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Ruth

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Profile:

 

When did she live

around 1300 BC

 

Nationality

Moab

Where she did live

Initially in Moab and later in Bethlehem, Israel

Parents

Not mentioned

Children

Not mentioned

 

Story of her life:

The tragedies in Naomi's life

In this article we are going to consider one family whose story is a parable [1] to us. On the surface the story of this family is a pleasing story of moral values but underneath the story of this family is a deeper spiritual lesson to us. Like any other parable, this parable teaches the truth to those who are seeking to know the Truth, but it conceals the Truth from those who will not take the trouble to seek the meaning beneath the story. This is the story of a family who actually existed in the times of the Judges.

From about 1380 BC to 1060 BC the people of Israel were ruled over by the judges [2]. During this time there was a great famine in Israel and this prompted a certain man of Bethlehem-Judah to set out with his family to sojourn in the country of Moab. His family consisted of his wife Naomi and two sons, Mah-lon and Chi-li-on.

Whilst in Moab, Elimelech died which meant that his wife Naomi was left with her two sons. These two sons eventually married women from Moab, one called Or-pah and the other Ruth. However, the two sons died and Naomi was left desolate except for her daughters-in-law. The book of Ruth tells us what happens next:

Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the LORD had visited his people and given them food. Ruth 1:6 ESV

The decision to return to Israel

So Naomi decided that she would return to the land of Israel as she heard that the Lord God had visited his people and given them bread. And this is where the parable really starts to come in. For there is a significance here - we know that Jesus refers to himself as the “bread from heaven” which God sent to his people.

Is there a connection with this verse? Yes, in verse six this is God offering bread, in other words his son, to those who are willing to come. His son would be the bread of life to them.

So if this is a parable, then who does Naomi represent? Naomi represents the faithful Jew. So when she wants to return to Israel, the parable is telling us of the faithful Jew who wants to return to a covenant relationship with God because she has heard that he is offering Christ - the bread from Heaven.

Naomi and Ruth decide to travel from Moab to Bethlehem.

And this point is really emphasised when we hear later in the chapter what town she chose to settle in. We are told later in chapter one that she chose Bethlehem as the place she wanted to settle. What’s the significance of Bethlehem? If we look at what the name of that town means we would find that it means “The House of Bread”. It was ofcourse the birthplace of the Lord Jesus Christ. So Naomi is returning to the House of Bread. A place that symbolises Christ.

When Naomi started this trip back to Israel she was accompanied by her two daughters-in-law - Ruth and Or-pah. The interesting point about Ruth and Or-pah is that they both came from Moab and so were Gentiles. However, despite this

background they were also offered this bread. So in our parable this is telling us that the Lord Jesus Christ invites both Jew and Gentile into a covenant relationship.

In verse ten we see the two Gentile daughters-in-law saying to Naomi “Surely we will return with thee unto thy people”. Many Gentiles may claim such a desire, but not all are sincere. And this was certainly the case here for later we are told that, Or-pah went back to her people in Moab, and her gods. But Ruth’s desire was much more earnest for she said:

“Do not urge me 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. Ruth 1:16 ESV

Ruth was making it clear that she was willing to embrace the Jewish hope found in the covenant with Abraham. To identify with that hope she had to identify with Israel’s God and Israel’s people!

This is a warning to us. Which route are we currently taking? Are we travelling with Ruth towards Bethlehem or have we changed course and are travelling with Or-pah back to our old life. A life where idols and sin take us away from God. It is absolutely critical for our salvation that when Jesus returns suddenly like a thief in the night he finds us residing in Bethlehem – the “House of Bread”. Not in a place associated with sin.

So Noami represent the faithful Jews and Ruth represents the faithful Gentiles.

Naomi and Ruth arrive in Bethlehem

Eventually Naomi and Ruth arrive in Bethlehem. At the beginning of chapter two we are told that Naomi had one of her husband’s relations living there whose name was Boaz. In the parable we are considering, Boaz represents the Lord Jesus Christ.

In chapter two, Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi:

“Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favour.”

And Naomi said unto her:

Go, my daughter. Ruth 2:2 ESV

Ruth went into the fields of Boaz to glean ears of corn.

We have a picture of Ruth going to the fields so that she might glean ears of corn and find grace. Again there is another lesson for us in these few words.

The book of John says the following:

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17 ESV

So Ruth the Gentile was invited into Israel’s hope by grace [3]. As are all Gentiles. This grace is extended to all who are in him by baptism – they are the ones who are buried with him and risen with him.

And that was certainly the case with Ruth. Initially in the book of Ruth she had been referred to as the daughter-in-law (verse 6). But if you look a bit more closely at verse 2 of Ruth chapter 2 you will find that she now is being called “daughter”. For Ruth and Naomi are now directly related through a covenant relationship.

But how could this be? Was there a baptism? Well, in symbol there was a baptism. If you got a map out and looked at the way the women travelled from the land of Moab to Bethlehem they must have crossed the Jordan River. In the scriptures the Jordan River represents baptism [4]. So in symbol, Ruth and Naomi would have past through the waters of baptism to arrive at Bethlehem. The two women became part of the spiritual family of Christ.

Ruth and Boaz meet in the field

So, Ruth went into the field to gather corn left by the reapers. The owner of the field, Boaz, was looking out on the field and he spotted Ruth gleaning the corn.

Boaz meets Ruth in the corn fields

This is what it says in the book of Ruth:

And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The LORD be with you!” And they answered, “The LORD bless you.” Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” And the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, “She is the young Moabite woman, who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.’ So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest.”

Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women.  Ruth 2:4-8 ESV

The first thing we can pick up from these verses is that Boaz recognized that Ruth had become an adopted Jew. How do we know that? Because he refers to her in verse eight as his daughter. In other words, as a direct relation.

In verse eight he also tells her to not to glean in another field. Now, the Hebrew word for “Field” here is translated “country” in other parts of the book of Ruth. And if we sat down and studied the use of the word “country” in the scriptures we would find that in symbolism it represents the commonwealth of Israel.

So in the parable, Boaz was wisely telling the Gentile woman that there is “no hope” outside of the commonwealth of Israel. She must gather corn within the field he owns.

Ruth was to not go outside the household of faith; she was to remain within the “hope of Israel”. In other words, she was to remain with God's people.

Jesus also instructs us to stay working in his field. In our day to day life we may find ourselves straying into another field but if we do we will find that there will be no hope. We are wasting our time and ultimately our life.

The story goes on and tells us that Boaz spoke to Ruth saying these words:

But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” Ruth 2:11-12 ESV  

The words Boaz used in the second half of verse eleven may sound familiar to you. That is because they are very similar to what God said to Abraham when he said: 

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country [a] and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.  Genesis 12:1 ESV                      

[a] Or land

So both Ruth and Abraham had left their land of birth and their mother and father to dwell in a new land.

So by doing a similar thing to what Abraham had done, Ruth became numbered among the “seed of Abraham”. And as it says in verse twelve, this action will not go without a reward.

In a similar way, those who choose to be baptised in this current age, will find that they have left the country of their original birth and become citizens of a new country. This new country is God's nation.

But once we are baptised the work does not stop. Whilst we work in the Lords field we must remain obedient. In verse nine of chapter 2, Boaz tells Ruth that by obedience to the faith, she will be under his full protection. In a similar way, if those who are baptised stay obedient to our Heavenly Father and work in his son’s field then we will be under the full protection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Ruth tells Naomi about her conversation with Boaz

Ruth goes on to tell Naomi about what other things Boaz will do to keep her safe if she remains obedient.

And Ruth the Moabite said, “Besides, he said to me, ‘You shall keep close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.’” Ruth 2:21 ESV

So Ruth was to stay close to the young men until the harvest had ended. So not only would Boaz be her protector but also the young men.

Again the symbolism of the parable comes into play. The term “young men” is often used in scripture for angels [5]. So not only will the baptised be protected by their redeemer the Lord Jesus Christ but the baptised will also be protected by the angels. David confirmed this when he wrote in the Psalm these words:

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. Psalm 34:7 ESV

These are indeed reassuring words for each one of us who believes, as we travel towards the Kingdom. Not only do we have our redeemer looking out for us but also the angels. They want us to arrive safely at the destination of the God future Kingdom.

Christ the redeemer

When Ruth returned home from the day’s events, she told all that happened to Naomi.

And her mother-in-law said to her, “Where did you glean today? And where have you worked? Blessed be the man who took notice of you.” So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, “The man's name with whom I worked today is Boaz.” And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by the LORD, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.”  Ruth 2:19-20 ESV

These words have an interesting phrase in them. The last part of verse 20 says: “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.”

There should be a cross reference number against “one of our next kinsmen” in your Bible. When you look in the margin of your Bible for that number you should see it says something like “one that has the right to redeem”. The Jerusalem Bible translates it as: “The right of redemption over us”.

So when Naomi says the few words recorded in verse 20 she is saying that Boaz has the right of redemption over herself and Ruth.

And this principle is the centre of this parable. It shows Boaz as a beautiful type or representation of Christ Jesus.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit[a] through faith.  Galatians 3:13-14 ESV

 [a] Greek receive the promise of the Spirit

And these two verses beautifully summarise what the book of Ruth is all about. It is about the redemption offered by Christ to not only the Jews but also to the Gentiles.

Ruth seeks Boaz to be her husband

The story of Ruth continues with Naomi going on to give Ruth some advice.

Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you? Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. Ruth 3:1-3 ESV

In these verses Naomi is advising Ruth to pursue Boaz as her husband and to present herself as a suitable bride. As it says in verse two, Ruth would meet Boaz at the threshing floor and it would be here that Boaz would make the decision as to whether he would take Ruth as his wife. She will be judged their by Boaz.

Threshing wheat in the field

Once again the parable comes in. In the scriptures, the “threshing floor” at different times represents a place of judgment. It says that Boaz would winnow the Barley, this means he would throw it up in the air so that the chaff is separated from the barley. Chaff represents the wicked, while barley represents the fruits of God’s crop, in other words, the faithful. So the faithful will be separated from the wicked.  

So like Ruth, we will all go to the threshing floor or the place of judgment to be judged by our master to see if we are worthy to be his bride. As to whether you chosen as the good crop or are allowed to blow away in the wind with the chaff will depend on the decisions and the life you lead now….today.

Verse eight tells us that Ruth went to the threshing floor to meet Boaz at midnight. We know from elsewhere in the scriptures that midnight is the time when the virgins go out to meet the bridegroom [6].

However, there would only be a marriage if the bride was ready. This is why we had read in verse three Naomi said to Ruth to wash herself, anoint herself, and then put her raiment on her. For we must do the same preparation when we go to the threshing floor to met the Lord. We must wash ourselves and put on our best clothes. Washing comes by purification from the Word of God. So we need to daily wash ourselves with the Word of God.

Putting on raiment represents being baptised into Christ as well as keeping the garments clean by the appropriate Christian walk through life . These two things the Gentile-Bride must do if she is to be married to the man Boaz represents – the Lord Jesus Christ. So once you are baptised you must do adequate preparation to go before Christ.

Boaz eventually consents to marry Ruth.

Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day.” Ruth 4:10 ESV

It says in this verse that Boaz has purchased Ruth to be his wife. In the same way Christ has purchased the church (ecclesia) of God.

These words in Acts talks about this:

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. Acts 20:28 ESV

So the atoning blood of the Lord Jesus Christ which was shed for the redemption of mankind, becomes the means by which the ecclesia of God is established.

for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:20 ESV

Footnote

1

A Parable is a story which teaches a lesson or principle.
2 The Judges were tribal leaders in Israel during a period when there was no King in Israel.
3 God shows us grace by doing something for us thought we do not deserve it.
4 For more on baptism click here.
5 Angels are God's helpers.
6 See the parable of the ten virgins (Matt.25:1-13)

As this verse suggests, Christ will marry the bride for the purpose of bring glory to the Heavenly Father. For, God willing, those amongst us who are accepted as the Bride will indeed glorify our Heavenly Father for ever more.

 

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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 April 2013