The past couple years I have become interested in family history. I loved to hear stories about my grandparents and my parents. Stories about when they were kids, or how they met one another, I found all of it fascinating. I kept wondering how come I haven’t asked about my family’s history before. How did we acquire the land I grew up on? What were my great grandparents and extended family like? How did my grandparents grow up? What was it like; what did they do?
History has always interested me and I never knew how much there was to know outside of history books. It’s all around me, right in my backyard and it all starts by looking at a family tree. If one wants to examine their soul, then finding out where one comes from is a great way to start.
The bible throws out a lot of names and it can be hard to keep track of how it all fits together. Before reading the book of Ruth, I had no idea of the connection to Jesus. The Holy Bible is full of history and family trees. Jesus’ lineage is traced out in Luke 3: 23-38. When I read that passage it was an ah-hah moment. It all made sense, but I was surprised to see some names, such as Boaz. My prior knowledge of Boaz was intertwined with Ruth.
I originally thought the story of Ruth and Boaz was just a love story. When I was younger, I would hear people say to wait for my Boaz, to wait for the right man. After reading the book of Ruth, I realized there is so much more to the story besides how two people met.
Here is a recap of the book of Ruth:
Naomi, a woman from Bethlehem, was married to Elimelech. They had two sons together, and one of the sons married a Moabite, Ruth. When Naomi’s husband died, she was left with her two sons and their wives. Unfortunately, Naomi’s sons died as well. In this case, with no other man left to marry the Moabite daughters-in-law, Naomi told the girls to go back to their families. She had planned to return to Judah on her own as a poor widow.
Orpah obeyed Naomi and returned back to her own family. And I would be a liar if I said I wouldn’t have done the same. When things go wrong and when all seems lost, I always go back home to Mama. But Ruth was different. Ruth refused to return back to her hometown. She saw how broken and depressed Naomi was, and insisted on going with her. The following verse is Ruth’s response to Naomi:
“Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”
Hmmmm, “where you go I’ll go, where you stay I’ll stay” sounds really familiar doesn’t it? But did you know that it comes from Ruth? A popular contemporary Christian song by Chris Tomlin, “I Will Follow” has those same words. Except, his song wasn’t talking about Ruth’s story. When I asked several friends, they weren’t sure where those words came from in the bible either. They were unsure of their meaning too.
Ruth’s story is about her loyalty and bravery. She turned her back on her own family and hometown to follow her mother-in-law, who was not her own flesh and blood. Since her husband was dead, Ruth had no more ties to Naomi, but she insisted on going back with her to Judah, to follow Naomi’s God. This was an unusual case.
Even though Naomi now has a companion, she is still bitter. When the women reach Bethlehem, Naomi tells everyone to call her Mara, which means bitter in Hebrew. Poor Naomi, she has lost her husband and her sons, but she gained a daughter.
Ruth was a foreigner, and during biblical times, foreigners were not well received. Fortunately for Ruth, the man in charge of the field she worked in, Boaz, heard of what Ruth did for Naomi. He found favor with Ruth and made sure she was well taken care of at work.
Boaz was a member of Naomi’s husband’s family, which made him an eligible candidate to marry Ruth. Naomi encouraged Ruth to seek out Boaz because of that. Boaz was impressed by Ruth’s courage to follow Naomi and to come to Bethlehem. He could see that she was a woman that trusted and loved God, but he knew he wasn’t next in line for Ruth’s hand. There was another man that had a closer connection to the family and it would be the right thing to do to ask him first if he wanted to marry Ruth. Boaz was an honorable man and knew he had to ask the other man first before he could take Ruth as his wife.
Good news for Boaz (and his descendants) that the other man was not interested in marrying a Moabite. Boaz and Ruth married and had a son, Obed. Naomi became a grandmother!
The book of Ruth closes with saying that Obed was the father of Jesse, who fathered David, whom later becomes king. David wouldn’t have existed if Boaz and Ruth didn’t meet. Much like how none of you would exist if your parents didn’t meet, or if your grandparents hadn’t have met. Even though Joseph wasn’t Jesus’ biological father, he was still his earthly father. Obed, Jesse, David, and many other others are still part of Jesus’ family tree. All of the stories are intertwined together and reveal parts of God’s plan. It all led to his plan for his Son to come to earth to save all from their sin.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
We all have a social location, our own identity. We have a biological family, a hometown, a history. But none of that defines who you are, it is only a part of you. Your real identity rests in Jesus Christ. All of those things that make up you are important, but he is the main focus. Even Ruth turned from her background to follow Naomi, to follow Naomi’s God. The God of Israel.
Just like in Mandisa’s new song, “Bleed the Same,” your skin color, background, and history are not what separates you from God. We all bleed the same and we all are God’s children at the end of the day. All of our names tie in together because of Him. The only question is will you go where He goes? Will you stay where He needs you to stay? Will you pick up your cross and follow Him? The only thing that separates you from God is if you don’t believe in his Son (John 3:16).
Will you accept your place in God’s family tree? There is always more room on the branches.