Ruth, the Moabite, no stranger to grief, still grieving the lost trinity of her life, her husband, her father-in-law and her brother-in-law, Mahlon, Elimelech and Chilion, still grieving her departed sister, and still clinging to mother-in-law Naomi, her one last hold in a shattered faith.
I paused as I read the story. Why does it begin with the deaths of the three guardians of the family?
Then I thought of Jesus after his resurrection when he confronted Peter and said, ‘Peter, do you love me?’ He asked the question three times. Why? Because when Peter denied his Lord, Peter also denied the Father and the Holy Spirit. They are a triune One and you cannot have one without the others. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself and the Holy Spirit seals the three-in-one in us. ‘Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.’ Ephesians 4:30.
Israel had rejected all three and when Jesus was rejected, Israel voted her guardians and support systems out. The appointment was given to another power.
So Ruth’s journey begins where Israel would be when the Saviour was crucified. The three guardians of the family were gone. Ruth also grieved for the sister who would also depart, just as we grieve when those we love reject their only salvation and as Jesus mourned those who turned back from following him.
Naomi returned to Israel with ‘bitterness and emptiness’ as did the followers of Jesus when they carried his body to the tomb.
She and Ruth came to Israel at the time of harvest. After the wave sheaf had been offered, Mother Naomi, like the wise church, knew the pattern to follow. Harvesting, overseen by the lord of the harvest, would allow the gleaners to sweep the edges of the crop, but always before the gleaning commenced, the wave sheaf, the first cut of the promised harvest, was offered to the Lord.
Ruth’s story was written probably more than a thousand years before Christ. It is an exclusive signpost to the resurrection of Jesus, a history yet to happen, an enacted prophecy, to preserve true faith in Israel’s darkest hour. The crucifixion was at the time of harvest when the wave sheaf was offered on the first day of the week after the Sabbath.
Jesus was the wave sheaf, ‘the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep’ 1st Corinthians 15:20 NIV, or ‘the firstfruits of the harvest of the dead,’ REB. He offered himself to His Father on the day he rose from the dead, the first day of the week. Graves were opened and on the day of his resurrection, others were resurrected also, Matthew 27:52. Jesus gleaned the crop of the faithful, his guarantee that all might share the gleanings of the harvest and live.
Ruth gleaned and gave of her gleanings to Naomi that they might share the meal and live, showing that all, including the alien and foreigner, might share in the resurrection through faith in Christ.
After the fiftieth day when the harvest and the gleaning were finished, Ruth sought for the fullness of the blessing to be poured out. "Spread your cloak over me," Ruth asked Boaz. ‘Cover me, my Lord, cover me with the garment of your salvation, let me rest in the edges of your garment, the Covenant of Israel,’ she implied and Boaz, the lord of the harvest, promised redemption.
He filled the cloak of the Moabite with the fullness of the harvest, pouring out a blessing for the coming season and sent her back to mother Naomi until he should conclude the matter of her redemption.
Exactly as portrayed, the true Lord of the Harvest would pour out His blessing at Pentecost fifty days after the offering of the Wave Sheaf. On that day, he gathered together the nations that had been separated at the Tower of Babel and returned to them the gift of unity.
He gave back guardians and support systems to those who would accept them under changed conditions, no longer national, but true church and true family.
In another country on the other side of the world, we celebrate Christmas at the time of the harvest. The Lord of the Harvest stretches his cloak over us and gives us the fullness of the Holy Spirit, as Boaz poured out the riches of the harvest to Ruth. Then when he has dealt with Satan, our Lord of the Harvest will conclude the matter of our redemption and return to claim us, his people, as Boaz returned to claim Ruth.
Truly, Christmas is a time to celebrate. Thank you, Lord, for the redemption you have promised in the harvest time of Christmas and foretold in the Book of Ruth. And thank you for your Church, exemplified in Naomi; and for your true followers, exemplified in Ruth.