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A 'Shavuot' story of redemption and love: The Book of Ruth

James Tissot, Ruth gleaning, 1896 - 1900

During the Jewish holiday of Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost), Jewish communities across th globe observe the long-held tradition of reading the Book of Ruth.

The biblical story takes place around the Shavuot festival and the love story of Ruth and Boaz is analogous to the love story between the Jewish people and the Torah. But the Book of Ruth also has many important themes for believers today. It paints a beautiful picture of the reciprocal relationship between Jew and Gentile in the Kingdom of God and in the Land of Israel.

The story of Ruth takes place against a backdrop of dark and violent times not unlike those Israel and the Jewish people have experienced over the past eight months.

The Moabites were an idol-worshipping, pagan people who hated the Israelites from the time they first traveled through their territory on their way to the Promised Land. Even though the Israelites had sought to pass through the bordering Amorite area on friendly terms, they were opposed by both groups. Later, the Moabites took revenge on Israel for camping near their territory. The Mesha Stele (Moabite Stone dated from 840 B.C.E.) boasts of Moabite massacres that devastated entire Israelite towns.

During a famine in Israel, Elimelech, a man from Bethlehem, took his wife and two sons to Moab. Naomi’s joyful life of marriage and motherhood soon turned to bitterness and sorrow when Elimelek and Naomi’s two sons died over a 10-year period.

Later, when Naomi heard there were good crops in Bethlehem again, she encouraged her two Moabite daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, to return to their own families as she, herself, set out for the land of Israel. Ruth and Orpah both pledged their faithfulness to Naomi, but Ruth persisted further, making the now-famous declaration: “Do not entreat me to leave you. Where you go, I will go, and your people will be my people. Your God will be my God. Where you die, I will die.”

If we read between the lines, we can see how Naomi must have loved Orpah and Ruth and treated them well, and how both women loved their mother-in-law in return. Ruth’s love went even deeper than Orpah’s as she sought to remain with Naomi and worship Israel’s God as her own.

When they returned to Israel, Ruth faithfully took care of Naomi by gleaning every day in the fields, and when Naomi discovered the field belonged to her relative and Go’el (kinsmen redeemer), she made a daring move to ensure security and love for Ruth’s future through the levirate marriage vow. Naomi’s family line eventually continued through Ruth and Boaz’s son, Obed, who became the ancestor of Yeshua…and Ruth, the Moabitess, was grafted into the lineage of the Messiah!

It’s a beautiful story of self-sacrifice, sorrow turned to joy, and God’s plan of redemption and restoration at work through the difficult and desperate details of two women’s lives.

Ruth and Naomi sowed seeds of love together in a time of great mourning and bereavement, and ultimately brought forth blessings for generations to come – for the Jewish people and the nations. The same principle continues today when Christians are grafted into the olive tree and faithfully stand with Israel, pray for the Jewish people and love them sacrificially.

Since the horrors of Oct. 7, Jewish and Christian believers have sown the seeds of prayer together for the hostages, and for the light of Yeshua to shine throughout the land. Now, just before Shavuot, the first fruits of that harvest have come, with the rescue of Noa Argamani, Almog Meir Jan, Andrey Kozlov, and Shlomi Ziv!

God still restores and redeems!

Jew and Gentile, like Ruth and Naomi, will continue sowing and praying for the remaining 120 hostages and for the spiritual harvest God is bringing forth in the land.

Since the war in Gaza began eight months ago, thousands of Israelis have been connecting with Messianic ministries online each month. People are searching for God – not in religion or mysticism – but in the one place where he can still be found, the Bible.

When the enemy sought to kill, rob and destroy the Jewish people in the most massive murder since the Holocaust, God already had a plan to bring good from evil, turn sorrow into joy and bring beauty from the ashes.

For the past 50 days since Passover, we’ve been waiting, praying and fasting. We can’t stop now!

“When the Lord brought back the captives of [ Zion,
    we were like those who dreamed.
 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
    our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
  ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’
 The Lord has done great things for us,
    and we are filled with joy.

Restore our fortunes, Lord,
    like streams in the Negev.
 Those who sow with tears
    will reap with songs of joy.
 Those who go out weeping,
    carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
    carrying sheaves with them.”

Chag Shavuot Sameach!

Avigayil Rivkah is a writer and speaker on the Jewish roots of the Christian faith, Jewish culture and Israel news. She is a Jewish believer in Jesus and writes at

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