How You Are Matters (Ruth 4:13-17)

The Meeting of Ruth and Boaz by Marc Chagall, 1960

So Boaz took Ruth home as his wife. The Lord blessed her, and she became pregnant and had a son. The women said to Naomi, “Praise the Lord! He has given you a grandson today to take care of you. May the boy become famous in Israel! Your daughter-in-law loves you and has done more for you than seven sons. And now she has given you a grandson, who will bring new life to you and give you security in your old age.” Naomi took the child, held him close, and took care of him.

The women of the neighborhood named the boy Obed. They told everyone, “A son has been born to Naomi!”

Obed became the father of Jesse, who was the father of David. (Good News Translation)

Your Commitment Matters

Ruth, although not a Jew, committed herself fully to her Jewish mother-in-law and to the Jewish people. Her faithfulness mattered and eventually realized the blessing of family and community.

It wasn’t an easy path for Ruth to enjoy such blessing. She and her mother-in-law, Naomi, came to Bethlehem as two poor widows. Even though Bethlehem today is known around the world, back then there wasn’t much to it – just a small non-descript village in Judah a few miles south of Jerusalem.

Your History Matters

The Bible contains a lot of genealogies. Bible readers often skip over those portions of Holy Scripture to get to the more meaty and interesting stuff. But there’s a lot there.

Genealogies serve to remind us of who we are, where we have come from, and thus, what direction we are headed. Each and every human life has an historical context, a past which informs the present and can help guide for the future.

Naomi had a long history as part of the Jewish community. Ruth was a Moabite. Moab was an ancient kingdom which was located in the present day nation of Jordan. The original ancestor of the Moabites was Moab, a son of Lot. Lot was a nephew of the Jewish patriarch Abraham.

Moabites and Israelites didn’t get along. Moab had their own god, Chemosh, and did not serve Israel’s Yahweh. The person, Moab, was conceived under difficult and dubious circumstances – and it seems this context set the tone for the entire nation of people. (Genesis 19:30-38)

Our genealogical histories can bog us down or they can inspire us. Yet, the unseemly parts of our past family can actually serve to reveal something wonderful.

Your Receiving of Grace Matters

All genealogies are filled with less than stellar characters. But they’re also testaments to grace.

Both Ruth and her husband Boaz were recipients of the Lord’s grace.

Boaz, having a long history of the covenant as a Jew, nonetheless also had a difficult family past. Much like the conception of the ancient character of Moab, one of the ancestors of Boaz, Tamar, and one of the Jewish patriarchs, Judah, had a rather twisted experience. (Genesis 38:1-30)

Both Boaz and Ruth became great grandparents to King David. And they both are listed together in the opening genealogy of Matthew’s Gospel as ancestors to Jesus the Messiah, known as the son of David.

Grace changes history. If Jesus can have a genealogy, much like us, filled with both faithful committed people and dubious characters, then I believe we can give ourselves, and each other, a bit of slack on our shared human condition.

Your Spiritual Family Matters

For the Christian, there is an historical continuity across the millennia with our ancient spiritual forebears. The drama of redemption unveiled throughout the whole of Scripture connects us with Father Abraham, to the deliverance out of Egyptian slavery, to the saving events of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension, and beyond into the union of Christ and the Church.

A Moabite widow is redeemed into a new community. She marries a Jewish man and conceives a child in grace, born in the humble village of Bethlehem. Centuries later, another woman, Mary, experiences a conception of grace and gives birth to a child in the very same place – Christ the Lord, our Immanuel, God with us.

Jesus was born of David’s genealogical line, from ordinary people, just like Ruth and Boaz. Because it is only from humility that greatness can arise.

Your Faith Matters

Your faith and my faith grows in the context of an ordinary life. We live and move and have our being within the grace and providential care of God. Our faith is rooted in the soil of grace, anchored and moored in the deep of faithful servants who have gone before us.

Like Ruth, we humbly attach ourselves to a larger community and seek to give ourselves for the life of the world. Like Mary, we willingly confess to the angelic messenger:

“I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38)

Our Father in heaven, you hold all that you have made within your gracious and merciful hand. Help us in all things to see your loving providence working out a good plan for the earth. Just as Ruth from Moab became one of your people, so you call us by name and hospitably invite us to your Table.

In Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, you meet us in the ordinary routines of our lives. You have graciously taken our pains, fears, sorrows, bitterness, guilt, shame, and sins upon yourself and given us a new life and a new community.Turn our suffering to glory, and our tears into joy.

Holy Spirit, giver of life, you guide us into grace and truth through generous love. As Boaz went out of his way to provide abundance for a poor widow, let us be generous with both our speech and our actions. Teach us to be alert to the needs of others so that everyone may have their daily bread.

Blessed Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Spirit – the God whom we serve, you are our past, present, and future. We give you praise and commit ourselves to the words and ways of Jesus, in whose name we are bold to pray. Amen.

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