One of the provocative questions raised by the Old Testament story of Ruth is how a Moabite could be accepted into the community of Israel.
Moses had said in behalf of God, “An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the LORD forever, “because they did not meet you with bread and water on the road when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you” (Deut 23:3-4). Later, as Nehemiah led in the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem he was furious with the men of Israel for marrying women from Moab (Neh 13:1-3, 23-27).
Ruth, however, not only entered the community of Israel, but through her marriage to Boaz found a place in the ancestral line of King David, and eventually into the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah (Ruth 4:13-22; Matt 1:5-16).
Some try to get around the legal exclusion by suggesting that the law only excluded a Moabite male from the worship meetings of Israel, or even more precisely from a position of leadership in Israel. I haven’t yet seen evidence that the law was meant to be applied that narrowly.
What makes more sense to me is the way that Ruth the Moabite is a wonderful picture of the only way any of us can come into the family of God.
By law, Ruth could not be allowed into the congregation of Israel. But by mercy, and by grace through faith she was welcomed even into the family line of Jesus.
In reality, by law, none of us could be accepted into the family of God. By the standard of moral and spiritual law, none of us qualifies. Yet through God’s mercy and grace– the only requirement being our faith– the most godless among us can be welcomed into the eternal family of God.
Even in Old Testament times those who accepted the God of Israel were told by the prophet Isaiah, “Do not let the son of the foreigner Who has joined himself to the LORD Speak, saying, “The LORD has utterly separated me from His people” (Isa 56:3).
God loves to show mercy rather than judgment to those who humble themselves before him.
When God has our hearts and our trust… he has what he wants… to bring something inexpressibly wonderful out of our brokenness…
Wonder whether this makes sense to you or whether you have any other explanation for how we can honor a woman whose ethnic ancestry and family history should have excluded her from the faith and community of Israel.