As we continue our look at the redeeming hand of Christ in the lives of Old Testament women, we cannot help but pull over and park in the life of Boaz. While I have taught the story of Ruth many times, God has recently revealed to me the beauty of His sovereignty as He prepared Boaz to be her Kinsman Redeemer. As we looked at the salvation and inclusion of Rahab into the Israelite people, we learn in Matthew 1 that she gives birth to Boaz, by Salmon. No mention is given to Boaz's upbringing or Rahab's life within the Israelite nation. The next time we see Boaz, he is introduced as a 'worthy man'.(Ruth 2:1)
Remember the story of Ruth. She was a Moabite woman who married into an Israelite family who had traveled to Moab during the famine in the Judges period. Tragedy befalls this family and the father and two sons all die, leaving three widows, helpless and alone. In this time and culture, these women had few options. They could each return to their families of origin, or take their chances on surviving long enough to find a Kinsmen Redeemer to marry one of them and provide for their needs. As Ruth is presented with these bleak options, notice her own profession in her response:
"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 I will be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.'" - Ruth 1:16-17. While her devotion to her mother-in-law is moving, do not miss the fact that her pledge is to the Lord. She makes the declaration here that the God of Israel is her God and she asks Him to seal her purpose and commitment to His people. Just like Rahab, we see Ruth declare the Lord as her own and give us a glimpse of what being adopted into God's family looks like.
Ruth and Boaz hear of each other by reputation first, before they meet. Ruth knows that Boaz is a 'worthy man' and that he is a potential Redeemer for her family. She humbly begins to work in his field, in hopes that she will gain his favor and find security for herself and her mother-in-law. Boaz enters, and immediately inquires of this new woman in his field. When he is told who she is and what she has done, he immediately has strong compassion toward her. Look at their encounter:
"...Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me since I am a foreigner? But Boaz answered her, 'All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!'" (Ruth 2:10-12)
Pause and admire the sovereignty of God in this moment. You have a man who was raised by a foreign prostitute in a deeply traditional culture, now reaching out his hand of mercy to a widowed Moabite with nowhere else to turn. Boaz had no doubt seen both the ugly and beautiful side of God's people. There are always those who judge and even condemn those whom God restores and he may have seen some of that directed toward his mother growing up. He would have felt sympathy toward Ruth for this reason. However, he clearly had also seen the incredible and matchless love of God's people when they extend His grace toward the outcast and downtrodden. His mother had been brought in fully, and had experienced the power of God in her own life. He lived in that shadow of grace and flourished as a man of God in the Israelite nation. When he meets Ruth, he has the opportunity to share the grace that he and His mother received. Every detail of his life, prepared him for this moment, to be the Kinsmen Redeemer in God's story who rescues Ruth and fathers Obed, father of Jesse, father of King David. God always has a plan, and it makes all things beautiful!
There are many circumstances in life that we do not understand. Often we feel that God has forgotten or does not care about our pain, our confusion, or our need. It is in these times, that through His sovereign plan, He uses His children to be His hands of grace. Trust God in your struggles, look for ways to lean on His grace, and at all costs, seek opportunity to pour that grace out on those God places in your path!
I was recently challenged to look for the redemption thread found throughout Scripture while studying the Old Testament. It is through this lens that I have been reminded of the gravity of the many elements in the Old Testament that foreshadow the coming of Christ. While the prophesies of Christ are foundational to the Christian view of our Savior, we often miss the real nature of the elements themselves. The shadows of Christ in the Old Testament are evident because He was present. Consider the nature of a shadow. It is only produced when the natural circumstances of life are interrupted by a physical presence. A shadow cannot exist apart from the reality of its source! In John 1:1-2 we are reminded that Christ was always physically present within the Trinity, even at creation. In this passage, He is referred to as 'the Word', reminding us that Jesus Christ has always been the character of God spoken out in a voice that mankind can comprehend.
In an effort to increase Bible literacy and reclaim some enthusiasm in my Sunday morning girls' Bible study, we have spent the past several months studying women of the Old Testament. While these stories did begin to resonate with the girls, it did not have full effect until we began to see the presence of Christ in these encounters. The next several posts on this site will provide an overview of these character studies as they reveal the redeeming nature of our God through His providence and grace.
GRACE FOR A PROSTITUTE: RAHAB
The Israelite people had seen the hand of God in ways that we only have the privilege of reading. He dwelt among them and appeared to their leader Moses in various forms. At Moses' death, they saw the torch pass to God's man yet again as Joshua seamlessly takes command. Despite the knowledge of God's promises and the evidence of His power, these lands were filled with fear. Again and again, the Israelites and their leaders remind one another to 'be strong and courageous'. After all, this was a time of war and frequent death. Upon this scene we see the entrance of a seemingly insignificant woman - Rahab. Almost instantly, however, we see that she is anything but ordinary. In a time of life or death choices, she defies her king with deception in order to protect the Israelite spies that she hid on her roof. Where would a Gentile woman of such lowly stature summon the audacity to take such a risk? No one says it quite like she did:
"I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us...as soon as we heard it (the parting of the Red Sea, and previous victories), our hearts melted and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in the heavens above and on the earth below."
There you have it - Rahab's profession of faith. While she had not yet experienced Christ in the flesh, she trusted God's current revelation in His wonders and through His prophets. She professes against all odds, your God is the one true God! The beauty of this profession is that it is immediately met with a symbol of the atoning blood of Christ. The spies tell her to place a scarlet chord in her window, marking her house as the Lord's. In this moment, she identifies with the death of Christ just as the Israelites did at the first Passover, just prior to the Exodus. (2:18) But the truth of the Gospel is not just about being spared death. It is about being adopted into God's family as His own. This story would not sing of the gospel so clearly if it stopped here. After the city has fallen, and Rahab's household is spared under the protective mark of the scarlet cord, she and her family are taken in by the Israelites. As if to remind us of the unwarranted nature of the gospel, we see that 'Rahab the prostitute and her father's household...Joshua saved alive. And she has lived in Israel to this day'... (6:25).
This is the presence of Christ and His effect on humanity. His blood has always been the answer, even before it was shed, man has known - deep in his soul. As we follow Rahab's story to its end, we are reminded that salvation is never for us alone. We are each a part of a greater story, the story of God redeeming His creation to Himself through the ultimate sacrifice of His Son. As Rahab entered the Israelite family, she marries a man named Salmon and gave birth the one and only Boaz. Yes, the proverbial knight in shining armor who rescues Ruth and becomes the great-grandfather of King David, establishing the line of Christ Himself! More on this in the next post on the life of Ruth. Suffice it to say, Jesus Christ was, and is, and is to come!