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Beauty From Ashes

Photo credit: Thomas Thompson

November 2, 2022

Praying Friends,

Thank you for your prayers for revival and for our prodigals. As we continue to pray for God’s working in our lives and in the lives of others, may this devotional be a source of encouragement.

The prophet Isaiah wrote of the coming Messiah and the wonder of how He would bring about deliverance to downtrodden people. One of the statements used to describe this redemption is, “He [God] will give a crown of beauty for ashes” (Isaiah 61:3).

A crown of beauty speaks of reigning, glory, and victory, whereas ashes refer to the hopeless remains of destruction. When all seems lost, and it appears as if hope has been reduced to ashes, God will bring salvation. This happened when Jesus first came to our world and it will happen again when He returns.

Thankfully, it happens during our lives as well. When life is desperate, God produces beauty. When bad things are prevailing, He is able to bring good from it all. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28).

The book of Ruth is a delightful story that brings this very principle into clear view. Hidden within the lines of this short narrative are the great redemptive purposes of God for the ages. It was the story of God’s marvelous grace and magnificent sovereignty all wrapped together in one beautiful package. On a more literal level, it was a true love story from ashes to beauty.

The opening sentence tells us of the messy setting of the story. It happened during the time of the Judges, one of the darkest periods of Israel’s history. By the time you come to the last verse, you see that God has been working in the details, and His purposes are on track.

A famine in Israel drove a small family into exile. Elimelech took his wife, Naomi, and two sons into the land of Moab. It did not go well. In fact, the father died and both sons died after their marriages to Moabite women.

Then Ruth, one of those women, stepped forward into the light of God’s truth and grace. She was finished with life separated from God. She was tired of her false gods. She saw reality in Naomi and thus pursued the God of Israel.

Her words to her mother-in-law have echoed down through history and have inspired and challenged the hearts of many believers. “But Ruth replied, 'Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!’” (Ruth 1:16-17).

This is the language of true faith. These words come from a heart that has gotten a glimpse of God’s glory and is determined not to be turned back.

She came to Bethlehem and worked in the fields to provide for Naomi and herself. It was there that she met the man Boaz, a prominent man who was the son of Rahab from Jericho.

The fact that God drew a Gentile woman from obscurity and distance (Moab, an enemy of Israel) and united her to a man in Israel who was the son of a Gentile prostitute is nothing short of divine grace. To think that their offspring led to Jesse, David, and eventually Jesus, is an awesome working of God’s power.

The marriage of Ruth and Boaz came from the ancient Jewish custom of levirate marriage found in Deuteronomy 25 where a brother of the deceased would marry his widow to continue the family name. While Christians do not embrace this custom, it does provide a picture of the truth of redemption.

Boaz was not a brother to the deceased husband, but he was a near-kinsman, or a close relative (Ruth 3:2). As such, he purchased all that belonged to Naomi and married Ruth with the understanding that his name would be blemished because she was a Gentile.

This story points us to the Lord Jesus, who became a near relative to us when He was born in Bethlehem and became a human. It was this great stoop of grace that enabled Him to go to the cross at Calvary to die for our sins. “In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins'' (Colossians 1:14). By doing this, He did what was needed to secure for Himself a bride. Thankfully, we the people of God are that bride. We are His purchased possession.

Ruth was raised from ashes to beauty, and by God’s grace, so have you!

Love in Christ,

Bryan and Rachel


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