According to a recent news report, one in five Singaporean marriages in 2017 were inter-ethnic. These mixed marriages were often inter-religious unions as well. The report highlights how parents generally expect their children to fall in love and marry people of their own race. Though mixed-race relationships are more common nowadays, such couples say that they still get strange looks in public and often face parental objections. Society is still not fully accepting of inter-racial marriages.
God warned the Israelites taking possession of the Promised Land not to intermarry with those already living there, for these unbelievers would inevitably lead them into idolatry (Exodus 34:15–16; Deuteronomy 7:1–4). The Moabites were such a people. Hostile to the Israelites, the Moabites hired the soothsayer Balaam to curse them (Deuteronomy 23:3–4). Their women seduced the Israelites into immorality and idolatry (Numbers 25:1–2). So God forbade them to enter the temple to worship Him (this law was still upheld at the time of Nehemiah, see Nehemiah 13:1–2, 23–27) and ordered the Israelites “never [to] promote the welfare and prosperity of the Moabites” (Deuteronomy 23:6 NLT).
This raises a troubling issue with Boaz the Israelite marrying Ruth the Moabitess. Did Boaz disobey God when he married Ruth? Why was Ruth permitted to join the Israelites and worship Yahweh?
In His grace and wisdom, God has already made efficacious provisions that allow anyone willing to believe in Him to worship Him. The prophet Isaiah promised that those who commit themselves to God would be bountifully blessed by Him: “Don’t let foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will never let me be part of his people’” (Isaiah 56:3 NLT). God promised them, “I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord, who serve him and love his name, who worship him, and who hold fast to my covenant. I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations” (56:6–7 NLT).
So, any curse on a foreigner or outsider alienated and separated from God lasts only until that person turns to God, believes in Him, and commits entirely to Him. And this is what Ruth the Moabitess has done (Ruth 1:14–18, see Day 6). Ruth “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9). And this is what we must do too.
The Ruth who married Mahlon (Ruth 1:4; 4:10) in Moab was an accursed Moabitess, not allowed to “enter the assembly of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 23:3), “excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise” (Ephesians 2:12). But the Ruth who married Boaz in Bethlehem is now a “fellow [citizen] with God’s people and also [member] of his household” (2:19).
Ruth was redeemed. Ruth was greatly blessed. This is the story of Ruth. You are redeemed. You have been richly blessed. And God is still writing your story. Amen.
Does the Bible prohibit inter-ethnic marriages and inter-faith marriages? Why or why not?
What does God mean when He declares, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56:7)?”