My favorite book of the Bible is the shortest book in the Old Testament, Ruth, situated in Protestant Bibles right between the accounts of Israel’s Judges and before a king is anointed to rule Israel.
With just four chapters, I can sit down and read it, start to finish, whenever I like. But those 4 chapters pack a powerful punch – one that gets me in the gut over and over and over again.
When I was maybe in 7th grade, we were reading along in the New Testament at school, we read a passage the mentioned Jews and Gentiles.
I knew what it means to be Jewish. What I had no idea about was the word Gentile. It had always been one of those Bible words to me. It meant something but what that something was, I didn’t know.
So I asked. “What is a Gentile?”
Maybe I thought it was like a super deep, super awesome question.
Maybe I never asked it because I had a reputation for being the first person chosen for Bible Trivia – the only team I was ever chose first for, I assure you.
The answer was so simple, and yet somehow, it stuck with me.
“A Gentile is anyone who isn’t Jewish. So we’re Gentiles.”
When the Chronicles of Narnia movies started coming out in the early 2000’s, I decided it was time to read the books. I received them all in one volume, just this massive paperback filled with 7 stories I had never read in my life, although I had seem some old BBC cartoon version at my grandparents.
I was in college at the time so “pleasure reading” was not a thing. In hindsight not because I didn’t have time, but because I probably shouldn’t have had time and that was enough to keep me from cracking them open.
Somewhere between college and kids, I picked them up and read them and just fell in love. The deep wonder and beauty in the midst of simple stories makes my jaw hit the floor every time I read them. And I have reread them many times.
But I’m not going to lie – in my first several times through the series, Horse and His Boy was a total throw away for me. I skipped it in several rereadings because to me, it was a non-story. Not even relevant to the story arch of all of Narnia.
I wanted to be Lucy. The first to see. The first to believe. The one whose face feels the Lion’s breath which gives her courage.
I wanted to be Queen Lucy, the Valiant. Faithful and true.
I, however, am not Queen Lucy.
Years ago, I volunteered with a community Vacation Bible School. I can’t fathom how I pulled it off. (SPOILER ALERT – my mom) I had a colicky baby at home and yet, every morning, I was at VBS doing something, somewhere with or for someone. And I got to share the Bible account one day.
The host church had built 100, 200, I don’t know how many bricks made out of those boxes you can grab at the post office that are all the same size and spray painted them to look, ya know, like bricks. Every scene, every day, had these boxes arranged in different ways as a prop for the story.
I got tapped for the story of the spies entering Jericho and meeting Rahab (from Joshua 2). There are many ways I could have presented this account. The only thing that stuck in my head and my heart was to tell it from Rahab’s perspective.
So yeah, some people were a little nervous. Uhm, you know she was a prostitute, right? Yeah. Got it. She’s also a person who chooses, as a non-Israelite, to follow the One True God and join His people.
Back when my husband and I first started dating, he read one Harry Potter book, as they are my favorite, and I read The Hobbit as that series is his favorite. I ended up reading the entire Lord of the Rings series and he has yet to read the other 6 HPs. I’m not keeping score or anything. 😉
Of course, as I read them, he wanted to enjoy my enjoyment of his favorite books. He’d ask me all sorts of questions. And I could follow along with the plot (it’s been over a decade now and the finer points are fading so it’s probably time for a reread) and the events, large and small.
What I couldn’t keep up with was the names. Names of places. Names of characters. They weren’t words to me. So I skipped them. S guy. L dude. Those names that are always paired together.
They weren’t words that made sense to me. And frankly if I ever have the chance to meet JRR Tolkein, I want to talk to him about having a Sauron and a Saramon in the same story, both (SPOILER ALERT) bad guys.
And I know I’m not the only one to have a similar approach to reading names of cities, names of people, especially long genealogies in the Bible. Why does this matter? Why is it here? These are hard to say. They don’t mean anything to me. Onto the next chapter.
Years ago, to keep myself engaged in the genealogies, I started underling anyone’s named I recognized or thought maybe I had read some other place before. I still didn’t know a lot of them. But they became about more than just names I couldn’t pronounce. They were the people I had met or would meet along the way.
I am drawn to the love story of Ruth. Not just between Ruth and Boaz, but Ruth’s love and faithfulness to her mother-in-law, Naomi. And the overarching love story of God’s love for His people. How He calls them to Himself, no matter where they are from. How He provides for them. Puts systems in place to provide for them.
It’s mind-blowingly beautiful.
In Ruth, we get a real, close up view, of what the gleaning laws meant for real people. For people who absolutely would not survive without the heads of grains that were left behind for those in need. That the Lord in His mercy and kindness made a plan, a way, for everyone to have enough to eat.
And then we get to see that played out.
I assume in reading this account that if there’s a good place to go glean a field that there must be not so good places to glean a field. Maybe they went back over them and didn’t leave anything as instructed. Maybe they were mean or maybe there were even dangerous fields.
But we’re not just talking about gleaning laws. Kinsman redeemer laws. A way to not only keep land in the name of a man who has come before you as a living, harvest-producing genealogy but also as a way to step in on someone’s behalf and redeem them. Buy them back from the situation they find themselves in.
Boaz becomes Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer. He marries her, has a son with her. He takes her into his household. Protects her and provides for her. To make all of this happen, he goes to the city center and makes a way to do all of this in an upstanding way since there is a relative closer than he who can redeem Ruth but chooses not to. He upholds not just the gleaning laws, but the redeemer laws as well. He chooses to serve the Lord in his actions.
Why would Boaz do all of this? What is it about Naomi that causes Ruth to flee her own country, everything she knows, to take care of this woman? It’s obvious that there is something drawing her to Israel – yes the land, and yes the people, but more importantly, the family of the One True God. His voice is pulling her across countries and cultural gaps to be His own.
Then you read Boaz’s genealogy, tucked into Jesus’ own genealogy in Matthew 1 and we see that Boaz’s mom was Rahab. Rahab, who recognized the One True God that was fighting on behalf of the Israelites and chose to save the spies and join them.
In rereading Horse and His Boy out loud to my kids over the last decade of parenting, it has become my favorite Narnia story.
One reason, is because (SPOILER ALERT) at the end, as they are reflecting on what to do with Rabadash, Edmund wants to extend him mercy as he reflects on the mercy that he himself has experienced.
Another reason is the Greek tragedy element, where in trying to rid Archenland of a prince who will one day save the nation, they perfectly create a situation in which he can – and does – save the nation.
But above all, I love the draw to Narnia. Yes the Narnians are drawn back to their home land, even when they don’t know it’s their home land.
And so is Aravis.
Aravis, who has no ties to Narnia what so ever. No land. No family. Just a desire to go to Narnia. To be with the Narnians. To be a Narnian.
She becomes not only a Narnian, her heart’s desire. But a queen. She becomes the mother and grandmother of kings and queens. And she herself is in the family tree of King Frank and Queen Helen, the first king and queen of Narnia. Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia.
Queen Aravis, grafted into the Narnian line.
I am not Queen Lucy, the Valiant.
I am Queen Aravis, the Redeemed.
Ruth and Aravis and I share something in common. We have been grafted into the family. We have been chosen. Called specifically. Redeemed and bought with a price.
Ruth is no longer “other”. Like her mother-in-law (Boaz’s mother) before her, she is on the extremely short list of women named in Jesus’ genealogy. In the kingly line of David, as well as the Messiah, Rescuer of us all.
It doesn’t matter what Ruth was. Only what Ruth is – a child of the One True God.
Aravis is no longer “other”. She is spoken to by a talking horse, something unheard of in Calormen, escapes a dismal fate as the wife of the vizier, marries into the Archenlander royal family, but most importantly, she looks Aslan in the face. She feels the Lion’s breath in his speaking.
It doesn’t matter what Aravis was. Only what Aravis is – one has looked into the face of Aslan.
I am no longer “other”. I am a child of God. He made a way for me in Jesus to be redeemed. Bought back from the separation of sin between us by the sacrifice of His son, Jesus, on the cross. And then took that message of salvation, not just to the Israelite, the Jew, but to the Gentiles. To me. So that this genealogy, too, bear’s witness to His goodness.
It doesn’t matter what I was. Only what I am – a child of the One True God.
Ruth. Aravis. Me.
There should be a neat tidy bow for this. But there isn’t.
What I know is that when we spend time chewing over with our mouths and mulling over in our hearts and in our heads and using as many senses as possible to meditate on God’s Word, we will continue to learn more of what He has for us, we will see more threads. We will have our mind just blown by the wonder and the awe of the thousands of years long story unfolding.
When we read good books, beautiful stories that are meant to point us to goodness and truth, we will see and experience in story form another way our own story plays out.