Bible Study with Jairus – Ruth
The book of Ruth is comprised of only four short chapters, but it’s a very important book in the Bible. It serves as a link between the past and the future. It’s preceded by the historical account of chaotic Israel in the book of Judges for hundreds of years or more. It’s a cycle in which the Israelites turned their backs on God and therefore God judged them, and then they repented and prayed for God’s help, so God saved them. In summary, the scene of Judges is not very good. The book after Ruth is Samuel. It describes the birth of David and the wonderful work God did through David.
Ruth was a Moabite gentile. She married Boaz, the descendant of Tamar and Judah (Salmon, the father of Boaz by Rahab). Boaz is the father of Obed. Obed is the father of Jesse, and Jesse is the father of King David (NIV, Matthew 1:5-6). Matthew’s genealogy looks very simple, but it’s the condensed version of the entire Old Testament. If you want to figure out this genealogy, you need to be familiar with the history of the Israelites in the entire Old Testament.
Similarly, Ruth’s short description at the beginning tells us that in the days when the judges ruled, Israel suffered a famine. Naomi’s husband Elimelek left Bethlehem in Judah and lived in the country of Moab. In the end, Elimelek and his two sons, Mahlon and Kilion, died. These first three verses have simply recorded this story. Actually, this is a condensed summary of the history of the Judges. The history of the Judges is like a severe cold winter, with dead twigs and withered leaves everywhere. But when the earth is in a severe cold winter, new life will be born underground, just waiting for the spring to come. It’s just like the budding plum blossom in China. The Bible is written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. I often say that the Holy Spirit is the best playwright and creator in the world. The picture painted by the Holy Spirit in the book of Ruth is like the author of traditional Chinese ink painting. Now there are a few black dead twigs on the Xuan paper. It doesn’t look that lively, but it didn’t take long for God to draw a few bright red and beautiful plum blossoms, making this painting radiant.
The dark period of the Judge’s is like the dead twigs of this Chinese ink painting. The story of Ruth’s wonderful salvation is like the blooming of plum blossoms. Although the weather is still severe and cold, the plum blossom is starting to bloom and spring has already arrived. Ruth is this plum blossom, proclaiming the Savior of mankind. Jesus Christ is coming soon in a few more generations. Isn’t this exciting? If you were a prophet in the Old Testament or Simeon or Anna who were looking forward to the coming of Jesus Christ in the temple, can you imagine how exciting it will be to see this picture? Ruth the mother of Obed, Obed the father of Jesse, Jesse the father of David, and Jesus Christ, the descendant of David, are coming soon. Although it can’t happen overnight, a definite date has already been arranged. It’s a pity that most people don’t have such prophetic vision. They see the savage darkness and the raging winter instead.
Chinese poet Hai Zi said, “The night has given me dark eyes but I use them to look for light.” I am not familiar with Hai Zi’s poems, but a good friend of mine who graduated from Beijing Normal University is a fan of him. He told me about Hai Zi’s poems and the story of Hai Zi’s suicide. I don’t understand what kind of pain causes a person to commit suicide. I can only say that Hai Zi did not live out the ideals written by his poems. Darkness is temporary. As John says, darkness never overcomes the light (NIV, John 1:5). Dawn is actually very near you when you’re in your darkest hour. The footsteps of spring have already come secretly even in the harshest winter season.
The book of Judges is like a cold, dark winter. Ruth’s appearance depicts a blooming plum blossom before spring. In our speed reading this time, we’ve painted this beautiful picture. I hope to briefly review the contents of our Bible Study.
God’s Judgment brought Redemption
I have always said that God’s judgment is not the aim, but a means to bring redemption. Many people misunderstand God’s thoughts and imagine God as a fierce God. Elimelech and his two sons died because of God’s judgment. Of course, Naomi felt bitter. The name Naomi means blessings from God. Her life was bitter to the point where she even returned to the country of Judah and told other Israelites, “Don’t call me Naomi, call me Mara for my life is bitter.” (Ruth, 1:20).
My wife and I have suffered the painful experience of ten years of infertility. The process is really bitter. The quarrels, struggles, tears, and pain experienced is unimaginable for those who have never experienced it. Another couple who participated in our Bible Study at that time was also infertile for many years. One day, the wife said to us that she felt that God had done nothing but deprive her. Everything that others have, she doesn’t. Coupled with other difficulties in life, she felt like Naomi who called herself Mara, which meant bitter (Of course, she had a son and a daughter afterward; we also have our miracle daughter). Thinking back, we really learned a lot of lessons. We should keep our eyes open and see the hope ahead of us when we’re in difficult circumstances.
Naomi represents our old man, Ruth represents our new man
Actually, saying that Naomi represents our old man is not very accurate, or perhaps it’s too early to say that. Because the thing that should be said first is that Elimelech and his two sons, Mahlon and Kilion, represent our old man. They have been killed by God’s judgment. But Naomi can represent the struggles of our old man in our spiritual experience. We all know that once we are saved, our old man is crucified with Christ. But in experience, our old man is still alive. From the spiritual reality, our old man is indeed dead. But in terms of spiritual experience, our old man still needs to be conformed to the death of Christ. In the process, our old man will inevitably complain. This is Naomi’s experience. Ruth represents our new man. While Naomi had experienced death, life was started in Ruth, and it resulted in producing a descendant, which was Obed. Although this child was Ruth’s, people said that he was Naomi’s child, because Naomi became his nurse. Naomi’s and Ruth’s experiences are actually together, or we can say that a person’s two different experiences, when intertwined, produce a new man in the end.
I heard that the author of the book “Dream of the Red Chamber” sometimes applied the story of the same person on different characters. The Holy Spirit often used this writing technique when writing the Bible. It often separates and puts the spiritual experience that one person had on different people. If you have spiritual comprehension, you will be able to understand that they are actually one person, or that the experience of these people can actually be a person’s different spiritual experience.
For example, the Bible records that the families of Saul and David had been fighting for a long time. This experience can represent the battle between a person’s old and new man. In the end, of course, the new man represented by David won. Similarly, the experience of Naomi and Ruth here is intertwined, showing us a picture of how the new and old man reacts differently to things. For example, in facing God’s judgment, the old man Naomi said that the Almighty has made my life very bitter (NIV, Ruth 1:20). But the new man Ruth lay at the feet of Boaz (who represents Christ), like Mary of Bethany. The old man Naomi said, “Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands?” (NIV, Ruth 1:11). The new man Ruth said, “Unless death can separate me from you, where you go I will go, your God will be my God”. (NIV, 1:16). The old man Naomi complained that her life was bitter so she let people call her Mara. But the new man Ruth never complained. She did not complain that her husband died. She also did not complain that she was born a Moabite. In Deuteronomy 23:3 God said: “No Moabite or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, not even in the tenth generation.” (NIV, Deuteronomy 23:3). If she lived today, she would have a lot to complain about, such as: “I was born the wrong color, my race was cursed, my husband has even died etc,” But in the entire book of Ruth, you don’t hear any complaints from her. Her words and behavior are very much like what Peter said, “Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (NIV, 1 Peter 3:4)
Naomi also represents the Holy Spirit, Ruth represents the bride
I mentioned earlier that the Holy Spirit often puts different experiences that a person can have on different people when writing the Bible. In addition, the Holy Spirit often uses the same person, things, or events to represent different spiritual things or experiences. For example, the simplest example is that the Bible uses a lion to describe the Lion of the tribe of Judah – Jesus Christ. It also uses a lion to describe the devil who prowls around looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).
Here, in addition to representing the old man, Naomi also represents the Holy Spirit. Ruth represents the bride, and Boaz represents Christ. We know that Abraham’s old servant represents the Holy Spirit. He finds Isaac (who represents Christ) a bride named Rebekah. He beautified the bride (gave Rebekah a lot of earrings, nose rings, and other ornaments), and used camels (representing an unclean environment that is a tool in the hands of God) to bring Rebekah to the tent of Isaac. We also know that the eunuch in the book of Esther also represents the Holy Spirit. Not only did he help select Esther, but he also supplied her with anointing oil, so that she could receive beauty treatments (ointments and perfumes), thus exuding the fragrance of (Christ), letting the king (who represents Christ) to be delighted with her. Here, Naomi also represents the Holy Spirit. She has been a helper and a comforter. After our old man is dead, we travel together with our weak new man to bring her to the Promised Land God has given us and help her to know Christ (a representation of Boaz) to please Him. Through his redemption as her relative, she has become his spouse and bride. In the end, a man child (Obed) was brought into the lineage of Christ thus completing God’s plan.
Ruth 2:1 says that Naomi had known that Boaz was a wealthy man. But in verse 2, Ruth herself said that she would glean in the fields and she didn’t know who would find favor with her. Note that it doesn’t say here that Ruth knew Boaz. She didn’t know him at all, but the Holy Spirit explained in the first chapter that when Naomi was in the land of Judah, she knew Boaz. Here is the foundation of the writing of the Holy Spirit later in this chapter.
So, how long did Naomi stay away from Judah? The Bible didn’t record it, so we don’t know. But we guess that it may be quite a while because both of her two daughters-in-law were married in Moab. We guess that Boaz may be an old man already and perhaps he is a man with wife. We don’t know these. It’s just our speculation. Because when Ruth followed Boaz, Boaz said a sentence, “You have not run after the younger men but chose me instead.” (NIV, Ruth 3:10). From here, we can also guess that Boaz might not be that young anymore. But Ruth did not know Boaz (who represented Christ) according to the flesh. It’s through the help of Naomi (who represents the Holy Spirit) that she knew Boaz (or Christ).
Consequently, Ruth went to glean in the fields and it happens to be the field of Boaz. Was this accidental? No, it wasn’t. The Holy Spirit led her there.
I’ve been a believer for seventeen years now. Looking back at the history of these seventeen years and the years before becoming a believer, I find that the Holy Spirit has been wonderfully leading me. When the Holy Spirit leads us, he often doesn’t speak loudly. Rather, he leads us silently. We may not feel him, or we’ll only discover afterward that it’s the Spirit’s wonderful leading. When I was in college, I went to Peking University to find some friends to hang out with. When I saw that they were preparing for the TOEFL(Test of English as a Foreign Language) test, I was curious to understand why they were preparing to go abroad. I had thoughts myself of going abroad to study. However, I also wanted to take the national postgraduate entrance exam in China. I had made a plan for myself. If I passed the national postgraduate entrance exam, I would stay and pursue postgraduate studies in China. If I didn’t pass, I would apply to study abroad. In the end, I took third place for my total score in the national postgraduate entrance exam in my major. Ten plus postgraduate students were enrolled in our major. My scores far exceeded the admission score. However, when I was taking the politics exam, I had an extremely bad headache. I didn’t score well on the test. I was only a few points away from passing. So, I missed the postgraduate admission. Only after I was saved, did it occur to me that this might be the Lord intervening. I rarely get headaches so perhaps He wanted me to study abroad. Later, when I did go abroad to study, I came in contact with gospel believers and began to receive Biblical education. It was only then that I realized that this was part of God’s plan for me. Even the school choices that I filled out in college were the same. I originally planned to apply for philosophy at a well-known university in China. While I was trying to rest in my dorm room, I suddenly thought of applying to a journalism major in another university. This university was more of a liberal arts college. Because I come from a rural family and wasn’t good at socializing with others, I had a very hard time adjusting to this school and spent a few painful years there. Later, I had worked in the media industry, and I had hoped to make a difference in this area. But because I’m a believer, I was also slowly becoming indifferent to the world’s ambitions. But in recent years, God gradually showed me that my ministry will greatly use media and film in the future, and gave me dozens of dreams to encourage me to make films. These are things I never thought of, but I did know that God was the one leading me to study media from the beginning. Often, the way that God leads us is by giving us an idea, and we unknowingly obey the leading of the Holy Spirit.
I shared my own experience here to make a point. The way the Holy Spirit leads us is sometimes very subtle. Here, when Ruth walked in the field, whether she walked to the left or to the right, she was led by the Holy Spirit. In the end, she was brought wonderfully to the fields of Boaz. Things that you often think are accidental are not. It’s just that you haven’t seen the certainness behind the accidental, which is the silent leading of the Holy Spirit.
After Ruth returned, she told her mother-in-law that she was gleaning in the fields of Boaz that day. Naomi told her, “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative.” (NIV, Ruth 2:20). After which, Naomi told Ruth, “It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with the women who work for him because in someone else’s field you might be harmed.” (NIV, Ruth 2:22). This accompanies what Boaz said to Ruth before, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me.” (NIV, Ruth 2:8). They said almost the same thing. So how did Naomi know? It’s very surprising. It can be seen from here that Naomi represents the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit often confirms what the Lord says to us.
At the beginning of the third chapter, Naomi was preparing to find a home for Ruth. In 3:2, Naomi said, “Tonight, Boaz will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor.” (NIV). How did she know? It shows that Naomi had inside information or she knew Boaz very well. The same is true of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit comes from God and Christ. He knows Christ very well. Then in 3:3-4, Naomi told Ruth to wash, perfume herself, dress up, and go lie down in the threshing floor of Boaz. This represents the work of the Holy Spirit. It dedicates God’s church, and the bride of Jesus Christ to her husband without blemish, which is Jesus Christ. Naomi taught Ruth how to get Boaz’s attention and told Ruth (after everything was going according to plan) that Boaz wouldn’t rest until the matter was settled (NIV, Ruth 3:18).
What was the book of Ruth talking about? It’s Boaz (who represents Christ) redeeming us, his lost relatives, which Ruth represents. Christ is our relative and ultimately through the sacrifices He made, we were redeemed to return to God, which is our inheritance (because God is our portion and our inheritance).
Boaz had a relative who was first in line to redeem Ruth, but according to the law, he would have had to marry Ruth in order to maintain the name of her dead husband with his property. But the man said that he was willing to redeem, but he wasn’t willing to marry Ruth because it would endanger his own estate. According to the law, if he married Ruth, her child would not belong to him, but to Ruth’s dead husband. Thus, his inheritance would be damaged. But Boaz was willing to make these sacrifices. Because of this he was blessed by the Israelites.
In Ruth 4:11-12, the Israelites blessed Boaz and Ruth and said:
11 May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. 12 Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.” (NIV).
Later, Ruth gave birth to a son named Obed. Naomi held him in her arms and became his nurse. He was obviously Ruth’s son, but the neighbor women named the child, saying that, “A son has been born to Naomi,” and they named him Obed (NIV, Ruth 4:17). The meaning of Obed is servant, the servant of God. Obed is the father of Jesse. Jesse is the father of David. And Christ is the descendant of David. At this point, Naomi and Ruth’s experiences are combined into one. The previous pain that she experienced has passed, because a son was born, bringing her much happiness. Our old man will also experience pain like this. But our new man will have continued growth. In the end, we will enter the glory. At the same time, Naomi also represents the Holy Spirit. His change in us is now finally completed. He has completed the work of God on earth today, letting Christ be glorified in us. The one who is glorified is the man child, which is a new man in the universe.
As a new believer attending a special conference in 2004, I didn’t believe that Christ would come back the second time and was unwilling to dedicate my life to Him. That evening I prayed: “Lord if you show me that you are really coming again, I will dedicate my life to you.” Then, I had a prophetic dream that night. Two people were fighting to get my heart. A man who was stronger took my heart away. The next day, I dedicated myself to the Lord and then I saw a vision. The Lord said to me, “Once the New Jerusalem, the body of Christ in the world is built up, I will come back.”
Ruth’s experience is our experience as the bride of Christ. May we work cooperatively with the Holy Spirit and gradually transform ourselves into the image of Christ. The book after Ruth is Samuel. It describes the birth and growth of King David, our position of sitting together with Christ in the heavenly and reigning with the king. These two sides complement each other. They are the two different sides of Christian spiritual destiny. Not only are we the bride of Christ, we also have the power to govern and rule the universe with Him.