It’s interesting to think about redemption on God’s terms instead of our own. We often think of redemption as something we earn. We work towards forgiveness from others for our wrongs. If we mess something up, we strive and do what we must to do better the next time.
Thankfully, that’s not how God does redemption. We don’t have to do anything to redeem ourselves with God other than admit we need His love and forgiveness and ask for it. When we fail, we don’t find ourselves back at the beginning to avoid our past mistakes; we look up where we are to see a scarred hand reaching down to lift us up. With God’s version of redemption, we never move backward, always forward.
When I think of Ruth, I don’t think of redemption, although I suppose I should.
At some point, we’re all weighed down by our own history, even if it’s something we can’t help. Whether it’s a decision you regret or if you grew up on the wrong side of the tracks or you can’t believe you ever treated someone in such a way, it’s familiar territory for all of us. And I imagine that’s how Ruth felt in the presence of her in-laws. Even though they were the foreigners in her land, it wouldn’t surprise me if Ruth was ashamed (at times) of being a Moabite.
Moabites weren’t friends to the Israelites, historically speaking. There was a lot of blood and betrayal, even far after Ruth’s time. The book of Ruth takes place during a time of peace between the two nations. Still, the famine must have been bad to drive Naomi and her family there, where her two sons married two Moabite women, one of whom was Ruth.
And after the death of Naomi’s husband and sons, when she said she was going back home, when Ruth truly wanted to go with her, Ruth was many things– brave, desperate, loyal, and hopeful.
It’s clear to us that Ruth did not fit the stereotype of a Moabite– heartless and unfaithful– but the people where she was going might not give her the chance to prove herself, to redeem herself from her people’s heritage and mistakes.
But God had such big plans for Ruth.
Look at Matthew 1 with me. At first this looks like the most boring read ever, but if you look closer, you’ll be fascinated. Verses 1 and 5 (NLT) say, “This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah… Boaz was the father of Obed (whose mother was Ruth).”
Sorry for the spoiler, but it’s worth it. I promise.
Matthew’s Gospel is very steeped in Jewish tradition and alludes to a lot of Jewish history and scripture, and his audience would have raised their eyebrows at this. One, the society was very patriarchal, so it was daring of Matthew to include four women in this genealogy, including Ruth. Two, they would have recognized Ruth as a Moabite and found it interesting to list a member of such a troubled and disliked people when Matthew could’ve just listed her Jewish husband.
God placed a Moabite woman in the middle of the Messiah’s genealogy and led someone to shout her out in scripture. Talk about redemption.
Yes, Ruth clung to Naomi, but she also clung to God by refusing to go back and serve her old god. She held on to love, faith, and most of all, God. And God blessed her beyond measure.
Regardless of where you’re from or who you’ve been, God extends love and redemption to you. But for you to grab that gift, you have to release whatever you’re holding. Stop clinging to your past, your failures, other people’s perceptions of you, and take hold of God. And I hope you do so with the boldness of Ruth.
By Carrie Prevette