This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham… Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar… Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. (Matthew 1:1,3,5,6)
Do you usually skip reading the genealogy of Jesus? So do many other people when they read the Bible. In fact, some Bible translators have even been known to omit this section when attempting to translate its contents into a little known language! So why study it? It was while recently meditating on the life of Ruth, who features in Jesus’s genealogy, that I understood why.
Ruth’s story takes place around 1100BC during the time of the Judges. She was a Moabite, but who exactly were the Moabites? They were the descendants of Moab who, we discover in Genesis 19, was born to Lot as a result of an act of incest with his elder daughter. Hundreds of years later, when the people of Israel were journeying through the wilderness, Numbers 25:1-3 tells us of how the Moabites led them into sexual immorality:
“While the Israelites were camped at Acacia Grove, some of the men defiled themselves by having sexual relations with local Moabite women. These women invited them to attend sacrifices to their gods, so the Israelites feasted with them and worshiped the gods of Moab. In this way, Israel joined in the worship of Baal of Peor, causing the Lord’s anger to blaze against his people.”
The pagan Moabites were Israel’s enemy, but despite Ruth’s pagan background, she willingly turned her back on her Moabite heritage and it’s god. Having married the son of Naomi, an Israelite refugee, she has a choice to make when Naomi returns to Israel following the death of her sons. Ruth, in response to Naomi’s exhortation to stay with her own people replies (Ruth 1:16):
“Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.”
Through right choices that she made, Ruth is described as “virtuous woman” (Ruth 3:11).
So, what were the consequences of her righteous choices?
1. The God of Israel did not simply cleanse Ruth of her family history but he went much further and gave her a key role in God’s plan of salvation. Ruth became the great grandmother of King David, arguably the most influential of all Israel’s kings. David’s line was chosen by God to bring forth the Messiah. Ruth died without realising the part that she would play in history. She had lived a life of faithfulness to God for love and not for glory.
2. She also died never knowing the impact her life would have for thousands of years on those who heard/read her story. Throughout the centuries, many have been inspired by Ruth’s reckless faith, and her total commitment to a God she possibly knew little about.
Ruth separated herself from her family and her origins not just physically but also spiritually. She did not hanker after her old life; once Ruth had made her commitment, there was no going back. Today, just as in Ruth’s time, God is looking for those whose lives are lived in joyful abandonment to him. He wants those who will close all doors to a sinful past and follow him willingly and faithfully. You may never know all the positive consequences of your choices, but you will die with peace knowing that you have faithfully served the God of all creation, our great Redeemer.
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
Corrie Ten Boom
Copyright © 2014 Struthers Memorial Church All rights reserved
Struthers Memorial Church is a registered Scottish Charity No. SC 006960 | Struthers Memorial Church is a company limited by guarantee incorporated in Scotland Company No SC335480 | Registered Office: 33 West Stewart Street, Greenock, PA15 1SH.