I am a Ruth. I am blessed to be a Ruth. I am thankful to be a Ruth. I would not change my place in the Olive Tree of Israel as a Ruth.
Traditionally, the book of Ruth is read during the days of the omer, the days between the Firstfruits resurrection of Messiah and the pouring out of the Spirit of God at Shavuot (Pentecost), because the period of time that it occurs is during the barley harvest in Bethlehem. Ruth gleans barley from the fields until she reaps a fruitful harvest. Her life story is like the two leavened loaves of bread that are waved by the priests at Shavuot –– the perfect illustration of the Jew (Naomi) and the non-Jew (Ruth) being brought together in the Olive Tree of Israel.
“You must bring bread from your homes for waving — two loaves made with one gallon of fine flour, baked with leaven — as firstfruits for Adonai” (Leviticus 23:17).
Ruth’s story begins in Moab where her husband, her brother-in-law, and father-in-law have all died. Naomi, her mother-in-law, decides to return to her homeland in Judah since the famine that took her family to Moab has ended. Ruth decides to return with her mother-in-law to Bethlehem in spite of Naomi’s discouragement.
“But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16).
Ruth states profoundly and explicitly that Naomi’s God, the God of Israel, will be her God and Naomi’s people, the Jewish people, will be her people. Ruth makes a conscious choice to leave behind all of her pagan Moabite gods and customs to go to Bethlehem where she will live as a foreigner in an new land with strange customs and an unfamiliar people. It is at this moment that Ruth chooses to ‘convert’ from a pagan way of life and become a God-fearer.
“When you harvest the ripe crops produced in your land, don’t harvest all the way to the corners of your field, and don’t gather the ears of grain left by the harvesters; leave them for the poor and the foreigner; I am Adonai your God” (Leviticus 23:22).
In Bethlehem, these two widows have nothing except the desire to survive. Naomi understands the Biblical culture of her people and gives explicit instructions to Ruth about gleaning in the fields behind the workers. Ruth follows Naomi’s instructions because she not only trusts Naomi, but because she has chosen to become part of Israel. She doesn’t complain or suggest other ways of finding food that make her feel less inferior as a foreigner; she simply obeys Naomi and begins her ‘ingrafting’ into the Olive Tree of Israel.
“You [of the nations] were estranged from the national life of Isra’el. You were foreigners to the covenants embodying God’s promise. You were in this world without hope and without God. But now, you who were once far off have been brought near through the shedding of the Messiah’s blood. So then, you are no longer foreigners and strangers. On the contrary, you are fellow-citizens with God’s people and members of God’s family” (Ephesians 2:12,17,19).
Because of her obedience to Naomi, Ruth is blessed in the field as she gleans. She is protected by staying close to the other women. She meets the owner of the field who gives her special treatment and extra provisions. She learns that Boaz is her mother-in-law’s kinsman-redeemer, Naomi’s nearest male blood-relative. According to the Biblical instruction, Boaz is the only man in Bethlehem qualified to marry Naomi so that she might have a child and not lose her land inheritance.
“If brothers live together, and one of them dies childless, his widow is not to marry someone unrelated to him; her husband’s brother is to go to her and perform the duty of a brother-in-law by marrying her. The first child she bears will succeed to the name of his dead brother, so that his name will not be eliminated from Isra’el” (Deuteronomy 25:5-6, Matthew 22:24).
Naomi gives Ruth more instructions to Ruth who replies, “I will do whatever you say.” Ruth does not question the Jewish woman with whom she has chosen to live nor the Israelite culture which she has chosen to make her own. She obeys Naomi’s instructions. She puts on special perfumes, heads off to the barley threshing floor after dusk, lies down next to Boaz, and uncovers his feet. When Boaz awakens, he sees Ruth and is blessed by her actions –– a request for marriage. He covers Ruth with his robe acknowledging that ‘he will be her covering.’ By doing this, he accepts her proposal.
“Adonai-Tzva’ot says, ‘When that time comes, ten men will take hold — speaking all the languages of the nations — will grab hold of the cloak of a Jew and say, “We want to go with you, because we have heard that God is with you” (Zechariah 8:10).
The next day he meets with ten elders at the city gates to find out if there are any closer relatives that could be Naomi’s kinsman redeemer. There are none who are free to redeem and marry Naomi. Because of Naomi’s age and inability to bear children, Boaz marries Ruth. Together, they have a son they name Obed, who becomes the grandfather of King David.
Ruth is the perfect example to gentile believers in Messiah that there is blessing and reward in becoming part of the Olive Tree of Israel. Though she only gleaned for a short time from the barley field, the harvest of her life brought salvation for the Jewish people and the nations.
“So then, you [non-Jews] are no longer foreigners and strangers [to the covenants, promises, Torah]. On the contrary, you are fellow-citizens with God’s people and members of God’s family [the commonwealth of Isra’el]. You have been built on the foundation of the emissaries [apostles] and the prophets, with the cornerstone being Yeshua the Messiah himself. In union with him the whole building is held together, and it is growing into a holy temple in union with the Lord. Yes, in union with him, you yourselves are being built together into a spiritual dwelling-place for God!” (Ephesians 2:19-21).
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