As so often happens, the best parts of last week’s class were the questions raised.
There were several good ones, but the two that stick with me most were raised by Terry and Don. Let’s take Terry first, for his question is a little more definite. Although this isn’t a perfect, word-for-word quote of the question, I think it is fair to say that in essence Terry asked whether there is evidence in the Book of Ruth that our protagonist, Ruth herself, had converted to Israel’s God – Yaweh.
That is an important question – the ultimate question, actually – in any circumstance and it is particularly important here – to our consideration of this little Book. For we are concerned with Ruth’s motives and with the results of her decisions. We won’t really understand the Book unless we understand what moved Ruth to act as she did and unless we understand the reason for her great good fortune.
So the question – and we’ll be discussing this next Sunday – is what, if any, evidence is there in the text that Ruth had – or had not – converted to Israel’s God before she left Moab?
The second question is broader and not so well defined, but is of ultimate importance for our study. It was something like this: “What about the God part of this story?”
Well, yes. What about that. I am reminded of our Lord Jesus Christ’s admonition to a group of Pharisees who were (as was their bent) trying to trip Jesus up on the scriptures. Jesus – as was His bent – stops them dead in their arrogant tracks with this statement: “You study the scriptures because in them you think you have eternal life, and they are they that testify of me.” Eugene Peterson, in The Message, translates Jesus’ admonition this way:
“You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you’ll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me!
John 5: 39
And our Lord’s words here are certainly words to us as we take up the study of this beautiful little Book of Ruth. It is a poignant and romantic story, full of heroic and heart-rending acts. So much so that we might be tempted to take our eye off of the ball here and consider the story only for its human content. If so, then we might as well be in the public library and not the church. We read the scriptures because they testify of Jesus Christ and the life we are offered in Him.
Given that, the next, obvious question becomes this: “Where do we find Jesus Christ in this story?” The short and glib answer would be this: At the very back of the book where he is mentioned by name as a direct descendant of Ruth and Boaz. That’s correct of course and also very important; but let’s consider the whole book. Where do we see Jesus Christ in the story as it unfolds?
Where do we see His character? And what part of His character do we see? What in this story is Christlike? What do we see of His grace?