Wednesday Scripture - Ruth 4:13,17 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son. 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 very short story of Ruth and Biblical book it is contained in is rich with social themes that speak to our current experience. Let's take a look today. Ruth is the story of poverty. Naomi, who becomes Ruth's mother-in-law, and her family are forced to leave their homeland of Bethlehem in Judah due to a famine. They go to Moab. In Moab Naomi's husband and son's die and once again, she and her daughters-in-law are impoverished which no one to care or provide for them. Naomi and Ruth go back to Bethlehem and Ruth goes to work gleaning in the fields. This is the work of the impoverished, of those who struggle to find food.
As you have no doubt began to notice, Ruth is the story of refugees. Naomie and her family are forced to move because of famine. They move to Moab. The Moabites and Israelites have been enemies for generations. So Naomi is forced to go to a land where she will not be welcome, in order to survive. When the husband and son's die, Ruth CHOOSES to become a refugee herself. She will not abandon her mother-in-law, but instead becomes the despised and rejected outsider in Judah in order to care for her mother-in-law.
When Ruth and Naomi arrive in Bethlehem and Ruth begins to glean the fields, we see, like in yesterday's story, the perspective of women. Without husbands or grown sons to provide for or protect them, Ruth and Naomi are particularly vulnerable. Ruth gleans in fields belonging to Boaz. And the first thing Boaz does when he sees Ruth at work is to warn his male workers not to 'bother' her. He then goes to Ruth and offers sanctuary to Ruth among his workers and warns her not to work anywhere else. It might not be same for an unmarried foreign woman. There is little doubt in my mind that no small part of Boaz's concern is sexual violence. Boaz sees the world through Ruth's eyes. Miraculously he can enter into her perspective and understands the dangers to her as a foreign woman.
The story of Ruth and Naomi is not just about their struggle and their suffering. There is much to celebrate about their lives and their experience. There is the solidarity that Ruth shows Naomi that we respect and admire. There is the courage both women show, in risking life in foreign and unfriendly territories in order to provide a better life for their families. We see hard work on Ruth's part in the fields each day. And there is the humble agency she shows in going to Boaz and suggesting they marry. She is not manipulative or coercive, but she is strong and assertive and that is something to celebrate. Which brings us to today's verse. All of this trauma and stress, loss, and struggle, results in the birth of the father of David. Women's struggle, women's strength, and character in the midst of trauma, is celebrated as that which brings about the birth of a King. Israel's future lies in the experiences of those most often ignored, unknown, even abused. Their lives lead to life for the people of Israel. And that is something to celebrate.