The story of Ruth. How the redeemed begat the Redeemer

Monday Musings for October 28, 2019

Good morning, Musers,

I wake up every morning happy to be redeemed. But by “happy” I mean satisfied in a restful kind of way. Since we believers are eternally secure in Christ, the big-ticket item (salvation instead of damnation) has been paid for… so we can engage our days freely and with confidence.

By way of contrast, picture this poor girl Ruth. She was widowed from a Jewish husband while still living in Moab, so what’s a girl like that supposed to do? She was not in a position to engage with her day freely like I am. She had the daily burden of sustaining herself. My presumption about life back then is, unless you had family, your future was grim.

Ruth did have one asset that we know of — a godly Jewish mother-in-law named Naomi — and every indication is that Ruth genuinely loved her.

One of the quiet lessons in the book of Ruth is that love equals family. Ruth made a pledge to go where Naomi went, to take her people as her own — and to take Naomi’s God as her God! In my opinion, Naomi was Ruth’s de facto family even before the pledge, so I see this pledge as more her making the relationship official than as starting a new relationship.

So, here’s what’s bothering me: was Ruth already Jew before she went to Bethlehem? I ask because she had been married to a Jewish guy for as many as ten years. So, was this enough to do the trick? And what was “the trick” back then anyway? Perhaps looking at a parallel case will help us.

Ruth’s sister-in-law Orpah was in the same straights. She too was a Moabitess who was married to a Jew for about ten years before she was widowed. Yet Naomi later said to Ruth about her, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods.” So, what was Orpah’s — and by extension Orpah and Ruth’s — deal? As widows of Jews, were they Jews? And/or, what was their salvific status?

Perhaps Orpah had indeed been “converted” to Judaism, and Naomi was just speaking to the realities of re-embedding herself into Moab’s pagan culture… because without the support of a family who knew the One True God, it would be a difficult life among the pagans. But Ruth was on a different path: she was going to Bethlehem, and in Bethlehem, most of the people were Jewish.

Now, this is pure speculation… but maybe this is why Ruth’s husband died. Perhaps he did not do the job that his mother would do… and that if they remained in Moab — surrounded by pagans — then King David would have a different great-grandmother… and even our redemption would look a little different.

I’m not Jewish, so I like it when God inserts a non-Jew into the Old Testament mix. It’s almost like he’s reminding us that, in Abraham, it not just the Jews who will be blessed. It’s the whole world (Genesis 22:18)… and to that, I say, amen.

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