Posted by: jiminmontana | February 14, 2012

Ruth, the exemplary Gentile

It’s about time to read the Book of Ruth this year.  Observant Jews read this book in the Spring every year — it fits well into the redemptive season of Passover.  There are so many wonderful aspects to this book that it is hard to mention one without talking about them all.  Today, let’s focus on Ruth’s devotion to her mother-in-law and the Jewish people in general.

When you read this historical event, you’ll notice three main players:  Ruth, the Gentile; Naomi, the Jewess; and Boaz, the Jew.  Each has a very significant role to play in this joyful story of loss and redemption.

Remember that Ruth was from the dreaded people of Moab (Numbers 23, Deut 23:3-6).  No nation had worked to hinder the success of the Jews as much as the Moabites, so Moses recorded the following directives:

Deu 23:2 ESV – “No one born of a forbidden union may enter the assembly of the LORD. Even to the tenth generation, none of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD.
Deu 23:3 ESV – “No . . . Moabite may enter the assembly of the LORD. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the LORD forever,
Deu 23:4 ESV – because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you.
Deu 23:6 ESV – You shall not seek their peace or their prosperity all your days forever.

Notice that God is so often counter-intuitive when it comes to Grace.  In this story, it is the Gentile woman who serves the Jewish woman.  Ruth learns from her mother-in-law about the “hows” of Jewish culture and, by her obedience, Ruth works out the redemption of both herself and her mother-in-law.   This mutual redemption spills over into the community and ultimately to the birth of King David and the Messiah.

your People will be my People

Naomi knew much ABOUT the great man named Boaz, but she did not really know him personally.

redemption/favor sought and found – Ruth 2:15

And due to her advancing age, Naomi was not able to come fully under his protection through marriage and subsequent child-bearing.  It was the marriage of the Gentile woman to the Jewish man who brought salvation to both the Jew and the Gentile.  In generations past, it was the women of Moab who had seduced the Jewish men into sexual sin, thus earning the wrath of God upon both Israel and Moab (Num. 25).  This fact makes it doubly provocative to note that Ruth, a woman of Moab, comes to Boaz in the night to propose marriage to him and Boaz becomes her redeemer and “savior” – (see footnote).

Ruth’s audacious proposal of marriage to her Jewish redeemer

Ruth could not have done this without Naomi’s direction — they both needed one another deeply.  Naomi could not have done it without Ruth’s faithful obedience.

So it is with Jews and Gentiles today.  We Gentiles need the instruction of the Old Testament to teach us about the proper way to come to the Lord.  The Jews have been our teachers, instructing us about the “how”.  But most Jews have not met Him; they only know about the rules and the “hows” and the “don’ts”.  So often it is a Gentile who first meets the Lord personally (and who receives the blessed interaction with the Holy Spirit) who is then able to introduce Him to a Jew.

Ruth meets Boaz

He is the Savior of both the Jew and the Gentile.  None of us “merit” that salvation.  As with Abraham, so with us all:  it is a matter of trusting faith which is “credited” as righteousness (Gen 15: 6).  This Hebrew word ( חָשַׁב ) is “chashab” which means to “calculate, compute, or reckon” and is used in accounting.  To be declared as “righteous” in God’s opinion is nothing one can “do” — it is only and always to trust in what the Lord is doing.

Ruth did exactly this.  She made the decision to devote the rest of her life to Naomi, although there was no glimmer of hope in it (see “agape” link).  The Gentile scorned her own culture.  She chose to become a Jewess — to graft herself into that People.

No Christian can be the Bride of the King of the Jews and harbor contempt for that culture which produced Him.  Messiah is not an American!  He is not the product of Western civilization.  Messiah is Juden; He suffers when they suffer.

No Christian can be the Bride of the King of the Jews and harbor contempt for His People.  Messiah was killed by Romans via crucifixion.  The People have been killed by Cyclon B, vehicle exhaust fumes, bullets, and starvation in Europe just a generation ago.  Rockets are launched by Muslims into Jewish towns today.  The coming and final wave of genocide will be the worst of all — and Christians everywhere will join them in war (Micah 5:5) and death — and survive.

Isa 53:2 ESV“… He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him.”

The World is turning against the Jews again.  This is to be expected.  But now the wrath of the World is against National Israel, and this makes for very exciting times!

Thanks to Islam — the “religion of peace”

Be like Ruth.  It is estimated that more Jews have turned to Messiah ben Yosef (Jesus) in the last century than in the last 19 centuries combined.  The vast majority come to Messiah through friendship with a non-Jewish believer.

Rom 1:16 RSV – For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the [Gentile].  (“Greek” or “Hellenist”)

Messianic Rabbi David Levine, BethIsraelNow.com

Rom 2:9 RSV – There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the [Gentile],

tattoos for tots!

Rom 2:10 RSV – but glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the [Gentile].

This idea of “first” is the Greek word “protos“.  It can mean either first in TIME or first in RANK or first in PRIORITY.  (See link)  This is, of course, the root for our word “prototype“.

Let me suggest that the Church retain all these inclusive meanings as they go out into the World and share the Faith of trust in the Jewish Messiah.  When a missionary goes into a new area, let him go first to the Jews in that area.  Go to the Jew, first in time.  Go to the Jew first in priority.  And let that priority remain the first priority throughout that ministry.  This is the prototype for every ministry, yet nobody seems to follow the pattern which Scripture establishes.  If a ministry is obedient to God’s plan of going “first to the Jew”, then that ministry will have placed itself in the best position to be blessed by the Lord.  And the Spirit of God will honor that obedience.  The result will be a church which is primarily composed of Gentiles, but blessed with the inclusion of those people who tie the Christian church to the roots of our ancient heritage.

Ruth committing her life to Naomi

The best way is always the harder way.  Be like the faithful Moabitess who forced her way into the Jewish nation, the Messianic lineage, and Heaven above!

The Jew and Jerusalem will be glorified in the next Age.  Why should the Church wait until then?  Consider these prophetic passages about the coming exaltation of the Jews, something which has obviously not yet occurred in world history since the days of Isaiah:

Isa 11:10 ESV – In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples–of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.
Isa 11:12 ESV – He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. {started in 1948 with the rebirth of national Israel}

Isa 60:5 ESV – Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and exult, because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
Isa 60:11 ESV – Your gates shall be open continually; day and night they shall not be shut, that people may bring to you the wealth of the nations, with their kings led in procession.
Isa 60:12 ESV – For the nation and kingdom that will not serve you shall perish; those nations shall be utterly laid waste.
Isa 61:6 ESV – but you shall be called the priests of the LORD; they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God; you shall eat the wealth of the nations, and in their glory you shall boast.

Isa 66:10 – 13 ESV – “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her; that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast; that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious abundance.”  For thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip, and bounced upon her knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

This passage is talking about the coming 1000 year reign of Messiah — ON THIS PLANET (Rev. 20).  If this were an allusion to something Heavenly, then the geographical city of Jerusalem would not have been mentioned.  Wild stuff!

What are you going to do about it?  How can you take action as Ruth did so long ago?

————————–

Footnote

Boaz is mentioned in the Messianic lineage as recorded by Matthew.  Note that Boaz was the son of Rahab, the renowned prostitute of Jericho (Joshua 2).

All his life, Boaz knew that a few things made him different from the others.  Yes, his mother had been incorporated into the Jewish community:  she was entitled to the blessings that come with in-grafting.  But the truth about her past was there:  Mom had been pretty far out-of-bounds.   Those years had taken their toll in various ways, some of which were subtle and others obvious.  What son wants to grow up knowing that Mom had been a whore?  Rahab’s entire house had been saved (Joshua 2: 12-13), and prostitutes typically had a lot of children, so Boaz likely had many complications from “blended family” issues.  Rahab’s family would have been a frappé of dysfunction.

Also, Boaz knew what it was to be half Jewish and half Gentile.  He was not entirely “kosher”.  Even though he had been a great man of valor (“gibbor“) in the early days of conquest, he still had the taint of being different.  Being born clearly on the edge of the community, this station must have propelled him on the inside to obtain his greatness.  Like Caleb (Joshua 14), Boaz had been rewarded for his military service with plenty of good land which he developed.  By the time Ruth meets Boaz, he has become an older member of the “landed aristocracy” and has grown wealthy.

But he could never forget who his mother had been; that he had come into the world and the Jewish people by an uncommon path.  This must have softened his heart and made him uncommonly tender toward the plight of Ruth (and the mother figure of Naomi).  Boaz saw in Ruth a woman, like his mother, who was willing to leave the nation of her birth and commit to the Jewish people with costly devotion.  Boaz was uniquely able to overlook the fact that Ruth was from Moab and, thus, bless her in marriage.

The “nearer kinsman” (Ruth 4) had no such sympathy, thus he goes unnamed in the story and is forgotten by all.  Think of this character as being typical of the Law.  The Law is good, but has only the power to convict us of our unrighteousness.  It is the greatest mistake to think that we can merit God’s approval through our abilities to honor Him, despite our best intentions and efforts.  Only Messiah — describing Himself as the “Son of Man” (as Abel was the accepted son of Adam, yet slain) — was able to merit the Father’s full consummate confirmation.  The God-Man earned that righteousness on our behalf; thus God alone will receive the praise for the Salvation of those who come to Him on His terms.  No redeemed sinner will ever saunter up to that Throne and say, “But did you see what I did with my life?”  That is the spirit of Satan himself who thought along those same lines:

Isa 14:13f ESV – You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’

The Virgin birth of Messiah put that family in the crosshairs.  Yeshua certainly knew what it was like to have a mother accused of sexual sin.  We see the leaders ask the burning question:  “Where is your father?”  This is the original “Who’s your daddy?” jibe.  Then they make the faith statement, “WE were not born of fornication“.  Jesus was no stranger to ridicule.  (John 8)  Neither was our hero here, Boaz.


Responses

  1. […] earlier blog about Ruth pointed out that many Jews are predicted to turn to Messiah (Jesus) in the end of this era.  For […]


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