Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17)
Ruth is an important matriarch in my family. My grandmother, daughter and granddaughter all carry that name along with numerous members of the extended family. It has always been popular with both Jews and Gentiles who are drawn to her story of love and redemption. It is also a Christmas story.
Ruth was a Moabite, a descendant of Esau, a follower of the Semitic religion. When her husband died, she left her people and religion behind, choosing to follow her Jewish mother-in-law back to Bethlehem in Judah. It was not an easy decision, but her sacrifice did not go unnoticed. A wealthy bachelor noticed Ruth gleaning in his wheat fields and instructed his farmhands to leave extra grain behind for her to gather. When she returned home with the bounty, her mother-in-law, Naomi, saw an opportunity. If she could make a match between Ruth and Boaz, their financial worries would be over. In a bold move, she instructed Ruth to make her intentions known. “ When Boaz is finished eating and drinking and is in good spirits, approach him quietly, uncover his feet and lay down.” In the middle of the night Boaz was startled for find a woman in his bed. “Who are you?” he asked. “I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer of our family.”
Rather than scolding her for her audacity, he was overwhelmed with gratitude, because she had chosen him. Although he was not her closest relative, he quickly negotiated a land swap that allowed him to take Ruth as his wife. From their union, Jesse was born, the father of David, and from David’s line, Jesus.
Centuries later,” Joseph went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child (Luke 2:4-5).” Jesus is our kinsman-redeemer. He is no respecter of gender, nationality or creed in accepting all who chose to love him.
“Lord, thank you for accepting anyone who calls on your name. In a world that easily discriminates against the “other”, you model a heart of love that embraces and redeems all people.” Amen.
Mindi Oaten’s painting “The Kinsmen Redeemer”is from God’s Garden of Grace collection.