Ruth is an ancestor of Jesus. Her story reveals surprising aspects of what Jesus came to do in our world, how he came to tear down walls that divide us into nationalistic camps. This is a story that we need to embrace so that the kingdom of God might rise up.
Ruth was a Moabite who was the great grandmother of King David. Jesus, therefore, had Moabite blood in him. Ruth lived during the time of the book of Judges. During that time, a Jewish family moved to Moab during a famine, and the sons married Ruth and Orpah. This would have been scandalous in and of itself. According to Genesis, the Moabites were descendants of Lot after his two daughters got him drunk and had sex with him following their flight from Sodom and Gomorrah. In fact, in Deuteronomy 23:4-6 we read: “No Ammonite or Moabite shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, none of their descendants shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord.” Moabites can never belong to the people of God. They were supposedly cursed to be outsiders to God’s saving work in history forever.
Ruth’s husband, her brother-in-law, and father-in-law all die. After the end of the famine, Naomi decides to return to her hometown of Bethlehem and she tells her two Moabite daughters-in-law to return to their family. Ruth decides to stay with Noami, after making a covenant to stay with her mother-in-law.
Ruth then develops a strategy to find food, something only men were supposed to do, and this eventually leads her to find favor with the landowner, Boaz, who would become her husband.
From this story, we learn a couple of things. First, as with Tamar and Rahab, this is a story of two women in a desperate situation courageously and cleverly using whatever resources they have to survive in a man-run world in which all the cards are stacked against them from birth. Ruth models a woman who, out of love for her mother-in-law, refuses to be defined by her culture’s sexist rules.
Second, Ruth isn’t only a woman. She’s a Moabite woman who became an immigrant in Israel. She, as a Moabite, is the quintessential outsider. Ruth’s story is a story about how this quintessential outsider became an insider in Israel. Jesus came to bring an end to the idolatrous nationalism and ungodly racism that has created outsiders and afflicted the world since the fall.
This is a story that we need to hear today, one that we need to model for our world, offering the story of Jesus to all people, without exception.
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