Reading Ruth: Four Themes to Keep in Mind

Ruth is a literary masterpiece. Death. Suspense. Love. Brokenness. Redemption. Often we think it is mainly about a romantic encounter between a strong man-hunk and an unworthy pauper girl. That’s in there, of course, and it certainly adds to the drama. The author knew what he was doing–it draws us in!

Ruth is, however, mainly about God and his activity and purpose. Here’s four themes to keep in mind as you read the book.

  1. God welcomes non-Israelites into his covenant. From the outset of the book, the author makes clear that Ruth is a Moabite (1:4). She is referred to as “the Moabite” throughout (2:2, 6, 21, etc.). God is not anti-Gentile. So long as the non-Israelite is devoted to Yahweh, he welcomes them into the covenant. God does this with Rahab in Joshua and with the Ninevites in Jonah.
  2. God works through ordinary means. There is not one mention of a miracle or vision or angels in Ruth. Rather, God works through the everyday means of ancient Israelite culture. Naomi sends Ruth to Boaz’s field and Ruth “happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz” (2:3). God also directs events from behind the scenes through Naomi’s plan for Ruth to seek out Boaz on the threshing floor (3:1-5).
  3. God graciously guides a particular family’s life. Naomi was all but hopeless after her husband and sons died, as she may not have an heir to continue her line. Boaz, too, did not have an heir of his own. Yet by the end of the book, after Boaz and Ruth marry, Naomi is redeemed and Ruth’s son becomes Naomi’s heir (4:13). In this way too, Boaz is given a child. Naomi’s friends give God all the glory (4:14-15).
  4. God sovereignly works out his redemptive plan. Boaz and Ruth’s son is not merely an heir of Naomi. The son, Obed, becomes the father of Jesse, who is the father of David (4:17). Thus Obed begins the Davidic line, which will eventually bring David to the throne. More than that, God works in the lives of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz so that David’s greater Son, Jesus Christ, would become the Redeemer of all God’s people.

This I Believe: The Redemption of Christ

The Redemption of Christ
I believe the only hope for man’s salvation is the redemption purchased by Jesus Christ who came to save sinners. In Christ’s incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension, he acted as our representative and substitute. On the cross, he canceled sin, satisfied God’s wrath, bore the full penalty of our sin, and reconciled to God all who believe in him. He did this so that we might become the righteousness of God, hence bringing justification to sinners. Justification is God’s declaration that sins are forgiven and Christ’s righteousness is credited to us. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. All who repent and trust in Christ and his finished work and reject their own works will be saved, will never all away, and will reign with Christ forever in their glorified bodies.  All who reject Christ’s redemption will consciously suffer the wrath of God in hell forever.

Gen. 3:15; Isa. 52:13-53:12; Matt. 1:21; 16:21-26; 25:46; John 1:29; 3:1-8; 6:37; Rom. 3:23-31; 8:1-39; 1 Cor. 1:18-31; 15:12-58; 2 Cor. 5:17-20; 4:3; Gal. 2:20-21; 3:10-14; Eph. 2:1-10; Col. 1:13-14; 2:1-15; Thess. 1:10; 5:23-24; 2 Thess. 1:9-10; 1 Tim. 1:15; 2:5-6; Titus 3:5; Heb. 5:8-9; 9:23-28; 1 Pet. 1:3; 3:18; Rev. 21:1-22:5


Christ the Pure Redeemer, Christ the Dirty Whore

Humans are naturally bent toward works righteousness. We think that if we do good, God will think we are good. When it comes to Bible reading, we often moralize passages of Scripture, asking, “What does this passage have to do to me?” and “What is God requiring of me in this passage?” Those questions aren’t irrelevant, they just aren’t the most relevant. Instead, we should ask, “How does this passage point me to the person and work of Jesus Christ?” and “How does that truth draw me to love, worship, and desire him above all else?”

Christians are not ignorant of the fact that the story of Hosea and his adulterous wife points to Jesus and his Bride, the church. The story of Hosea’s marriage to Gomer climaxes in Hosea 3. Here’s the whole chapter:

1 And the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” 2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. 3 And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” 4 For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. 5 Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days

Here Hosea is told by God to redeem (literally “buy back”) his wife who is now up for sale in the slave market after “play[ing] the whore.” I carefully ask you to picture a naked slave woman with smeared make-up and bloody joints, ashamed and weeping, standing on a stage with a man standing beside her asking, “Let’s start the bidding at…” Now imagine silence. No one wants her. From what I have researched, 15 shekels was not much money. Maybe ten bucks. Hosea paid $10 for his wife.

In verse 4, God tells Hosea why he is supposed to do this: God’s people will live without their true Husband (the LORD) for a long time, but then they will return to seek him and “David their king.” “David” is another name for the Messiah, who is Jesus Christ.

It is easy to see that Hosea serves as a type of Christ. He prefigures Jesus, who will be the ultimate Redeemer of God’s people. He will buy back a people who are unwanted and unloved. He will purchase them from spiritual adultery, from forsaking their true Husband for lesser husbands who cannot satisfy. Jesus though, unlike Hosea, paid an infinite cost to redeem his people. He shed his blood and died to bring God’s people to himself.

In this story, we often miss that Gomer is also a type of Christ. You might think I’m walking a fine line, but hold on before you cry foul. Jesus never committed spiritual adultery against the Father or physical adultery in his life on earth. He was not a sinner. But how did Jesus buy back God’s people? It wasn’t by living a good life and then going back to the Father. It was through substitution. Jesus became Gomer. Jesus, like Gomer, was raised up on a stage–the center stage. He was naked, bleeding, mocked, and rejected. No one wanted him. He was actually sold for 30 pieces of silver by one of his best friends. His Father even turned his back on him when he was on stage.

Jesus took Gomer’s place, and our place, as the one despised and rejected by men. He bore our griefs, carried our sorrows, and was pierced for our transgressions. He was guilty of no sin, but on the cross, God made Jesus to be sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God (see 2 Cor. 5:21). We were cursed, just like Gomer, yet Christ “redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13). He became the cursed, dirty whore that we might be accepted, redeemed, and pure.

Amazingly, Christ can be both Hosea and Gomer in one person. Hallelujah, what a Savior!


A New Year to Remember the Old Story

Many people are taught to believe the Bible is a book of rules with a bunch of stories about many heroes who are used by God because they are good people. That could not be further from the truth.

With this new year, as you begin your Bible reading plans and start resolutions, remember the simple, old, gospel truth of Scripture:

The Bible is not a book of rules, but rather one rule: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. The Bible is not a book of stories, but rather one story: God redeeming a people for himself. The Bible is not a book of heroes, but rather one Hero: Jesus Christ, who kept the rule on our behalf and brought us into the story through his life, death, burial, and resurrection.

Happy New Year to you. Would this new year be a perfect year to remember that the old, old story will never, in fact, grow old.


The Incarnation (Spoken Word)

HT: Justin Taylor