In the last blog post before I took a break for Spring Break, we met Boaz, the mighty man. Now this Mighty Man gives us a beautiful picture of the Gospel.
One of the major debates in New Testament theology in recent times has been over the proper way to translate a Pauline phrase, one we traditionally know as “the faithfulness of Christ.” Is it more properly rendered as such, or as “faith in Christ”?
This discussion will not be able to cover the breadth of the debate. The debate is drawn around the translation of a Greek phrase: the pistis Christou. Is it subjective or genitive? For those who are not familiar with Greek grammar, this debate may not mean much to you. So, try this: read these following passages with both translations. This debate comes to bear in passages like Galatians 2:16; Romans 3:21-23; Phil 3:9. Are we justified or saved through the means of our faith in Christ, or through Christ’s faithfulness?
I argue for the latter. It makes more sense in Paul’s arguments, and avoids repetition at key points of his letters. It ties more in with Paul’s later theme of union with Christ. I think it stands as the key to interpreting Galatians. More importantly, though, I think Ruth shows a picture of faithfulness as the means by which someone is saved.
After the introduction to Boaz, Ruth decides to go to his field and start gleaning from his crop. We remember from chapter 1 that Naomi does not have much faith in Torah. Even if Ruth were to invoke the levirate marriage, it is not as if Naomi has a son for her to marry. Even if she did, it would take a while for him to be of marrying age. Because of this, I concluded that Torah is not evil, but it is powerless without a Savior.
A picture of Christ and Adam, Boaz makes Torah come to life to save Ruth. Ruth knows that Torah prohibits land owners from completely emptying their fields. They were to leave some of the edges unclaimed so that the poor could come and take from them (cf. Leviticus 19:9-10; 23:22; Deuteronomy 19:19-22). Ruth hopes that she will find favor in Boaz’s eyes that she might be able to take advantage of this law. But she does not presume that this comes to her naturally. Instead, she asks a servant if she may do so. After gaining permission, she works all day, only taking a short rest. Because Torah has a redeemer, Ruth can live.
But this only puts Ruth on a neutral stance. She may live, but she is still a foreigner. She is shocked that Boaz would show grace to her in that case (v 10). As a Moabitess, she is prohibited from joining the congregation of the Lord (Deuteronomy 23:3). Her faith in Yahweh manifests itself in faith in his covenant and love for her mother-in-law.
Boaz then takes it upon himself to bless Ruth, and move her from a neutral stance to having a place in the family of God. He invites her to be a part of his household, as if she was one of his naturally Israelite servants. She is given full reign of the field, and they are instructed to leave some behind for her. She is accepted into the household of an Israelite. He breaks down the body of division between Jew and Gentile in his field and on his table. He invites her, though a foreigner, to eat among his people. He gives her more than she can eat, and invites her to take the leftovers home to Mara as well.
Boaz, through his covenant faithfulness, gives Mara and Ruth a future and a hope. He gives them more bread than they can imagine or eat. So, too, our Savior. His covenant faithfulness to Torah saved and saves us from the death of Adam. The faithfulness of Christ to Torah and to death is our hope.