On the Beach with Ruth
Wash thyself therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee, and get thee down to the floor: but make not thyself known unto the man, until he shall have done eating and drinking.~Ruth 3:3
My family made the annual trek from the green mountains of western North Carolina to the white sands of a popular South Carolina beach. The red canvas chair soaked up sun from the packed sand, and early morning glory from sundrenched water washed over my soul. Peace gently rolled into my heart as I visited, via smartphone, on the beach with Ruth.
The gentle morning waves of the Atlantic sounded in my right ear, and the gracious words of the Almighty floated into my other ear. And I realized the tiny book of Ruth–four chapters–contained an ocean of spiritual possibilities for me. Like discovering a strange seashell washed ashore, my soul waded into a mystery in the verse quoted above.
I wondered if God’s use of word pictures in Ruth’s story might help me if I rode its waves too. Ruth describes the journey of a young widow who traveled with her mother-in-law to a foreign land and settled there. She met her future husband in chapter three. Christians have studied Ruth for centuries, but I tried to solve the puzzle of why God used the word picture of wash in Ruth 3:3.
I remembered an article about word pictures. According to science, our minds bring to the surface every positive or negative memory when we hear a particular word. God created us with the useful tool of association for many reasons such as safety, information, and faster learning. With only one word, God has designed us to connect instantly to our memories.
He also uses word pictures to condense His messages to us. Our God-designed association ability creates curiosity about verses that contain the word, wash, in the remainder of Scripture. Do they imbue the word, wash, with a spiritual truth? In my time on the beach with Ruth, I realized the word, wash, although a great storytelling choice, sails forth from Ruth’s story with a far greater significance than an ancient tale. Throughout other books of the Bible, the word embarks on a voyage full of stunning spiritual truth.
The Word Picture of Wash in the Bible
That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.~Ephesians 5:26
The word, wash, presents itself symbolically and in splendid prose on its journey through the rivers of life in sixty-six books. From Genesis, with its rich drama of Abraham finding a bride for Isaac and Rebekah and the washing of Eliezer’s feet (Genesis 24) to the coves and fjords of the Song of Solomon and the major and minor prophets, the word wash winds its way. A special collection of stories in the Old Testament mentions washing such as preparing the temple sacrifices in Leviticus. The spiritual analogy of washing ripples through Psalms in verses that refer to spiritual truth.
Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.~Psalm 51:2
In the New Testament, the word picture of wash continues its journey of both literal and spiritual meaning. In Ephesians 5:26, the word is used to reveal a powerful truth: reading the Bible cleanses and sets apart our souls for God’s service. I revel in the refreshing and invigorating flow of God’s word, wash. Like dozens of children jumping and playing in the waves around me. I am changed by its life-giving properties. As Ruth washed before she met Boaz physically, we cleanse ourselves daily in the Bible’s river of life.
My visit on the beach with Ruth captivated me. And I marvel at the magnificent truth of God’s washing my soul clean and pure. When the waves of life knock me down with guilt and shame, I cry out to God, and He dips me in the cleansing stream. As I find my feet again, I rise to serve Him—refreshed and freed with the glistening truth of washing.
Have you ever used a word picture while explaining something to someone?
Dear Lord, please help me to choose word pictures to improve my ability to tell others about you. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Copyright 2023: On the Beach with Ruth: Marlene Houck: All Rights Reserved