Lately, I have found myself falling into some deep morbidity. I have always been inclined to it, but depending on what kind of mediums I am ingesting is how dark it gets. Recent events in politics, social injustice, etc. along with my desire to make sense out of these things biblically have entrenched me in that place where repentance is in the fore front of my mind and the desolate realities of life that are prerequisite to it have been renting a lot of space in my head. Realizing where I am at right now, I wanted to share something from the other side of the coin as it were.
A rather small book in the Hebrew Scriptures, the Book of Ruth is an intriguing read. It is all narrative not prescriptive. The mention of God is more in passing than as a direct address, and the Torah is more the thread that weaves through the narrative then the center point of it.
Even more interesting is that the main character, Ruth, is not an Israelite but a Moabite. This is a big deal for several reasons; first it means she was a descendant of Lot born out of his incestuous relationship with his daughters following the death of their mother, second the Israelites were forbidden to be married to the Moabites, and third the Moabites were specifically not allowed to come into the tabernacle and thus were effectively cut off from the Covenant.
But Ruth was already married to an Israelite man, Naomi’s son. So when her husband died, Ruth determined she would rather stay with her mother-in-law than go home. Ruth and Naomi returned to Naomi’s home in Israel to seek help from her kinsman and it was there that Ruth encountered Boaz.
The Scripture account states that it was Ruth’s unfailing love and faithfulness for Naomi that got Boaz’s attention and convinced him to exercise his right to take responsibility for these two vagabonds as their Kinsman Redeemer. The Kinsman Redeemer is a concept derived from the earliest texts wherein a male family member with a legal claim to the estate was able to take possession of the estate on the condition of taking responsibility for the family as well.
Because of the unfailing love and covenant faithfulness which Boaz showed to Naomi and Ruth, the Scripture says that they were given a son and that the son of their union was the grandfather of David the King of Israel, who likewise was the ancestor of the Messiah. So in Ruth we find that even Yeshua’s lineage is a testimony to God’s desire to Redeem and Restore the Gentile nations through His covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3).
So here is my point, Proverbs 9:10 says that Fear of YHWH is the beginning of Wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is Understanding. Fear is a necessary and healthy component of life, it establishes the reality that we are not invincible. Without fear people do all kinds of stupid things… you know what I mean, just think back to high school. But God’s intention was never for us to live in fear. He wants us to know Him, to understand that He loves us more than we could ever hope for or even imagine.
Intriguingly, the Hebrew scripture can be understood to implicitly convey this message through its canonical structure alone. The canonical order most westerners are accustomed to is not the original Jewish order. The western, predominantly gentile Church reordered the canon so as to reflect the western values of history, poetry, and finally commentary (the prophets). For the Jewish people the canon began with the Torah was followed by the Prophets and concluded with the Writings; all of it was theological history, all of it was poetic, all of it had equal value.
The lesson for us is that the first section, the Torah proper, establishes the Divine self-revelation of YHWH and His covenants with Mankind. The second section, the Prophets, are specifically God’s terrifying messages to His People to stop breaking His heart and turn from their rebellion against Him lest He allow them to be destroyed by the consequences of their own choices. The third section, the Writings, is a collection of literature dedicated to deepening the understanding of the Holy One and His desire to restore His People even after they fall away, to never leave or forsake them no matter what, and to how these dynamics play out in the everyday (Exodus 20:5&6/ Exodus 34:6&7).
So the book of Ruth, which falls into this third section, is a beautiful depiction of this. The whole narrative wraps around and is built on the concept of unfailing love and covenant faithfulness: explicitly, Ruth’s for Naomi, Boaz’s for Ruth and implicitly, God’s for His Creation. May it be a reminder to all those who follow the Way of the Cross that no matter how things may look, He will never abandon us, never leave us comfortless (Romans 8:31-39).