Holy One of Israel, as we fast and pray for Israel and the Jewish people while approaching Shavuot (Pentecost), impart to us a heart like Ruth’s — one that cleaves to Your people as she cleaved to Naomi, even unto death. Move us to lay down our lives by loving the Jewish people unconditionally and joining ourselves to them in prayer and sacrificial giving. Amen.
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Who was your hero growing up? If you, like me, weren’t a believer during your younger years, that hero may have been a movie star, a fabled character from a novel, a gifted musician, or even a relative. There were a few writers and philanthropists I admired as a child, but when I became an adult Christ-follower, my priorities changed significantly, and I gave up childish ways (1 Corinthians 13:11). My heart was stirred by the lives of those I met in the pages of Scripture and in accounts of the martyrs and Christian witnesses through the ages. One story has moved my heart more than all of the others as I felt Holy Spirit speak destiny over my own life: the story of Ruth. I believe that this book gives us the clearest prophetic picture of Israel and the Church in these last days.
But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you” (Ruth 1:16–17).
My Journey to a Ruth Heart
My own journey to an understanding of God’s heart for Israel and the Jewish people began with Derek Prince and his book, Appointment in Jerusalem, the story of the journey of his wife, Lydia, from atheist to believer, and of their subsequent meeting in Jerusalem toward the end of World War II. Their supernatural courtship, deep revelation of God’s heart for the land and the people of Israel, and sacrificial ministry to orphans and to the Israeli and Arab peoples, spoke deeply to my heart. God’s whisper was bold in my heart.
The next book on my journey was one by Don Finto, titled Your People Shall Be My People. Through Finto’s careful study of God’s word, retelling of a radical encounter with God’s heart for the Jewish people, and subsequent life call through the biblical story of Ruth, the whisper was getting even bolder.
In 2004, as I was moving to the U.S. from Canada, my mother put into my hands a small, wood-framed porcelain painting of Ruth that her father-in-law had brought her from war-torn Europe during his time serving overseas with the YMCA during World War I. He had bought the painting for my mother, whose name is Ruth, as a wedding present. As she placed it in my hands, she told me through tears that I, too, am a Ruth. The bold voice was becoming a shofar call!
Isaiah 62 and Ruth
It is timely to look at Ruth now, as multitudes of followers of Jesus worldwide engage in 21 days of prayer and fasting focused on Israel, culminating on May 28 — Pentecost, or Shavuot. In synagogues worldwide the book of Ruth is read on the second day of Shavuot. Only four short chapters, this book embodies themes of loss, sacrificial love, harvest, and redemption. But it is also a book of choices: Will we follow the true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and cleave to His people, or will we follow the gods of this world?
So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest (Ruth 1:22). So she kept close to the young women of Boaz, gleaning until the end of the barley and wheat harvests. And she lived with her mother-in-law (Ruth 2:23).
Ruth is a true rags-to-riches story that takes place in the time during which the judges ruled Israel. It records the story of the selfless love of Ruth the Moabitess for Naomi, her thrice-bereaved mother-in-law. In the Hebrew Bible, the book of Ruth follows Proverbs, seemingly giving an answer to the question: Who can find a wife of noble character? … (Proverbs 31:10 CSB). In our English-language bibles, the book of Ruth is located between Judges and 1 and 2 Samuel, providing a transition to the coming kingship of David through the lineage of Boaz and Ruth (see Ruth 4:18–22).
Though Israel continues in apostasy (see Judges 21:25), rejecting her Redeemer, as dramatically symbolized by the names of Naomi’s sons — Mahlon (“sickly”) and Chilion (“wasting away”) — Ruth leaves her own people and gods to cleave to Naomi and the one true God (see Ruth 1:16; 2:12). The transformation of Naomi from a spirit of bitterness toward God (she even insists on being called Mara, meaning “bitter”) to a place of joy and trust in Him is the overarching theme of the book. This is accomplished predominantly through Ruth’s sacrificial love in helping Naomi return (make aliyah) to Israel and her hometown of Bethlehem, and reclaim her identity and inheritance in the land promised to her ancestors. Ruth’s obedience to Naomi’s instruction from Torah regarding farming laws that help provide for the poor and the foreigner (see Leviticus 19:9–10), redemption (see Leviticus 25:47–55), and family inheritance (see Numbers 27:8–11) demonstrate her humility and her trust in Naomi’s God. This nobility of character earned her an honored place, alongside Rahab, as a gentile woman in the lineage of Jesus the Messiah (see Matthew 1:5).
This is the book traditionally read aloud in the synagogues during the feast of Shavuot, the second of the mandatory feasts requiring all Jewish males to travel to Jerusalem (Exodus 23:16; Leviticus 23:15–21). This feast is a time of thanking God for the early harvest of barley and wheat, and it occurs fifty days after Passover. To remind the Israelites of the source of their blessings, the people were to appear before God at the temple and bring an offering of grain products in the form of two loaves of leavened bread as an offering to God. This festival also coincides with the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai, and in more modern post-temple times, Messianic believers and gentiles celebrate the outpouring of Holy Spirit from Acts 2 which occurred on the exact same day on the Hebrew calendar, Sivan 6. Many believers now regard the two loaves as representing two people groups, Jews and gentiles, both sinful (leavened) and in need of salvation and redemption, receiving the Holy Spirit and adoption. It is a picture of the “one new man” (see Ephesians 2:14–16).
The book opens describing how the family of Elimelech (“God is my king”) had to leave Israel and their family inheritance in Bethlehem (“house of bread”) due to a famine. They travel to Moab, a region cursed by God (see Deuteronomy 23:3–4,6), where they settle — Elimelech; his wife, Naomi; and their two sons. Elimelech dies there, and Naomi’s sons take wives from among the Moabite women: Orpah and Ruth. Then the two sons die as well, without offspring, leaving Naomi a widow, with no support or protection, and far from her homeland.
While grieving, Naomi, whose name means “pleasant” or “delightful,” hears rumors that the Lord has again blessed Israel with food, and so she prepares to return to the land of Judah (“praise”). Naomi tries to reason with her two daughters-in-law, saying that she has no other sons to offer them in marriage, and that even if she were to marry and have more sons, she would not expect the two women to wait for the boys to grow up and marry them. She urges them to return to their own home and find husbands among their own people. Naomi is a woman overcome with disappointment, grief, and hope deferred: She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:20).
God Captures My Heart
This is the scene in the story where I, as a gentile felt Holy Spirit’s call on my heart as well as my resources and time. The daughters-in-law make very different decisions: Orpah kisses Naomi good-bye and returns to her own gentile people and gods, pursuing her own life, security, and happiness. She departs from the one true God.
Ruth, on the other hand, clings to her mother-in-law, refusing to leave her and uttering one of the most familiar oaths of covenant in all of Scripture: … “Don’t press me to leave you and stop following you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God. Where you die, I will die; and there I will be buried. May Adonai bring terrible curses on me, and worse ones as well, if anything but death separates you and me” (Ruth 1:16–17 CJB).
This remarkable young woman, who has, through Naomi’s example and teaching, come to know the one true God, returns with her to Bethlehem, and what follows is a supernatural story of redemption. It is the beginning of the barley harvest. In Scripture, barley often represents Israel, and wheat represents the gentiles (see Judges 7:13–15). Ruth goes out to glean, in a practice set by God so that the poor can have food, and she finds herself in the fields of Boaz, a close relative of Elimelech. Boaz notices Ruth, and having heard that she is caring for Naomi sacrificially, he takes her under his wing and ensures her safety as she continues to glean on his land (see Ruth 2:11–13).
As Naomi declares when she hears where Ruth has been toiling: “ … May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers” (Ruth 2:20). Naomi’s heart is healing, and she is regaining the faith she once had and has passed on to Ruth. Ruth continues to glean through both the barley and wheat harvests — from about April to June, the time of the counting of the omer — and Naomi develops a plan to provide for this faithful, hardworking young woman and herself. She coaches Naomi on the law of the kinsman-redeemer (see Genesis 48:16; Exodus 6:6; Leviticus 27:9–25) and urges her to consider Boaz in this role.
The kinsman-redeemer is a male relative who had the privilege of or responsibility to act on behalf of a relative in danger, trouble or need by redeeming property or a person. As Ruth obeys, donning her best attire and laying down at the feet of Boaz as he sleeps on the threshing floor (a picture of an abundant harvest being threshed to separate wheat from chaff), she is taking a great risk and showing deep humility and trust in Naomi’s wisdom. In our walk with the Lord, we have trusted in the Jewish people, the authors of the entire Bible, to point the way to Yeshua/Jesus, our Kinsman-Redeemer. Without the ministry of the patriarchs, priests, prophets, kings, scribes, and apostles, we would have no salvation, no understanding of God’s character, and no road map for interacting with Him. We truly are like Ruth.
The culmination of the story is the joining in marriage of Ruth and Boaz. Boaz becomes in reality the kinsman-redeemer of both Naomi and Ruth. And when Ruth (“friend”) and Boaz (“strength”) have their first child Obed (“servant”), the three names together foretell the coming of Yeshua: the divine Friend, Strength, and Servant of all — and our true Kinsman-Redeemer. Obed is to Naomi an heir fulfilling the law of family inheritance and guaranteeing her protection and provision. Boaz’s willingness to overlook Ruth’s ancestry (a Moabite was forbidden from entering the assembly of the Lord, as written in Deuteronomy 23:3–4) weaves the child into the Messiah’s lineage and brings blessings eternally. Ruth’s self-sacrificing faithfulness helps bring Naomi out of a spirit of bitterness and returns her to her land, her inheritance, and her God. Ruth accompanied Naomi with no certainty of any future, but with faith-filled trust in Naomi’s God. Lord, may I trust You like that!
How Then Shall We Live?
When I first wrote “Why Is Passover Important for Believers in Christ?”, a reader asked, essentially: “Is it profitable to continue to distinguish between two different groups of believers: Jews and gentiles?” This is a significant question, because after all, as this reader implies, we are all one in Christ — the “one new man” of Ephesians 2 — and Galatians 3:28 tells us that there is no male or female, no Jew or Greek, and no slave or free in Christ. My answer is simple: We know that although we are indeed all one in Christ, these categories still do exist in the natural, God Himself having made us male and female, or gentile and Jew. As in marriage, where one man and one woman become one flesh but remain separately male or female, with both Scripture and biology (God’s design) dictating differences in function and role, so it is with the identity of Jews and gentiles.
With Scripture as our guide, we see in the tale of Ruth the basic template for our call as gentiles to lay our lives down for the Jewish people and the nation of Israel. As Romans 15:27 notes, if the gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them the material blessings. We should pray for but also give materially to the Jews. Some practical ways to do this might be to sow into Messianic congregations in Israel or to donate to ministries like Operation Exodus USA, which assists Jewish people in making aliyah and becoming established in the land.
But now in Christ Jesus you [gentiles] who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13).
As those who have been brought near through our Kinsman-Redeemer — He who came not to be served but to serve (see Matthew 20:28) — we can choose as Ruth did: making covenant with Israel and the Jewish people, serving them sacrificially, and “provoking” them through love into a relationship with Messiah Yeshua. Ruth is our guide!
Abba, we choose today to declare our allegiance to Your heart by cleaving to the Jewish people through sacrificial giving, prayer, and supernatural love. We ask for a Ruth heart that trusts You without even knowing what the outcome might be. Help us to obey Your word. Amen.
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Lori Nicole Meed (Bachelor of Science; Bachelor of Education, Special Education) is a wife, mother, and grandmother who home-schooled her now adult children. In 2004, God moved her family from Canada to the U.S., imparting His heart for the U.S. and for revival. Having walked out her own journey of freedom after being radically born again in 1992, Lori has a heart to see others set free to walk fully in their destiny. She is a leader of an inner-healing and deliverance ministry at her home church in Pennsylvania. She also gathers and equips prayer groups for the U.S. and Israel. Lori has a passion for teaching on aliyah (“going up,” the return of the Jews to the land of Israel), the feasts of the Lord, and the rich connections of the gentile churches to Israel. She is a prayer leader on IFA’s Headline Prayer, as well as being a contributing writer. Photo Credit: Canva.