As I was reading Daniel this week, a possibly strange association came to mind. In chapter 4, Nebuchadnezzar gives Daniel the account of his second mysterious dream. It involves a great tree that eventually becomes barren and desolate. The purpose of the dream is to make the declaration in verse 17:
“The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.”
The rest of the chapter presents Daniel’s interpretation for the king, and its ultimate fulfillment in Nebuchadnezzar’s life. After his experience in being humbled and restored he presents a grand conclusion in verse 37:
“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”
The association that this account brought to my mind was the story of Ruth. She was a Moabite who was married to a man from the tribe of Judah. Moabites as a general rule worshiped a god called Chemosh. They were looked down on by Israelites. When Ruth’s husband died she faithfully remained with her husband’s mother, Naomi, in order to care for her. Naomi urged her to return to her own people and gods. Ruth’s response:
“But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For 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. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more” (Ruth 1:16-18).
Ruth eventually met Boaz, who became her kinsman redeemer and married her. He recognized her loyalty to God, and loved her despite the fact that she was a Moabite.
“But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” (Ruth 2:11-12).
What further fulfillment of God’s love and appreciation for Ruth can we find? She and Boaz had a son, Obed. Obed had a son, Jesse. Jesse had a son, David, who became king of Israel and was a man after God’s own heart. It is interesting to me to remember that in the heritage of the man after God’s own heart was the genetic material of Ruth from Moab.
Nebuchadnezzar and Ruth were both outside of God’s chosen people Israel at the time, yet used their lives to demonstrate the greatness of God. In Nebuchadnezzar’s case it took periods of tough experience and learning to drive home the praise that he later proclaimed. In Ruth’s case her faithfulness to God, despite the fact that she wasn’t from His originally chosen people, brought her a life of blessing and a legacy that would carry on to the Son of David, Jesus Christ.
While God did use Israel to deliver His Son to our world, these two examples remind us that God has always valued and rewarded faith in Him. When Jesus came to earth the first time it was to establish God’s plan for faith in Him to bring salvation for all who would accept Him. It became clear that for each of us that it is our faith, not our physical ancestry that will determine our ultimate relationship and eternal salvation. When He returns the second time our faith and acceptance of Him will be realized, and we will live with Him forever!
Take heart and be encouraged!