Friday, June 14, 2013

Faith Matters

Faith Matters

1. Ruth became a direct ancestor of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior

God blessed Ruth's faithfulness with her son, whom she named Obed. It was through Obed that Ruth became the great-grandmother of King David and direct ancestor of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Who would have thought Naomi would return to Bethlehem with only her Moabite daughter-in-law, Ruth? Who could have guessed that Ruth would figure in the lineage of Jesus Christ? No human being could have worked out this scenario. Faith in God and God's purpose contribute to such miraculous results.

If Ruth, a Moabitess, had not proved faithful to her Israelite mother-in-law, she would not have returned with her, nor would Ruth have met and married Boaz, nor would she have had a son, Obed, who would become an ancestor of David and Jesus Christ.

Think for a moment all that worked against such an extraordinary outcome. By chance, Ruth met Naomi's son, Mahlon, whose family was forced by hardship to live as resident aliens in her country of Moab. By chance, she married Mahlon. By chance, her father-in-law, her brother-in-law and her husband all died in her homeland.

By chance, she insisted on returning with Naomi to Israel, to live as an alien in a strange land, away from her family, relatives, religion, homeland. By chance, she met Boaz and gained the opportunity to be redeemed and married. By chance, Boaz married her, and together they had a son who figured in the direct lineage of the very Son of God.

Or did all of this occur by chance? To the casual observer, it might seem as if this all happened by chance. But, for those who live by faith-the same faith that Jesus Christ exercised here on earth-it becomes obvious that these miraculous events were directed by Almighty God.

Ruth defied all the odds, and, even though she was a gentile, figures directly in the physical lineage of our Savior. Ruth's faithful example extends far beyond her physical lineage. She figures prominently as a forerunner of spiritual Israel, the Church of God. She typifies the Old Testament prophecy to Abraham of the New Covenant Church, which would include gentiles and Israelites alike: "And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" through Jesus Christ (Genesis 12:3).

2.  Ruth's example acknowledged

Ruth's relationship to God while living among Israelites is aptly described by Peter in the New Testament when God gave the first gentiles His Holy Spirit: "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him" (Acts 10:34, 35).

God's impartiality is a bountiful blessing that neither Ruth, Boaz, nor Naomi could know during their time. But we are privileged to know such inspiring truths. Ruth's example of faith was customarily recited in the temple and later in the synagogues during the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost. Her example helps to signify our role and salvation in God's Church. For instance, in Leviticus 23, God identifies two loaves of leavened bread offered during the Feast of Weeks: "You shall bring from your habitations two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to Jehovah" (Leviticus 23:17).

These two loaves of leavened bread represent, at once, God's faithful disciples in both the old and new dispensations, but they also represent the two separate and now fused races of people who comprise the Church: gentiles and Israelites. The leaven signifies our human nature, in a general sense, and the sin that so easily besets us (compare 1 Corinthians 5:6, 7 with Matthew 16:12 and Hebrews 12:1). The baked loaves show that all God's people, whether gentile or Israelite, whether part of the old or new dispensation, will have their faith forged through the fiery trials experienced in this life (1 Corinthians 3:11-151 Peter 1:7).

The focus of the book of Ruth highlights the barley and wheat harvests in Palestine, a time of reaping rewards from hard work and a foretaste of humanity's spiritual redemption. Even Bethlehem means "the house of bread." This motif shows God's strict adherence to detail. But, in a broader sense, God's prophetic plan is revealed through the story of Ruth and its correlation to the entire New Testament.

It is inspiring to read the contrast of Ruth's faith to that of the Israel of her time. Her undying devotion to Naomi and her redemption by Boaz attest to her humble obedience that transcends time, race and culture and we can't forget her righteous and faithful example whenever we read the Book of Ruth. 

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