LORD bless thee. 5 Then said Boaz unto his servant that was set over the reapers, Whose damsel is this? 6 And the servant that was set over the reapers answered and said, It is the Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab: 7 And she said, I pray you, let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves: so she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house. 8 Then said Boaz unto Ruth, Hearest thou not, my daughter? Go not to glean in another field, neither go from hence, but abide here fast by my maidens: 9 Let thine eyes be on the field that they do reap, and go thou after them: have I not charged the young men that they shall not touch thee? and when thou art athirst, go unto the vessels, and drink of that which the young men have drawn. 10 Then she fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger? 11 And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore. 12 The LORD recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust. 13 Then she said, Let me find favour in thy sight, my lord; for that thou hast comforted me, and for that thou hast spoken friendly unto thine handmaid, though I be not like unto one of thine handmaidens. 14 And Boaz said unto her, At mealtime come thou hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar. And she sat beside the reapers: and he reached her parched corn, and she did eat, and was sufficed, and left.
Gleaning was hard work, and without any guarantee of much success, if the reapers were very thorough in their duties. Also, for young women, there was the possibility of being assaulted as they laboured in the fields. In Ruth's case, being a foreigner, she could have been subjected to ridicule. However, Boaz saw to her protection. He also deliberately instructed his reapers to let extra grain fall and be left behind, so that Ruth's efforts might be successful and she would be encouraged.
Ruth 2:15-17 And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not: 16 And let fall also some of the handfuls of purpose for her, and leave them, that she may glean them, and rebuke her not. 17 So she gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned: and it was about an ephah of barley.
In his approach to Ruth, Boaz typified the love and care and concern Christ has towards us. Many times we become discouraged and frustrated with our efforts to grow and glean what Christ has provided for us. Perhaps we begin to doubt God. Will His plan for us really work out? Does he really care for me as a person? Why is life so hard?
Christ and God understand these feelings and emotions and our circumstances. Christ longs to shelter us and extend his peace into our lives:
Luke 13:34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! (RSV)
1Peter 5:6-7 So, humble yourselves [being a gleaner was humbling work] under God's strong hand, and in his own good time he will lift you up. You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal concern. (Phillips)
Christ and God will never leave us.
Hebrews 13:5 Let your character or moral disposition be free from love of money [including greed, avarice, lust, and craving for earthly possessions] and be satisfied with your present [circumstances and with what you have]; for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not* in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!] (Amplified Bible). (* Three negatives precede the verb – Wuest's Word Studies)
As Boaz cared for his future bride, Ruth, so Christ will care for us with empathy and compassion.
Ruth 2:18-23 And she took it up, and went into the city: and her mother in law saw what she had gleaned: and she brought forth, and gave to her that she had reserved after she was sufficed. 19 And her mother in law said unto her, Where hast thou gleaned to day? and where wroughtest thou? blessed be he that did take knowledge of thee. And she shewed her mother in law with whom she had wrought, and said, The man's name with whom I wrought to day is Boaz. 20 And Naomi said unto her daughter in law, Blessed be he of the LORD, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead. And Naomi said unto her, The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen. 21 And Ruth the Moabitess said, He said unto me also, Thou shalt keep fast by my young men, until they have ended all my harvest. 22 And Naomi said unto Ruth her daughter in law, It is good, my daughter, that thou go out with his maidens, that they meet thee not in any other field. 23 So she kept fast by the maidens of Boaz to glean unto the end of barley harvest and of wheat harvest; and dwelt with her mother in law.
This is a concept of faithfulness to Christ in the tasks that he has been allotted. Paul said there are many administrations and many organisations but one Lord. We are expected to remain faithful to Christ throughout all of this harvest until the end of the age. We are not allowed to go back into the fields of the other Lords who are placed over us (the fallen host). We are to remain within the Church of God. That is, we are to remain dedicated to Christ throughout all of this harvest – from the barley harvest through to the wheat harvest at Pentecost.
From the barley to the wheat harvest is from Christ through the whole harvest of the Church in the first resurrection, but we are not to leave off until that entire harvest is done. In other words we have to work until the very coming of the Messiah. We have no permission to stop.
Ruth boldly sought marriage
One of the fascinating things about Ruth is that she was a woman with courage and conviction. Those were the days of arranged marriages and of men choosing whom they would marry. Further, consider the situation Ruth was in. She was a penniless gleaner, a foreigner, an unclean Gentile, and in cultural terms less than one of Boaz's own servants.
Ruth 2:13 Then she said, "You are most gracious to me, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not one of your maidservants." (RSV)
Yet she had the boldness and courage to ask that Boaz, a wealthy, highly respected landowner, would marry her. She obviously trusted Naomi’s judgment. Naomi understood that God's hand was in this matter. There was also a legal question here as her boldness did not come of her own desire.
Ruth 3:1-18 Then Naomi her mother in law said unto her, My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee? 2 And now is not Boaz of our kindred, with whose maidens thou wast? Behold, he winnoweth barley to night in the threshingfloor. 3 Wash thyself therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee, and get thee down to the floor: but make not thyself known unto the man, until he shall have done eating and drinking. 4 And it shall be, when he lieth down, that thou shalt mark the place where he shall lie, and thou shalt go in, and uncover his feet, and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do. 5 And she said unto her, All that thou sayest unto me I will do. 6 And she went down unto the floor, and did according to all that her mother in law bade her. 7 And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of corn: and she came softly, and uncovered his feet, and laid her down. 8 And it came to pass at midnight, that the man was afraid, and turned himself: and, behold, a woman lay at his feet. 9 And he said, Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman. 10 And he said, Blessed be thou of the LORD, my daughter: for thou hast shewed more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning, inasmuch as thou followedst not young men, whether poor or rich. 11 And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest: for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman. 12 And now it is true that I am thy near kinsman: howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I. 13 Tarry this night, and it shall be in the morning, that if he will perform unto thee the part of a kinsman, well; let him do the kinsman's part: but if he will not do the part of a kinsman to thee, then will I do the part of a kinsman to thee, as the LORD liveth: lie down until the morning. 14 And she lay at his feet until the morning: and she rose up before one could know another. And he said, Let it not be known that a woman came into the floor. 15 Also he said, Bring the vail that thou hast upon thee, and hold it. And when she held it, he measured six measures of barley, and laid it on her: and she went into the city. 16 And when she came to her mother in law, she said, Who art thou, my daughter? And she told her all that the man had done to her. 17 And she said, These six measures of barley gave he me; for he said to me, Go not empty unto thy mother in law. 18 Then said she, Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day.
Ruth requested that Boaz would "spread his skirt" over her, both symbolically by getting under his blanket at his feet and verbally when he awoke. To ask Boaz to do this meant that she was asking Boaz to perform his duties as near kinsman under Levirate laws. She was demanding her rights to be fertilised, so that she might have a child as the offspring of her late husband and so that she and her mother-in-law might take up their inheritance within the tribe of Judah and the clan of Bethlehem Ephratah. This was her right. Onan was killed for refusing this right and obligation (cf. the papers The Sin of Onan (No. 162) and Genealogy of the Messiah (No. 119)). Boaz recognised that Ruth was a woman of worth (a virtuous woman – KJV). He accepted her right to demand the Levirate Laws, but more particularly, he sought a greater link and took this proposal and sought to discharge it himself, in lieu of the nearer kinsman, given the expressed desire of Ruth.
So too, we should seek boldly the "hand" of our Master in marriage. Christ is waiting to marry us (spiritually speaking) within the laws and structure set out for him by God. Ruth typifies the Church and Boaz typifies Christ. We, the Church, collectively, form the Bride of Christ and Christ is established as king and the son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:4). He is to return to this earth to resurrect us into glory and enter into an eternal relationship of love with us as typified by human marriage.
Ephesians 5:25-32 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." 32 This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church; (RSV)
So we should also eagerly and anxiously anticipate that joyous occasion.
Revelation 22:17 The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." And let him who hears say, "Come." And let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price. (RSV)
Revelation 22:20 He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (RSV)
An interesting thing to consider is that, in our marriage to Christ, it will be a marriage of equal beings, of Elohim to Elohim. Christ is not going to marry beings who are somehow less than himself. We will be on exactly the same plane of existence as he is, as glorified spirit sons and daughters of our Father and Christ's God and Father, as Christ's brethren, and co-heirs with him. He is our head as the husband is head of the wife, but they are both equal in type and being.
Hebrews 2:11 For he [Jesus] who sanctifies and those who are sanctified have all one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brethren, (RSV)
Romans 8:16-17 it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (RSV)
Romans 8:28-29 Moreover we know that to those who love God, who are called according to his plan, everything that happens fits into a pattern for good. God, in his foreknowledge, chose them to bear the family likeness of his Son, that he might be the eldest of a family of many brothers. (Phillips)
1John 3:1-3 Consider the incredible love that the Father has shown us in allowing us to be called "children of God" – and that is not just what we are called, but what we are. Our heredity on the Godward side is no mere figure of speech – which explains why the world will no more recognise us than it recognised Christ. Oh, dear children of mine (forgive the affection of an old man!), have you realised it? Here and now we are God's children. We don't know what we shall become in the future. We only know that, if reality were to break through, we should reflect his likeness, for we should see him as he really is! (Phillips)
This relates back to the host as well.
Boaz redeemed Ruth
Although Boaz and Ruth wished to be married, Boaz was not free to marry Ruth because of how the Law of remarriages worked. Under the Law, if a man died without leaving a male heir, his brother was to take his widowed wife in marriage and the first son of that union was to be counted to succeed as heir in the name of the dead brother. Today, in our system of love and marriage this seems rather perfunctory, but back then it achieved two things. Firstly, it ensured that a man's name did not die out in Israel and, secondly, it was a means of providing for the welfare of the widowed wife. Prophetically, God had this law enacted in order to protect the inheritance of the Tribes and the social security of families. Its application in Ruth and elsewhere are so that both the important spiritual lessons of this book of Ruth and those in the lineage of Messiah might take place the way they did, so that we might understand the notion of the Salvation of the Gentiles in the restored priesthood of Melchisedek (or Melchizedek; see Melchisedek (No. 128)).
Deuteronomy 25:5-9 "If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead shall not be married outside the family to a stranger; her husband's brother shall go in to her, and take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her. 6 And the first son whom she bears shall succeed to the name of his brother who is dead, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. 7 And if the man does not wish to take his brother's wife, then his brother's wife shall go up to the gate to the elders, and say, `My husband's brother refuses to perpetuate his brother's name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a husband's brother to me.' 8 Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak to him: and if he persists, saying, `I do not wish to take her,' 9 then his brother's wife shall go up to him in the presence of the elders, and pull his sandal off his foot, and spit in his face; and she shall answer and say, `So shall it be done to the man who does not build up his brother's house.' (RSV)
Elimelech’s sons died without leaving an heir. Consequently, there was none to continue Elimelech’s name or inheritance (i.e. Elimelech had no other sons). So the brothers of Elimelech, as next of kin and their lines, had the responsibility to perform the duty of providing an heir under Levirate law. Because there was no living brother-in-law, the responsibility then fell to the next of kin in the tribe. This is found also in the principle of another commandment in Leviticus 25:25. This other commandment reads:
Leviticus 25:25 "If your brother becomes poor, and sells part of his property, then his next of kin shall come and redeem what his brother has sold. (RSV)
Naomi was too old to bear children (Ruth 1:12) and so raise up a son to Elimelech's name. The property of her clan and inheritance could not be sold in perpetuity, but only by harvests under the jubilee system. Naomi and Ruth were obviously obliged by circumstance and the lack of males and harvest facilities, to dispose of the portion of inheritance that fell to the sons of Elimelech. To protect the property harvest potential as inheritance within the tribes and family, there was an obligation for a relative of Naomi's to take Ruth in marriage even though she was a Moabitess. This is understood from the lesson of Onan and Judah. God killed Onan because he refused to perform his duty and his sister-in-law Tamar (referred to here) was forced into incest with her father-in-law Judah to secure her own and her husband’s inheritance. Remember, Ruth was a Gentile, and therefore "unclean" in the eyes of most of the people of Israel. Boaz was willing to marry Ruth and thus raise up a son to Elimelech's name, but there was another relative who was closer to Elimelech than Boaz and who therefore had "prior claim" in this process.
Boaz, being aware of this, needed to get this other relative to forego his rights and obligation to buy or redeem the property and, hence, also forego marrying Ruth.
Ruth 4:1-12 Then went Boaz up to the gate, and sat him down there: and, behold, the kinsman of whom Boaz spake came by; unto whom he said, Ho, such a one! turn aside, sit down here. And he turned aside, and sat down. 2 And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, Sit ye down here. And they sat down. 3 And he said unto the kinsman, Naomi, that is come again out of the country of Moab, selleth a parcel of land, which was our brother Elimelech's: 4 And I thought to advertise thee, saying, Buy it before the inhabitants, and before the elders of my people. If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it: but if thou wilt not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know: for there is none to redeem it beside thee; and I am after thee. And he said, I will redeem it. 5 Then said Boaz, What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi, thou must buy it also of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance. 6 And the kinsman said, I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance: redeem thou my right to thyself; for I cannot redeem it. 7 Now this was the manner in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning changing, for to confirm all things; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbour: and this was a testimony in Israel. 8 Therefore the kinsman said unto Boaz, Buy it for thee. So he drew off his shoe. 9 And Boaz said unto the elders, and unto all the people, Ye are witnesses this day, that I have bought all that was Elimelech's, and all that was Chilion's and Mahlon's, of the hand of Naomi. 10 Moreover Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place: ye are witnesses this day. 11 And all the people that were in the gate, and the elders, said, We are witnesses. The LORD make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel: and do thou worthily in Ephratah, and be famous in Bethlehem: 12 And let thy house be like the house of Pharez, whom Tamar bare unto Judah, of the seed which the LORD shall give thee of this young woman.
The action of removing one's shoe or sandal, in the sealing of a contract, was an ancient tradition, that appears to have originated from the fact that the right to tread the soil belonged to the owner of it. Hence the transfer of a sandal was a representation of the transfer of property. Psalm 60:8 appears to contain an allusion to this.
Psalm 60:8 Moab is my washpot; over Edom will I cast out my shoe: Philistia, triumph thou because of me. (KJV)
In this case God is saying that He will transfer the land of Edom to Himself. Apparently this custom was prevalent among the ancient Indians and Germans and even last century was used in the Orient.
However, the spiritual type of all this is that Boaz was willing to, and indeed had to, redeem Ruth before he could marry her. So it is with Christ. The process of our redemption – our being bought back to God through Christ – began with Christ's death at the Passover.
1Peter 1:18-19 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: (KJV)
But the process for us is still continuing and will do so until the first resurrection when our bodies will be transformed from matter to spirit and the adoption into God's family becomes complete.
Romans 8:23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (RSV)
Ephesians 1:14 Which is the earnest [guarantee] of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. (KJV)
Ephesians 4:30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. (KJV)
The Example of Naomi
One of the interesting aspects of the book of Ruth is the profound impact that her mother-in-law Naomi had on her. It was through Naomi's example that Ruth was willing to leave behind her everything she held dear – her family, her people, her land, even her religion.
When back in Judah, it was Naomi who saw God's hand in how Ruth was brought into contact with Boaz when she went gleaning. In fact, if it hadn't been for Naomi, Ruth would never have known about Boaz and she would have remained a Gentile worshipper of false gods back in Moab. It was Naomi who encouraged Ruth to seek marriage to Boaz.
In these things, Naomi was like the Church acting as a collective body, as it brings others into contact with Christ and God. It is the Church which encourages and guides us as individuals to seek marriage to our coming Bridegroom. This is a reminder to us, as Christians, as we go about our lives, of just how much our personal examples count when we interact with others. We have no idea whom God will call into the Body in this age, and we know for certain that all men and women and children will one day be called into the Church in the second resurrection. Thus it behoves us now to each set the best and finest example possible to others, because it may very well be our example that God uses or points to later, which leads another "Ruth" to Christ.
Ruth 4:13-22 So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife: and when he went in unto her, the LORD gave her conception, and she bare a son. 14 And the women said unto Naomi, Blessed be the LORD, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel. 15 And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age: for thy daughter in law, which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath born him. 16 And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it. 17 And the women her neighbours gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David. 18 Now these are the generations of Pharez: Pharez begat Hezron, 19 And Hezron begat Ram, and Ram begat Amminadab, 20 And Amminadab begat Nahshon, and Nahshon begat Salmon, 21 And Salmon begat Boaz, and Boaz begat Obed, 22 And Obed begat Jesse, and Jesse begat David. (KJV)
The Book of Ruth is a small book, but one rich in meaning. It is a beautiful and touching story in its own right, and an inspiring and encouraging message to Christians as they anticipate marriage to their soon coming King and Master, Joshua the Messiah. We have a wonderful future ahead of us. Let us fix our eyes on the goal ahead and let the simple but stirring pledge of Ruth encourage us to ever press forwards, day by day:
Ruth 1:16-17 But Ruth said, "Entreat me not to leave you or to return from following you; for where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God; 17 where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if even death parts me from you." (RSV)
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