By Jasmine Timm
I took a math class in college that left me feeling more confused than I have ever been. It was titled, “Fundamentals of Elementary Math.” I thought, “How hard could elementary math be?” so I went ahead and signed up. I was very wrong. We spent the first two weeks adding and subtracting the Babylonian numeral system. If you’ve never seen the Babylonian numeral system, it’s comprised of drawings — think caveman petroglyphs, people building fires, pictures of snakes, triangles, rocks, and sticks. I still to this day do not understand why I was asked to calculate the sum of a rock and a triangle, as our teacher never explained it to us. The Babylonian numeral system means very little to me because I do not understand it.
We run into a similar dilemma in the closing lines of the book of Ruth. The wonderful love story of Ruth and Boaz comes to a close, and we’re left with a genealogy of their ancestors and descendants:
“Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David” (4:18-22).
These names may mean very little to our Western minds upon first read, but they are perhaps the most hopeful verses of the entire book of Ruth. These verses provide the key to the book: God is faithfully at work among His people, and He is preserving a faithful remnant to deliver His people from their sin.
This genealogy contains names that are part of the royal line, the line through which Jesus the Messiah would come. And their stories provide for us powerful evidence of God’s faithful activity among His people.
We have Perez, the son of Judah and Tamar. Tamar was Judah’s widowed daughter-in-law, who due to Judah’s failure to provide a kinsman redeemer for her, dresses up as a prostitute and sleeps with her father-in-law to continue the family line. This is how Perez, the first son of the royal line, is born. A messy family line displays God’s redemptive power and faithful activity among His people.
We have Salmon, Boaz’ father, who married Rahab, a foreign prostitute from an enemy nation. Rahab personally comes into contact with the faithful Yahweh when she repeatedly comes into contact with Israelite men, and over time she learns of the faithful God whom the Israelites serve. This faithful God redeems her from her pagan background and draws her to Himself, and she becomes not only a woman of great faith but an honored ancestor in Jesus’ line, giving birth to Boaz. A messy family line displays God’s redemptive power and faithful activity among His people.
And we have Ruth, a Moabite widow from an enemy nation. Her people group was born out of the incestuous relationship between drunken Lot and his daughters, and her nation becomes one that the Israelites are commanded never to associate with. Yet God redeems a seemingly hopeless Moabite woman, draws her to Himself, and she becomes an esteemed ancestor of Jesus. A messy family line displays God’s redemptive power and faithful activity among His people.
And then there’s us, people who come from messy family lines, who struggle with sin, who have been unfaithful to our Creator, who are tempted to abandon all hope. Yet God shows Himself faithful in redeeming us, drawing us to Himself, restoring us for His purposes. Because He has proven Himself faithful, both in the Israelite’s history and in ours, we have confidence that He is working in the situations where He seems silent. Like Ruth and Boaz, we don’t know what the future holds. Like Rahab, the Canaanite prostitute, we don’t know what will happen to us or our families. Like Tamar, we don’t know whether we will be left destitute forever. But we do know this: God is always active and always faithful, never turning His back on us. He has been faithful, and He will be faithful again.
The author of the book of Ruth is trying to show us something crucial: God is faithfully working among His people, even when we cannot see exactly how He is working.
If we were to read the book before this — the book of the Judges — we would learn the hopeless state of Israel. Everyone did what was right in their own eyes. No one obeyed God. No one wanted God. There was no king in Israel. The book of the Judges leaves us wondering whether God had abandoned Israel for good due to their persistent rejection of Him.
And then comes Ruth and Boaz, a family line that restores our hope. God is working. He has been working this whole time. We see His faithful activity through this messy family line we read of in the genealogy. Despite how corrupt the Israelites have become, despite how often they have rejected Him, despite their unfaithfulness, God remains faithful.
The spiritual state of Israel in Judges was as bad, if not worse, than Sodom and Gomorrah (pagan nations that were not part of God’s people), and yet God displays immense grace in not obliterating them. He could have rightly wiped them all out, but He didn’t. He preserves a faithful remnant, like Ruth and Boaz, because He is faithful.
The book of Ruth is showing us that we need this faithful King as our King. We are utterly hopeless without Him. He is the only one who will keep us faithful. Even as we dip our toes in the waters of temptation, He holds us securely and draws us back. The sight of His steadfast love and patience and faithfulness should compel us back to Him as we willingly submit to Him as King. No one else is worthy of devotion and obedience.
We need a King, and our faithful God provided one for us in Jesus, the wonderful, long-awaited Messiah, who came forth through this messy family line. He came from the line of Judah, of Tamar, of Perez, of Rahab, of Boaz, of Ruth, of David. He came through messy people. Our King came for us, and we need Him. May we see our need daily and cry out to Him, “I need thee every hour, most gracious king. Come quickly and abide, or life’s in vain.”
Our King has come, and He is working among us, actively redeeming us in every season. May we look to Him and understand that He is faithful and that He will continue to be faithful.