When you have been in a spiritually abusive church, some of the woeful work you eventually have to do is to rewrite the narrative of your past. This means that you have to reject the false reality that was imposed on you and embrace the truth.
About a year ago, my husband and I started a Bible study with some friends. Each month, we read a book of the Bible and then meet to discuss the ways we’ve encountered Christ. We started with Genesis, and we just finished 2 Samuel.
For me, this is much more than just a Bible study. It is a crucial part of healing from my past. As I read each book of God’s Word, I read with fresh eyes. I reject the poison of the past and meet God on His terms.
Every month has been restorative, though not in equal measure. I had to take a deep breath each time I opened the books of the Pentateuch, for instance. But the book of Ruth was a welcome flash of light. This is because, to my recollection, my childhood pastor never preached on either the book of Ruth or the book of Esther. So, most Sundays, I sat in my seat and read those books. Over and over. Over and over and over. Years of Ruth. Years of Esther.
In my weekly reading, I always paused where Boaz says to Ruth,
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
I too was Ruth, seeking a hiding place. How fitting then that when I read the book of Ruth again recently, I was struck again of the intimacy, the safety. Ruth as Refuge.
The brief book of Ruth comes straight after Judges, after everything has gone to pot. Ruth the foreigner, the refugee widow vows to make her home with her likewise widowed mother-in-law Naomi the Israelite. She commits to the God of Israel, and they travel from Moab to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest, the start of the Hebrew New Year.
The barley harvest, in spring, was a time of huge significance in Hebrew life. The Israelites celebrated Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Firstfruits during that first month of the year, the barley month. At this time of the Hebrew New Year, the flood waters receded (Gen 8:13-14); Israel departed Egypt (Ex 12:1-2), and the tabernacle was installed (Ex 40:17).
Sidebar: So many good things happened at the start of the Hebrew year, but bad stuff happened then too. David sinned against Bathsheba during this time, ‘in spring’ (2 Sam 11:1). Though David had already proved himself something of an ass, this event clearly marked David as a failed Christ and pointed Israel toward the need for a Perfect Redeemer.
For the Israelites, the barley month was a time to remember God’s redemption of His people from Egyptian slavery and His provision for them in a new place.
But I want to skip ahead a bit in the story, after Ruth meets Boaz, son of Rahab, in a barley field, after he gives her water to drink (!), after he acknowledges her persistence, her loyalty to Naomi the Israelite and to the God of Israel. In Ruth 2:14, we find this gem, when mealtime comes, and Boaz says to her,
“Come here, that you may eat of the bread and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar.” So she sat beside the reapers; and he served her roasted grain, and she ate and was satisfied and had some left.
What a picture! This intimate meal, this breaking of bread and drinking of fermented grapes, this foreign woman, this widow, with her kinsman redeemer. And after the meal, she has some left. Ruth’s cup runneth over.
This moment between Ruth and Boaz is a captivating foreshadowing of Christ’s final Passover meal, which occurred centuries later, at the same time in the Hebrew calendar, this time shared with His disciples. As Boaz offers safety and sustenance to Ruth, so Christ offers His body and blood.
As all Israel remembered God’s gift of mannah from heaven, as Ruth and Boaz sat and ate together in Bethlehem, the house of bread,
as we read the book of Ruth,
we too encounter tomorrow’s bread, given to us today. We are all Ruth.
It’s no wonder then, that Naomi later reinforces what Boaz has already told Ruth,
Do not go to glean in another field; furthermore, do not go on from this one, but stay here with my maids.Ruth 2:8
It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his maids, so that others do not fall upon you in another field.Ruth 2:22
In other words, stay close to the True Bread. Accept no substitutes. Once you’ve tasted of it, there is nothing like it.