Dr. Al Mohler made this statement in his post “Where does the Story of Christmas Begin?”: “A closer look at the narratives in both Matthew and Luke reveals a richness that familiarity may hide from us. Matthew begins with the genealogy of Christ….” Dr. Mohler makes an excellent point. We tend to put aside verses in the biblical text that don’t appear to be of particular interest–like genealogies. However, skipping over such pasages is not wise. The Holy Spirit included these names for a reason. His version of the Christmas story includes more detail than we have become accustomed to thinking about. Each of the names in the genealogy represents a story within the larger story of Christmas. In the initial post in this two-part series we looked at the inclusion of Rahab in Matthew’s genealogy of Christ. Ruth is also part of this story. Her inclusion in this listing of names is just as stunning as Rahab’s. You see, Ruth was from Moab.
The country of Moab was no friend of God or Israel. Moab worshiped idols and practiced child sacrifice to these idols. However, when there was famine in Israel, Elimelech, along with his wife, Naomi, and his two sons, left Israel and went to live in Moab. Elimelech’s sons married Moabite women, one of whom was Ruth. Elimelech had not acted in faith. In addition to moving to a pagan land, he allowed his two sons to marry foreign women. Yet God used Elimelech’s faithless actions to bring Ruth to himself. When Elimelech and his sons died in Moab, Naomi decided to return to Israel, as the famine had ended. Ruth had seen something of the power of God in Naomi’s life, and she clung to her mother-in-law and would not let her return to Israel alone. When Naomi urged Ruth to remain in her own land, Ruth made a declaration of faith in God:
Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.”
God honored Ruth’s request. Even though she lived in a thoroughly pagan country, God reached out to her, and she responded. She honored God and Naomi. God then provided Boaz to be her husband. And as you know, Ruth became the great-grandmother of King David. Thus, Ruth became part of the Holy Spirit’s Christmas story. The birth of Christ was not a random event. It was carefully planned by God before the world began. The genealogies help us to gain a glimpse of the intricacies of God’s planning. Rahab and Ruth help to show us that Christ was indeed the Savior of all of the nations. No tribe or nation is beyond the reach of the saving grace of God. Nothing can stop the power of God to save those whom He has called. Ruth and Rahab were pagan foreigners–so they were unlikely participants in the Christmas story. But God had his plans. There may be those close to you that appear to be just as unlikely to come to love God as Rahab and Ruth did. They may appear to be indifferent to the grace of God. They may scoff at the gospel message–but they are not beyond the saving mercy of God, just as Ruth and Rahab were not. The story of Christ’s birth is one of hope. God does the unexpected. His grace cannot be deterred by human will and circumstances. Jesus truly is the light of the world. Hold this hope out for those close to you who don’t know Christ. We serve a God who is able to save those who are lost. That is the hope of the Christmas story.