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October 3, 2016

I love the book of Ruth. It is a story with rich characters, high drama, loyalty, love, and redemption. A marvelous tenor sang “Whither Thou Goest,” at our wedding. The song, written by Guy Singer in 1954, quotes the words from the Scripture text “Whither thou goest I will go, whither thou lodgest I will lodge. Your people will be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1: 16, KJV).[1]

Dr. Bill Creasy begins his teaching of the book of Ruth by translating the story character and place names from Hebrew to English. For example, Elimelech and his wife, Naomi and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, from Bethlehem in Judah moved to Moab, where Mahlon married Ruth, and died, is roughly translated as follows: God is my King and Mary Sunshine, and their two sons, Sickly and Puny, from the House of Bread and Praise, moved to Moab. Sickly married Audrey Hepburn and died.

Ruth’s vow after Mahlon’s death, to leave her own family, to stay with Naomi, and to travel with her mother-in-law to a foreign land, is a story of amazing love and devotion. Because of her determination to stay with her husband’s family, Ruth meets Boaz, their “Kinsman-Redeemer” in Bethlehem, who falls in love with Ruth, and redeems their family property. Through her marriage to Boaz, Ruth gives birth to a son,Obed, whose descendants are traced through Jesse and David to Jesus, our Redeemer.

A redeemer is one who saves or retrieves another. Boaz was Ruth and Naomi’s Kinsman-Redeemer foreshadowing Jesus, our redeemer. Paul reminds us that Jesus, who set us free, is a descendent of David: “Remember, Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel . . . (2 Timothy 2:8).

As he redeemed the ten lepers from disease and death in this week’s gospel lesson (Luke 17: 11-14) so Jesus redeems us from our diseased lives and death, promising that we will be freed from our ills and live with him forever.

Ruth wasn’t aware of her role in God’s plan for salvation. Like Ruth, we are unaware of how God will fit together the bits and pieces of our lives into his plan, but we know that we are pieces in his puzzle that will fit together perfectly. We are the redeemed who should be forever grateful to the one who made it possible. He assures us “I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for (Jeremiah 29:11 Good News Translation).

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for the Twenty-First Sunday After Pentecost are Psalm 111:10; Ruth 1:1-19a; 2 Timothy 2: 1-13; Luke 17: 11-19.

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