August 3, 2018 Matthew

The “The Gospel of Ruth” as a Revelation of Today’s Church

There are lots of Christian books written by Christian women about empowering women in the Church using various examples of women in the Bible. One of those books is called “The Gospel of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the Rules” by Carolyn Custis James. In a recent review of the book Aimee Byrd wrote about Ruth and Boaz in a way that I think should cause all of us to stop and think. Commentators and theologians have long known how the story of Ruth and Boaz typifies allegorically Christ and the Church. I recommend Mitchell Chase’s scholarly article A True and Greater Boaz: Typology and Jesus in the Book of Ruth. It was also interpreted as such by Origen in the 3rd century AD. And it is foolish and stupid to teach that the Word is only history for Peter says it is prophetic: “And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place” (2 Peter 1:19).

Aimee recognizes the story as a “powerful Gospel scene”. But The Gospel of Ruth is not about Christ and the Church. Instead the Gospel of Ruth is about women:

There is a beautiful picture of this with Ruth, a vulnerable Moabite woman, on Day One of her using “the ancient welfare system” as a gleaner on a wealthy Israelite’s field. She challenges the letter of the law put in place to help widows like her and Naomi by making the bold request to glean in a more productive area among the harvesters (Ruth 2:7). Her brave request shows her hesed love for Naomi and presses Boaz to a “higher level of obedience…and understanding of God’s law. The letter of the law says, ‘Let them glean.’ The spirit of the law says, ‘Feed them.” Two entirely different concepts. Ruth’s bold proposal exposes the difference” (TGR, 102).

How does Boaz respond? He isn’t threatened by Ruth. And he doesn’t ignore her. “This powerhouse of a man, this native-born Israelite who grew up on Mosaic law, listens to this newcomer’s request, learns from her, and throws his power behind her effort” (FGITM, 58). Ruth’s initiative and strength spur Boaz to be a better man, and he too shows God’s hesed. At mealtime that day, he does something amazing. James calls it the plus factor. “He invites Ruth to join his table and share a meal with his workers. When she does, Boaz serves her himself, heaping more roasted grain for her than she can possibly eat” (TGR, 104). He treats her as one of the best employees rather than a gleaner on welfare. In this “powerful gospel scene,” we see the opposite of the prayer of the Rabbi Eliezer:

A gleaner seated alongside paid workers, a Moabitess “dining” with Israelites, a man serving a woman, the poor included among the rich, an outsider embraced by the inner circle. Looks like the kind of feasting Jesus would have enjoyed, a prefiguring of the kind of world his gospel restores, where “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galations 3:28). [the Church] was on the losing end of all three categories, but Boaz refuses to maintain those boundaries. Ruth embraced God’s people sight unseen on the road from Moab. Now they are embracing her. (TGR, 104-105)

While we don’t share the extreme reductive views of women as the patriarchs in Ruth’s day, or the rabbi contemporaries of Jesus, this book of the Bible gives us a picture of manhood and womanhood that is radically different than we see in much of contemporary evangelical teaching. “Ruth herself becomes a powerful catalyst for change. God gave us Ruth…to remind us that courage, boldness, and godly leadership are important feminine attributes when it comes to living for God” (TGR, 105). Boaz recognizes this and grows in response. In this scene, we see the plus factor at work. He serves her a meal, and instructs his workers not only to permit her to glean with the harvesters, but to leave extra stalks for Ruth to pick up. He commands them not to touch, rebuke, or embarrass Ruth (2:9, 15-16). James points out that Boaz’s response is not only to permit, but also to promote. And he makes sure that his workers do the same. Hesed. “The story puts on display a brand of masculinity that is desperately needed in a world awash in changes today that strike at the core of masculine identity and leave so many men adrift without a sense of meaning and purpose…the book of Ruth puts on display a radical, not-of-this-world brand of masculinity that foreshadows the masculinity Jesus embodied” (FGITM, 84).

Source: MOS – Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals

Let’s read the quote a second time, but this time we will replace Boaz and Ruth with Christ and the Church whom they foreshadow:

There is a beautiful picture of this with [the Church], a vulnerable Moabite woman, on Day One of her using “the ancient welfare system” as a gleaner on a wealthy Israelite’s field. She challenges the letter of the law put in place to help widows like her and Naomi by making the bold request to glean in a more productive area among the harvesters (Ruth 2:7). Her brave request shows her hesed love for Naomi and presses [Christ] to a “higher level of obedience…and understanding of God’s law. The letter of the law says, ‘Let them glean.’ The spirit of the law says, ‘Feed them.” Two entirely different concepts. Ruth’s bold proposal exposes the difference” (TGR, 102).

How does [Christ] respond? He isn’t threatened by [the Church]. And he doesn’t ignore her. “This powerhouse of a man, this native-born Israelite who grew up on Mosaic law, listens to this newcomer’s request, learns from her, and throws his power behind her effort” (FGITM, 58). [the Church’s] initiative and strength spur [Christ] to be a better man, and he too shows God’s hesed. At mealtime that day, he does something amazing. James calls it the plus factor. “He invites [the Church] to join his table and share a meal with his workers. When she does, [Christ] serves her himself, heaping more roasted grain for her than she can possibly eat” (TGR, 104). He treats her as one of the best employees rather than a gleaner on welfare. In this “powerful gospel scene,” we see the opposite of the prayer of the Rabbi Eliezer:

A gleaner seated alongside paid workers, a Moabitess “dining” with Israelites, a man serving a woman, the poor included among the rich, an outsider embraced by the inner circle. Looks like the kind of feasting Jesus would have enjoyed, a prefiguring of the kind of world his gospel restores, where “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). [the Church] was on the losing end of all three categories, but [Christ] refuses to maintain those boundaries. [the Church] embraced God’s people sight unseen on the road from Moab. Now they are embracing her. (TGR, 104-105)

While we don’t share the extreme reductive views of women as the patriarchs in Ruth’s day, or the rabbi contemporaries of Jesus, this book of the Bible gives us a picture of manhood and womanhood that is radically different than we see in much of contemporary evangelical teaching. “[the Church] herself becomes a powerful catalyst for change. God gave us [the Church]…to remind us that courage, boldness, and godly leadership are important feminine attributes when it comes to living for God” (TGR, 105). [Christ] recognizes this and grows in response. In this scene, we see the plus factor at work. He serves her a meal, and instructs his workers not only to permit her to glean with the harvesters, but to leave extra stalks for [the Church] to pick up. He commands them not to touch, rebuke, or embarrass [the Church] (2:9, 15-16). James points out that [Christ’s] response is not only to permit, but also to promote. And he makes sure that his workers do the same. Hesed. “The story puts on display a brand of masculinity that is desperately needed in a world awash in changes today that strike at the core of masculine identity and leave so many men adrift without a sense of meaning and purpose…the book of Ruth puts on display a radical, not-of-this-world brand of masculinity that foreshadows the masculinity Jesus embodied” (FGITM, 84).

This “powerful Gospel scene” effectively reverses the roles of Christ and the Church. What else can that teach but that the Church is the head and Christ is the responder and follower? Is Christ promoting the Church? Is that what the Gospel is about? How many women (and men) think and act like Christ follows them and promotes them? I found this to be a perfect example image of Church today. She is so bold, so arrogant, so haughty, and so unfaithful. She is as sick as her whorish mother Jerusalem in Lamentations 1. It will be on account of this that she will soon be broken to pieces and laid waste. If there is one thing the Old Testament taught us it’s that God is more disgusted with his own people’s arrogance and adultery than he is with that of the nations.

Aimee goes on to boldly claim that there is a “desperate” need for a masculinity that responds to and follows women and that this is why “so many men” are “adrift without a sense of meaning and purpose.” In her version of the New Testament it would say “the head of every man is the woman” (1 Cor. 11:3). Do you see how far apart the chasm has become in the Church? These women are not fighting for rights to vote, or equal opportunity. Those days are over. It is now a fight to put men in their new place and women in their new place. There is no room for games with teachings like this. This is pure beguilment and evil at work and it is grounds for severe punishment from God. We, the Church, are not exempt from being afflicted and punished by God. This is another very foolish and evil thing to teach. God hands over the world to its sins, but he punishes and disciplines those who belong to him. In watching how far and how fast the Church is driving itself into its arrogant whoring, I only see God’s hand in the distance growing bigger, and bigger, and bigger. God’s mighty hand of discipline is about to smash us big time.

“If you endure discipline, God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” (Heb. 12:7)

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