RUTH FORETELLS THE CHURCH

 

The Book of Ruth in the Old Testament is another story that is short, almost the size of the tiny book of Jonah. But it is magnificent in its beauty as it describes the future Marriage of Jesus with His beloved Church.

As the story takes place during the barley harvest in the Fall, the Book of Ruth is traditionally recited in the Jewish community during the Feast of Pentecost, which also occurs during the same time. The subject of the story is much the same as the tale of Rebekah in Genesis 24, but fills in some additional details of the romantic relationship between Jesus and His Church.

The grand design of God that included mankind as an eventual member of the Heavenly Family was foreshadowed in the romantic book of Ruth. From the very beginning of man in Adam, God has jealously guarded the bloodline of the Jesus to come. This was well understood by the rulers of this world, from Pharaoh to Herod. At times that were interpreted as Messianic, these rulers were given to killing off the male forebears of Mary. They instinctively knew that the bloodline was intended to remain within the Semites, passing down through the Hebrews to the Israelites under Abraham. It was to rest on the specific tribe of Judah, through whom came King David, his son Solomon, and, finally, both Mary and her husband Joseph.

But an exception was granted, one of a very few in number. There was a gentile woman named Ruth who, after the untimely death of her first husband, demonstrated a godly loyalty to her mother-in-law Naomi, who had lived in Moab with her Israelite husband. After the death of Naomi’s husband as well, Naomi decided to move to her husband’s homeland of Israel, which God had favored with bountiful crops. Because Ruth was a native of Moab, Naomi thought she would be more comfortable staying there, rather than moving to Israel. Or could she have been testing Ruth?

“And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will you go with me? Are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? Turn again, my daughters, go your way: for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have a husband also to night, and should also bear sons; Would you wait for them till they were grown? would you stay for them from having husbands? no, my daughters; for it grieves me much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord is gone out against me. And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.

And she said, Behold, your sister in law is gone back unto her people, and to her gods: return you after your sister in law.

And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.”

So, after making this immortal statement of loyalty, Ruth followed Naomi back to her husband’s people, and in poverty gleaned corn in the field of Naomi’s relative Boaz.

“And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband’s. a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz. And Ruth, the Moabitess, said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter. And she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers; and she happened to come to a portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech. And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The Lord be with you. And they answered him, The Lord bless you. And then said Boaz unto his servant who was over the reapers, Whose lady is this?”

Ruth, being a pretty woman, obviously had caught Boaz’ eye. The feeling was mutual, and out of this first encounter began the first stirrings of a romance. Ruth confided her feelings to Naomi, who advised her to show her interest to Boaz.

“And [Ruth] went down to the [threshing] floor, and did all that her mother-in-law told her to do. And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came softly, and uncovered his feet, and lay down. And it came to pass at midnight, that the man was startled, and turned himself; and, behold, a woman lay at his feet. And he said, Who are you? And she answered, I am Ruth, your handmaid. Spread, therefore, your skirt over your handmaid; for you are a near kinsman.

“And he said, Blessed be you of the Lord, my daughter: for you have shown more kindness in the latter end than the beginning, as you followed not young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that you require; for all the city of my people does know that you are a virtuous woman.”

There was a tradition in Israel, instituted by Moses from the Word of God, that if a woman’s husband died, a near kinsman was obligated to marry her and raise up children for her. By lying at Boaz’ feet, Ruth was claiming that obligation to Boaz. Boaz, in turn, enthusiastically agreed to fulfill that obligation. Ruth conceived a child through this man. His name was Obed:

“And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it. And the women her neighbors gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Now these are the generations of Pharez: Pharez begat Hezron, And Hezron begat Ram, and Ram begat Amminadab, And Amminadab begat Nahshon, and Nahshon begat Salmon, and Salmon begat Boaz, and Boaz begat Obed, and Obed begat Jesse, and Jesse begat David.”

This genealogical record is repeated in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. As noted in Matthew:

“. . .And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias;. . .And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”

It is striking how the Bible can so dramatically convey passion by means of a simple genealogical list. By the grace of this exception that is immortalized in the begats like a medal of honor, the gentiles were permitted to participate in the creation of the physical Jesus. This gentile participation in the bringing forth of the Jewish Messiah is a type of the participation of man in the Godhead.

As Boaz prefigures Jesus Christ, the marriage between Boaz and Ruth also foretells the union between Jesus and His Church. The hint of this relationship is given substance by Paul in Ephesians 5:22-32:

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, and to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church; and he is the savior of the body.

“Therefore, as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word; that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

“So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the Church; for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

“For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall be joined to his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.

“This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”

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