January 26, 2017

Ruth and Her Sisters

Ruth 4:11-12; Psalm 113

He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children.

—  Psalm 113:9

Near the end of the story of Ruth we read that she is considered a sister to other women: to the barren Rachel, who for many years couldn’t give Jacob children; to Rachel’s sister Leah, who gave Jacob several sons (Genesis 29-31); and to Tamar, who pursued Judah to have a child for Judah’s son Er (Gen. 38) and bore twins, Perez and Zerah. We see again how important the family line was to the Jews of that time.

The people at the gate compare Ruth to these women—and evoke the memory of others who came before them—Sarah, Rebekah, Samson’s mother, and Hannah—who, either physically barren or socially unable to have a family, had children who became building blocks of the house of Israel.

God’s people in Christ do not build their own “house” in the normal way. Even socially unapproved people participate in building the church of Christ. Thus we find the prostitutes Tamar and Rahab; the Moabite Ruth; Bathsheba, whom David abused; and Mary, who became pregnant by the Holy Spirit, in the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:1-17, 20). These unusual mothers bore the descendants God promised to Abraham, and they were all ancestors of Jesus Christ.

“Who is like the Lord our God,” who lifts up the poor and needy and brings them into his house? Who brings to life sons and daughters through his Holy Spirit? “Praise the name of the Lord”!

Through Christ, Lord, bring all your children out of barrenness so that your house may be full. Amen.

About the author — Arie C. Leder

Dr. Arie C. Leder is the Martin J. Wyngaarden Senior Professor of Old Testament Studies at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He previously served as pastor at Ebenezer Christian Reformed Church, Trenton, Ontario, and with Christian Reformed World Missions in Latin America. He teaches courses on the Pentateuch and on historical books of the Old Testament.

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