In our journey through Ruth (which ended last Sunday) I received an interesting biblical question that I have told several people I would address through a blog. Here it is.
The question has been posed to me in many different ways, but in its most basic form, it is this:
“If God says, ‘No Moabite or descendent’ may be a part of His people, what does that say about someone like King David who was descended from Ruth, a Moabite?”
I brought this text out in part one of Redeeming Ruth, in order to help us get some historical context about the relationship between Jews and Moabites:
“No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the LORD. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the LORD forever…
“The assembly of the Lord” refers to worshipping God as a part of His people. They would worship God in the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, and to be a part of God’s people was to worship Him in the “assembly of the Lord.” And to worship in the assembly of the Lord meant you were a part of His people. Additionally, a few commentators have noted that when the text reads “to the tenth generation” it was basically another way of saying “forever.”
How do we square this with Ruth? How do we reconcile this with King David, great-grandson of Ruth, and himself one-sixteenth Moabite?
Initially, we have to look at how the Old Testament reveals the character of God.
The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
God will not clear the guilty, but he will forgive iniquity, transgression, and sin, and he will exercise steadfast love and faithfulness toward His people. As it pertains to Ruth and her descendents then, the only way to be welcomed “into the assembly of the Lord” was to become “one of his people.” How does that happen?
Abraham, the father of Israel (God’s chosen people), was himself once a pagan far from God. Yet he responded to the grace and calling of God by putting his faith in God.
And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
Paul teaches on what this means in Romans 4:
For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness…
How does this apply to Ruth the Moabite?
But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”
Ruth believed God, and it was counted to her as righteousness. God redeemed Ruth. She became a part of the people of God. As this occurred the curse that would have separated her from worshipping as one of God’s people was broken.
Look at how Isaiah reveals this truth:
“And the foreigners (Moabites, etc.) who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant- these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” The Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.”
Ruth was a sinner saved by the grace of God and justified by faith. You and I have the opportunity to make that story our story as we surrender our lives to Jesus. Redemption is a beautiful thing.