J. G. Bellett.
Section 10 of: Musings on Scripture, Volume 3
"If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold" (Lev. 25:25).
Redemption, as one has said, was no afterthought with our God; it was His purpose from the beginning. By the work of redemption He prepares the richest glory for His own blessed name, and the fullest joy for His creatures. "The morning stars sang together," it is true, "and all the sons of God shouted for joy," when the foundations of the earth were laid; but the shoutings of grace, when the new creation is finished by the bringing forth of the head stone, will be louder still. Never were such music and dancing in the house before as when the poor prodigal had returned, and been received as one alive from the dead. Never had such affections been awakened within him before. Never had the father's treasures been brought forth till then: till then the fatted calf, the ring, and the best robe had been laid up; and never had the father himself so full a joy in his child as when he fell on his neck and kissed him. And so is it in the wondrous ways of our God. Creation brought forth the resources of His love, and wisdom, and power, and heaven on high was glad through all its order, and earth smiled beneath the fair witness of His handiwork; but redemption has drawn forth still richer treasures that were lying hid in God — has awakened still more adoring joy and praise "in the presence of the angels," and has given new and diviner affections to the children of men,
And nothing now hinders us from sharing in these joys of the Father's house, but refusal to take the character and place of returned prodigals. "Thou never gavest me a kid," said one who trusted in himself. He had never tasted of real gladness: no feast of fat things had ever been spread for him, for he drew upon himself as though he were something. For "these many years do I serve thee," said he in his own sufficiency, "neither transgressed I at any time thy commandments." He was of those who "trusted in themselves." And then, and then only, is our joy hindered, when in this pride and vain conceit of our sufficiency, we come not to God as received prodigals. For to come as such is the decreed way of the whole family of God, and so their only spring of joy and triumph; as it is written, "and every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb for ever and ever."
Every thing is to stand in grace. Love was of old, because God is love, and love was therefore made known in the work of creation, and that by communicating goodness and blessing. But love has found a fuller scope for expressing itself in the work of redemption, in bringing grace and showing mercy; and this is its new character (see 1 John 2:8). Grace, the source and power of redemption, is "the glory that excelleth;" — the light that shined from heaven in converting grace and power round Saul of Tarsus, was "above the brightness of the sun at mid-day." Grace is the fullest, and indeed the only worthy expression of the unsearchable riches of divine love. The heavens will rejoice in grace (Rev. 5:11, 12); and Israel, as representing the joy of the earth, will, in the end, triumph in it also (Isa. 40; Isa 50; Isa. 61:10. Zeph. 3:14, 15).
Among the witnesses to this final security and joy of Israel, in the grace of God their Redeemer, the book of Ruth appears to me to have a very distinguished place, presenting, as it does, an illustration of the duties of the Goel or Kinsman-Redeemer,* and thus, as we shall find, furnishing the type of Israel in their sorrows and captivities down to the time when the Lord their Redeemer will, through the riches of His grace, delight in them again, and their land shall be married.
* See Lev. 25:25; Numbers 35:19; Deut. 25:5.
But in order the better to apprehend this typical character of the book of Ruth, we must use a little diligence in tracing the ways of God with Israel previously to the times of Ruth, and the distinct character of some of the books which introduce us to it.
Deuteronomy exhibits to us the perfecting of the covenant between Jehovah and Israel. After Moses had rehearsed their ways, delivered to them ordinances and commandments again, and warned and encouraged them, he stands before the people of Israel and says (Deut. 26:16-19), "This day the Lord thy God hath commanded thee to do these statutes and judgments, thou shalt therefore keep and do them with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God, and to walk in His ways and to keep His statutes, and His commandments and His judgments, and to hearken unto His voice; and the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be His peculiar people as He has promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all His commandments, and to make thee high above all nations which He hath made, in praise and in name, and in honour; and that thou mayest be an holy people unto the Lord thy God, as He hath spoken." This was a formal binding of the Lord and the people in covenant together, and thus the compact is solemnly and duly witnessed by the book of Deuteronomy.
The book of Joshua which follows, shows the wonders of Jehovah's outstretched arm in the sight of the nations, and in the behalf of His people, His leading them in triumph from city to city, and subduing kings before them, till Joshua their captain had taken the whole land according to all that the Lord had said unto Moses. For thus is it written, (Joshua 11:23). "So Joshua took the whole land according to all that the Lord said unto Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel according to their divisions by their tribes, and the land rested from war:" — and again, (Joshua 21:45), "There failed not aught of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the, house of Israel — all came to pass:" — and again, Joshua when about to go the way of all the earth could stand before Israel and say, "Ye know in all your hearts, and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, not one thing hath failed thereof" (Joshua 23:14). And thus the book of Joshua abundantly asserts the truth of the Lord and His covenant faithfulness.
The book of Judges follows; and as the preceding book had been the witness for the Lord, that He had fulfilled all His covenant with Israel, so does this book witness against Israel, that they had utterly broken their covenant with the Lord. It is true, that Israel, served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the Lord that He had done for Israel. But the generation were gathered to their fathers; and as we read that "there arose a new king over Egypt which knew not Joseph," but became unmindful of all the kindness which the Lord had shown for His nation by Joseph, and was turned to be the adversary of Joseph's brethren, so we see another generation now risen in Israel, who with uncircumcised Egyptian heart knew not the Lord Who had visited and redeemed their fathers.
Throughout these times of the Judges we see their repeated backslidings, and the Lord again and again correcting them by judgments, and turning in mercy to forgive their iniquities, and heal their diseases. Often as a hen gathereth her chickens, would He have gathered His erring people; but the closing testimony of this book against them, is — "every man did that which was right in His own eyes" (Judges 21:25).
Thus we have in Deuteronomy, the covenant solemnity settled and entered into — in Joshua the Lord's accomplishment of all His mercies engaged to Israel under that covenant, — and in Judges, Israel's utter breach of all their vowed and pledged allegiance. This was the righteous forfeiture of all their blessing. So that the time had now come when the Lord must decide either to lay hold on judgment, or to bring mercy. He now might swear in His wrath that Israel should never enter His rest — they had been assayed, and were found "reprobate silver." "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself," might now be the lamentation over them; but the Lord was about to reply, "but in Me is thine help," for Jehovah is God and not man. He Who in righteousness might now have eased Him of His adversaries, and avenged Him of His enemies, prepares mercies for them, allows mercy to rejoice against judgment, and says, as at this time, "How shall I deliver thee up Ephraim, how shall I deliver thee Israel, how shall I make thee has Admah, how shall I set thee as Zeboim?" And therefore in the history of Ruth, the Moabitess, which immediately follows the book of Judges, He gives them a sample not of final severity for their sins, but of the grace by which they shall be gathered, and the glory into which they shall be brought in the latter day.
The constant respect that is had in scripture to the histories of the people of God in olden times, for the illustration of His further and still future ways, either in such an artless and passing manner as may at first be unperceived, or in the more full and distinct interpretation of them as types or allegories, gives us great authority for considering the book of God generally as being of a prophetic character. The scenes in Paradise, Cain, Abel, the Deluge, and the ruins of Sodom, the times of the Patriarchs, the Exodus, Joshua, David and Solomon, the sufferings and the acts of the Prophets — these with others are all taken up and treated as typical; and how distinctly does the Spirit give this character to the scripture histories in Ps. 78 where, after announcing that He is about to open His mouth "in a parable," and to "utter dark sayings," He details simply the ways of Israel's rebellions and perverseness, and Jehovah's judgments and mercies; thus giving us to know that all this history was a parable also. In like manner when in 1 Cor. 10, the apostle had traced the manners of Israel in the wilderness, and the consequent judgments of the Lord, he says "now all these things happened unto them for ensamples." The history of Sarah and Hagar with their children is more distinctly announced to be an allegory; Cain, Balaam, and Korah are pointed out as the signs of Christendom's offences and judgment, and Babylon is revived in spirit, though the name and remnant, and son and nephew have been cut off from it, and it has itself been swept with the besom of destruction. And I doubt not that the history of Ruth, beautiful and attractive as it is, is designed of the Spirit to be something more than a help to discover the genealogy of the Lord (Matt. 1:5), or than a pleasing moral and affecting scene in domestic life, but that we may also read in it, and vindicate by it, the ways of the Lord of Hosts with His loved and still remembered Israel.
I know that the watching of the imagination, that we offend not by it, may be much needed here, but the comfort and edification of the saint in the unfoldings of the ways of God by means of such allegories will witness for them; and as it is again and again promised, "to him that hath, shall more be given," our delight in the holy oracles and godly use of them will enable us, like instructed scribes, to bring forth further treasures. May the Spirit of truth make us such!
The book of Ruth opens with a simple scene of domestic sorrow. The family of Elimelech of Bethlehem, in Judah, is forced by stress of famine to seek a livelihood in the country of Moab. Here he dies, and his two sons form alliances with the daughters of that strange people, and in process of time, none was left of this family, but the widowed, childless Naomi. "Woe is me for my hurt;" — in the words of the daughter of Zion, by the prophet, might she then say, "my wound is grievous; but I said, truly this is my grief and I must bear it: my tabernacle is spoiled and all my cords are broken, my children are gone forth of me and they are not, there is none to stretch forth my tent any more, and to set up my curtains."
Now here we have at once something to arrest our thoughts. Behold famine in that land which the Lord Jehovah had promised should flow with milk and honey for His chosen people! But this was the sure testimony that that chosen people had been unfaithful; and therefore all this evil estate (the sorrows of the land and the captivity of her children) exhibits Israel as they now are* suffering for their unfaithfulness under the righteous displeasure of the Lord. Their cities are wasted without inhabitant now, as then partially in the days of Naomi, the land is utterly desolate, the Lord has removed her children far away, and there is a great forsaking in the midst of the land. Famine then was what dispersion is now; for the transgression of the people must account for both; one reason and one only can be given for their sorrows in all periods; the voice in every calamity of Israel is the same, "My God will cast thee away, because they did not hearken unto Him."
*Elimelech, who was the father and head of this afflicted family, signifies "my God the King," and is properly and characteristically the title of Messiah in connection with the Jewish people. As the Elimelech, Israel is His household, and not the church; and now truly has this household of His become a wanderer in strange lands, no longer Naomi but Mara. But the church is not properly set in connection with Him in this character; and therefore, as for other reasons, I do not judge that the church is typified in this book.
The marriages of Mahlon and Chilion, sons of Israel, with the daughters of Moab, show us Israel's present utter loss of their sacred Nazarite character, that the "holy flesh has passed from them," that they are no longer sanctified and separated unto God, but are mingled with the nations, have learnt their works, and are become defiled as sinners of the Gentiles. And Naomi left of her two sons and her husband, exhibits their destitution, and loss of everything that could wear a trace of their former estate; for though reserved of God, as a people, to meet the purposes of His future mercy, yet their special character is, for the present, utterly lost and gone; they have become in God's judgment, as one of the nations, and "Lo-ammi" is written on them.
But the Lord, as we learn from this history, in due time returned in mercy to Israel; for His constant word to them is, that "He will not contend with them for ever." Though He make a full end of the nations, yet will He not make a full end of them. He visited and redeemed His people in giving them bread again; and the earliest tidings of this awakens all Naomi's recollections of Israel. As soon as she heard that the land might be dwelt in again, she arose and went forth out of the place where she was: and though naked and afflicted, and needing every thing, she traces her way back to Bethlehem-Judah.
What a mother in Israel is here! She would yield up her daughters-in-law, loving and faithful as they had been to her, and at once surrender all the alliances which she had formed among the Gentiles, and the sources of relief and comfort which had been opened for her there, and return as Mara, empty and afflicted, rather than be any longer a stranger to the land of her fathers! She appears before us a true Rachel, who now refuses, as we know, to be comforted, and will refuse till her "children shall come again to her own border" (Jer. 31:15-17), for such is the heart of the children of Israel. Gladly would they come forth from all the advantages and comforts which have been made theirs in the places where they have been scattered, and return, Mara like, to their own land. Let the tidings but reach them which reached Naomi at this time, — that the land is open to them, and the ways to Zion which now mourn, and all her gates which are desolate, shall rejoice, and speedily again be full of people.
And here the character of Ruth fully and at once develops itself. — She is fixed upon being one with Naomi, her mother-in-law. — She will forget kindred and father's house. — She is tempted on the one hand by the dreary prospects which Naomi presented, as awaiting her if she would still go forward, — and she is tempted on the other by Orpah's revolt, and return to the more profitable promises of Moab; but all this serves but to manifest and approve her — she stood in the evil day. Like Elisha, in such a case, whom neither the voice of his master on the one hand, nor the taunts of the sons of the prophets on the other, could move him to change that word, "As the Lord liveth and as thy soul liveth I will not leave thee" (2 Kings 2:4). "Entreat me not," says she to Naomi, "to leave thee, or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest I will go, and where thou lodgest I will lodge, thy people shall be my people, and thy God shall be my God." She would leave behind her all recollections of Moab and her people; — she would be one with Naomi, though in widowhood and destitution. No longer a daughter of Moab, she was steadily minded to be only of Israel, one with the people of the Lord. Thus is this sinner of the Gentiles found among the children of the kingdom; and from this moment Israel becomes represented in Ruth, who, as we shall find, takes up after Naomi the wondrous tale of God's ways with His people. Their fortunes now become typically set forth in her's, for the chosen Israel of God in the latter days will be as this sinner of the Gentiles; Israel shall then be accepted through the same riches of grace that now saves the church, the fulness of the Gentiles, as says the Apostle, speaking to the Gentiles, "For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief, even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy, for God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all" (Rom. 11).
It is on this principle I rest assured that the present call of the Gentiles has no place in the typical history of Ruth. She was, it is true, a Gentile, and this has led some to misinterpret the mystery. But Israel is now as the Gentiles, and as Gentiles will be finally accepted. For as we who were sinners of the Gentiles, and as such were "no people," but have now through grace become the people of God; so will Israel, who are now "no people," be made the people of God in the latter days. Israel shall hereafter be made the vessel of mercy for the making known of the riches of glory, as the church has now been made (see Hosea 1 - 3, Rom. 9:23-26); and thus the Gentile birth of Ruth was needed to set her forth a fair and perfect type of Israel, who are treated now as strangers, but to be finally gathered with the same mercy as is now gathering us, who were strangers indeed. Blindness in part has now happened to them, but in the day of their covenant their sin shall be taken away.
This suggests (and I would here turn aside to speak of it a little,) the very striking exhibition of the dealings of the Lord with Israel, which is made in the Prophet Hosea, and which is similar to that made in Ruth the Moabitess.
Hosea is presented to us as under orders to take a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms, and he does so. He takes Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and by her he has a son, whom he is commanded to call Jezreel; then a daughter, whom, as in like manner commanded, he calls Lo-ruhamah, and then another son, whom he names, still at the bidding of the Lord, Lo-ammi. The first of these children's names signifies the dispersion of Israel; the second, mercy denied to Israel; the third, the Lord's rejection of Israel as His people.
In this action Hosea might say in the words of another Prophet, "Behold I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel;" for in all this the apostasy and judgment of Israel are clearly set forth. The marriage of the Prophet with the wife of whoredoms is Jehovah's covenant with faithless Israel, yielding therefore, as its fruit, judgment, till the children of Israel were found, as they now are, reprobate silver, a "Lo-ammi," a people disclaimed of their God.
But this marriage of the Prophet, typical as it was of the sin and judgment of Israel, is grounded on a fact in their history to which he consequently alludes. Hosea prophesied, as we read, in the days of Jeroboam who was of the house of Jehu; and the circumstance that brought that family into the honour of the kingdom, that is, "the blood of Jezreel," is the sin which called forth the typical marriage of the Prophet, and is taken up by him as the pattern of Israel's transgression, and thus the ground of God's dealings with them. We will open the scene to which he thus makes allusion, and we shall find that, like Ruth, it illustrates the duty of the Goel.
The times of Ahab were corrupt in the extreme. — There were none like him whom Jezebel his Queen stirred up to sell himself to work wickedness and to do very abominably in following idols. But in those times Naboth of Jezreel stood as the righteous one in the land. Though it were to please the King he would not depart from the law of the Lord and sell His inheritance. He knew that it was the decree of the God of Israel that inheritances were not to remove from tribe to tribe, but that every one in Israel should keep himself to the inheritance of his fathers (Num. 36:9). But for his righteousness' sake he is called to suffer. Through the subtlety of Jezebel and by the hand of certain sons of Belial his blood is shed in Jezreel, (1 Kings 21:13) and his inheritance, the inheritance of his fathers, is usurped by Ahab. For this deed the Lord, by His Prophet, denounces judgment on Ahab and his house; and, accordingly by stroke upon stroke he makes a full end of them, and the blood of Ahab and the blood of Joram his son, and the blood of Jezebel are shed in the portion of Jezreel. Jehu, the son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi, is called forth to finish this judgment, to be the avenger of blood, and to cleanse the land that had been thus polluted with it (Num. 35:33); and as his reward the throne of Israel is secured to his family for four generations (2 Kings 10:30).
But Jehu in all this had himself in view; and while pretending zeal for the Lord, was really satisfying his own lust. As Ahab had coveted the vineyard of Naboth which was in Jezreel, hard by his palace, and for the sake of it had shed the blood of the righteous, so Jehu loved dominion, and for the sake of it, and not in the spirit of service to Jehovah, did he execute the judgment of God upon the house of Ahab. And therefore in his turn, like Ahab, he is made to answer for the blood of Jezreel: as says the Lord by Hosea, "I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu." But the Prophet adds — "and I will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel, and it shall come to pass at that day, that I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel" (Hosea 1:4). Thus upon this sin — i.e. the blood shedding at Jezreel, the Prophet suspends the final judgment and excision of Israel; and justly so, for the sin of Israel, as I will now show, was as the sin of Ahab, or as the sin of Jehu.
Our blessed Lord was the righteous one in Israel in His day, as Naboth had been. He was properly the Heir of all the nation's greatness. He was the Son of David, and claimed to be received as such (Matt. 21). The vineyard, the inheritance was His; but the wicked husbandmen, though allowing His title, refused Him possession, and said, "this is the Heir come let us kill Him, and let us seize on His inheritance." And they did so; they desired that the vineyard might be their own, they loved their "place and nation" under the Romans, and in the spirit of Ahab and of Jehu they caught the Heir and cast Him out of the vineyard, and slew Him. His blood at this moment thus stains their land, it is upon them and upon their children, as the blood of Jezreel, the blood of Naboth the Jezreelite was upon the house of Ahab; and for this they are now in the character of the Prophet's children, scattered as "Jezreel," denied mercy as "Lo-ruhamah," and disowned of their Lord as "Lo-ammi." And as Jehovah said of Naboth's vineyard, "surely I have seen yesterday the blood of Naboth and the blood of his sons, and I will requite thee (Ahab) in this plot;" so are the wicked husbandmen still to answer, blood for blood, that the land may be cleansed (Num. 35:33), and that that which is now the Aceldama may become the portion of the righteous again, the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts (Dan. 12:1, Zech. 13:8, Matt. 4:1 [Matt. 24:31?]).
Jehu acted in this as the avenger of blood, the kinsman of Israel, and was rewarded, as we have seen, with the kingdom for four generations. And so the true Kinsman and avenger of Israel the blessed and glorified Son of Man, shall fall on the rebellious and grind them to powder, and be brought near before the Ancient of days, and receive dominion and glory, and a kingdom to possess it for ever and ever.
But how we should be warned by this and remember Naboth's vineyard, as we are graciously taught to remember Lot's wife. It was "the stuff in the house," that was lusted after, and has made both of them, as it were, "pillars of salt," perpetual witnesses to us, that "they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition." Jehu would be religious too, he would be zealous for the Lord, if that could serve himself. The interests of Baal and his worshippers were not one with his; he rather was served by the judgment of Jehovah upon them, and therefore he could break down the image of Baal, and make his house a draught house unto this day. But it was himself he was serving all the time; he took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord. O brethren! the friendship of the world is enmity with God — nor is it less so, though it may clothe itself with zeal for the Lord.
But in the prophet Hosea, as in the type of Ruth, (as we shall in the end see,) mercy is made to rejoice against judgment. The "woman beloved of her friend yet an adulteress," is received again after many days (Hosea 3). Jezreel the dispersed is gathered; Lo-ruhamah who had not obtained mercy, does obtain mercy; the Lo-ammi, who were no people, become again the people of God. For thus saith the Lord by His Prophet, "It shall come to pass that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God: then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel" (Hosea 1:10, 11). Then shall Jezreel, the whole land and people, be the witness of grace as it is now of judgment; as the Lord saith, "I will cleanse their blood that I have not cleansed, for the Lord dwelleth in Zion" (Joel 3:21). The portion in Jezreel shall become the portion of the righteous again, the vineyard and inheritance of the Lord shall be given to a nation (in the latter days) bringing forth the fruits thereof. And so in the kindred type of our Ruth. She that was a sinner of the Gentiles, who came from among the Lo-ammi, is made, as we shall find, the wife of "the mighty man of wealth," and the mother of a new and honoured race in Israel, the fair and perfect pledge of Jehovah's everlasting love. And this typical character of Ruth is indeed afterwards distinctly acknowledged; for it is said to her, "The Lord make thee like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel;" which leaves us no liberty to doubt that we read a parable in her history, and that Israel is represented in her (Ruth 4:2).
To resume the history, then, we may here notice that we have Naomi and Ruth in the land of promise, the place of all desired blessing, the appointed scene of glory and the land of the living. But they are there at first empty and afflicted, though the land is fruitful again, and the harvest is gathering. But so will the Lord's remnant be found, when the nation has returned. As says the Lord by His prophet, "I will leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord" (Zeph. 3:12).
But Ruth and Naomi are not wholly unblest; they are at least at home, and though, in scanty measure living on the gleanings of another's field, and waiting for the crumbs that fall from another's table, yet kindness is shown to them of one who was "a mighty man of wealth" (Ruth 2:8-13). And so will the kindness of a mightier and more generous One than Boaz be seen, when tending again "the poor of the flock, the flock of slaughter," and when bread shall be given them and waters shall be sure (Isa. 33:16). And so will the poor of the flock trust in Him, and wait upon His hand as their Shepherd in the cloudy and dark day; so will they enter into the pavilion of His presence and hide themselves while that day passes by; and, remembering the days of their fathers, they will humble themselves, like Ruth, as less than the handmaids of the Lord.
But Ruth ere long was destined to look on this "mighty man of wealth," as her kinsman and husband sharing with her, gladly sharing with her, the treasures of those fields, where now she gleaned a scanty living; as will His poor and afflicted* remnant that shall trust in Him for bread and water, soon see their Kinsman, "the King in His beauty," and their Zion "a quiet habitation never to be removed."
* We speak here of the elect people in the last days under the title of "the remnant," for so the scriptures speak; inasmuch as the true Israel, or the Israel of God, has at all times been but as a remnant in the midst of the reprobate nation (as now and at all times with the church, the saints are as the elect in the midst of corrupt Christendom). And so will the true Israel be but a remnant when Israel becomes a nation again, resettled in the land of their fathers (see Isa. 6:13, Isa. 65:8; Rom. 9:27-29; Rom. 11:26). And this last remnant will become the seed of the future nation, the "all Israel," which is to be saved (Rom. 11:26). As it is written, "A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation." And till then, while the troubles continue, they will suffer, as alone faithful and righteous in the midst of evil; they will then cry to the Lord (as the Psalms largely, I believe, present to us), and then will the Lord in due season appear for them; and when His indignation on the enemy begins, His remnant shall be preserved (Isa. 26:20, 21), Blessed be He who ever heareth the cry of the poor destitute.
Israel of old had been taught to love the stranger as one born among them, for they had themselves known the heart of a stranger. And in the mercifulness of Him Whose they were, and Who feedeth the young ravens that cry unto Him, and openeth His hand and filleth all things living with plenteousness, they had been thus commanded, "When ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest; thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger" (Lev. 19:9, 10).
As a true son of Israel, Boaz, the Bethlehemite, remembers this word of the God of Israel, and does even more than was commanded. This poor stranger from Moab, as we read in the story, is well reported of to him by the reapers. He salutes her with kind and condescending favour, and she accepts his grace with thankfulness, satisfied with what her toil could gather, while he exceeds all her desire, serving her, with his own hands, and giving her a place among his sheaves. Sweet expression of the Lord's ways with His waiting poor ones now, and of His feeding His remnant in the land hereafter! And we here observe how the kindness of this "mighty man of wealth," encourages the faith of those afflicted daughters of Israel. Ruth repeats the story of his kindness to her mother-in-law; and then the recollection, which appears till now to have slumbered, that this mighty one was of their kindred, is awakened in Naomi, and she is stirred up to lay bold on his strength and expect a still larger blessing at his hand. "It is good, my daughter," said she to Ruth, "that thou go out with his maidens, that they meet thee not in any other field."
Further encouragement from Boaz, we may presume, and other tokens of favour shown unremittingly till the end of the harvest, at length bring Naomi's faith to exercise itself in his full and perfect favour. From his very gifts she seems to draw a plea for her hopes of yet further and greater, till her heart is enlarged to the full measure of his utmost bountifulness; and she speaks in the confidence of this to her daughter, saying, "Shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee? and now is not Boaz of our kindred, with whose maidens thou wast? Behold, he winnoweth barley to night in the threshing-floor. Wash thyself, therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee, and get thee down to the floor: but make not thyself known unto the man, until he shall have done eating and drinking. And it shall be, when he lieth down, that thou shalt mark the place where he shall lie, and thou shalt go in and uncover his feet, and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do." Naomi would have nothing less than himself and all his wealth, — her lips will scarcely utter the large desire of her faith, but she counts upon it, and lays her plans for it. The name of Baali will no longer satisfy her, she must call him Ishi. And in like manner how sweetly will His chosen ones be encouraged, and allured and comforted by their Kinsman in the second wilderness of the latter day! For a time they may remain unacknowledged. "Doubtless Thou art our Father," will they then say, "though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: Thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer." The remembrance of their Redeemer, their Kinsman, will come into their mind, and they will plead with Him then (see Isa. 63:7 - 64).
In full faith of the blessing, and that Boaz would, as Naomi had expected, tell her what she was to do, Ruth enters on the plan prescribed to her for acquiring Boaz as her husband. In all this Naomi and Ruth were as one — the one by counsel, the other in action, helping forward the common blessing. Thus Ruth now hearkens to the counsel of Naomi, goes down to the threshing-floor and does accordingly. There she seeks a pledge from Boaz. She comes to trust in the shadow of his wing. She would have him spread his skirt over her, doing for her the full services of her near kinsman. She trespasses as far as faith warrants her, but no farther; for Boaz, as they judged, was the nearest kinsman on whom it lay to repair the ruins of Elimelech's house; and thus Ruth is strong in faith, and seeks the blessing confidently, but withal humbly and graciously. And her faith is rewarded; according to it is it done to her. She finds no terrors in this "mighty man of wealth," but all is the law of kindness. For though he cannot acknowledge that he is the first bound to her as under the law of the next kinsman, yet he blesses her in the name of the Lord as his daughter — his adopted one, pledges to her his love, vindicates her, and is her ready debtor in grace to do all that she required. Tenderness and delicacy mark all their intercourse through the night, confidence on her part, and full grace and readiness of love on his; and in the morning he dismisses her with tokens of his affection and care. And laden with these she returns to Naomi, and they rejoice together. Naomi again, in counsel, interprets all the ways of this mighty kinsman, assuring Ruth that he "will not be at rest" until he have perfected his kindness to her.
In all this, we are given clearly to trace the coming ways of God with Israel. Of old He had sought them; He found them in a desert land, He led them about, till He made them to ride on the high places of the earth. This was their time of love. Unsought He then took Israel for His inheritance, and spread His wings over them. "When I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold thy time was the time of love; and I spread My skirt over thee and covered thy nakedness; yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee" (Ezek. 16:8). But in the latter day, the Lord must be sought unto, as Ruth now seeks Boaz, and as He witnesses by His prophets. "I will go and return to My place; till they acknowledge their offence, and seek My face: in their affliction they will seek Me early" (Hosea 5:15). Then shall ye call upon Me, and ye shall go and pray unto Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:12). And again, "I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men like a flock" (Ezek. 36:37). Then Israel, like Ruth and Naomi, shall encourage themselves in the Lord, shall seek the shelter of His wing again, and the covering of His skirt again, and plead with Him for His land and for His people — the remnant shall return unto the mighty God of Jacob. And the confidence and delicacy of her approach, and his ready acknowledgement of her virtuous and worthy name, which we have observed, sets forth something of the way between the Lord and His Jewish remnant in the days when she is waiting for Him, and desiring to be taken into His banqueting house, and have Him perform all the part of a kinsman for her. The book of Canticles, in its full prophetic import, appears to exhibit the same in beautiful mystical characters. Confidence in His love and yet tenderness and humility will surely mark the path of the spirit of His waiting Israel then.
And their hope shall not be disappointed; for according to Naomi's largest expectations, Boaz seems to take no rest until he finishes the matter. On the morning after he had in grace pledged his kinsman vows to Ruth, he begins his services in accomplishing them, and there is none else that will own her, or take her poverty and ruin upon them. She is disclaimed by him who should have been the repairer of her breach, and Boaz alone will stand forth her kinsman and redeemer. Without delay in presence of the appointed witnesses, be takes Ruth in all her degradation for his own, and endows her with his name and wealth. The poor gleaner of his fields is made to share the magnificence of "this mighty man of wealth;" the poor stranger from Moab is made the first of all the mothers in Israel. Rachel and Leah may be forgotten now, for one has come into their stead to build up the house of Israel.
And the figure of Israel, as they shall be, is here beautifully given to us. For it shall be, when the Lord sees that there is no man, when He wonders that there is no intercessor, that then His own arm will bring salvation. Of all the sons that Zion has brought forth, none will guide her or take her by the hand; the nearest kinsman will fail in that day; counsel will have perished from the wise, and understanding from the prudent; in vain will salvation be looked for to the hills and to the multitudes of mountains. "Then will the Lord be jealous for His land, and pity His people: then will He put on zeal as a cloak," and appear for the recompences for the controversy of Zion. As the true Boaz, He will not be in rest till He "has finished the thing" — till He clothe her with garments of salvation, and rejoice over her as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride.
"So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife; and when he went in unto her, the Lord gave her conception, and she bare a son." The blessings, before pronounced upon them by the people that were in the gate, and the elders, are now made theirs by the hand of the Lord Himself. "The Lord make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel: and do thou worthily in Ephratah, and be famous in Bethlehem." And so it came to pass. They called the name of this son, that was born to Boaz and Ruth, Obed, and he was the father of Jesse, and Jesse was the father of David. And in David, the Bethlehemite, was the throne established; and in David's Son shall it be established for ever: worthy deeds shall be done in Ephratah, and famous things shall be spoken of Bethlehem; for out of Bethlehem-Ephratah has the Seed of Ruth, according to the flesh, come forth, Who shall be Ruler of His people Israel. And then shall the house of Israel be built through this most honoured mother. The Lord Who, concerning the flesh, has come of her, shall make His Israel again a crown of glory in His hand, and a royal diadem. The first dominion, even the kingdom, shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem. Zion shall no more be termed Forsaken, nor her land Desolate, but she shall be called Hephzibah, and her land Beulah, for the Lord will delight in her, and her land shall be married.
Then shall she blossom and bud, and fill the face of the earth with fruit; the barren shall sing. She that was "the poor and the stranger," the daughter of Moab, and the widow in Judah, shall forget the shame of her youth, and the reproach of her widowhood, for her Maker will be her husband; and she that was desolate and a captive, and removing to and fro, shall receive her children again within her own borders. The barren shall bear seven. The gleaner shall be the honoured partner of the mighty; for "He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill, that He may set him with princes, even with the princes of His people; He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children" (Ps. 113:7-9).*
* We may observe, that there was but a comparatively short interval between the return of Naomi and the marriage of Ruth. Naomi had been in captivity ten years; but before the harvest, during which she returned into Judea, was well over, Ruth was the wife of this mighty kinsman. So Judah's night has been long as well as dreary; but, comparatively soon after their return (though, like desolate Naomi, in all their present degradation,) the remnant may become the strong nation, and Judah be made a praise in the earth.
In this action we observe that Boaz, treating with the kinsman, seems to bind himself not to redeem the inheritance of Elimelech, except by taking this poor and afflicted stranger to be his wife. In like manner has the Son of man so joined Himself with Israel, that He will not stand up to claim as His own the earth and its fulness, the world and its kingdoms, but as "King in Zion," as "Son of David," as one with that nation whom of old He had separated to Himself as the lot of His inheritance (see Ps. 2:6-8). For it is in Israel that He will glorify Himself (Isa. 44:23); as He says by Isaiah, "This people have I formed for Myself; they shall show forth My praise" (Isa. 43:21). And it is the full and complete duty of their kinsman that He will then graciously acknowledge and perform. He will avenge their blood, He will redeem the inheritance, and build up His brother's house (Lev. 25:25; Num. 35:19; Deut. 25:5); for "Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring again the captivity of Jacob's tents, and have mercy on his dwelling places; and the city shall be builded up on her own heap, and the palace shall remain after the manner thereof; and out of them shall proceed thanksgiving and the voice of them that make merry; and I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will also glorify them and they shall not be small. Their children also shall be as aforetime, and their congregation shall be established before me, and I will punish all that oppress them" (Jer. 30:18-20).
In connection with Ruth, I would here further observe, that the person and action of the Lord Jesus, as the Goel (the Kinsman) of Israel, and the Redeemer of the inheritance, is again strikingly exemplified in the prophet Jeremiah.
Jeremiah was the faithful Jew in his day; he witnessed the sin and foretold, even weeping, the sorrows of his people. And so the Lord in His day stood in the midst of the evil, alone faithful; and as a second weeping Prophet, He told of the coming judgments of the daughter of His people. In Jeremiah we have the Christ, not in the character of the Lamb of God, but in that of the Kinsman, the faithful weeping Prophet of Israel. And it is in this character that we must hear Him saying, "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto My sorrow." For who can estimate the bitterness of the tears of Jesus when He wept over the city saying, "If thou hadst known at least in this thy day the things which belong unto thy peace!
But He, Who sowed in tears then, shall reap in joy hereafter, and gather His sheaves in the land of Israel, even filling His bosom with them. And so we have also this reaping typified to us in the action of the same prophet purchasing, as the nearest kinsman, the field in Anathoth, which belonged to Hanameel his uncle's son.
In this mystical action Jeremiah was under the direct instruction of the word of the Lord (see Jer. 32). At this time he was in prison for the testimony of God against Israel, and the Chaldean enemy was at the gates of the city. But the prophet has nothing to do but to obey the word which the Lord had sent him. He does not stand to question the way of the Lord in this strange procedure, nor does he for a moment pause to take counsel in his own heart about it; but being so commanded of the Lord, he weighs the money, subscribes the evidence, seals it, and takes witnesses that he may purchase the field in Anathoth. In faith that "the end of the Lord" would surely appear to be in all truth and mercy, he takes care to secure the evidences of the purchase according to the law and the customs. He gives them into the hand of the faithful Baruch, that they might be put into a place of safe keeping, there to "continue many days;" and then, when his obedience was thus fulfilled, but not till then, he inquires of the Lord, Why was all this? Why, in the present threatened ruin of Israel, when all there was soon to be the sport and spoil of the invaders, should he have been thus required to bury his money in this devoted land? The Lord, in answer, tells him the purposes of His heart, for His secret is with them that fear Him. He tells him that the land, which now for a season was to be desolate without man or beast, should return into the possession of Israel again; that fields should be bought there for money again, and evidences subscribed, and witnesses taken again in the land of Benjamin, and in the cities of Judah.
And such is the action of Israel's true and faithful Kinsman. He has already paid the price of redemption; He weighed it in the balances, when "He was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death;" and the Lord has been well pleased, and has "crowned Him with glory and honour," and thus sealed his title to the inheritance; and He, the blessed Kinsman, "continues for many days," expecting till He shall see, in "the world to come," "all things put under Him" (see Heb. 2:5-9). Then shall He return into the long lost inheritance, be seated in Adam's forfeited dignity, have dominion over the works of God, and be brought forth as the Heir of all things. The earth and the fulness thereof shall be His then in possession, as it is now in title, and the everlasting doors shall be lifted up to Him (Ps. 2, Ps. 8, Ps. 24, Ps. 110). And then shall the full joy of that song be known, "Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof, for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed [us] to God by Thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, and hast made us [them] unto our God kings and priests, and we [they] shall reign on the earth."
Beloved brethren, what a company and what a joy is this to be! Oh, that you and I may have increase of faith to gain fresh spoils from "this present evil world," and to wait for "the world to come!" The world that now is has rejected the Son of God; but "the world to come" shall own Him. It was "this present evil world" that sold Him for thirty pieces of silver. It was this world that crucified Him. It was "the pride of life," "the deceitfulness of riches," the receiving "honour one of another," the every-day buying and selling, planting and building, eating and drinking of this world, that crucified Him. It was "that which is highly esteemed among men," that did this wrong. And it is all this that still refuses to have Him to reign — that would have Him still to delay His coming. But it is all this upon which His day is to come as a thief. Oh! beloved, love not the world, nor the things that are of the world. "Remember Lot's wife." Be ye like unto men that wait for their Lord; desire the days of the Son of Man; be on the house-top, as those who are looking out for His return; abide in the field as those that are apart from the "stuff in the house" (see Luke 17:31, 32). Die with Jesus; glory in His cross; own as precious the blood of the Son of God (which the world has shed, and is to answer for), by being willing to be rejected with Him. And know that, ere long, He will own your worthless names before the angels of God, and present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. To His name, which alone is the worthy one, be all praise for ever and ever!