“I have been told of all that you did for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband, how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth and came to a people you had not known before.” Ruth 2:11 JPS
Birth/ People – Two things indentify a person in the ancient Near East: where they were born and which tribe they belonged to. The two words, moledot and ‘am, describe the essentials about another person from an outside perspective. When Boaz speaks these words to Ruth, he acknowledges that she isn’t one of them. She wasn’t born in Bethlehem and she doesn’t come from the tribe of Judah. And that’s what matters – except for the fact that Ruth lives by a code of conduct that exemplifies what it means to be born in Bethlehem of the tribe of Judah. She doesn’t have the right external identifiers, but her behavior says otherwise. The biblical passport doesn’t ask where you were born and the country of your citizenship. It asks, “How do you live? What do you do about God’s image in you?” The biblical passport is a heart document.
Obviously, the world looks at other things. Your birthplace matters. Your citizenship matters. Don’t try to go to Egypt if you carry an Israeli passport, even if you were born in Cairo. But God works according to a different document. This should cause us to examine our own identification papers. Who issued them? The church? The denomination? The culture that raised you to believe in the Bible? The “Christian” nation of your birth? Frankly, given the behavior of many who claim to carry the right documentation, it’s difficult to believe they have anything more than an external passport. In fact, one good question you can ask yourself about your passport is this: Would a Jew recognize you as a member of the tribe?
That is essentially the question of Ruth. Like us, she is an outsider. But her heart passport demonstrates that place of birth and tribal origin don’t mean much when it comes to reflecting God’s character. Eventually the people of Bethlehem from the tribe of Judah recognize her for what she really is – one of them. But not because she says so. They recognize her because of the way she lives. It seems to me that the same thing applies to us. We can say all we want about our experiences with God. We can claim forgiveness, restoration and redemption. But until we live in ways that convince those born in Israel from the tribes of Israel, we are just blowing smoke. The truth of our claims must be recognizable in our lives, not according to our way of thinking but according to the way of thinking of the ones we claim to embrace. Ruth doesn’t protest, “But I already declared my allegiance.” She just lives it.
What do you think Paul had in mind when he called Gentiles to act in such a way that they would provoke Jews to jealousy? That Gentile believers would try to convert Jews?
Topical Index: birth, people, moledot, ‘am, jealousy, convert, Ruth 2:11
CORRECTION to yesterday’s Today’s Word: In the last paragraph, it should have read “It means that we are not empowered to change worship to fit our style or the calendar to fit our culture or doctrines to accommodate political correctness.”