Shavuot and the Book of Ruth
By Ben Volman, Messianic Rabbi, Chosen People Ministries (Canada)
This week, as the Jewish people celebrate Shavuot, the congregation will hear the Book of Ruth read as a wonderful sign of a double harvest – the joy that Israel once celebrated in bringing in the barley crop on Yom Ha’Bikkurim and the coming harvest of righteousness that God will bring as He will one day fully acclaimed by the nations – when “the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth like the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).
The wonderful model of a Gentile who puts their trust in the Lord is given in the story of Ruth, Her husband, the son of Naomi – a Jewish widow – has died and they are now both destitute and alone. As they stand on the road that will lead Naomi back to her people and Ruth home, listen to how these words express Ruth’s decision to love so beautifully:
Don’t urge me to leave you or turn back from you…
Your people will be my people and your God my God….
May the Lord deal with me be it ever so severely
If anything but death separates you and me.
Their losses weigh heavily on Naomi, but Ruth refuses to accept defeat. When they return to Bethlehem, it’s the barley harvest and she joins the gleaners – the poor who follow the harvesters in order to pick up whatever stalks of grain haven’t been gathered. A kinsman of her late husband’s family, Boaz, notices Ruth and is determined to bless her for her faithfulness to her mother-in-law. He tells her: “May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you’ve come to take refuge” (Ruth 2:12).
There are many compelling themes of this special day – fifty days (7 x 7 days + 1) after Israel left Egypt and the traditional date for the nation entering the covenant at Sinai – and the moment when the Holy Spirit came upon Yeshua’s disciples gathered in prayer after spending time with the Risen Lord. But one of the most important is the necessity of receiving all that God intends us to have in Him.
Recently, I’ve been reading a beautiful inspirational book by a fellow Canadian writer, Ann Voskamp—One Thousand Gifts. Ann’s practice of writing out “The List” of blessings in her life—up to a thousand—was meant to overcome ingratitude and give her a new attitude. Ann was surprised to find out how meaningful the practice became—how much she was changed by keeping her eyes on the blessings of God in the face of all the challenges of life.
This is the ultimate message of the Book of Ruth – not just for Naomi’s daughter-in-law who eventually weds Boaz, bears him a son and becomes great-grandmother to King David – but especially for Naomi, who feared that God had abandoned her and for whom hope was reborn. Let’s not just rejoice in God’s gifts, but let’s also do everything in our power to receive His covenant love, His grace and blessings of the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit) into our lives each day.