Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
French Countryside near Bannalec

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Mar 26, Rut 1-4

Today's readings are Rut 1-4.

In the Bible, the Book of Ruth follows the Book of Judges, but the events in Ruth occur during the "time of the judges." Ruth is a ray of hope in a dark time. Even as we watch Israel slide into godlessness, we see that there is a remnant of faithful, godly people among the Jews. We also see that God is still moving among them, blessing them individually if not nationally. Ruth is an example of how a godly minority can pursue holiness and still function in a godless or declining culture.

The Book of Ruth seems more about Naomi than Ruth. It starts out with Naomi and Elimelech and ends with Naomi. Elimelech is an anti-type to Moses. Moses led God's people to the Promised Land; Elimelech leads his family out of it and away from the promises God gave Israel. Elimelech has allowed his circumstances to overwhelm him and heads for greener pastures in Moab, historically an enemy of Israel (Rut 1:1-2).

Eventually, Elimelech dies leaving Naomi stranded in Moab (Rut 1:3-5). This is where the Book of Ruth becomes a story of redemption. To the Jews, Elimelech’s decision to move to Moab, his death, and the marriage of his sons to Moabites would have been signs of God’s punishment on him and his family.

Naomi loses everything while in Moab and, feeling bitter, wants to return to Judah. As Naomi prepares to leave, Ruth a Moabite and a harbinger of hope in a seemingly dark story, makes a commitment to Naomi, promising never to leave her (Rut 1:15-16). We see the first glimmer of evidence that God intends to use Elimelech’s questionable decision and Naomi’s distress to make something beautiful happen when Ruth makes a profession of faith and commitment to God (Rut 1:17-18).

In Bethlehem, Ruth proceeds to take care of Naomi and her needs, working in the fields to feed them where she meets Boaz. Things are looking up for Naomi, Ruth has had a hand in her redemption and Boaz, who has taken an interest in Ruth and is a distant relative of Naomi, has appeared on the scene (Ruth 2:1-14).

But Ruth, even though she is described as a "worthy woman" (Ruth 3:11) is a Moabite, a Gentile in need of redemption herself. Boaz, literally and legally, becomes her redeemer when Ruth lies at his feet and proposes marriage to him (Rut 3:6-9). Ruth becomes part of the community, professes her faith in the one true God, marries Boaz and enters into the bloodline of the ultimate redeemer, Jesus Christ (Rut 4:11-12).

The last scene pictures Naomi with her grandson in her lap, redeemed, restored and content. God has taken a tragic situation, one filled with grief and loss, and redeemed it. He promises to do the same for us (Rom 8:28).

So, where does Ruth fit in with the narrative of the Bible? For one thing, it shows God's providential care of His people (Naomi) through non-Jewish people (Ruth). This is an important aspect of God's sovereign authority over all nations. But even more crucial is the concept that God can and will redeem Gentiles. Ruth is a prime example. The Moabites have been the enemies of the Jews. Yet, upon her profession of faith, Ruth is accepted as part of the Jewish community and is made a full-fledged member. Ruth is "adopted" into the family of the people of God. 

A thousand years later, Paul will write about redemption by adoption (Rom 8:15, 23; Eph 1:5). Eventually, we will see that Ruth is included in the bloodline of Christ. Her redemption is complete; she has been transformed from a pagan Moabite into a believing, contributing, loved member of the Jewish community. Naomi is redeemed and filled with joy. God has taken a painful situation and brought good from it. 

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