Friday, December 19, 2014

Knots in the Family Tree, Part 3

     In this post, we will look briefly at the third "knot" in Jesus' family tree, namely Ruth, the Moabitess, and thus, yet another Gentile. Ruth is distinguished by being the most moral of the four women Matthew chose, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to include in his geneaolgy in Chapter 1 of his Gospel.
     As we saw last time, Ruth ended up marrying a good man, Boaz, who, it turns out was the son of Rahab, the converted Canaanite prostitute. So even Boaz had non-Jewish blood in him. Evidently, interracial marriages were not necessarily uncommon in those days.
     Ruth is heroic for several reasons: (1) her loyalty to Naomi after the deaths of their spouses (we forget that those words used so often at weddings were not originjally spoken to a husband but to a mother-in-law); (2) her humility in following Naomi's counsel and in her respectful attitude toward Boaz; (3) her industry, as she worked hard to gather the gleanings of barley in Boaz' fields. (God would fit in with both major political parties today in that respect - personal responsibility combined with social compassion toward the poor); and (4) her purity, as she did nothing untoward in her approach to Boaz, but followed the custom of the day.
     In turn, Boaz sought to win her and to be her kinsman redeemer, which he was able to do successfully. Warren Wiersbe points out how Boaz is, for us, a picture of Jesus Christ, OUR Kinsman Redeemer. Like Boaz, Jesus was't concerned about jeopardizing His own inheritance; instead, He made us a part of HIS inheritance. Also like Boaz, Jesus made His plans privately, but He paid the price publicly; and like Boaz, Jesus did what He did because of His love for His bride - in our case, His multi-colored bride.
     Becaue of their determination to become a couple and a family, Ruth from Moab and Boaz, the son of an Israelite and a Canaanite, joined the line of ancestors of our Lord.
     But remember, Ruth began as a pagan worshiper and journeyed toward a relationship with the God of Israel. In Chapter 1, Ruth is not even aware that there is a Boaz; in Chapter 2, she is a poor laborer, gleaning in Boaz' fields and receiving his gifts. To her, Boaz is only a wealthy man who is kind to her - kind of like many see God today. The turning point comes in Chapter 3 when Ruth yields herself at Boaz' feet and believes his promises. The result is Chapter 4, where Ruth is no longer a poor laborer. Now she has Boaz and everything he owns belongs to her.
     This is the journey of every human being, no matter their culture and ethnicity - from not knowing God to thinking we must work for God and be blessed by Him, to believing Him and what he promises, to being a child and heir of the King.
     Whether one is "bad" like Rahab or "good" like Ruth, we all need a Savior. I was one of the "good" ones, growing up in church, and avoiding the common vices of my classmates. But I had to learn that this would not cut it for me. I still needed grace and salvation from my own goodness. I can only trust in the righteousness of Christ.
     Pagan families and Abraham's family - both needed redemption. I close with some good words from writer Ann Voskamp.
     " when we sat around the Christnmas tree tonight, and got to that part tonight in the story of Jesus' family tree and read it: "What someone else meant for bad, God means to make it good." No matter what tries to tear you apart, (sexual sin, war, famine, my words) God holds you heart. No matter what bad was meant to harm you, God's good arms have you. You can stand around your Christmas tree with a family tree as messy as Joseph's, with cheaters and beaters and deceivers, with a family tree like Jacob's, who ran away and ran around and ran folks down - but out of a family that felt like a mess, God brings Jesus, the Messiah. God always brings good out of bad. God always makes hard things into good gifts ... and right then, one kid reached over and squeezed my hand? Sometimes just a moment can feel like all the hard things being turned into a gentle draping of a many-colored grace."
     That's my story, too - and I'm sticking to it.



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