Dispatch Two Hundred Six

Posted: July 1, 2019 in Fifty-Eighth Bundle
Tags: , , , , ,

RUTH 3:1-5; 4:13-17

Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you. Now here is our kinsman Boaz, with whose young women you have been working. See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Now wash and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, observe the place where he lies; then, go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do.” She said to her, “All that you tell me I will do.”

4 13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son. 14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.” 16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. 17 The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David.

The startling outcome of the story is that Ruth, a Moabite outsider, is incorporated into the biblical story of blessing through the motherly grace of Naomi; while Naomi, a Jewish insider, is granted a child by the grace of working through the generativity of Ruth. Think of it: without Ruth hooking up with Boaz and eventually giving birth to Obed, there would have been no shepherd-king David in the future, and perhaps to united kingdom of Israel either.

Who would have thought that Israel’s dynastic glory days would issue from the womb of a pagan foreigner? There’s a wonderful irony in play here that would not have been lost on any reader back in the time when this story was written. And then there is the still more wonderful comedy, that Ruth should be included within the collection of writings considered sacred and God-inspired by Jews and Christians alike.

Ruth is a persistent challenge to our tendencies toward separatism and the elevation of “our people” (race, nationality, class, political party, religion or denomination) over others as superior and divinely favored. With Ruth, the entire future of the Jews would have been drastically different. While the distinction between “insiders” and “outsiders” is probably unavoidable, we are cautioned against making divisions that prevent us from seeing God in the other.

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