(This year due to the Jewish calendar adding an extra monththere is almost a month between Jewish Shavuot and Christian Pentecost. This is so that the Jewish lunar calendar can be realigned to the seasons of the solar calendar.)

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction,      that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures,

we might have hope. Rom 15:4

In accepting the God of Israel, Ruth foreshadows the nations becoming a part of the spiritual harvest — the church. This love story takes place during the barley and wheat harvest. The book Song of Songs is read at Shavuot; it is the love song between God and His people, while Lamentations is a lament over the lack of love between His people and their God. The position of Ruth alludes to the connection that connects the lack of love to wholehearted love.

 The book of Ruth is a layered love story: it describes Ruth’s love for Naomi and Boaz’s love for Ruth. But underneath these love stories is Ruth’s love for God and the power of God’s love to transform lives. Ruth begins our story as a widow. Her life is transformed by not only her love for God but also her willingness to go where the Lord led her. God models His love and His Redemption for us in this drama. 

In the Hebrew Bible, Ruth is one of the Megilloth (Festival Scrolls),  read during the feast of Pentecost. The Book of Ruth is read as part of the Shavuot ritual because Ruth has become a central figure. Why? Because she chose to bind herself to God’s people and His Law, which transformed her life. 

Elimelech, originally from Bethlehem in Judah, had taken his wife Naomi and 2 sons to Moab because of a famine in Israel. Her sons, after the death of their father, Elimelech, had taken Moabite wives. According to tradition, Ruth was a Moabite princess who married one of Elimelech’s sons. Sometime later (about 10 years), Naomi’s husband and both sons were dead, leaving her and the 2 daughters-in-law alone; and hearing that the famine in Israel is over, she decides to return. 

Deut 7:3-4  You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the LORD would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. 

Her sons both died, possibly as a result of God’s wrath against them for transgressing the Law of Moses. Naomi has a problem because her daughters-in-law will not be welcome in Israel.

Deut 23:3  “No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the LORD. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the LORD forever,

This is one of the reasons why Naomi makes the decision and advises them to go home.

Ruth 1:8 And Naomi said unto her two daughters-in-law, Go, return each to her mother’s house: the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me. 

Naomi says that  Ruth and Orpah have dealt with the dead and with her kindly. The word Hebrew word for kindness is Chesed, meaning loving-kindness, and it is one of the primary commandments of the OT.

Micah 6:8 What doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love (Chesed) mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? 

Ruth has a choice: she can return to her father’s house or remain with Naomi and go to Israel, to an uncertain future. According to rabbinic tradition, the rabbis say that Ruth was still young and beautiful when her mother-in-law’s fortunes changed. Ruth, though, has come to know and experience Naomi’s family’s faith and love for God, and she realises that she would rather be a widow in Israel than stay in Moab. 

Naomi initially wanted the women to go with her but realising that it was unrealistic and contrary to the Law of Moses and that she was unlikely to be able to provide husbands for them, she told them to return to their mother’s homes so that they could remarry. But Ruth was torn. She wanted a closeness to God and understood she needed to be with the people of God. Staying in Moab and trying to observe the commandments wasn’t enough. Naomi understood Ruth and saw that she was after an attachment to God. So, she agreed Ruthcould accompany her back to Israel. 

Ruth had discovered the God of Israel through the witness and love of her mother-in-law and chose a path of faith and commitment. When we look at Ruth’s life, it is governed by Godly choices – she chose:

·The God of Israel
·And we will see that she chose humility. 

According to another Rabbinic tradition, she was a Moabite princess; if so, it must have been a hard choice to leave behind her status and her father’s house to go with Naomi and commit herself to the God of Israel. (Ruth 1:16-17) Nevertheless, whether it is true or not, to leave behind all that you know, your father’s home, your country and like Abraham, and set out for the land of Israel would have been a costly act of love for Naomi and for the God of Israel, whom she has come to know and love. Ruth chose to bind herself to God just as the Jews had when they accepted the Torah and bound themselves to God in a love contract or covenant. 

 Naomi trusts that the Lord will rest them in their husband’s house. This is her prayer that they would be able to remarry. She emphasises she can have no more sons for them under the Levirate marriage rules. With no husband, Elimelech’s name would die without an heir. This is the problem that the story resolves. Orpah returns to her country and is never heard from again, but Ruth ignores Naomi’s 3rd request to return. She clung, professing she was giving all she had to accept Naomi’s God and her people.

Ruth was on a journey of redemption. In Deut 23:3-4 we see that the Moabites were forbidden access to the community of Israel. So, as she left with Naomi, it was uncertain if she could marry in Israel. We can see that she loved God, this was even more important to her than marriage or a warm welcome in Israel.

What Ruth needed was a Kinsman Redeemer; she needed someone like Boaz. As Naomi’s husband and sons were dead, a family member had the right to purchase the land her husband owned and marry her daughter-in-law Ruth and so continue Elimelech’s name. This is known as a levirate marriage; it made provision for the dead man’s property to remain within the family. (Deut 25:5-10)

Boaz, a relative of Naomi on her husband’s side, fulfilled the duty, as outlined in the Mosaic Law, to marry Ruth and redeem Elimelech’s family line. The book of Ruth tells the story of how this unfolded.

Their arrival is at the time of the Barley Harvest. This is around the Feast of the First Fruits, and the next 50 days will count from the Omer up to the Feast of Pentecost. It wasthe harvest season, first of Barley and then of Wheat.

She arrived penniless and childless and had to go into the fields to pick up the grain the harvesters dropped as they gathered in the harvest. She did not go to the corners of the field left for the poor. Perhaps, being a Moabite, she felt she did not have the right to gather from what was left for the poor in Israel. She collected up only what they dropped.

She has gone to the field of Boaz, and when he sees her he tells her that she will be            safe in his field and he even tells his harvester to drop a little more so that she can glean.He is impressed by Ruth’s character and blesses her at their first meeting (Ruth 2:11-12). He even invites her to have lunch with him and ensures she has enough.

Ruth 2:12 The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”

In the Book of Ruth, we read how Boaz steps forward to fulfil the role of Kinsman Redeemer. Later, when Ruth asks him to be her kinsman-redeemer by going to him at night on the threshing floor and lying at his feet, he feels honoured that she chose him rather than a younger man; he promises to settle the matter. By obeying Naomi’s instructions, Ruth made a godly choice in Boaz. 

 Ruth’s choices irrevocably changed her future. She gave up what she knew to follow God, and God rewarded her faith. We can see God’s faithful work and intervention in her life.

Heb_11:6  And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Ruth didn’t know these words; they hadn’t been written yet, but they described her faith. She should have been an outcast, but in Boaz’s redemption, instead of being an outcast, she found love and acceptance, and her future was secured. More than that, Ruth beautifully pictures how a Gentile also said ‘Yes’ to God. God made a way for her. From widowhood and penury to entering into a covenant relationship with the God of Israel. As a result, her barrenness is turned to fruitfulness as she becomes the ancestor of King David and ultimately of the promised ‘son of David’, the Messiah.

Her future was secured in marriage to Boaz, but she had another future, a future in God; her great-grandson is King David, and she is recorded in the lineage of Jesus, the Saviour of Israel. (Mt 1:5)

Ruth made a choice – she chose a life with God and found that He gave her life eternal significance. He changed her destiny. Ruth’s inclusion not only into Israel but also into the Messianic lineage of Jesus speaks to us of God’s heart to bring salvation to the nations. Ruth’s redemption is a firstfruit of the salvation of the Gentiles. Shavuot is known as a Firstfruit Festival and one of the three Festivals when the men of Israel were commanded to present themselves and their offerings to the Lord. (Ex 23:14-19) 

Interestingly, Boaz was a descendant of Rahab, who also made a godly choice. Rahab recognised the God of Israel and hid the spies. She, too, found a place with the people of God. Boaz’s family history may have made him more open to marrying Ruth.

At Shavuot, Ruth also reminds Jewish people that once they were converts, they had to choose to embrace God and accept His Law. 

So, as we come to this Festival, we recognise that, like Ruth and the Children of Israel, we have to make this same choice. If we obey His commands, we will be His treasured possession.

We have been given the gift of fellowship with God. This is a time to renew our commitment to Him. And Ruth, our lives will be transformed, our past redeemed as we are ……rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into the kingdom of the Son whom He loves in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col 1:13)

Panoramic view of The old city port of Jaffa with modern Tel Avi