God, in His great mercy, gave us pictures of the New Covenant long ago. In Ruth, Yahweh is already preparing the world for this great cosmic body He is creating. Through the gentleness and comfort of Boaz (2:13), Ruth is grafted in to the great covenantal family. Here we have the union of Jew and Gentile picturing to us God’s future for the peoples of earth. God always intended to bring Gentiles into His family and Ruth serves as a type of what happens in the New Covenant when Paul says: “There is no longer Jew or Gentile; the walls of partitions are broken down.”
Ruth provides us pictures of the gospel. It is the gospel in miniature form. Since all the Bible is inspired ( II Timothy 3), then Ruth provides us a picture of what kind of gospel this is. Ruth 2 provides such a scenario. I have argued (here & here) that Ruth is typological. This is a rather simple assumption in light of the Christo-centric character of Boaz as a merciful, valiant warrior. Boaz is a picture of David, and ultimately a picture of Jesus Christ. Boaz shows mercy to his bride, Ruth, just as Christ shows mercy to his bride, the Church.
In Ruth 2, Boaz showers Ruth with grace. This is a glorious picture of the irresistible nature of Yahweh’s grace for His people. Yet, Boaz does not grace Ruth without honoring her deeds. Boaz delights in Ruth’s actions; her covenantal loyalty to Naomi. What we see is that grace is not cheap. Grace is given freely, but it is not given purposelessly. To put it simply, “God does not grace you so you can live as you please. He graces you, so you can live as He pleases.”
Ruth is the perfect proof for typology. It shows that typology is necessary to biblical interpretation. Observing the text of Ruth only from a grammatical perspective misses all sorts of treasures. The positive aspect of typology is that it is not hidden, but it is all over the place. The Spirit does not waster his breath. Ruth is a fine example of this. Ruth is Israel in sin and Israel restored. Naomi is Israel unrepentant and Ruth is Israel clinging to God. The difficulty–and I should add the common distaste of biblical typology–in this form of hermeneutic is that it demands biblical knowledge. It demands knowing biblical history and it demands broadening your view of redemptive history. Redemption is the maturation of history. In Christ, the pieces, facts, details of the Bible come together. No longer will you be able to look at Genesis 1 without realizing its vast implications to the rest of sacred revelation.
Ruth does just that. It exposes us to laws in the Mosaic literature (Levirate Laws), to marriage themes (such as the union/clinging of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2), and to how eschatology functions (Israel exiled, Israel restored). Ruth is gospel, but it is just one of many pictures given to us in miniature form through Scriptures.
Ruth’s example is the harshest critique of individualistic evangelicalism. Ruth clings to Naomi covenantally. She has no interest in embracing her God without embracing her people. To cling to Yahweh is to cling to His bride. The Gospel demands that you abandon the Old Adam and the Old Eve and embrace the New Adam, Jesus and the New Eve, Jesus’ Bride.
Naomi is Israel in the days of the Judges. She is faithless Israel. She is compromised in her theology because of ten years of anti-Yahweh indoctrination. However, Naomi is also recipient of grace. She is ultimately pleasant and graced with Yahweh’s favor. Naomi is Israel; Israel fallen and Israel redeemed.
Ruth is a miniature gospel. You have garden/sanctuary, which is the “house of bread,” Bethlehem. Then you have land/home, which is Elimelech and his family, and finally you have world, which is Moab. The story of Ruth is God using the unwise and unethical decision of Elimelech in leaving Bethlehem to rescue a Moabite woman who would be start a new godly lineage consummating in Messiah. From the world, Ruth comes back to the sanctuary/garden where she belongs.
Ruth’s first verse is not a picture of what is to come, but only a sober reminder of what covenant breaking brings to a nation. The story of Ruth is the reversal of Judges; a small Edenic picture with hope for a new king who will undo the faithlessness of a people. It begins with a famine, but faithfulness leads to ultimate feasting.
My fellow brother and pastor Toby Sumpter makes this excellent connection between Ruth and the Proverbs 31 woman:
Boaz praises Ruth and blesses her. He says that Ruth is known among all the city’s inhabitants as being a virtuous woman. But the word there for ‘virtuous’ is the Hebrew word ‘kahyil’ which is usually used to describe a courageous man of arms, a warrior. Ruth is a valiant warrior-woman. But what’s really neat is the fact that in the Hebrew Bible, Ruth comes just a couple of books after Proverbs. And the book of Proverbs ends with the beautiful passage describing the ‘virtuous woman’. In fact, the word ‘virtuous’ is also the word ‘kahyil’, thus Proverbs ends describing the valiant warrior-woman.
I am beginning a new series this Sunday on Ruth, which will take our congregation all the way until the Advent Season in late November. One brief observation to make is that Ruth is the eighth book in Scriptures, and though the table of contents are not inspired, yet it reveals that Ruth is indeed a new book for a new world. The eighth day is a new creation and Ruth offers a new hope to the kinglessness and Yahwehlessness of Israel in Judges. Whereas Judges 21 concludes with: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes,” Ruth concludes with “…and Jesse fathered David.” David, the new King will be Israel’s great hope.