Ruth, a Foreigner in Israel

I am a Ruth.  I am blessed to be a Ruth.  I am thankful to be a Ruth.  I would not change my status in the Kingdom of being a Ruth.

Traditionally, the book of Ruth is read during the days of the omer, the days between the resurrection of Messiah and the giving of the Spirit of God at Shavuot (Pentecost), because the timeframe is during the barley harvest in Bethlehem.  Ruth gleans barley from the fields until she reaps a fruitful harvest. Her life story is a shadow of the two leavened loaves of bread representing the kingdom of heaven that are waved by the priests at Shavuot. The account of Ruth is the perfect illustration of the Jew (Naomi) and the non-Jew (Ruth)  being grafted together into the Olive Tree of Israel and redeemed through a kinsman (Boaz) when they receive an inheritance (Obed).

“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 life 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 has ended.   Ruth decides to go with her mother-in-law back 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 definitive and conscious choice to leave behind all of her pagan Moabite ways and customs to go to the  ‘promised land’ where she will live as a foreigner in an unknown land with strange customs and unfamiliar people.

“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).

Once in the land of Israel, these two poor widows have nothing and need to survive.  Naomi understands the culture – both Biblically and traditionally –  of her people and gives explicit instructions to Ruth about gleaning in the fields behind the workers.  Ruth follows Naomi’s instructions exactly as she is given them because she not only trusts Naomi, but also because she chose to become part of the national life of Israel.   She doesn’t whine or complain or suggest other means of finding food that make her feel less inferior as a foreigner;  she simply obeys Naomi, the natural-born citizen.

“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).

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Through  Ruth’s obedience, she is blessed in the field as she gleans.  She also meets the owner of the field who gives her special treatment and provision.   She learns that Boaz is her mother-in-law’s kinsman-redeemer, Naomi’s nearest male blood relative.   As is the Biblical mandate, Boaz was 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).  

Again, Naomi gives Ruth some very explicit, but interesting instructions. 

Ruth replies, “I will do whatever you say.”  Ruth does not question the woman with whom she has chosen to live nor the culture in which she has chosen to make her own.   She obeys Naomi.  She puts on special perfumes, heads off to the barley threshing floor after dusk, lies next to Boaz and uncovers his feet. When Boaz awakens, he sees Ruth and is blessed by her actions that were a type of marriage request.  He covers Ruth with his robe and by doing this, he tells her, “I will be your covering.”

“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, known as a minyon,  at the city gates to find out if there are closer relatives that could be Naomi’s  kinsman redeemer.  There are none that are free to redeem and marry Naomi.  Because of Naomi’s old age, Boaz marries Ruth. Together, Boaz and Ruth have a son they name Obed who becomes the grandfather of King David.

Ruth is an example to non-Jewish believers in Messiah that there is blessing and reward in becoming part of the national life of the Biblical Israel.   Though she only gleaned from the barley field, the harvest of her life story brings forth the King of the Jews, salvation for theJewish people and the nations, the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua.

©June 6, 2011 Tent Stake Ministries Publishing

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