Shavuot and Pentecost are coming up May nineteenth and twentieth. Shavuot is the Jewish half of the holiday celebrating the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. It is celebrated during the wheat harvest. Wheat has a rich connection with the Word of God— the bread of life, manna from heaven. The story of Ruth also takes place during the wheat harvest, which is one reason it is a fitting scripture reading for the synagogue at this time of year.
On the second day of Shavuot, rabbis read the story of Ruth. They read it because Ruth was the first convert to the Jewish faith— she took upon herself the yolk of the Torah when she committed herself to Naomi.
“But Ruth clung tightly to Naomi. Look Naomi said to her, ‘your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. You should do the same.’ But Ruth replied, ‘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.”
Ruth’s conversion is very similar to our conversion as Christians. Jews celebrate Ruth’s commitment to Naomi as a commitment to the Torah— to God’s law. And so, our conversion too, is accepting God’s law where before we followed the mandates of our appetites and the inferior morals of our own reasoning.
We tell God, “wherever you go, I’ll go” when we accept Christ. And when we accept Christ, God “writes the law on our hearts,” (Jer. 31:33.)
While wandering in the desert the Israelites moved when God moved and stayed when He stayed. They followed God’s movement as seen in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. “Wherever you go, I’ll go.”
And what was it that God as cloud and pillar was hovering over? The ark of the covenant— inside of which was what? God’s law, there physically as the Ten Commandments tablets. Inside God’s throne was the law— sounds kinda like us, right? Our hearts are now God’s throne room and His law is written on our hearts.
We say like Ruth, “everything I am, I give up; everything you are, I take up.” Ruth learned Naomi’s customs, and was taught by her. That is what the Law does. It teaches. It is a thing we take up.
We take up the Law in the following ways:
We take up Right Thinking (Phil. 4:8.) We take up Right Action (Rom. 12:1.)
We give up our Rights (1 Cor. 9), and we give up our Rites (Gal 5:2.)
You can convert to the law like Ruth did. The law is tangible, outward, and actionable. It is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.”
I recently heard a sermon explaining that we are not released from God’s morality or the standards of His character when it is said we are free from the law. We are free from the ceremonial rites as requirements of salvation. Our salvation goes from being through ritualistic sacrifices and offerings to being through the unwarranted favor and compassion of Jesus.
Boaz was moved with compassion for Ruth (Ruth 2:4-17.) God is also moved on our behalf. Just as Boaz is the kinsman redeemer of Ruth, Jesus is our kinsman Redeemer.
“‘That man is one of our closest relatives, one of our family redeemers,” Ruth 2:20.
A “redeemer” is a huge component of the concept of Jubilee (Leviticus 25). People in indentured servitude for debts, or who had properties garnished, or childless widows like Naomi, had an opportunity to buy back their hereditary landholdings and to purchase their freedom through kinsman redeemers.
For Ruth, Boaz being willing to be her kinsman redeemer did way more than just returning back to Naomi’s family the lands they lost during famine. Boaz marrying Ruth gave her citizenship and legitimacy as an Israelite.
Ruth was a Moabite— a cursed enemy tribe. She may have adopted the worship of the God of Israel, the law of Israel, the customs of Israel, served the needs of an Israelite widow— none of that made her an Israelite with the rights, protections, or privileges of a citizen.
Not by the law, but by the Redeemer’s compassion, Ruth went from despised foreigner to the mother of Israel’s royal line, the fore-mother of the nation’s greatest kings— King David and King Jesus.
That is what Redemption does! The law leads us into discipleship; but only the Spirit gives us heaven’s citizenship and a righteous inheritance on earth.