Monday, August 24, 2015

Don't Be Ruthless

One of my very favorite Bible stories is the account of Ruth.  What a beautiful picture of how we Gentiles are to esteem Israel.  If you are part of the community of faith in the Messiah, I hope you will read on and take this to heart.  It matters, big time.

Ruth was a Moabite.  She belonged to a nation that was a bitter enemy of Israel.  But wait… let’s back up.

Naomi was an Israelite.  Or in a metaphorical sense, Naomi is Israel.   She left her homeland behind and encountered much bitterness in her journey.  It doesn’t require a degree in rocket science to make a connection between Naomi's life and the history of Israel's people since 70 AD.  In fact, while in exile, Naomi proclaimed that her name was to be Mara – meaning bitterness.

While away from her homeland, her life became entwined with two Gentile Moabite women.  Ruth and Orpah each married one of Naomi’s sons.  These women’s lives were changed because of Israel.  These women are a picture of the church.

While in exile, Naomi’s husband died, and Naomi’s sons died – the source of her bitterness.  However, in her bitterness, she was drawn back to her homeland.  Her daughters-in-law ventured out with her.  She urged them to return to their own people.  Strongly urged them.

So strongly that Orpah agreed and back she went to her people and her pagan ways. 

Ruth, however, vehemently declared that she would never leave Naomi.  In one of the most beautiful passages of scripture, often read at weddings, she declared that where Naomi went, she would go.  Naomi’s people would become her people.  She would die for and with Naomi.  She attached herself so firmly to Naomi – Israel – that there was no talking her out of it.

We know the rest of the story.  As Ruth lived out her faithfulness to her mother-in-law, God showed His faithfulness to Ruth.  She married Boaz – a kinsman redeemer and a picture of our Messiah.  They produced a child, Obed, who was placed on the knees of Naomi to redeem her from her former bitterness.  With great joy, Ruth and Naomi raised this child together – this child who would one day become the grandfather of King David, who of course is the forerunner of the Messiah Himself.

What about Orpah?  Scripture reveals nothing further about her after she turns away from Naomi.  But it is interesting to note that the Babylonian Talmud records her as being an ancestor of Goliath!

Whoa.  Think that one through.  David and Goliath.  We know who won that battle.

Ruth means friend.  Her friendship to Israel was obvious, and the Lord richly blessed her for it.

The meaning of Orpah is more obscure.  It can mean neck, or back of the neck, or stiff-necked. 

After David felled Goliath with the stone, how did he finish him off?  With a swift blow to the neck.

Christian friends, you want to get this one right.  The Bible has much to say about standing with Israel.  The separation of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 is written entirely within an end-times context.  When Yeshua spoke of “the least of these my brethren,” the word for brethren literally means His close kinsmen. 

You cannot love the Jewish Messiah and ignore His brethren.  The Bible leaves no room for neutrality.  It requires action – you cannot remain passive.

Comfort, yes, comfort My people, says your God.  Isaiah 40:1.

In Genesis 12:3, God said to Abraham (and later to Isaac and to Jacob, aka Israel), I will bless those who bless you, and he who curses you I will curse.

The Hebrew uses one word for bless but two words for curse.  The literal meaning of the “curse” words is “I will curse him who does not esteem you.”  In other words - he who ignores, or treats as unimportant, or turns his back on - the nation of Israel

Ruth or Orpah.  Whom will you emulate?

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