Going with the grain
This is in one sense an ordinary story about family and kin, love and bereavement, despair and hope - a human story familiar in all cultures throughout time. But the text itself puts the story into a wider context of time and significance. Naomi's neighbours tell her how blessed she is and pray that the Lord will make Ruth 'like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel'. And the chronicler ends the book by telling us the rich future that has been opened up by the birth of this baby. Ruth, married to Boaz, restored the fortunes of her dead father-in-law and husband, reinstated their name, and gave Naomi a grandson, born in Bethlehem, King David's grandfather.
Ruth could have stayed in Moab; Boaz could have ignored his kinsman duties; the small community could have turned on this foreigner from an enemy state. None of them were aware of the part they were playing in God's plan of salvation, but they went with the grain of what they knew was right, what they knew of God's character. Faithful, kind, hardworking, thoughtful and generous, they link for us the time of the judges with the coming of Samuel and the kings. They show us that, however insignificant we may feel, the way we live our lives today matters for today and for the future.
The promises of a Saviour and Redeemer in the Old Testament are promises from the God of Israel to the people of Israel, and to all nations and all peoples. And as we read the long narrative from Adam to Jesus, we see the sovereign plan of God working out through human frailty and disobedience, but also through those who did what was right, and went with the grain of obedience, whether they could see his plan or not.
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