We're making big changes. Please try out the beta site at beta.ccel.org and send us feedback. Thank you!
« Prev Chapter X. Ruth -- Union with Christ. Next »
155

CHAPTER X.

RUTH.

UNION WITH CHRIST.

Keynote: Eph. vi. 22-32.

THE book of Ruth is considered by many students of the typical teaching of Scripture, to be a type of the union of Christ and the Church. It is the story of the marriage of a Gentile bride to an Israelitish bridegroom, a thing forbidden in the Jewish law, and yet here approved of God, and made an especial blessing to those concerned in it. As we have seen in Judges, the Israelites had grievously failed, and had forsaken the God of their fathers to worship Baalim and Ashtaroth. All was confusion and sin in Israel. In the midst of this confusion, where Israel had so failed, a Gentile is brought in and exalted to a place of especial honor. And in all this we seem to see a type of that which Paul declares in Acts xiii. 46. "It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing you put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, 156 lo, we turn to the Gentiles." It is a typical foreshadowing of the truth set forth in Rom. xi. Some of the branches are here "broken off," and the "wild olive" is "graffed in among them and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree." "For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, . . that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in." I believe this picture was meant to be hung up in the great picture gallery of the Old Testament, as a type of the "mystery," which, Paul says, "in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel," Eph. iii. 3-6.

It was, as we have seen, a sin for the Israelites to make any inter-marriages with the Gentile nations round about. And yet here a Moabitish woman is married to one of the chief men among the Jews, and is raised to a place of especial honor; teaching, as I think, in type, the lesson, that "by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have all been made to drink into one Spirit," I Cor. xii. 13.

No doubt this interpretation of the book of Ruth will seem fanciful to some. But to me it is full of very blessed teaching. It expresses to my mind in a beautiful story of domestic life, the oneness of Christ and the 157 Church, the blessed union, of which we are told in Eph. v. 32: "This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the Church." Our Lord has chosen us to be His in a very near and tender sense. He says to us: "As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you," John xv. 9. He loves us with so deep a love that He gave Himself for us; and He is continually seeking to win us to His side. He is the Bridegroom, and He tells us that "as the Bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee."  . . . "For thy Maker is thine Husband: the Lord of Hosts is His name," Is. lxii. 5 and liv. 5.

And I believe all this is intended to set before us a blessed experience of the love of Christ, which is far beyond our ordinary apprehensions, and which would indeed satisfy the hungriest heart; a love which would lift the soul out of the servant's place into the place of the bride, would change drudgery into delight, and cause us to rise, as one has said, "from law to love, from penance to purity, from poverty to power, from fainting to fulness, from sadness to sunlight, from indwelling sin to an indwelling Saviour, from widowhood to wedlock, from sorrowful mourning to a heavenly marriage."

The story in this little book is concerning the time in the history of Israel to which we have been brought in Judges, when all was in confusion, and the Lord seemed to be left almost without a witness, even among His own chosen people.

It opens with a famine, i. 1; natural result of such a 158 state of affairs. In consequence of this famine, an Israelite went to sojourn in the land of the Lord's enemies, doubtless in the hope of bettering his condition for a time, but probably with no thought of living and dying there. But we read in verse second that he "continued there." And it generally happens to any believer who goes among the Lord' s enemies to seek for the food which his own spiritual famine has made to seem a necessity, that, although it may have been his purpose merely to sojourn for a while, he also ends by "continuing there." The result of this long sojourn is that all Mahlon's household die but Naomi, who finds herself left a desolate widow with two widowed daughters. Then in her sorrow she hears "how that the Lord had visited His people in giving them bread." And she sets out to return unto her own land. But she had evidently so little faith in the God of Israel, whom yet she recognized as her God, that she urged her daughters not to go with her, afraid, doubtless, that it would involve them in new troubles and losses. Christians who have had only an experience of spiritual famine, can never be very earnest in urging others to come to dwell in their land, i. 8-15. Orpah yielded to her mother's entreaties, and returned "unto her people, and unto her gods." But Ruth clave unto her mother. I think that Ruth must have seen in this mother-in-law something of goodness or sweetness that had won her heart, and had made her believe that her mother's God must be better worth serving than her own gods. At all 159 events she said to her those beautiful words of loving allegiance, "Entreat me not 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 my God: where thou diest, I will die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me," i. 16, 17.

And when her mother saw that she was "steadfastly minded to go with her, she left off speaking unto her," i. 18. "So they two went until they came to Bethlehem . . . and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest," i. 19-22. What grace was here! Naomi left in a famine, but she returned in the time of harvest. And every backsliding soul that returns to the Lord always finds, as the prodigal did, a feast prepared for him.

But better blessings even than the barley harvest were awaiting these returning wanderers, and blessings it had not entered into their hearts to conceive of. Ruth had not thought of finding a bridegroom and a home of her own in the land of Judah. She had gone there because her heart was desolate and lonely in her own land, and the religion of Naomi had attracted her. But almost at once upon her arrival, she went out to glean, and her "hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz," her "near kinsman," ii. 1-3.

And so the souls, who turn their backs on the world to seek the Lord, even although very ignorant of all the 160 blessings in store for them, find themselves soon gleaning in the field of Christ, who is our near Kinsman, and who, as Boaz did, "takes knowledge" of them, although they are strangers; and causes His servants to "let fall some handfuls of purpose" for them, that they may not go "to glean in another field," but may "abide fast" by His people, ii. 8-13. Ruth had come to trust under the wings of the God of Israel; and no one ever yet trusted in Him and was confounded.

This it seems to me is the first experience of the returning sinner. He leaves, figuratively speaking, his father, and his mother, and the land of his nativity, as Ruth did, and comes unto a people which he has not heretofore known, ii. 11. Then he begins to glean, and gathers in from the Lord's harvest fields spiritual food to supply his daily needs. And for a while the soul is satisfied with this.

But a time comes when a deeper want is felt. "Then Naomi her mother-in-law said unto her, My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee?" iii. 1. This expression, "seeking rest," meant among the Hebrews all that is contained in the sweet tie of married life, a home, and a care-taker, and all the joys of wedded union. And the soul of the believer begins sooner or later to hunger and thirst after this rest in a realized union with Christ, of which the marriage union is so precious a type.

Very often some older Christian first urges the soul to press its claim for this, as Naomi did to Ruth. And 161 where, as in Ruth's case, there is the true spirit of teachableness and submission on the part of the Christian, who has comparatively lately begun his course, towards those who are further advanced, he will learn his privileges far more quickly, than if left to his own crude conceptions and limited knowledge.

In submission to the advice of Naomi, Ruth made her claim, using as her plea, "for thou art a near kinsman," iii. 9. The kinsman's plea was an unanswerable one among the Jews; and our Lord, in assuming the place of a kinsman, meant that we should have all the benefit of this plea. And His answer to us is always, like that of Boaz to Ruth, "And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest," iii. 11.

Even the very boldness of her claim pleased Boaz. "And he said, Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter, for thou hast showed more kindness in the latter end than in the beginning." At first she sought his gifts only, now she sought himself. The gleaner would be the wife. And just so it is with us. The work of Christ is our first knowledge; the person of Christ is our last. At first we are occupied with our needs, and come to the Lord simply to have them sup- plied. But at last we lose sight of the gifts in the Giver, and can be satisfied with nothing short of Himself. Our souls cry out for a personal Saviour. We want not only something to enjoy, and be thankful for, and use; but we want some One to love, and trust and serve. His manifested presence comes to be far more to us than His 162 mercies. and nothing but a realized union with Himself can meet the craving of our heart's hunger. Having Him, we realize that we shall have all things, and without Him nothing is valuable to us. We say, in the language of the hymn--

"Thy gifts, alas I cannot suffice,

Unless Thyself be given;

Thy presence makes my paradise,

And where Thou art 'tis Heaven."

Ruth's claim looked like presumption, but Boaz called it "showing kindness." And our Lord also delights in every claim we make upon Him for this realized oneness with Himself, however bold it may seem to us. It is indeed His own prayer for us, "That they all may be one; as thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me, I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one; I in them and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them as thou hast loved me." I believe indeed, that, far dearer to Him than the greatest activities of service, is the longing of the heart to know this oneness, and the claim of faith that comes boldly to His feet to receive it. "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and having a high priest over the house of God, 163 let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith," Heb. x. 19-22.

"God loves to be longed for, He loves to be sought,

For He sought us Himself with such longing and love;

He died for desire of us, marvellous thought!

And He yearns for us now to be with Him above."

Having made her claim, Ruth then was simply to wait until she should see what Boaz would do, for Naomi said to her, "Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall; for the man will not be in rest until he have finished the thing this day," iii. 18. And to those souls who have been stirred up by the blessed Holy Spirit to see their need of a realized oneness with their Lord, and to make their claim for it, the same command comes to-day, "Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall." For the Lord Himself has declared, "For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth," Isa. lxii. 1. This "sitting still" means faith. When there is anything to be done, none who are interested can sit still, unless they are sure that some one else has undertaken the matter, who is both able and trustworthy, and in whose hands they can feel that it is as safe as in their own. The soul that "sits still," therefore, is the soul that trusts. It has made its request known to the Lord, and it knows that He has taken the matter in hand and will surely "finish it" in His own time and way. And therefore it 164 waits in patient faith, sure that it already has the petition it desired of Him, even before the realization of the fulfilment has come.

I cannot but feel that we need more of this "sitting still" in Christian experience. There is too much restless anxiety about our prayers, too much of a feeling that unless we help in some way, or at least unless we wrestle and agonize over it, the matter cannot be finished satisfactorily at all. I saw an illustration of this not long ago which will explain what I mean. I was visiting a mother in her nursery, where her little boy was playing. We were talking on the subject of prayer, and asking each other the question as to what sort of praying was right -- the trusting kind, or the agonizing kind, when we were interrupted by the child's asking for some biscuit. His mother said "Yes" at once, and went to the closet for them, but found the biscuit can empty. She told the child the state of the case, but said she would send for some, and the child saw the nurse put on her bonnet, and take the money, and start out to make the purchase. A good child, upon this, would have gone to playing again, and would have waited quietly and trustingly until the biscuit came. But this child stood at his mother's elbow, saying over and over, first in a plaintive tone, which however rapidly rose to an agony of entreaty -- "Mother, give me biscuit. I want biscuit. Please let me have some biscuit. Do give me biscuit. I must have biscuit!" Until finally our conversation was drowned in the noise of his wailing, and we could do 165 nothing but sit still in the best patience we could muster. My question about prayer was answered; and never from that time have I dared to agonize over any request I have made of the Lord. I do not mean, however, that we are to forget our prayers, or be indifferent to their results, but simply that, having made our request known, we must then wait in a quiet and patient faith, sure that our Lord will not rest until He has finished the matter we have put into His hands. We are not always prepared ourselves to receive an immediate answer to our prayers. We do not give the best things in our possession to our youngest children, even though they ask, lest they should hurt themselves, or spoil the things. We wait until they grow old enough to take the proper care of them, and to understand their use. A delicate watch would be only a burden to a five year old boy, and would be sure to come to grief. And our Father is too wise in His love, to give us what we are not yet prepared to receive. But when we ask Him, He will first make us ready for the gift, and will then bestow it, when we can receive and use it, without injury to the gift or loss to ourselves, for He "knows how to give good gifts" unto His children."

In the case of Ruth something had to be done, before the request which she had made to Boaz could be fulfilled. And this was typical, I think, of that which must take place in our own case, when our souls come to the Lord, and ask for a more fully realized union with Himself. The claims of a kinsman nearer than Boaz had 166 to be disposed of. "And now it is true that I am thy near kinsman; howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I . . . If he will perform unto thee the part of a kinsman, well: let him do the kinsman's part: but if he will not do the part of a kinsman to thee, then will I do the part of a kinsman to thee," iii. 12, 13.

This nearer kinsman may be taken as a type of the law, which is declared in Rom. vii. 1-4 to be, as it were, our first husband, having dominion over us until we are released from him by death. As we read there, "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God." Legality is the one great hindrance to a realized and conscious soul union with Christ. Just as it is in the earthly marriage relation, any thought of law as controlling the conduct of one to the other, or any service that springs only from a fear of consequences, in so far as it is allowed, destroys the soul union between husband and wife, so it is here. Love must be the motive, or the service is valueless, and the oneness is marred. There must be, as Cook says, "similarity of feeling" between souls that would be one. Each must desire what the other desires, and each must hate what the other hates. And the mutual service must spring, not from "I ought to," but "I want to." The little word ought which is grand in other relationships, is fatal here. For this relationship is of so 167 tender and subtle a nature, that it cannot admit of any bondage but the bondage of love. What wife could endure to have her husband say to her in the morning as he left home for business, "Well, I suppose it is my duty to work for you, and I mean to do it faithfully, but it is a very great cross I can assure you, and I only do it because I must." Would not a support so legally given be rejected with indignation, and would not all hope of any real union between that husband and wife be utterly gone?

But if legality would be fatal in an earthly union, how much more in the heavenly. And therefore, before the soul can be "married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead," it must be fully "delivered from the law," by being "dead to that wherein it was held," in order that it may "serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter." And this is brought about, as was Ruth's deliverance from her nearer kinsman, by purchase. Boaz purchased Ruth from Mahlon to be his wife, iv. 9, 10; and Christ "hath redeemed us from the curse of the law," having "purchased us with His own precious blood" that we may be united to Him in a blessed oneness, far nearer and dearer than any earthly union could be, but which the earthly one most blessedly symbolizes.

At last of Ruth we read, iv. 13, "So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife." And of the Church we read, that, "Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of 168 water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish," Eph. v. 25-27.

In the divine order, the son born of this marriage was one in the line of the ancestors of our Lord. "And Salmon begat Boaz of Rachab; and Boaz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; and Jesse begat David the king," Matt. i. 5. And thus the poor Gentile widow, who had gone to put her trust under the wings of the God of Israel, ii. 12, found rest there, and a bridegroom, and a home, and was exalted to a place of especial honor. Surely before she went, it had not entered into her heart to conceive of the things God had in store for her, any more than it has entered into our hearts. And if we, who like Ruth, are a "wild olive tree," find ourselves grafted in among the branches and with them partaking of the "root and fatness of the olive tree," there is surely no room for boasting on our part, except as our souls shall "make their boast in the Lord," and shall say with Ruth, "Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldst take knowledge of me, seeing that I am a stranger?"

The practical lesson to be drawn from this little book would seem to be this, that, should there be in the experience of any the sad failure typified in Judges, the remedy for it is to be found, not in going back into the wilderness, nor, much less, in going back into Egypt, but in coming into a nearer and deeper union with Christ, 169 such a union as is set before us in the words of our Lord in John xvii. 22, 23: "And the glory which Thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one even as we are one: I in them and Thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one: and that the world may know that Thou hast sent me, and hast loved them as Thou hast loved me."

The promise is ours. Let us boldly make our claim, and then "sit still" until we know "how the matter will fall;" for we may rest assured our Lord will not be in rest, until He has perfected that which concerns us. He has made our souls capable of a marvelous oneness with Himself, and has removed every barrier. But He will not force it upon us. A compelled marriage can never be other than a wretched one; and the glory of our destiny is, that, on our part, it is to be a voluntary and glad surrender to a love that woos and wins our hearts by its sweet constraint. We love Him because He first loved us, and we can come to Him with unshrinking faith to claim that which He Himself has already told us is His own purpose and prayer. "That they may be one" -- it is all shut up in this. One with the Father as the Son is one! Similarity of thought, of feeling, of desire, of loves, of hates. We may have it all, dear Christian, if we are but willing. We may walk through this world, so united to Christ, that our cares and our interests, our sorrows and our joys, our purposes and our wishes will be the same. One will alone to govern us, one mind to control us. He in us and we in Him; until so intermingled 170 and conjoined will be our lives, that we can say at last in very truth, always and everywhere, "Not I, but Christ." For self will vanish in such a union as this, and this great "I" of ours, which so fills up the present horizon, will wilt down into nothing before the glory of His overcoming presence.

Seek after this oneness then, with all thy heart, dear reader. Thy Lord intends it for thee, and will grant it, as soon as He has prepared thy soul to enter into it. Let nothing discourage thee. Though He tarry, wait for Him, for He will surely come and will not tarry; and if thou wilt but persevere, the blessed day must and will come, sooner or later, when thy soul shall be satisfied with the fullness of His love, and thou shalt abide continually in His conscious presence. He will come and take up His abode with thee, and, like Ruth, thou shalt "find rest" at last in the hear of thy Heavenly Bridegroom.


Texts illustrating union with Christ: --  John xvii. 21- 23.  Rom. xii. 51 Cor. xii. 12, 13Gal. ii. 20Eph. v. 23-332 Cor. xi. 2Is. lxii. 5Hosea ii. 16-20.  ls. lxi. 10.  Rev. xxi. 2, 9Is. liv. 5.  1 Cor. vi: 17; x. 17.  Eph. i. 10Rev. xix. 7, 8John xv. 4, 5Matt. ix. 15John iii. 28, 29Matt. xxv. 1-13.

« Prev Chapter X. Ruth -- Union with Christ. Next »



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |