Gleanings from Ruth.

Christian Friend vol. 18, 1891, p. 197.

Many applications are often made of the details of this beautiful book; but before these can be rightly made, it is necessary to ascertain its place and significance according to the mind of God. There are two ways in which it may be viewed - as actual history, and what is prefigured by the history; that is, there are lessons to be gleaned from the actual facts, and from the conduct of the persons recorded; and there is also much instruction to be gathered from the typical meaning of the facts and persons, in their relation to Christ and His people.

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In regard to the actual facts of the book, it is a perfect contrast to the book of Judges. The last five chapters of this book reveal the utter corruption into which Israel as a people had fallen, through the abuse of God's grace in bringing them out of Egypt, and in putting them into the possession of Canaan. Successive revivals, through deliverers and judges, had been vouchsafed to them in the mercy of their God, but as soon as the pressure was removed, and the personal influence of the judge was gone, they immediately relapsed into forgetfulness of God, and even into idolatry. Their moral state is summed up in one pregnant sentence: "In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes."

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It is therefore with immense relief that we follow on to the book of Ruth, and discover that in the midst of all the moral failure of the people there were those who with humility of mind and simplicity of faith served the God of their fathers. It is as if treading the sands of some barren, arid wilderness, we came suddenly upon flowers of exquisite beauty and rare fragrance. This contrast is heightened if it is borne in mind that Micah's priest (Judges 17) and the Levite's concubine both belonged to the place - Bethlehem-judah - where Elimelech, Naomi, and Boaz dwelt. The light is but the more intense from the density of the surrounding darkness.

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There is another feature to be observed. We learn that God was working, through all the failure of His people in view of Messiah, that Christ was ever His object, and hence that all these actings and personages that invite our attention are but prophetic intimations of the true Deliverer of Israel. For here in Boaz and Ruth we are introduced to the direct line of His ancestry; and from the fact of a poor widowed Moabite stranger being exalted to share in this blessed privilege, we learn how entirely all is of grace, and that, while God had been pleased to bind Himself by the two immutable things, wherein it was impossible for Him to lie, it was yet in the exercise of pure and sovereign grace that He had made, and that He was now performing, his promise, ordering everything after the counsel of His own will. And most conspicuously it was grace which raised up poor Ruth out of the dust, and lifted her from the dunghill, to set her among princes.

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As to the typical teaching of the book, it is scarcely doubtful that Naomi prefigures the Jewish nation. The name of her husband was Elimelech, which means, "my God, the King," or, "to whom God is King." In consequence of a famine (we need to remember that it is by famine God frequently tests His people) Elimelech and Naomi, with their two sons, had gone to sojourn in the country of Moab - abandoning the land of promise and blessing. There Elimelech died, and Naomi became a widow. She, as setting forth the nation, had lost her relationship with God the King, and was thus bereft and desolate. So completely was this the case that her two sons, forgetful of their lineage, married Moabitish wives; but both died, and Naomi was doubly widowed, so that Naomi "my delight," God's delight indeed - became Mara, "bitterness," "for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me." If God's people forget Him, He remembers them, and in various ways deals with them to bring them back to Himself. (See Hosea 2:6-23.)

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Ruth; though a Moabitess, is plainly a type of the Jewish remnant which will, in the last days, be brought back into blessing. On Naomi's return to the land, for she had heard how the Lord had visited His people in giving them bread, Ruth persisted, in the face of Naomi's entreaties, in accompanying her, but Orpah having kissed her mother-in-law went back to her own country. Into the touching details of this scene we need not enter - their various applications are obvious. The language of Ruth is, "Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me." She thus fully identified herself with Naomi, Naomi's people, and Naomi's God.

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The question may occur to some minds as to how it is possible for a Moabitess to represent the remnant of Israel. It must be remembered then, that, later on, God, on account of His people's sin and apostasy, gave them the name, wrote the sentence upon them, of Lo-ammi (not my people). (Hosea 1:8, 9.) They have thus forfeited all claim, and their restoration and blessing will consequently be as entirely a work of grace and mercy as the salvation of the Gentiles in the present accepted time. (See Rom. 11.) Ruth, therefore, as a poor Gentile, destitute of all claim, is brought in as a typical figure to represent the fact that God, in the unbounded riches of His grace, will in a future day, in virtue of the death of Christ, restore His people, who had forfeited everything by their disobedience. What they had lost under responsibility He will give back (and how much more!) in pursuance of His own purposes of grace.

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Boaz, who is the instrument of blessing, the kinsman redeemer, is a type of the risen Christ. The name means, "In him is strength"; and it was he, on the failure of the nearest kinsman, who had the power of redemption. It was not possible for the nearer kinsman, who represents the law, to redeem the inheritance; for, as the apostle has written, if the inheritance be of the law it is no more of promise, and Ruth, as typifying the remnant, must receive everything as the gift of pure grace. Boaz, therefore, on whom there was no claim, though a kinsman, stepped in, and, acting from his own heart of love and grace, bought the land and espoused Ruth to "raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance." "Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth"

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Read in this light, every action recorded in the book is full of interest and instruction. The first verse of chapter 2 introduces Boaz, the kinsman of Naomi's husband, as a mighty man of wealth. It is in him that all blessing is centred whether for Naomi or Ruth. Need urges Ruth to go and glean ears of corn. It is always through our needs that we are led to Christ. Guided by unseen power, it was "her hap to light on a part of the field belonging to Boaz." She at once found favour in his eyes, for he knew all her past history; and he encouraged her heart by saying, "The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust." (Ruth 2:12.) Grace marked all his dealings with her (vv. 14-17), and she returned to Naomi laden with the firstfruits of her blessing.

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Naomi perceived the import of the attitude of Boaz, and Ruth, as instructed by her, "kept fast by the maidens of Boaz to glean unto the end of barley harvest and of wheat harvest; and dwelt with her mother-in-law." (Ruth 2:23.) Furthermore, taught by Naomi, she, last of all, cast herself unreservedly upon the kindness and grace of Boaz, pleading but this one thing - "Thou art a near kinsman"; and truly Christ, though risen and glorified, was the seed of David according to the flesh. Such a plea could not be refused, and Boaz at once responded by promising all she had sought. He gave her, moreover, the earnest of the full blessing in the six measures of barley, and finally, as pointed out, redeemed the inheritance, and took Ruth to be his wife.

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It may be noticed also, that when Ruth bare a son, the neighbours said, there is a son born to Naomi. So Christ was reckoned as born to the nation, as Isaiah speaks, "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given" (Isa. 9:6); and as the psalmist says, "The Lord shall count, when He writeth up the people, that this Man was born there" (in Zion). (Psalm 87:6.)