It’s funny that as many times as I’ve read the book of Ruth over the years, it was only recently that I realized it held the answer to another question I had about the Scripture.
An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the LORD forever,
because they did not meet you with bread and water on the road when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you.
Nevertheless the LORD your God would not listen to Balaam, but the LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God loves you.
You shall not seek their peace nor their prosperity all your days forever.
-Deuteronomy 23:3-6 NKJV (emphasis mine)
So, at first glance, that seems pretty harsh. Just because the Moabites at one time opposed the people of the Lord, now none of their descendants can come to God?
But then you have the exception of Ruth. She was a Moabitess who married an Israelite refugee named Mahlon. But Mahlon died, and Ruth chose to return with her mother-in-law to Israel. There she met and married an Israelite named Boaz, and became the great-grandmother of King David.
That makes David one-eighth a son of Moab, and David went into the assembly of the Lord (along with his father and grandfather, I daresay). We have an exception to that no-Moabites-allowed rule.
But God doesn’t just make random exceptions, does He? I mean, what made Ruth such a good person that God could overlook the lineage she passed on to her sons?
(I suppose some could say that the curse couldn’t pass through a Moabite woman, only through a man. But, taking the whole Old Testament into consideration, that reasoning didn’t hold up well enough to satisfy me.) 🙂
So I kept pondering over it, trying to reconcile it in my mind. Until the answer hit me between the eyes, as is often the case.
Ruth rejected her lineage.
When her Israelite mother-in-law tried to convince her to stay in Moab, Ruth would have none of it.
But Ruth said:
“Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
-Ruth 1:16 NKJV
Ruth rejected the gods of her homeland and chose to follow the Hebrews’ God. She refused to identify with the people she’d been born to and instead chose to identify with the people who worshiped God.
Ruth never lost her Moabite DNA. But she chose in her heart to follow God, she gave voice to that resolution, and she changed her life to live as a Hebrew.
Her choice gave her a whole new heritage.
Doesn’t this sound exactly like Jesus’ offer in the New Testament?
We humans are born into Adam’s sin, bent toward corruption from the moment we have the mental power to choose.
Jesus offers us life free from sin and its wages. All we have to do is reject the world and choose Him, with our hearts, with our words, and with our lifestyles.
Ultimately, God is not concerned with what we call bloodlines. He’s concerned with our hearts. Anyone from any heritage on this planet can accept Jesus’ gift and join the family He calls the Church—a vast family that stretches around the globe and across the ages.
It starts with a simple choice.
The more I look, the more I am persuaded that the God of the Old Testament is no different from the God of New Testament. The interface may look different, but His operating system has always been the same.
P.S. In Jeremiah, God spends all of Chapter 48 describing how He will judge and destroy Moab because of their idolatry. But in the final verse, He says, “Yet I will bring back the captives of Moab in the latter days.” Something He also promises to Elam and Ammon. Interesting, is it not?