Zechariah 8: When we Become Ruths

Zechariah 8 speaks of a future time, when Jerusalem’s all that she should be. Elderly people feel comfortable sitting in the streets, and children are safe to play there (4-5). Her fasts become cheerful feasts (verse 19), but it’s the last verse I particularly like. “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you”’” (verse 23, NKJV). Now the footnote tells me in Hebrew, this word ‘Sleeve’ literally means wing or corner of a garment. I don’t know what you think of when you hear the phrase ‘Corner of a garment’, but for me, it brings to mind a Biblical story.

Ruth went to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law when both their husbands had died. She ended up harvesting barley in a field belonging to Boaz – a close relative of theirs. After the harvest, Naomi wanted to make provision for her daughter-in-law, so she told Ruth to go to the threshing-floor (where the barley was taken to separate the good crop from the rubbish). Ruth would be perfumed and wearing her best clothes, and Boaz would tell her what to do (Ruth 3:3-4). Following her mother-in-law’s instructions, Ruth didn’t announce herself to Boaz, but when he rested, she uncovered his feet and lay down. When Boaz woke up to find her there, Ruth asked him to spread the corner of his garment over her (Ruth 3:9). She was asking him to secure her future. In Jewish law, a close relative was supposed to provide for a widow by giving her a child to honour her late husband’s name. Although there was a closer relative than Boaz, they discussed the matter and agreed he should be the one to marry Ruth.

So, back to Zechariah: In those days, God says, people from every nation will grasp the corner of a Jew’s garment because they’ve heard God is with the man. Jesus of Nazareth was born a Jew and even before His birth, Zechariah’s looking to the day when Gentiles (or non-Jews) are welcomed into the kingdom of God through Jesus. By His death on the cross, Jesus offers the corner of His garment to us. We can come under His covering, and He’ll secure our future.

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