In the introduction to the book of Ruth, my NIV study bible reflects that she “strikingly exemplifies the truth that participation in the coming Kingdom…is decided, not by blood and birth, but by the conformity of one’s life to the will of [Yahweh] through the ‘obedience that comes from faith’” [Romans 1:5].
The introduction to Paul’s letter to the Roman church, in which he lays out his credentials to corroborate his writing, is both thrilling and powerful [1:1-5]. He knew himself to be chosen as an apostle to the Gentiles and was passionate in his commitment to the people he describes as being called ‘to the obedience that comes from faith’. The apostle was an intelligent, well-educated man, and would have been familiar with the book of Ruth and its story of the gentile girl who became great-grandmother to the illustrious King David. I wonder if this knowledge was a basis for his understanding of his calling. He would know the Torah stated that no “Moabite or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of [Yahweh]” [Deuteronomy 23:3]. Ruth was a Moabitess, and so Yahweh’s personal choice of this unselfish, caring woman overruled His earlier law and placed her firmly into the royal line through which He would, ultimately, send His precious Son. What an honour, and what a lovely person she must have been.
A significant feature of the book of Genesis is the emphasis of Yahweh’s divine choosing, showing Him overruling the natural [or expected] choice again and again. Paul reflects this to the Corinthian church when he writes that Yahweh “chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise…the weak things…to shame the strong…the lowly things…and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” [1 Corinthians 1:27-29]. Who we are doesn’t matter to Yahweh; how we behave does! He reads our hearts, understands our motives and knows us better than we know ourselves.
Obedience is key to walking in step with Yahweh, and harmonising my life to His will. In the same way that a child must learn obedience through experience, so my capacity for obedience will grow as my experience of faith matures.