It’s quite amazing to be in Israel at Shavu’ot (Pentecost) - especially if your name is Ruth.
While the biblical Shavuot - one of the three great pilgrim Feasts of the LORD - does not involve the story of Ruth, it has become traditional to read the whole Book of Ruth on this holiday. Many Jewish people stay up all night on Shavuot, reading the Bible in honor of the giving of Torah on Mount Sinai. The account of Naomi and Ruth took place around the time of Shavuot, and the text also mentions the spring barley harvest, which this festival celebrates. It is all about a Covenant of Love.
As Israel’s great Lover and Holy God, Adonai, calls His People to enter into Covenant on Mount Sinai, so in Ruth’s story we have a marriage which eventually leads to the birth of a special king: David. It is a redemptive reunion of both Jew and Gentile with the Land given by God to Israel. It is about Beit Lechem, the 'House of Bread', the City of David. The little town will bear, not only little Oved (Servant), Naomi’s pride and joy, but later another special Baby - the promised Messiah (Micah 5:2).
“I don’t know why we call it ‘Bayit Lachem’,” said my Arabic teacher, when I asked the question. It was fascinating to me that the Arabic letters were almost identical to the Hebrew ones for this name. In my excitement I think I blurted out something about ‘bread’ in ancient Hebrew, to which there was no comment in return!
It’s not much of a Jewish town these days, despite the curiosity of many Israelis about the Christmas story and festivities. Sadly, there is a complete ban on Israelis entering Bethlehem, or any towns under full
Palestinian Authority (PA) control, due to the danger to their lives. But, of course, our famous Jewish Baby - Yeshua - was born there!
“Well... he became a Roman”, I overheard a Palestinian tour guide say, recently, while his group was hearing about St Paul’s Jewishness. “Interesting...” I thought to myself.
The erasure of Jewish identity in this Land is one of the goals of certain people who like to revise history to suit their own ends. Sadly this extends to the Bethlehem-born Lord Jesus. Often His Jewishness is forgotten, or deliberately ignored. He has become disguised, like Joseph when he dressed as an Egyptian and his brothers couldn’t recognize him…
So, back to Ruth. Her identity is clear. She was not Jewish, but she decided to leave her land and people, so that she could stay in Israel and support her mother-in-law. And we see from the text that it was not only a practical decision. It was also spiritual. Ruth decided to put her faith in Naomi’s God - the God of Israel. And He rewarded her.
It is traditional for women and girls to wear white on Shavuot. Again we see the symbolism of the Covenant of God with Israel, His bride. And how beautiful that Ruth, as a bride, represented all of those who would be joined to the Commonwealth of Israel, when the Word of God went out to the nations through the Jewish disciples of the Bethlehem Baby.
I thank God for revealing to me that this Jewish King is the world’s Kinsman Redeemer, and for showing me how precious to Him are His Naomi-people, who really need us to come alongside and be 'Ruth' to them.
May God help us to walk in her calling, by the strength of His Spirit.