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Part of God's Plan

Summer 2020 Series (The Story of Ruth, Part 6 of 6)


This is the final part of a series of reflections, exploring the book of Ruth in the Old Testament. Today we come to the end of the story of Ruth. It’s been a story of tragedy, grief and hardship, giving way to kindness, hope and joy. It’s a story of loyalty, generosity and love. It’s a story which challenges attitudes towards outsiders. It’s a story of how God redeems one family through the actions of other people. But it's also a story which is part of a much bigger story.

Family histories

Have you seen the TV programme "Who do you think you are?" Researching family trees has been popular in the West as people try to discover their roots. Perhaps they discover that they are descended from royalty in the distant past! More likely they discover a few unknown relatives or maybe some “skeletons in the cupboard”.

The book of Ruth comes to a conclusion with the birth of Obed to Ruth & Boaz, and joy for Naomi as she becomes a grandmother, and it the ends with a short genealogy, not so much a family tree, but a line of descent. You can read it in the last chapter of the book of Ruth verses 18-22.

This genealogy links the birth of Obed, back through the generations to Perez the son of Judah who was one of Jacobs sons. So their child is descended from Jacob, the founding father of Israel. The genealogy also links forward to the birth of king David. Obed would become the great grandfather of David, who would be the king of Israel. So, at the end of this little story, we see that Ruth has been written into the big story of God and his people.

But that story didn’t end with King David! And Ruth gets another mention right at the start of the New Testament, in chapter 1 of the Gospel according to Matthew. Nobody knows exactly who wrote it. But it’s obvious it was written for the benefit of early Christians with a Jewish background. So, let’s fast forward from the time of Ruth to the 1st century AD. Let’s imagine its a few decades after Jesus life, and we’re listening in as the author of Matthew's gospel begins to write…

Through the eyes of the author of Matthew’s gospel

How do I begin? How do i introduce Jesus to the next generation of my people? What will get their attention? I want to help them understand that Jesus is the Messiah, the promised King that the Jewish people had been waiting for.

I know… a genealogy! My people take notice of family history… Family line of Jesus is something special!

1 This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham:

Yes, Jesus descended from King David, the most famous king of the Jews – until now! God promised that David’s descendants would reign forever – and Jesus made it clear he was going to reign when he said to his disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (see Matthew 28:18).

But I also want to remind my people that Jesus is son of Abraham. Why? Because God promised Abraham that through his descendants the whole world would be blessed. Jesus was born a Jew, and brought the good news of God first to his own people. But then he sent his followers into all the world to share his teaching with people of all nations and to invite them into God’s family.

Now for the genealogy... The first section is easy, we Jews always start with Abraham, Isaac & Jacob… and then Jacob’s sons who began the twelve tribes of Israel. Judah was the eldest son so his name goes into the genealogy.

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac,

Isaac the father of Jacob,

Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,

Now, I’ll just copy the next bit from the end of the book of Ruth chapter 4 verses 18-22.

Perez the father of Hezron,

Hezron the father of Ram,

Ram the father of Amminadab,

Amminadab the father of Nahshon,

Nahshon the father of Salmon,

Salmon the father of Boaz,

Boaz the father of Obed,

Obed the father of Jesse,

and Jesse the father of King David.

I love the story of Ruth. In the face of tragedy, God brings hope to Naomi when there seemed no hope. And Ruth, the foreigner from Moab, played such a vital part sticking by Naomi, taking care of her, leaving her own people the Moabites, and seeking refuge in Israel. That story has always reminded me that the Lord our God welcomes people of all nations. Boaz had the right attitude. Jesus had that same attitude. Do you know what? I’m going to include Ruth in my genealogy. I’ll say “Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth.” That’ll wake people up when they hear it!

And to make my point clearer, I’m going to mention another outsider, Rahab. You can read about her in Joshua chapter 2 and chapter 6 verse 25. She was a Canaanite in Jericho, a prostitute no less. Some people prefer to forget about her. Yet she believed in the Lord, helped our spies escape, and sought refuge among our people. So my genealogy will read:

Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,

Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,

Yes, that’ll get people’s attention!

Oh, I’ve just noticed there’s a gap between Judah and Perez. I’d better fill that in.

3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,

Yes I’ve added another woman was was also an outsider, married into Judah’s family. But she had to go to extreme lengths to make Judah face up to his family responsibilities. It was an embarrassing episode for Judah and he had to admit that she was more righteous than him. You can read about it in Genesis chapter 38, but it’s not a story for the feint-hearted.

Okay, next I’ll fill in some names from King David up to the time my people were exiled in Babylon. That time of exile was painful for our people, but God didn’t give up on us. Next some names from Jeconiah and the exile right through to Joseph, Jesus earthly father.

We haven’t had a true Jewish king in the last few centuries. But I want my people to know that’s now changed with the birth of Jesus. So I’ve grouped the genealogy into three groups of fourteen. That’s six lots of seven. Jesus is going to be the start of the seventh group of seven. Seven is a significant number in my culture, it will make my people think of Jesus as the fulfilment of God’s promises.

Hold on though, its still not quite right at the end there... I can’t just say “Joseph, father of Jesus”. Yes, he was Mary's husband. And yes, he raised Jesus as his own son. But here’s the thing my people need to realise. Jesus wasn’t born from Joseph’s seed. He was born of Mary through the miraculous intervention of Gods Holy Spirit,. I want to get that in right at the start of my gospel!  It probably caused quite a scandal at the time. But i want to show my people that God sometimes works in unexpected ways!  So, I’m going to write "Joseph, the husband of Mary, from whom was born Jesus, who is called Messiah." It breaks with the tradition of Jewish genealogies, but it will signal that the birth of Jesus isn’t just business as usual. 

Okay, that should do it. The genealogy isn’t comprehensive. There are gaps, otherwise I would have run out of scroll! But my purpose is not to create a historical archive. I want it to be more like be like a drum roll to get people’s attention, like a fanfare and a build up to announce the star of the show! Yes. I want people to understand that Jesus is the Messiah, God’s chosen one, and the fulfilment of God’s promises.

More than that, I want people to know that Jesus is not only the King of the Jews, descended from Abraham and David, but the king of all kings! And I want them to understand that God’s love and concern is for all peoples, not just a chosen few. People have a habit of forgetting that message so I’m going to make sure it runs right through my gospel. I hope and pray many people will read it and take its message to heart.

Questions for further reflection and discussion:

  1. How has God worked through other people to give you life and hope?

  2. I wonder if you feel more of an insider or an outsider? What does today’s reflection say to you about your place among God’s people and your purpose in God’s plan?

  3. How could you take steps to share God’s love with people of different nationalities, either in our own community, or in other countries?

Matthew 1: 1-17

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,

Isaac the father of Jacob,

Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,

Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,

Perez the father of Hezron,

Hezron the father of Ram,

Ram the father of Amminadab,

Amminadab the father of Nahshon,

Nahshon the father of Salmon,

Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,

Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,

Obed the father of Jesse,

and Jesse the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,

Solomon the father of Rehoboam,

Rehoboam the father of Abijah,

Abijah the father of Asa,

Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,

Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,

Jehoram the father of Uzziah,

Uzziah the father of Jotham,

Jotham the father of Ahaz,

Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,

Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,

Manasseh the father of Amon,

Amon the father of Josiah,

and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.

After the exile to Babylon:

Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,

Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,

Zerubbabel the father of Abihud,

Abihud the father of Eliakim,

Eliakim the father of Azor,

Azor the father of Zadok,

Zadok the father of Akim,

Akim the father of Elihud,

Elihud the father of Eleazar,

Eleazar the father of Matthan,

Matthan the father of Jacob,

and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.

Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.

Nick White


You may like to listen to our Podcast which accompanies this Blog. Click here.

You may also enjoy watching our Sunday gathering related to this Blog, where you can hear this message along with worship and prayer. This video was originally aired via Facebook LIVE on Sunday 30th August 2020.

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