Application & Conclusion – Ruth

Throughout the book God is referred to as Yahweh (1.6, 8, 9, 13, 17, 21 [2]; 2.4 [2], 2.12 [2], 20; 3.10, 13; 4.11, 12, 13, 14). Yet Yahweh never speaks nor is said to intervene directly into the affairs, except in the beginning (providing bread for Bethlehem, 1.6) and at the end (granting Ruth conception, 4.13). Just about everything happens serendipitously and providentially. Human choice and chance dance across the pages and yet the events unfold until the sovereignty of God is clearly displayed in the final analysis of this little family from Bethlehem: a King comes from their lineage and then the King of Kings comes through them. So even in chance is the intentional will of God. In this way one ends up with a theology of chance where humans roll the dice and yet the result is of God (cf. Prov 16.33). Someone has rightly said, “Coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous.” The things which happen to people are more than the sum total of random acts of a dispassionate, complex universe. Instead, Ruth’s narrative teaches the church today that though we may not always see Him, God is sovereignly in control of everything. We may exercise free will, choosing one thing or another, yet by the eyes of faith we acknowledge the hand of God over all our circumstances.

Yahweh is also presented by the narrator in Ruth as the God of life. He gives food (1.6) and the birth of Obed is a gift from Him (4.13). This viewpoint sharply contrasts with Naomi’s own reaction to the calamity in her life being from the Almighty. It also begs the question who sent the famine which began this whole episode? Nevertheless, Yahweh not only preserves this family, but He sustains the lineage to bring King David into the world. Yahweh was the God of life then and He is still the God of life now. His providential sustenance persists through Christ who “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1.4). From Ruth Christians should learn that those who commit their ways to the Lord will bear fruit. He rewards those who seek Him (Hebrews 11.6). God honors those who honor Him with their lives.

This book opens with the phrase, “In the days of the judges.” A reading of that book reveals how dark the days were. Judges ends with the ominous phrase, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” People were a law unto themselves defining good and evil according to their personal preferences. The Law of Moses was abandoned. Christians today are faced with an increasingly post-Christian culture and society. More and more people are doing what is right in their own eyes. The Law of Christ is abandoned for a “do-what-you-feel” morality. “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11.3) Ruth shows that while every man did what was right in his own eyes there were women who were doing their best to honor Yahweh, the God of Israel, in spite of grim circumstances. Indeed, there were still those in Israel who were walking in integrity before Yahweh. So too Christians must not compromise or cave to the winds of culture. The Lord’s people must likewise walk before our Lord in holiness and righteousness. The righteous can still honor God with their lives even though the culture around them is abandoning God and His word.

One particular point of modern application which would inform our approach to God’s commands centers on their application of the Levirate Law. Technicalities and loopholes abound. The actual practice is only a faint shadow of what is prescribed in the Law. Yet everyone walks away with the understanding that God’s will has been done. Though they do not follow the letter of the Law, they maintain the spirit of the Law. Today many Christians get caught up in the letter of the Law while they miss the spirit of the Law. This is why church splits occur over what hymnal to use in worship, whether to have pews or chairs, how many cups should be used during communion, and any number of other nugacities. This writer is aware of a church which is seriously considering a split because a faction of the members has learned that the grape juice used in communion has water added to it. A letter-of-the-Law reading for communion demands it must be simply juice with no additives whereas a spirit-of-the-Law reading makes allowance for observance.

Finally, one would be remiss without application reflecting on Christ. The Christological significance of Ruth is two-fold. First, there is God’s providence in sustaining the seed of David which is the lineage of Christ. Through the progeny of Boaz and Ruth comes, generations later, Jesus of Nazareth. The whole family of Boaz, Ruth, and Obed are all mentioned in the genealogy of Christ in Matthew’s gospel (1.5). Second, there is the typology of Christ as our kinsman-redeemer. Through the offspring of Boaz the kinsman-redeemer comes the kinsman-redeemer of all people. Christ, like Boaz, is near us (God in the flesh), demonstrates steadfast love, and redeems us from sin with His blood on the cross. In this quaint story of redeeming love is a shadow of the gospel of redeeming love in Christ.

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