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Dr Hollisa Alewine – Footsteps of Messiah 115 (A Wedding of Words Pt 1)

Dr Hollisa Alewine – Footsteps of Messiah 115 (A Wedding of Words Pt 1)

A Wedding of Words
Ruth’s One-Way Flight

Each year, it is traditional to read the scroll of Ruth at Shavuot. We might say the three scrolls of Ruth, Esther, and Song of Songs are the Bridal Scrolls of return from exile.

There are many wonderful ideas about why Ruth commemmorates the giving of the Torah in addition to the story’s setting, the time between the first fruits of the barley harvest at Pesach and the wheat harvest at Shavuot.

Sometimes the simplest answer is the most memorable. What happened to Israel in leaving Egypt at Pesach is what happened to Ruth in leaving Moab and arriving at the House of Bread (Beit Lechem) at Pesach. The Israelites left Egypt as strangers there before she became a Bride, and Ruth left Moab to become a stranger in Judah before she became part of the Bride.

The clue is in the wings that carried the Israelites and Ruth to their destinations, the wildernes and the Promised Land. In Hebrew, “wing” is kanaf  (??????). And why were they carried their places? To engage in a covenant of the Ten Words:

“You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings (??????), and brought you to Myself.” (Ex 19:4)
“May the LORD reward your work, and your wages be full from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings (??????) you have come to seek refuge.” (Ruth 2:12)
He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth your maid. So spread your covering (??????) over your maid, for you are a close relative.” (Ruth 3:9)

Were Israel and Ruth flown to a place of refuge, or were they moved to holier places in their journeys?

Yes.

“Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment (??????) of a Jew, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”’” (Zec 8:23)

The setting of Ruth’s story is Beit Lechem, the House of Bread, where Judah was recovering from the famine. The wilderness also was a place of miraculous, Heavenly Bread and Living Water. A place of covering, anointing, preparation, and clean clothes for a nation of priests. The wilderness was where the Bride was purified with the Torah as she walked as she walked after her Bridegroom, picking up what He dropped for her each morning.

Let’s see if there are wilderness template parallels in the story of Ruth:

The Ten Words to the Bride
at Shavuot, Mount Sinai,
Via Moshe, Friend of the Bridegroom
become Ten Witnesses to the Bride’s purity and offspring.

Think of the Ten Words (Commandments) as Ten Witnesses, the observable grace of the Bride in preparing for her Bridegroom according to their everlasting agreement. Ruth’s character exhibited this grace in the Word, witnessed by ten elders of Beit Lechem:

…for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence. (3:11) He took ten men of the elders of the city and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down. (Ru 4:2)
Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses today…(v. 9)
All the people who were in the court, and the elders, said, “We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, both of whom built the house of Israel; and may you achieve wealth in Ephrathah and become famous in Bethlehem. Moreover, may your house be like the house of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah, through the offspring which the LORD will give you by this young woman.” (v. 11-12)

Numerous times in Deuteronomy Moses called heaven and earth as well as the Israelites to be witnesses “today” of the importance of obeying the Words of the covenant. Ruth’s obedience to the Ten Words had risen to such heights that she broke the “Moabite barrier,” a passage in the Torah forbidding marriage to a Moabite, for they were stingy and inhospitable to their kin, Israel, as they passed in the wilderness.

Ruth, however, was the exact opposite: hospitable, obedient, humble, and loyal to her words of fialty to Naomi, Judah, Israel, and the Elohim of Israel. Because of this repentance, a new understanding of the commandment against Moabites was found, just as Moses found a new understanding of the laws of inheritance through the five daughters of Tzelofechad. Now the judges realized that the prohibition was against marrying male Moabites, for the wording, when examined closely, suggested the injunction was against the males, not females [who had put away idols].

If what happened to Israel in the wilderness at Mount Sinai happened to Ruth, then we should be able to find the Ten Words at work in the Megillat Ruth. We’ll start this week with the first four commandments of the Ten Words, then continue next week, b’azrat HaShem.

First Commandment (Ex 20:2)

I am the Lord Your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

Second Commandment (Ex 20:3-6)

You shall have no other gods beside Me. You shall not make for yourself any graven image, nor any manner of likeness, of any thing that is heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

Then she said, “Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.” (Ru 1:15-17)

While Orphah returned to the house of her people’s idols, Ruth firmly declares she is entering the “lodge” of Naomi to become one of her people worshiping their Elohim…’til death do they part.

You shall have no other gods beside Me.

Part of acknowledging only one Elohim is to eat only His food, only His Word, His manna. A phrase sometimes appears in Scripture: “which your fathers did not know,” indicating a new thing, sometimes good, sometimes bad, such as Daniel 11:38 describing strange gods previously unknown.

“He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.” (Dt 8:3)

In Beit Lechem, the House of Bread, Naomi continues to mentor Ruth in the precepts of the Torah which her fathers did not know because they served other gods. As Ruth sustains Naomi with physical bread, Naomi teaches her the manna-bread she will need to remain “long” in the Land. Boaz, too, instructs Ruth on how to remain safe gathering the Bread of the Word and where to drink safe water in his field. He acknowledges her allegiance has changed from the gods of her father’s house to embrace a people and Elohim she did not previously know:

Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Listen carefully, my daughter. Do not go to glean in another field; furthermore, do not go on from this one, but stay here with my maids. Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Indeed, I have commanded the servants not to touch you. When you are thirsty, go to the water jars and drink from what the servants draw.” Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your sight that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” Boaz replied to her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know. (Ru 2:8-11)

Third Commandment (Ex 20:7)

You shall not take the name of the Lord Your God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes His name in vain.

When an Israelite takes an oath in the Name of YHVH, it should be performed and true in every way. Ruth swears to remain loyal to Naomi and the Elohim of Israel until death, and Boaz swears to take Ruth as his wife:

“Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.” (Ru 1:17)
Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses today that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon. Moreover, I have acquired Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, to be my wife in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance, so that the name of the deceased will not be cut off from his brothers or from the court of his birth place; you are witnesses today.” All the people who were in the court, and the elders, said, “We are witnesses. (Ru 4:9-11)

Fourth Commandment

Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath unto the Lord Your God, in it you shall not do any manner of work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your man-servant, nor your maid-servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger that is within your gates; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested on the seventh day. Wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and made it holy.

In trying to send Orpah and Ruth back to Moab, Naomi uses the term “rest” to describe what they will find with their husbands. In the case of Ruth, the words turn out to be prophecy of Ruth’s shabbat rest under Boaz’ wing, in his house as well as in the House of Adonai:

And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the LORD deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me. May the LORD grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” (Ru 1: 8-9)

The commandment requires even the stranger within the gates of Israel to rest on Shabbat as well. Boaz treats her well even though she is a stranger, teaching later generations that an obedient stranger at the gate is a stranger on the way in to clinging to the Covenant of Ten Words, not on the way out. She should be treated well since the sign of her faithfulness to the Elohim of Israel will also be the Shabbat like the native-born:

Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your sight that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” (2:10)

The next “rest” passage alludes to a Shabbat Shabbaton, or High Sabbath of the feasts via its number and grain symbolism:

So she held it, and he measured six measures of barley and laid it on her. Then she went into the city. When she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “How did it go, my daughter?” And she told her all that the man had done for her. She said, “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said, ‘Do not go to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’” Then she said, “Wait, my daughter, until you know how the matter turns out; for the man will not rest until he has settled it today.” (Ru 3:15-18)

Six can represent the six days of work. Boaz sends the six measures to Naomi, knowing she’ll understand his intent to bring rest to Ruth. Naomi in turn assures Ruth that “the man will not rest until he has settled it today.” Boaz is taking the sixth day as a “preparation day” to settle the matter in court so that they can rest on the seventh in unity.

Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy.

I am the Lord Your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

The First Fruits of the barley is a reminder that Israel was brought out of the house of bondage. For Ruth, too, Boaz measures six measures of barley to signal that she has left Moab and the house of bondage to idols, and her journey to “Sinai” has occurred at the same season at the Israelites’ journey:

First fruits of Barley: “You shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread; for seven days you are to eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the appointed time in the month Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. And none shall appear before Me empty-handed. (Ex 23:15)
So she held it, and he measured six measures of barley and laid it on her. Then she went into the city. When she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “How did it go, my daughter?” And she told her all that the man had done for her. She said, “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said, ‘Do not go to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’” Then she said, “Wait, my daughter, until you know how the matter turns out; for the man will not rest until he has settled it today.” (Ru 3:15-18)

In the two passages above, the term “do not go empty-handed” appears in reference to the barley feast. Something interesting is happening here!

Naomi is like Moses and the priesthood, friends of the Bridegroom, “matchmaking.” Moses led the people to the mountain to meet the Bridegroom at Sinai, and the priesthood drew the Israelites close to the Presence of the Bridegroom through the Temple services…a Temple that Ruth’s offspring would fund, plan, and build!

Using a female in the role of matchmaker or friend of the Bridegroom is another symbolic layer: righteous women in Scripture often represent the work of the Ruach HaKodesh working in the lives of men and Israel, such as Rachel and Leah “building” the house of Israel. Both advised Jacob to return to the Promised Land and to leave the exile of living with idol-worshipping Laban.

Boaz’ reasoning that Ruth should not return to Naomi empty-handed is also a subtle reference to the way he perceives Ruth’s status has changed. She is now a Hebrew, not a Moabite as his servant erroneously told him. This precept applies uniquely to a Hebrew servant set free from bondage, not a foreigner:

“When you set him free, you shall not send him away empty-handed. (Dt 15:13)

And this refers to an offering brought by males to the Temple:

“Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread and at the Feast of Weeks and at the Feast of Booths, and they shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed. (Dt 16:16)

Ruth is being inducted into the Covenant People Israel, welcomed under the wing of Boaz just as Israel was taken to the wilderness on eagles’ wings. Like Israel, she was saved from the house of bondage. Acting on that salvation, she begins learning the Torah, doing works of kindness, obeying the Ruach HaKodesh as symbolized by Naomi, which brings her to the holier places of Boaz’ House of Bread. Not to be saved, but to reach for a holier space of intimacy. She was already saved. Now she would have offspring to dwell in those holier places of the Covenant.

She asks Boaz, ““Why have I found favor in your sight that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” (Ru 2:10)

He noticed her modesty, her obedience, her loyalty, her willingness to pursue the Covenant. In Acts Chapter Two, a similar group of proselytes of the gate also gathered at Shavuot and witnessed to the Ruach HaKodesh, the Friend of the Bridegroom. On that Shabbat Shabbaton, the former strangers to the Feast of Shavuot were assured they were no longer strangers to the Covenant of Ten Words: “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” (Ac 2:39)

They were called, like Ruth, to the feast. “At mealtime Boaz said to her, ‘Come here…’” (Ru 2:14)

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