I’m working on my sermon notes this morning on Ruth chapter 4 for the final installment of Redeeming Ruth this Sunday at LPC. This final passage has put me reflection mode about the mega-themes of Ruth.
Redemption is undoubtedly at the center of the message of Ruth (and the entire Bible for that matter). In that sense, you could say that the gospel of Jesus Christ is really at the center of the book of Ruth. In referring to the entire Old Testament (which includes Ruth) Jesus said:
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,” (John 5:39)
Ruth is about Jesus.
One of the things the book of Ruth tells us about gospel of Jesus is that in Jesus Christ every single person can find redemption. Jesus redeems all who surrender to His grace.
If you and I lived in Ancient Israel we would probably be pretty convinced that the redemption of God was not available for certain people. At the top of that list we would put pagan idolaters, including Moabites and Canaanites. We would also have an underlying prejudice toward Moabite and Canaanite women particularly. One commentator I’ve read says that up to and through the time of Jesus Jewish men would thank God that they had not been created one of three things: 1) a slave, 2) a Gentile, or 3) a woman.
And it is right in the midst of this kind of culture that God highlights His love and redemption in the life of Ruth. Ruth 4 ends with a genealogy. When you understand the context of what God is doing through the writer of Ruth as he memorializes the story of Ruth in Israelite history; you realize that a list of names has never looked more beautiful. Genealogies were a big deal in Israel. They showed someone’s legitimacy as a member of God’s chosen people. They established one’s identity and pedigree. And the further back someone’s ancestry was traced, the greater expectancy you had about what their life would accomplish.
This is not lost on Matthew when he begins his account of the gospel of Jesus with a giant list of names. When you look into that genealogy of Jesus, it reflects the influence of the one at the end of Ruth. Matthew intentionally included a number of women in the ancestry of Jesus, and three of them tie into the book of Ruth. Their stories are a lesson in shame and brokenness.
Tamar: Canaanite woman whose illicit fornication with her father-in-law produced her son, Perez. (Genesis 38)
Rahab: Pagan prostitute from Jericho who trusted in God and was saved when God destroyed her city to begin Israel’s conquest of the promise land. (Joshua 2 and 6) Rahab would get married to an Israelite, and she would give birth to a son. She named that son Boaz.
Ruth: Moabite widow who embraced God and left her pagan gods, family, and nation to serve God and care for her mother-in-law Naomi. She would marry Boaz, a man who was no stranger to God’s plan of redeeming people from all nations.
These three women were outsiders. On the surface these three women didn’t appear to be the “type” of people who would be eligible to be called “God’s people.” But that’s the gospel. The work of God through Jesus redeems all who come to Him. Jesus breaks the barriers of sex, race, and sin.
Not only does God redeem these three women. He puts their stories in the center of His redemptive narrative. He puts their blood in the veins of His Son Jesus Christ. The blood that ran from Jesus’ hands, feet, side, brow, and back had a bit of Moabite and Canaanite in it. And that fact proves its power. Through that blood all people who call on Him can share in His redemption.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.