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by Hamilton Smith
The Book of Ruth.
The Stranger Ruth 1
The Gleaner Ruth 2
The Bride Ruth 3 & 4
A peculiar charm attaches to the story of Ruth making this short Book of the Bible especially attractive to the most casual reader. It is a love story of other days in which sorrow and joy, failure and devotedness, life and death, are intermingled, all leading at last to the day of the marriage and the birth of the heir. The very setting of the story is restful to the spirit; for we are carried into pastoral scenes to find ourselves in company with harvesters and gleaners.
For the Christian, however, reading the sacred page with Christ before his soul, the story of Ruth has a deeper interest, and a richer meaning, for therein he discerns, as "in all the Scriptures," "the things concerning Himself."
Historically the Book of Ruth presents important links in the genealogy of the Lord Jesus after the flesh. The Book closes with a short genealogy of ten names ending with David the King. In the opening chapter of the New Testament these ten names have an honoured place in the genealogy of the King of kings, but with this difference that the Spirit of God has introduced, in connection with these names, four women - one of them being Ruth the Moabitess. It is significant that with each of these women there is connected a story of failure and shame, only making manifest that "where sin abounded grace did much more abound.'' So that historically the Book of Ruth is the record of the grace of God that, thirteen centuries before the King came, was securing the line by which He was to come, and, in so doing, triumphing over all the failure of the people, and magnifying grace, by bringing a Moabitish stranger into the line of the King.
It was a day of failure and weakness among the people of God and yet it becomes clear that, undeterred by all failure, God was pursuing His way and carrying out His purpose to establish His King. Yea more. God was using the circumstances of the day, and the very failure of the people, to bring these purposes to pass. Who would have thought that a famine in Bethlehem would have any connection with the birth of the King in Bethlehem thirteen centuries later? Yet so it was, for the famine was one link in the chain of circumstances that brought Ruth the Moabitess into the line of the King.
For ourselves, living as we do in days of yet greater failure and weakness among the people of God, it is comforting to the heart, and calming to the spirit, to realise that underneath all the failure of man in responsibility throughout all the ages, God is, and ever has been, carrying out His purposes in Christ for the glory of Christ and the blessing of His people, whether earthly or heavenly. Moreover no power of the enemy, no opposition of the world, no failure of His people, can hinder God from bringing His purposes of blessing to their glorious fulfilment. As in the story of Ruth all leads to the day of the marriage, so in Israel all is leading to the establishment of their relationship with Christ, and so too, the Church is moving on to the great day of the marriage of the Lamb.
Typically the Book of Ruth sets forth the fulfilment of all the promises of God in connection with Israel on the ground of sovereign grace, after the nation had lost every claim to blessing on the ground of their responsibility. It thus presents a striking contrast to the preceding Book. The Book of Judges sets forth the ever increasing failure of man, in spite of the intervention and help of God, ending in scenes of darkest gloom and moral degradation. The Book of Ruth presents the activities of the grace of God, in spite of the failure of man, ending in a scene of joy and blessing.
Apart, however, from its historical and typical import, the story of Ruth is rich with moral and spiritual instruction in which we learn something of the faithful and gracious ways of God in the history of our souls, whether in bringing us out of nature's darkness into the light of His purpose for us in Christ, or whether it be His ways of restoring grace when we have wandered far from Him. It is mainly in view of the moral instruction that we would for a while meditate upon this touching story.
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29