Pentecost, also known as the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot in Hebrew, occurs 7 weeks (50 days) after Passover and every year at Shavuot the Jews read the book of Ruth. The Jewish festivals are linked to the agricultural year and this period of weeks from Passover to Pentecost covers the barley and wheat harvests which is the setting for this story. Two widows, Naomi and daughter-in-law Ruth, return from Moab to Bethlehem at the start of the barley harvest and Ruth gleans in the fields of Boaz until the end of the wheat harvest (Ruth 2:23).
The book of Ruth’s association with Pentecost is also made because it’s a love story! God liberated his people from bondage in Egypt that first Passover and brought them to Mount Sinai 50 days later at Pentecost. God made a covenant with his people Israel and the Jewish nation was born. It was like a betrothal or marriage contract. The people responded saying, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do” (Exodus 19:8). There they received the Ten Commandments. The romance and marriage of Boaz and Ruth mirror God’s relationship with his people.
Then there’s the emphasis the book places on Ruth’s ethnicity. Seven times we’re told she’s from the despised, Molech worshipping people of Moab. The Jews liken her to Abraham who left his father’s house to follow after the true and living God. Ruth’s selfless commitment to Naomi and her God leads her on a journey of trust as she takes refuge under his wings.
“Where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried.” (Ruth 1:16-17)
As New Testament Christians we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost when God wrote his law not on stone tablets but on our hearts in fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy (Jeremiah 31:33). How fitting God should send his Spirit at a harvest festival. It has always been his goal to draw the peoples of the nations to himself and at Pentecost the multi-ethnic church is born, the multi-lingual message of God’s kingdom is proclaimed and the global expansion of God’s people is begun. We, his church, become like first-fruits of the harvest, pointing to the great ingathering of Jews and Gentiles yet to come (Revelation 5:9).
As we read the book of Ruth, we find it to be our love story too. We were spiritually impoverished, idol worshipping Gentiles, and like Ruth, we are redeemed by the landowner and enter into the royal line. Through marriage to Boaz, her kinsman-redeemer Ruth became the great grandmother of King David, but the ultimate Redeemer would be their Son and descendant King Jesus who makes us his bride. As we come and take shelter under his wings, we are invited to drink from his living water, feast at his table and serve with his people in the harvest fields of his kingdom.
So, this Pentecost, let’s acknowledge Jesus, the one who has bought us back at such cost. Let’s put off our grave clothes and allow the Holy Spirit to wash, anoint and dress us anew as the Bride of Christ. Let’s pledge from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love honour and obey, for nothing, not even death itself, can separate us from his covenant-keeping love.