THE EXAMPLE OF RUTH

The Book of Ruth has often been described as an allegory pointing to the redemptive relationship between Christ and His church, with Boaz the kinsman redeemer representing Christ and Ruth representing His church. An additional allegory exists in the story. Ruth the Gentile represents the Gentile church while Naomi, her Jewish mother-in-law, represents natural born Israel under the old covenant. It is noteworthy that the adoption of Ruth by Boaz occurs during the harvest and the celebration of Pentecost that is also associated with the birth of the Now Testament Church.

In the account, Naomi, her husband and two sons are refugees from a famine in Bethlehem who have settled in Moab. Naomi’s husband dies and her two sons marry Moabite women one of them being Ruth. Subsequently, Naomi’s sons also die leaving her fruitless and in exile. This situation adequately portrays the spiritual condition of natural born Jews today. They are exiled (even today there are more Jews in New York City than in Israel) without a spiritual husband and without spiritual descendants. They are dead in their sins and trespasses and, having rejected their Messiah they are without a sacrifice to atone for them. God has even taken away their temple so that they cannot perform the Old Covenant sacrifices. Naomi claims that, “the Lord’s hand has gone out against me!”[1]  and, “The lord has testified against me.”[2]

Naomi attempts to persuade her daughters-in-law to leave her and go back to their own people. At first, they refuse, but Orpah eventually concedes. Ruth begs Naomi to allow her to stay and makes the famous statement, ‘Your people will be my people and your God my God.” [3] Ruth thus recognizes that she has no natural right of access into the Kingdom of God and that it is she that must be adopted.

The Gentile church should adopt the attitude of Ruth. We must understand that we are not natural branches and that we have been grafted into the Vine who is vastly different from us. We must understand that the bride will not be complete without the natural branches. We must recognize that the Jews as a people, at least a great many of them, are predestined to eventually heed the call of the Spirit and accept their Messiah. Romans chapter 9 makes it clear that the natural branches were rejected or cut off because of their unbelief. In their pride they stumbled over the Stone and thought that they could earn salvation by their own righteousness. So, they were cut off and left barren like Naomi.

Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem (Judea) at the beginning of the Barley harvest. Their return coincided with the celebration of the Feast of First Fruits that occurred on Abib 16 or two days after the Passover. It is interesting to note that Christ was crucified on the eve of Passover and rose on the first day of the week or the Feast of First Fruits. The barley harvest is also a symbol of God’s harvest of the Jews. Ruth goes out to the fields to glean and meets Boaz the lord of that field. He shows her favor and she returns to Naomi full of his praises. Naomi encourages Ruth to go to Boaz’ threshing floor and to lie with him, which she does. They fall in love (perhaps this threshing floor in Bethlehem was to be the place of Christ’s manger centuries later). Boaz promises to redeem Ruth under the customary Hebrew laws of kinship. He sends Ruth back to Naomi with six measures of barley, exhorting her not to go back to her mother-in-law empty handed.[4] This act is symbolic of the gentiles bringing in the harvest of the Jews. This exhortation is to the Gentile church.

Next Boaz goes to the town gates, where the elders meet, in order to redeem Naomi and Ruth in accord with the Hebrew laws for kinsman­-redeemer. Naomi’s closest relative declines to redeem her because he does not want Ruth, as he is already married. So Boaz agrees to redeem Naomi and her property and to take Ruth as his bride. The elders of the village pronounce a great blessing upon Boaz and Ruth:

“May Ihe Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah”.[5]

Ruth bears a son to Boaz. Her son was the grandfather of David and stood in the lineage of Jesus. This prophetically pointed to the inclusion of both Jew and Gentile in the body of Christ. The response of the women in the village is interesting. They tell Naomi:

 “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law who loves you and is better to you than seven sons has given him birth.”[6]

The women of the village report that “Naomi has a son[7] and they name him Obed, which means: “a worker, a servant; one who perfectly does the will of him who sends him.” It is interesting that Ruth’s child is equated as Naomi’s kinsman-redeemer and is seen as the one who will renew Naomi’s life and sustain her in her old age. In the allegory, we can see the prophetic allusion that the gentile church, adopted by Christ and in union with Him will bring forth a child, in this case a people, who will be seen as the fruit of the previously barren Jew and be known as the perfect servant. These redeemed ones will be Christ’s end time army that will walk in holiness, humility and power. They will fulfill the call of the bride. Christ, as Boaz redeems both Jew and Gentile, but it is the child of the gentile that helps to sustain the Jew in her old age. It is the fruit of the gentile womb, filled with the Spirit of Christ that will be seen as fulfilling the call of God’s people to be a blessing to the whole earth. We must cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s plan foreshadowed and typified in the Book of Ruth, to re-graft the natural branches back into the Vine.

We must come to understand that the natural branches had the manifest presence of God revealed to them. Our modem, materialistic, rationalistic culture hinders us gentiles in relating to God. The Hebrew spiritual, mystical culture was an outgrowth of their knowledge of God. Jesus is the complete revelation of God and we cannot completely understand Him or the things He did apart from the culture and traditions of the ancient Jewish people. Other than the life of Christ the greatest volume of revelation about God and His character and nature occurs in the Old Testament. If the revelation found in the Old Testament is minimized the result is a failure to completely know God to the extent that He has chosen to reveal Himself. To properly understand that revelation, we must properly understand the culture of the Old Testament Jew. God revealed Himself to them in a way that they would understand. Our understanding of scripture can be greatly enhanced by a study of their culture. A study and practice of the biblical feasts helps us to do so as well.


[1] Ruth 1:13, NIV.

[2] Ruth 1:21 NIV.

[3] Ruth I:l6, NIV

[4] Ruth 3:17, NIV.

[5] Ruth 4:11-12, NIV.

[6] Ruth 4:14-15, NIV.

[7] Ruth 4:17, NIV.

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