Category Archives: Ruth

The Lord be with you!


Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The LORD be with you!” “The LORD bless you!” they called back.

It is interesting that one of the most famous liturgical responses in church history comes from the text in Ruth. It appears where a Master is greeting his harvesters. It’s almost like a call to corporate work.

I think this is a good context for us. The greeting “The Lord be with you” ought to be seen as the Greater Boaz, Jesus Christ, inviting you to a harvesting mission. This greeting is not synonymous with “Good Morning;” it is synonymous with a partnership.

When a minister/fellow churchman greets you, he/she is inviting you into a harvesting mission; the mission of making all things new; the mission of reaping the joys of the kingdom. We are God’s harvesters.

Call Me Mara!

There is an interesting observation in the book of Ruth that I didn’t catch until recently. When Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem, the women immediately recognized Naomi. But Naomi refused to be recognized as Naomi. In that famous text in Ruth 1, she says, “Don’t call me Naomi, call me Mara for the Almighty has made my life very bitter.” Don’t call me ‘Pleasant’ which is what the name Naomi means, but call me “bitter” which is what “Mara” means. She is asking to be identified as someone different from the way God identified her.

But as you read through the rest of Ruth, no one calls her Mara. The author of the book whom I believe to be Samuel continues to call her Naomi. And even the others in the narrative don’t refer to her as Mara, but Naomi, which is pleasant. Moral of the story: how you view yourself does not change how God views you. How you interpret God’s actions towards you does not change God’s good purpose for you as the text will indicate. God’s mark on you is much more permanent than any identity crisis you undergo. In the end, you may be bitter, but God marked you with his pleasantness and no circumstance can change that.

Answering Questions on the New Ruth Commentary

What is the point of the Book of Ruth?

I think there are two central points: a political and Christological dimension:

What we argue is that Ruth is actually a political tract making the case for the Davidic Kingdom…in other words, why Israel needs a faithful King who will be strong like Boaz, loyal like Ruth, and whose fortunes will turn like Naomi’s.

It’s Christological because it sets the stage for a kinsman redeemer who woos his bride through his generosity and strength, who covers his bride under his wings, who becomes this new land where God’s people can glean freely until the end of history. Jesus is this unending source of blessing to the foreigner and to the citizens of the land.

How do you preach through the book?

It’s such a compelling story that if I were a pastor who had not preached through Ruth, I’d go to Amazon and buy this commentary right now and start a series through it. I kid. But seriously, what are you waiting for? CLICK HERE!

I think the beauty of preaching through it is that you are preaching through a familiar story, which means the contextual dimensions are fairly known, but it also means that people have expectations for what you are going to say, but our goal in the commentary was to show just how nuanced the commentary is and just how the language of Ruth is filled with redemptive meanings from the names of Mahlon and Chilion and to the genealogy in chapter 4 which is generally overlooked.

The pastor can take his time working through each character and bringing out their significance in the larger story.

What is it like to write a commentary?

Well, I think we both have to preach through it first as pastors…we need to read and re-read the text. Lusk, who is the genius behind this, taught a Sunday school class on it and I both preached and taught through numerous times here in the US and in Brazil.

The process can be really slow because we both have full-time jobs, children and other concerns, but we have to find time whenever it is available.

So, the benefit of the Through New Eyes Series commentaries is that much of our theology is already developed. It’s based on the genius of James B. Jordan whose imprint is in every page. With that starting point, we are looking at two elements: first, what does the text say? We are operating on a section or verse by verse analysis of the text

Left Over Food

A parishioner, Ben Calisch, made a helpful connection between two narratives. The first is from Ruth’s account. Ruth 2 where we read:

So she sat down beside the harvesters, and he handed her some roasted grain, which she ate until she was satisfied. She kept what was left over.

Ruth receives abundant kindness. She is filled and still has more left over. Her cup runs over. Her Groom provides for her when she is hungry and needy and when she is full there is more.

In the Gospels, Jesus does the same as the new Boaz. In Mark’s account, after having fed 5,000 people, we read:

All of them ate and were filled. 43 Then the disciples picked up twelve baskets full of leftover bread and fish.

Like Ruth, the people were filled and there was leftover. Jesus provides exceedingly more than we can ask or think.

This Worldly

Here is a short section from our upcoming commentary on Ruth:

The Christian hope is very this worldly.  It’s future worldly, but it’s not other-worldly.  It’s this world that’s going to be redeemed.  It’s this body that you’re in right now that you’re going to inhabit for all eternity.  It’ll be transformed and glorified, but it’s your body that is going to be raised up on the last day.  And that’s the Christian hope:  that the very body that has borne the curse of sin will now bear the full weight of blessing and glory and splendor and majesty. And we’ll see how all this is worked out through this theme in the following chapters.

 

God’s obligation comes from within himself

As the Ruth project continues, here is another quotation from the section on the righteousness of God:

God’s justice or God’s righteousness obligates him to redeem his people and reward their labors on behalf of his kingdom.  It’s because God is righteous that he must keep his covenant and, of course, that covenant is a covenant of grace with us.

So this obligation, then, does not come from outside, as if we had some intrinsic claim on God’s salvation or as if our works could somehow put God in debt to us.  Rather, God’s obligation comes from within himself, from his own determination to be trustworthy and to make good on his covenant pledge, no matter what.

How Boaz Wields Authority

This is how he wields authority.  He doesn’t use his authority to take advantage of others or to exploit others.  Rather, he uses his power and authority, his wealth, his greatness, we could say, in light of the way he’s described at the beginning of the chapter, in order to serve others.  We’re going to see that he does that specifically with Ruth, that he uses all of this authority, everything that’s in his domain, in order to serve Ruth, which I think is a very important principle to see. – Forthcoming Commentary on Ruth, Rich Lusk and Uri Brito

A Glimpse into the Ruth Commentary

Here is a little sample of our labors on Ruth; hopefully to be sent to the publisher before the end of the year:

Ruth also shows the world just what she needs.  In a sense, in this book Israel is in the position of Naomi and Ruth.  Where are Naomi and Ruth at the beginning of the book?  They’re without a king; they’re without a husband; they are left desolate and destitute.  The story of Ruth is proof that God will not abandon his covenant bride but will provide for her ultimately by giving to her a greater Boaz and a greater David, a greater Kinsman-Redeemer, and a greater King who will do in reality what Boaz and David could only do in type and in shadow.

This world is not my home…or is it?

Those who follow me on twitter may see several tweets with the hash-tag #Ruthproject. The Ruth project is a new work I am working with a fellow pastor from Birmingham. We are working on a commentary on Ruth. But this will not be just a normal, exegetical work, it is actually a pastoral and theological labor focusing on the nature and goal of redemptive history. We will focus on the content of Ruth’s majestic love story, but also detailing why Ruth serves as a miniature picture for all of God’s history.

We will offer a theological framework for how we are to look at redemptive history and how God is working in it. The commentary hopes to be practical, pastoral, and layman-friendly.

Here is a quote from the introduction:

What you believe about the future shapes how you live in the present.  If your final expectation is just to go and dwell forever in ethereal heaven, compare what your world view and your practice would be to someone whose final hope is of dwelling in a renovated and perfected physical creation in a resurrection body.

Lord-willing we will be able to provide a manuscript draft to our publisher by the end of the summer. Our goal is to have it published by the Family Advance Conference in November.