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MORE TRUTH IN RUTH
Before we traverse some of
the radiant realities in Ruth, let us consider some of the devotion towards
God to be found in David, one of her descendants who would later himself,
on Mary's side be a progenitor of the Messiah! Surely there was vast devotion
in this family line, selected as human means for the greatest gift God
could give to man, His only begotten Son, exemplar, victor, death-breaker,
incarnation of His own eternal word, God as man to make man ready, by faith,
to become each one who believes, an adopted child of God.
DAVID AS AN EXAMPLE OF THE DEDICATION: AND HE A PROPHET
In Psalm 39 we find a consecratory desolation, concerning the hopelessness of human pride, self-assurance and self-respect; and to match, a devotional realism in which trust in the Lord is the ONLY point of elevation.
"Surely every man walks about like a shadow: Surely they busy themselves in vain: he heaps up riches, and does not know who will gather them. And now LORD, what am I waiting for ? My hope is in You ... Deliver me from my transgressions: do not make me the reproach of the foolish... Do not be silent at my tears: for I am a stranger with You, a sojourner, as all my fathers were. Remove Your gaze from me ..."David is intensely aware of his shortcomings, of the folly and vanity of the fallacious frivolities and puny pride of mankind, and you see a deftly apt echo of Psalm 32:3-5 on the one hand, and Psalm 130:3, on the other.
Let us consider these in some ways parallel verses.
"When I kept silence, my bones grew oldAgain in Psalm 130:
Through my groaning all the day long.
For day and night, Your hand was heavy upon me:
My vitality was turned into the drought of summer.
I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I have not hidden.
I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,'
And You forgave the iniquity of my sin."
A desolatory consecration, a ruminative confession, a realistic assessment in terms not of the artificial hopes that are slain in a moment, but of hope in God, without which he would perish like an innominate piece of flesh, a shadow gone.
In Psalm 40, exactly as in the sequence Psalm 88-89 which we considered in the preceding chapter, we come to the only stabliser, the only strengthener for all time, the refuge and the reality, the provision and the peace: the Messiah.
The "horrible pit" which David contemplated, as his feet were stuck, is merely now, the residue, as when a car is hauled out of the miry clay. The rut formed as he strove for deliverance: it is a thing of nothing, except as a reminder! and what reminders are some of these deeper ruts, to the later observer, for one can almost still see those caught, flaying the ground in their desperation!
"He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth - praise to our God. Many will see it and fear, and will trust in the LORD" (Psalm 40:2-3).Then in Psalm 40:4-5, David declares in a surge of godly rejoicing, based on actual transformation of his heart in love, of his spirit in mercy, of his situation by divine strength:
"Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust,Memory is spellbound at the sheer volume of the specific goddesses of the Lord to his servant David. It is in terms, however, of what is the bounty provided, and what IS the rock on which King David stands. This, it is not hard to find, for at once he is given prophetic insight to reveal it (as noted, generically of the prophets, in I Peter 1:10-12, and II Peter 1:20-21 - cf. Things Old and New Ch. 6).
And does not respect the proud, or such as turn aside to lies.
Many O LORD my God are Your wonderful works
Which You have done;
And Your thoughts toward us
Cannot be recounted to You in order.
If I would declare and speak of them,
They are more than can be numbered. "
We see a new devotion, a new donation, a grace that speaks, a love that talks, an immolation that announces itself, a sacrificial Saviour whose words are echoing before the time, for all time.
You did not desire.
My ears You have opened.
Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require.
Then I said, 'Behold I come!' " (Psalm 40:6-7a).
Here is an amazing revelation for the day of David. The whole sacrificial system is to be replaced (as indicated in Jeremiah 3:16, 31:31ff.). There is to be a new consummatory conclusion to the whole matter. It devolves about the Speaker who declares dramatically, "Behold I am coming!"
Is this some unheralded and novel announcement ? Not at all: for he continues -
"In the scroll of the book it is written of Me.
I delight to do Your will, O my God,
And Your law is within my heart."
In what scroll then before this time, is such an epochal announcement to be found, or is such knowledge as this in any way intimated ? If you would like a broad coverage on this theme, now is the time to consult Barbs, Arrows and Balms 17! For now, suffice to say that the thing began in Genesis 3:15. Here we find Eve in constraint before the God whose word she has just disregarded in rebellious pride and conceited self-assurance. We might as well face it: the devil, clad in serpentine uniform, as if a beast over which they were supposed to RULE, not to which to listen, had enticed her to think of herself infinitely more highly than she should. She was to become as if God, with Adam as gods before God, and to vie with God, to know as if God.
This ? It was to have been only by DISOBEYING His express command in a perfectly simple, uncomplicated test situation.
The stakes had been high. Blessedness would depart on such a rebellion of the newly created pair ? but of course. The point was that it was far worse than simply that: DEATH would supervene. They would have yet another new experience to toast their folly; they would DIE! They had been made aware of this beforehand; and they did of course; and so has man ever since (Romans 5:12ff.), but the point is even worse than that. The death was instantaneous in the spirit, for their shame appeared, and this was a signal to be read. Innocence departed. Guilt glued itself to their lives. Communion with God was now broken, and the celestially composed situation in Eden was not merely disturbed. It was disrupted. They were removed!
Now in toil and trouble they would conduct their so precious, so highly esteemed little lives. Now deliverance for their sin stricken beings would and could come only from some outside source.
God is just. God is merciful. We have seen the former, but what of the latter in this man-initiating program ? It was to proceed in the form of a battle and a donation. The battle would remind many of their fallen state, and of their delusion, and the donation would contrive to deliver many of them in the end. It was, for man, a provision.
What was then this donation ? It was to come in the form of a descendant, at some point to arrive, who would at personal cost, overcome the power of the adversary, the evil one, the effects of the rebellion, the corruption of sin, and smash the very dynamic of the devil totally. His heel would suffer (in the pictorial presentation, as if the snake were crushed underfoot by this deliverer - Gen. 3:15), but the snake would be totally overcome, the devil defeated. So would the Act I become Act IV.
This is called the protevangelium, the first glimpse of the Gospel, that someone in the form of a MAN - though man was fallen and was a mere culprit distanced, without strength to prevail - would nevertheless seize and present to the race, the victory. At once, one thinks of God. In what way would the Lord use a man, this being a fallen and spiritually dispossessed race, to overcome the source of their trouble - more accurately ONE of the sources of their trouble, for the other source was their own sin, which debilitating and disabling, left them at the mercy of death.
WHO would be death conqueror, sin vanquisher, leaving the devil destitute, the race ready for redemption ?
In Numbers 24, we see more. Balaam, false prophet though he was, was yet involved in a strange scene. He was commissioned by the Almighty, but himself rebelled. The king of Moab wanted him to curse or disable in some way, the victorious armies of Israel. Promised payment, though protesting his integrity, Balaam, lured, sought repeatedly to do as requested. However, truth seized him and he uttered the exact opposite of what the Moabite payor wanted. He blessed Israel, he did it richly, and he revealed the coming of the Messiah, the deliverer.
His words on this point:
"I see Him, but now now;Thus the predicted deliverer, made clear from the outset for fallen mankind, is now seen as coming through the Abrahamic line, through Israel - Jacob, and His coming is to have the station of royalty: He is to be a King. Further, as a man, he will be a Star, and His shining will be celestial.
I behold Him, but not near.
A Star shall come out of Jacob;
A Sceptre shall rise out of Israel,
And batter the brow of Moab,
And destroy all the sons of tumult."
We could trace it further as in the above reference, but in this context, suffice to mention just two other preliminaries. These concern "the scroll of the book" where David declares, it is to be found when he writes. It existed, prior to his own presentation by inspiration, of the plans of God in this thing.
To Abraham, God made the promise, when he prepared his heart to set out for the land which God assigned to him, that in him and in his seed, some descendant in terms of the revelation already made, there would be a blessing for all the nations of the earth. This concurs with the revelation through Balaam totally (cf. Deuteronomy 23:4-5). To David as seen in II Samuel 7, came the promise of a descendant such that God said of Him, His kingdom should not end. In the first instance, it was Solomon, so that if he sinned, he would be chastened (7:13-15). In some way "your throne shall be established forever." Such was the assurance of God to King David.
In Psalm 2 we see this Son, to whom faith must be given, and life, who is the Judge of all the earth. We glimpse a massive rebellion against Him, which is to be miserably destroyed, amidst intended calamity for the Son. In Him, man is to trust, though this is the attitude reserved for GOD ONLY (Jeremiah 17). In Psalm 22 we see a figure being sacrificed, mocked and derided, just as in Psalm 40, we see Someone single-handedly, as it were, removing sacrifice in terms of His own coming! The picture grows quickly, but we leave here, for the other reference (Barbs, Arrows and Balms 17 cf. That Magnificent Rock Ch. 3), and proceed with our current task.
In Psalm 40:12, David is smitten with a sense of his own sinfulness, so that his iniquities are as the hairs of his head; but in 40:5, this is preceded and the forfeiture of grace precluded: for as to God's thoughts of mercy and lovingkindness toward him, "If I were to declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered."
he declares: "Let all who seek You rejoice
and be glad in You:
Let such as love Your salvation say continually,
'The LORD be magnified...' "
Thus have we seen something of the cleansed and consecrated devotion of King David towards God, and that it fits on the Messiah, as his rock (Psalm 40:2-3). There is no other Rock but God (Psalm 61) and this is He in the flesh, vanquishing evil, coming as King, willing to die, forcing death into retreat and overthrowing it by satisfying justice and enthroning grace. (cf. Isaiah 11, Psalm 72, in further developments).
us now turn to Ruth herself, the amazing Moabitess, one of the progenitors
of David, whose loving words have for millenia anointed this earth.
THE DELIGHTFUL, DEDICATED DEVOTION OF RUTH
(1) WHAT HAPPENED
Ruth was daughter-in-law of a lady of Israel, by name Naomi. In her settlement in Israel, there was inadequate food, and she with her husband Elimelech departed for fairer pastures at Moab. There, perhaps in consequence of leaving the promised land, perhaps because her two sons married Moabites, perhaps for other reasons in the divine plan, she lost both husband and sons, all dying. It is important to realise the strength of the prohibition of marriage with those of the idolatrous races about, as this was the general religious situation in the land God gave them to possess, as an exhibition of righteousness, holiness and as a presenter of prophecy (cf. Isaiah 43:21).
Great were the prohibitions on mingling, naturally enough, since the spiritual diseases for which God at length after much patience, judged the former nations in that area (cf. Genesis 15:16), were indeed communicable if you did not practice proper spiritual hygiene, a point which remains true to this day, and is a basis for all separation (cf. The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 7). Of course God is able to keep what is committed to Him, and does with no failures, where faith in Him as He is revealed to be is concerned; but equally, discipline is for rebellion now as then, and a failure to restrict actual Christian fellowship to Christians (by reasonable testimony) is asking for trouble (as in Romans 16:17, Titus 3:10). The Church is not some sprawling, squalling social society, but a communion of the saints. Unwise are they who imagine it differently, as if love would make the hospital dirty in order to show more social awareness. Is it wareness ? it is death!
You need to be what is needed, not what is so similar to this world that it might almost be part of it. There is to be a realisation in a communion of saints, of what the way is, not what the worth of this world shall be, and it needs to be applied with more care than any surgeon, for the well-being of his operating theatre. Does this mean lack of love for the lost ? Quite the contrary, infection is an enemy of love, and dirt and delinquency about godliness is not way to invite anyone to deliverance!
In Deuteronomy 23:3ff. you see the exclusion, for Moab to the 10th generation, from the congregation. This is the more severe in view of the stated operations of Balaam, who did evidently proceed to entice the children of Israel to SIN, sexually, in illicit liaisons with Moabite women, so that a plague broke out and many were slain, the purity of the whole being compromised. So was this deadly weapon invented: if you cannot beat them when they walk and work with their God, then make them sin against HIM, and so reduce the power! Balaam's abhorrent status is treated in Numbers 31:8, Jude 25 and II Peter 2:15-16 and especially Revelation 2:14.
Thus we can only ponder the probable cause of the loss of life in the family of Elimelech, and meet the new situation there. Let us trace it. The famine lifts in Israel, and Naomi, now a widow without her sons, elects to return. Her daughters-in-law appear to have loved her dearly, and found it hard not to travel back with her to what to them would be a new country, Israel. Naomi however sought vigorously to dissuade them, and one of the wives of her deceased sons eventually yielded, returning "to her people and to her gods" (Ruth 1:15). Thus she missed one of the most singular episodes in those days, as we shall see, and following 'fate', her culture, her psychic preferences and cultivated norms, as if inert to the greater glory, indeed the ONLY glory to be found in God, she leaves our sight.
Not so with Ruth however, the other daughter in law, left residual after Naomi's threefold losses. Despite the entreaties of Naomi to return to Moah and not to accompany her, this one would not yield. No argument could convince her, no consideration could attenuate her love for Naomi, her desire for her company, her people and her God. Thus, as the mother in law made ready to depart, she found herself not alone, for Ruth declared in famous words of affection and devotion, that strike the heart (Ruth 1:16-17):
“Entreat me not to leave you,Thus they returned to Israel where in a complex of divinely drafted events (Ephesians 1:11), God prepared their paths. It became evident that there was much popular local sentiment in favour of the love of Ruth for her mother in law, her fidelity, obedience, comeliness of conduct, devotion in practical affairs as she gleaned, taking the small remnants of a crop in that locality, as provided by Mosaic law, for the poor. Attracting the interest of a rich farmer, a relative of Naomi, she was given even more generous treatment; for it seems he was impressed with her filial devotion and earnest hearted reliability.
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
"Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me."
According to a custom, she proceeded to make clear her willingness to marry the farmer, in conjunction with advice from Naomi, who had lived there, and it became clear that the land of Naomi, probably mortgaged, was in need of redemption. In this practice (Deuteronomy 25 with Leviticus 25:23ff.), and further in terms of historic custom, a relative could redeem land sold so that it could be restored to the poorer brother who had been forced to sell. This nearer "redeeming relative" in this case was another person than the farmer, named Boaz, and thus the first offer was made to him. Interested in the property, but not in having Ruth as a wife as well, he declined. Thus Boaz became the nearest relative to have right of refusal. He accepted, married Ruth, bought the property and became a progenitor, with Ruth, of the one to become King David, and thus in the Mary side of things, of Jesus Christ!
How great were the blessings on Ruth and on the marriage, so conjoined in an atmosphere of devotion, dedication, righteousness, duty and consideration on the part of all! (Ruth 3:14-17). The people sought great things from the offspring, and certainly were more than recompensed!
Ruth sought vitality, reality, the God of all creation, the life in that Lord, evidently being convinced that this was the place of peace, power and purity, that here was that to which one should eternally be attached. As a result, the fussy little ‘fate’ which might have been hers, that is, the mere blown chaff which man so readily tends to become when he is unattached to the living God (Psalm 1), who KNOWS the way of His own chosen ones: this did not occur.
its place, what came ? Fame of the most conspicuous, for character, for
devotion, dedication, consecration, family love, and most amazing of all
in this now individualised stylised history, a place in the family line,
through Mary leading to the Messiah! "The
LORD knows the way of the righteous" - Psalm
(2) WHAT IT SIGNIFIES
There is in this history, a series of types, a precision of pictures so profound as to be fascinating. Further, it traces for us one of the great foci of meanings in the faith, sculptured from events, implicit with more to come, while at the very same time, showing that the choice of Israel as the race for the coming of the Messiah to be blessing for all nations, was not at all a matter of race as such (though there had to be for order, an organisation and a place, and so a race); but it was far more embracive.
Christ through a Moabitess ? partly, yes, in some small part, on one side, the human side, yes indeed. In this way, you see that the call for some sort of hatred of Israel, as by jealous class-mates, because she was chosen to be a display window and the site for the Messiah, is entirely misplaced. Besides that, who would want to have perhaps 40% of their race murdered by one man in one period of history! Sometimes, it is better to consider the facts; indeed, they are always most welcome, and should never be dismissed, as if extras in some ludicrous play.
It is only when facts are dismissed that anything 'ludicrous' happens here; and the fact is this, that we shall now see a series of exhibits of the love and ways of God, through this book, which is nothing less than startling.
Consider Ruth as a type of Christ: that is, an example in whose ways there is found something picturing, portraying, reflecting or suggestive of Christ, a sort of partial parallel, in more general terms of the most specialised and uniquely efficacious work of Christ. First, she leaves all her own land's facilities and ways, in favour of love of Naomi, and her life in the Lord. So Christ left heaven for love, to follow the will of His Father. Secondly, Ruth's commitment is absolute as seen in the blue-printed reference next above. So was Christ dedicated to His commitment, as in Psalm 40:6-8, Isaiah 50:4-6, Luke 9:51-56, Matthew 26:52-54, Hebrews 5:7, Luke 22:39-46.
Thirdly, she obeys her mother in law, and nestles humbly into the texture of her various assignments - reflective of the ways of Christ as shown in John 12:48-50, 5:19-23. To be sure, she is a mere sinner, imbued with love, devotion and humility, reliability and a sense of jointness and service for her mother in law, but she is also one who is changing her religion decisively and finally, to serve the living God, as the reference noted attests.
Again, she is willing to become poor, and to glean in the harvest, which could induce a sense of humiliation; and this reflects something of the way of Christ who for us sinners, though in the form of God, and having equality with God as nothing to snatch at, humbled Himself to take the form of a man, and to obey even to death (Philippians 2).
Fifthly, Ruth gave herself to a man who was past his youthfulness, just as Christ gave His life for people who were even ... sinners! (Romans 5:5ff.).
But now we pass to the second element of a type of Christ. The picture changes, and we look next at Boaz who married her. He was rich, and was able and willing to redeem, to buy back Naomi's compromised inheritance. So Christ came from His Father, and though He was rich, yet He became poor that we through His poverty might become rich (II Corinthians 8:9).
Moreover, Boaz was a REDEEMER, one who by his own contribution, freely made and in the interests of lost property, enabled its re-assignment where it belonged, to the family concerned. So Christ is the Redeemer, known so clearly since Job, the date of which some set as early as the days before Moses!
The words from Job are sung regularly and are probably known to countless millions on this earth, thus fulfilling the pith of his desire that they be written with lead and iron pen on rock! (Job 19:23-24). It is fitting therefore to hear these words, as indicative of the parallel in view.
that my words were written!
Oh, that they were inscribed in a book!
That they were engraved on a rock
With an iron pen and lead, forever!
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God,
Whom I shall see for myself,
And my eyes shall behold, and not another.
my heart yearns within me!
If you should say, ‘How shall we persecute him?’—
Since the root of the matter is found in me,
Be afraid of the sword for yourselves;
For wrath brings the punishment of the sword,
That you may know there is a judgment.”
although in Ruth, it was only in a biblical pictorial the redemption of
land, this in itself is a picture of the redemption of the soil of the
soul, the principle of paying to redeem in the interests of love and restoration
of a forsaken heritage. Strong throughout the Bible, this is expressive
of the love of God to the point there was even real estate expression of
it. It is this which is the one seen focussed so heavily in the book of
Thus Boaz is a type of Christ in this sense, as a redeemer, restorer of forsaken places (cf. Isaiah 61:1-4).
In these two dimensions, the giving of riches and the provision of redemption, Boaz is a type of Christ.
He is depictive in a third sense. Thus he readily accepted the poor girl, Ruth, and raised her up to a fine estate in the land. So Christ, when we were yet sinners, died for us (Romans 5:1-12).
From them both, Ruth and Boaz, then came the Messiah, as far as the human side was concerned. Here is a further picture. Love is back of the gift of God (John 3:16) and so was this love between the ancestral pair focussed in Ruth, like a shaft of light, a preliminary to the arrival of David, himself a precursor on the Mary line, of Christ Himself! Again David, their nearer relative in due process of time, was himself a type of Christ in several respects. Thus his harrying by jealous King Saul, is reminiscent of Christ hated by jealous priestly bureaucracy (cf. Matthew 27:18), and David's pursuit by thousands of soldiers reminds us of Christ's pursuit by a crafty and litigious priesthood (cf. Luke 11:52ff., Matthew 21:46, John 7:30, 10:39, Mark 11:18).
With Him, it was a foreordained matter (cf. Acts 2:23, Isaiah 49:7, 52-53), and to be nothing less than death at the hands of the many, in pursuit of a priestly effort to deliver, as was fearfully surmised, their nation from Roman assault, based on misapprehension of the sort of King Christ really was, fear of Roman fear, or both. (Cf. John 11:49-52, 19:12.)
Next we must note that David, in risking his life by delivering a city in Israel from the Philistines, even when he himself was being recklessly pursued by the possessed king of his own land (I Samuel 23), reminds us of Christ, who even when being put to death, prayed for His oppressors, and sought their good.
There are, in these things, principles which are divine, and we see them, now here in this action, now in that characteristic, now in an eloquent parallel, a depictive precursor, in the lives of the godly.
Sometimes they become more than this. They actually signify in a latent manner, some of the actions to come.
Thus the whole concept of redemption was by no means limited to land (cf. Leviticus 16-17), and the sacrificial cover by blood, was a pre-emptive requirement of God Himself for any fellowship with man. It involves the concept of a price for all sin, and a payment for things as diverse as leprosy defilement and inadvertent sin. ALL must be covered.
In Ruth's redemptive alliance from Boaz, we see this all-effective provision in the texture not merely of land, but the intimate personal recesses of life. It is all thus personalised, not merely propositionalised, and comes to life as does the soul covered by the redemptive blood, at length to be that of Christ who, being man, alone could adequately cover as man. What should He cover ? the sins of those who receive him, and being God, it was He who should satisfy justice to the uttermost in the process, sinless and the Saviour Himself (John 1:12, I Peter 3:18, 2:22ff., Hebrews 7-10, Romans 3:22ff.).
In all these facets and features, noting in our survey of types in this context, you find one thing more. Just as God is unchangeable, His word secure, His presentations permanent, His steps unrescinded, so we find in this way a cornucopia of parallels, introductions, precursors, trailers, for the ONE GOD is always at work, and as to HIS WAYS, these DO NOT CHANGE (Habakkuk 3:6, Malachi 3:6).
What then is this ? It is a verification in consistency, persistency, relatable continuations, rather like those in the natural world found when diverse elements and compounds show their inter-relation in systematic patterns. In this case however, it is the personal nature of the living God, always the same, which gives not only direct, but indirect and sometimes historical, sometimes symbolic, sometimes typical illustrations on all sides. This is what, given the permanence, omniscience, immutability of God, we should expect. We find it, as is normal in the categories considered, to the uttermost verified, the word of the Lord vindicated in a consistency of qualities that is not only admirable, but also stupendous.
stupendous need not stupefy however; but rather evoke awe and gladness,
as those who return often to loved and known places.
WHAT, MORE ? BUT OF COURSE!
there is more detail to consider, and this further attests the propositions
just made, above!
It is like a tide from some vast reservoir, inundating the land below. It proceeds, and the continues, its source sufficient for such a display! With God, the reservoir is never exhausted, for in Him there are no limits.
We have already noted the strenuous prohibition against receiving a Moabite into the congregation, at the outset. How could a Moabitess not only be received, but adopted by Israel in this merciful and gracious manner, and moreover, become even the progenitress of the Messiah on the side of Mary, the mother!
Poole, that ancient commentator, two of whose 1688 volumes are still in possession of the family (one of which the author consulted for this present purpose!) has a fine comment to the point. He notes that in view of the REASON for the exclusion of the Moabite (cf. Deuteronomy 23:3-4*1), it is apparent that when a person is thoroughly converted to the living God, this is inapplicable. There are provisions for proselytes from Exodus 12:48 on, right at the first, on the very passover night, in Egypt! The full spiritual force of this is seen in Isaiah 56:6ff. where special blessing is prescribed for the foreigner whose whole heart seeks the Lord. It is ALWAYS the way of the Lord to receive the seeking soul, the one who in sincerity loves Him, in reality desires Him, in contrition accepts His covenant and in repentance takes the redemption.
From this however there is a needful message for us all. Thus Ruth was acting as a type of Christ towards her two daughters in law, in this, that she REQUIRED THEM TO COUNT THE COST. In His attitude, Christ did this Himself (Luke 14:25-35), and that in the most pointed manner. Let us consider His very words on this topic, as many are in danger of being far less than Ruth in realism, and falling far short of being redeemed simply because they desire, but do not yearn, would like salvation, but do not accept it, merely bumbling about like noisy bees (or disappointed ones, run out of fuel, and subsiding sadly on the ground in some place, like cares on the highway's side).
To some life may seem 'impossible', and this is one of the most salient reasons for such a condition. You are relying on what you do not take, relating to what you do not receive, and seeking to combine your own word, will, comfort, ambition or self, with the will of God. That is outrageous! You see it lampooned in Isaiah 1, evacuated in Micah 6, dashed to the ground in Matthew 23, and simply excluded in Luke 14.
Thus when RUTH was insistent on coming; when Naomi was persistent in protesting about the coming, it was a sort of dramatic dialogue, a type this time of the process of SALVATION itself. You have to count the cost. You either forsake all, or you do not. If there is a lingering desire, a non-detached attraction for something ELSE, as well or instead, then to the extent this has place, you cannot be a Christian! Thus Ruth can speak to us, in terms of the generic grace of God, the generic will of God, the generic devotion TO God, about being a Christian. There is a sort of portrait of that aspect of it, which is so fundamental that if it be missing, all is missing.
LOOK at the land from which you have come. Consider the life you have lived before becoming or wishing to become a Christian. If in temptation (and many who think they are Christians are tempted, as well as many who are in fact Christians cf. I Corinthians 10:13, I Peter 1:7, 4:12ff.), you still want it, intact or intrusive, then what ? Then you are in the category at this point, of those who CANNOT be His disciples. But you say, I do want to be better, to discount those things, for I do see their lack of worth, as David in Psalm 39 did! Cannot I then simply take Christ!
By all means, if in so taking Him, all your heart is free! You in other words, though a sinner, and wholly unable to convert yourself, when divinely prepared, CAN and DO take the Christ to a repentant heart. This, in a sense, is like a bed of roses to Him, for He delights in mercy (Micah 7:19). There is in such a heart as you see in David in Psalms 39, 51, no pride and no competition. You are desolated by sin, evacuated of self-will, and turn in the grace of God to the mighty Lord who broke death, setting Him no conditions, but receiving expressly His own.
You enter. You are His sheep. You do NOT say, Now in the event that this and that happens, you do realise, don't you Lord, that I shall reserve the right ... There are no residual rights; you forsake ALL as HE said, or you would save time to forget it at this point.
DO YOU, like Ruth with Naomi, realise that to follow Christ, is to come to another land, another field another location, another life; and that it is one in which no wealth attaches as with some earthly inheritance. Do you want, like Abraham, like Moses (Hebrews 11), as seeing Him who is invisible, to look for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is GOD! DO you believe in Christ as God, and so see the ludicrous and contemptible fuss and confusion in seeking to combine Him. This is virtual unbelief at the outset!
So does Ruth challenge us all, and show us devotion, not as from super-saint, but in terms of the commitment to Christ which is beyond any evangelist, any theologian or church council, which is to Christ as He is, as He is exposed in Scripture, who manifests Himself as He will, but never adds to it, since He is HIMSELF THE LAST WORD (cf. Hebrews 1, 7, Ephesians 1:10), and there IS not more.
God has not been silent; He has said what He intends, and offered nothing less than His Son. What then does the would-be wife tell at the service, this little story - is it this ? : Oh well, yes in a way I would like to be his lawful wedded wife, but on the other hand, quite naturally, I have some reservations, and given the necessary situation, would as readily drop the clot (as he then might become) and enjoy myself with another. It is all relative.
You might, if not in love; but with Christ, you cannot, for He is no clot, His blood having been shed already for the love of His people. It is offered freely and sincerely to all: a life for a life cover, complete and gracious, meaningful with divine Mastery, and relished with divine Mystery; for great is the mystery of how God could have so loved us: but He did and He does! Like Ruth, then, if you would be free of confusion, spiritual contusion, the profusions of false cults, crafts and designs masquerading in your heart or hearth, in your home or church, in your life or future, you have genuinely to forsake all, realise it and doing it, love the Lord. Love is like that.
God is love. God is pure. He never fails. There is no excuse for man; but there is way to God. What more could anyone conceivably want, that is not the mere caprice of folly, the pretence of autonomy, the aspiration like that of Eve, to be what she was not, could not be and never would become. It is only IN God that the godliness of His presence is felt. He is neither for sale nor is He manufactured.
Truly the Great God has said: I AM. So did His Son: Before Abraham was, I am.
In Ruth, you see this from young lips: YOU are the one, and YOU will I follow.
her, you must have God as YOUR GOD, and HIS GRACE as YOUR government, without
The offence of Balaam, as noted under (1) What Happened, above, was corrosive of the strength of Israel, subtly subversive, odiously offensive and grotesquely insidious to all spirituality, so that the systematic exclusion of the culture, sited grossly in Moab, where the trap was historically set for Israel, was a significant and also a symbolic act.
That sort of thing in the congregation of Israel ? Never.
For that, indefinite exclusion - yes even to the 10th generation. However, once remove the culture, change the heart, bring an inner detestation of such sin and an utter commitment to the true and living God, and the 'Moabite' ends - there is, to use New Testament terms, 'neither Jew nor Greek', for all are one in Christ Jesus. It is then, in the presence and purging of the living God, that the communion is restored, and outreach occurs. Now it is not this or that, but rather the people of God, yet this not as a mere name, but a body under rule, under royal rule, with prescriptions and prohibitions, now as then. These NEVER saved (Romans 4:24ff.), but always apply. God is neither mute nor mocked.
Proselytes indeed are expressly provided for, as early as in Exodus 12! Israel is the centre chosen at that time, but not the criterion. GOD is the criterion, and His ways in Israel as HIS; and as He gives, so they are! We must not mistake the instrument for the source, any more than despise the instrument, as if it were not sourced. However, always the source is sovereign, not the instrument. The instrument may be blunted, but not the source.
The instrument may get into rebellious hands; but God never changes, and His word is truth without pollution. "Sanctify them through Thy word. Thy word is truth" - as Christ declared (John 17:17), is the unchanging reality of operation at any time, before God, the immutable and the beautiful, the glorious and the patient, the Light of life and the Lord of His people.
Thus in the case of ancient Israel, when salvation was received (cf. Psalm 40:16), and the heart is not renovated but transformed in His presence, the spirit turning in truth to Him and the life being now His: the captivating chains of this culture or that, unseen to their victims, depart. Yet it must be deep, the reality of salvation, like the ocean all impudent puddles apart.
The soul must be committed to the deep, not to sleep in self, satisfaction, spiritual or other: it must be awake in the life of God, therefore alert to His will, sensitive to His word, as little concerned with things past as is the snake with the sloughed skin. Does a dog return to his vomit ? even if he should, yet is a snake to be seen trying in vain to re-insert itself in the crumbling relic which once contained it, lying weak on the grass, and left behind. To be sure, the flesh can strive, but the spirit in God has the power of God to sustain it, as the psalms so constantly show! For example, just watch the transition from Psalm 39 to Psalm 40, like that from Psalm 88 to Psalm 89, and the glorious relief and purgation in Psalm 51!
Thus, if any came to Israel to participate, the heart and soul and life would have to come in such a case also. If Moab was the base, the baseness of the base would not merely have to be seen, but severed, and the power of God not merely affirmed but restorative of the whole being to His presence and protection, keeping and grace. The heart, being tested, would need to come without impediment or pollution, precisely as the unchanging God makes so clear in the words of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ: UNLESS you forsake all that you have, you CANNOT be His disciple (Luke 14:33). Once however you do this, you CANNOT fail, for HE cannot fail, and His word is clear: YOU WILL NOT PERISH (John 10:9,27-28).
Thus, in the case of Ruth, the test of Naomi as she was leaving her Moabite daughters-in-law for her return to her own country, not only did the maternal challenge come, but the daughter in law came with a declaration of love and purity which sings for all time (Ruth 1:16-17). With such, Israel could only be blessed. And so she was, Ruth being in the line to the Messiah, the maternal line itself.
So now the Church of the God who swears "I change not", should seek as members, not cultural addicts, synthetic specimens of sallow spirituality, gripped by two dynamics and true to neither, but those whose hearts the Lord Himself has taken (cf. Matthew 6:19-24).
Seen in this light, the challenge and dissuasive powers of Naomi as her daughters-in-law were about to come, or to return to their own land, is like Christ declaring: COUNT THE COST! It is no use coming with a half-heart, the other being systematically divided by some kind of spiritual surgery. Are you to start a tower-building program, Christ challenged (Luke 14), and then amid mockery give it up, the thing half completed! Hardly. Come in all or not at all.
This is very far indeed from expecting perfection; it is not the pretension of high performance, but the reality of sincerity, so that the whole heart is placed unreservedly in the hands of the Lord, the whole burden of sin is detested cordially and set in His keeping, who died for sin, the just for the unjust to bring us to God (I Peter 3:18), and the entire aspiration, in the hands of faith, is brought to the presence of God for the anointing needed, that the life might, being His, be led of the Lord in all things.
a man falls, he arises, and Christ helps him up (Proverbs 24:16, Isaiah
42:3). But no athlete actually runs BY falling, nor is tripping the trade-mark
of the craft that is his.