on darkness and light and grace

Today I happened to read the last two chapters of Judges and the book of Ruth. The whole period of Judges is a dark period in the history of Israel, the last few chapters of Judges being darkest of all. The book closes with this disheartening sentence:

Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Thank the Lord for the next page! The book of Ruth is such a delight! It ends with this line:

NAU Ruth 4:22 and to Obed was born Jesse, and to Jesse, David.

Meditate on the differences between the two verses. One is the sour language of man ‘under the sun’ [see Ecclesiastes]. The other is the hopeful look forward, to the light. One emphasizes man’s desperate and failing attempts to please himself apart from God (in God’s kingdom, no less). The other emphasizes God’s plan, quietly, mysteriously, deliberately unfolding according to God’s sovereign will.

Now concerning the book of Ruth, I am struck again by the simple beauty of this little book. There are so many preaching points in the book that I never tire of reading it or going back to it. Two things struck me as I think about it this time.

1) The redeemer of Naomi. Have you ever noticed this before? The term ‘kinsmen-redeemer’ is very familiar in connection with the book. Who do you usually think of as the ‘redeemer’ in Ruth? Boaz, right? Look at Ruth 4:

NAU Ruth 4:14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed is the LORD who has not left you without a redeemer today, and may his name become famous in Israel. 15 “May he also be to you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” 16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her lap, and became his nurse. 17 The neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi!” So they named him Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.

I suppose this struck me forcefully because I was reading the NAU today. The KJV translates this ‘kinsman’, but the word is indeed the word ga’al, i.e., the kinsman redeemer. Who is that for Naomi? Obed. He is the real redeemer of the lost fortunes of Naomi, for he stands in the place of her dead husband and sons, a seed for her raised up by Boaz and Ruth. I think this is truly remarkable, and of course the whole subject of the kinsmen-redeemer is worthy of a good deal of study.

2) The seed of the woman. It strikes me again, forcefully, how much this theme is played up again and again in the Scripture, and especially in the lineage of the Messiah. Of course there is Eve, our first mother, and the one whose deception led to the fall. But she is promised a seed. Now here is Ruth, of whom is Obed. And there is also another, Boaz, who is the son of Rahab (see Mt 1). Other notable women in the line are Tamar, of whom was Perez, and Bathsheba, of whom was Solomon. Interestingly of these, each one is ‘defective’ in some way. Eve, deceived; Ruth, a Moabitess; Rahab, a Canaanite harlot; Tamar, well… crude but effective, the concubine of Judah; and of course we know the sins of Bathsheba.

When you consider this aspect of what God was doing in preparing the seed of the woman, we have to bow in shame and humility before God and say again, “Grace, greater than all my sin!”

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3