Read: Ruth 1–4
So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the LORD made her conceive, and she bore a son. 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! 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.” (Ruth 4:13-15, NRSV).
This is the third installment of our Women in Waiting series which features the women named in Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1:1-17. Ruth is the only one of the four Old Testament women who gets an entire book named after her. Since the book is only four chapters long, I’m hoping you will read it all. It masquerades as a charming love story, but don’t be fooled. There’s a lot riding on this little romance….
The following is an imagined interview between “C” (Carol) and “R” (Ruth).
C: Ruth, your story has a happy ending, but there are a lot of really tense moments leading up to that ending. One of them is your decision to stay with your mother-in-law, Naomi, even after she orders you and your sister-in-law to go home to Moab.
R: Strangely enough, I don’t think of that as being especially tense. The outcome was never in doubt from my perspective. I was not about to let Naomi go back to Bethlehem without me.
C: Weren’t you worried about your reception? You were from Moab, after all, and “foreigners” are not always received well in any age.
R: That had crossed my mind, of course, but love knows no boundaries. I loved Naomi. We’d been through a lot together, and I wasn’t about to let her go on alone. Actually, the thing I remember about that moment was how difficult it was to defy a direct order. My sister-in-law, Orpah, was the obedient one.
C: Good point. Commentators are often unfair to her.
R: If it’s “tense moments” you want to hear about, I’d start with the remainder of the trip to Bethlehem. I mean really. I make this powerful declaration of love and loyalty….
C: Yes! The “where you go, I will go” speech!
- That’s the one. I expected Naomi to fall into my arms weeping with gratitude. But no! She turned on her heel and walked away. And not a word all the way to Bethlehem!
C: I’ve had road-trips like that. They’re really uncomfortable.
R: Then when we got to Bethlehem and the women came out to greet us, all she could do was go on about how bitter she was. I mean, in a way I don’t blame her. I was bitter, too. But that line about how “I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty,” was really hard to hear. It was all I could do not to elbow her in the ribs and ask, “What am I? Chopped liver???”
C: It must have been exasperating. Still, I think people of my day would describe Naomi as being clinically depressed.
R: Whatever you call it, I knew I couldn’t just sit around and wait for her to make a life for us. She was practically catatonic. That’s why I decided to go gleaning. It was that or sit around and starve.
C: I have to ask: Did you have any idea that that wheat field belonged to Boaz?
R: Of course not. Read carefully. “As it happened” means that it was a kind of divine coincidence. You’d call it Providence.
C: Thanks. I’ve always thought so, but I wanted to hear you say it. You wouldn’t believe how many commentators call you a gold-digger.
R: Oh, I’m not surprised at all. Somebody should teach those commentators to read.
C: What about the infamous “threshing floor affair” in chapter three? Talk about tense moments!
R: I don’t deny that it was tense. But I would point out that I was following orders at that point. Naomi had come back to life when she saw that someone (Boaz, as it turned out) had been kind to me. I think she took it as a sign that God had not abandoned us after all. But after a while, she got restless, and the next thing I knew, she was packing me off to the threshing floor with orders to lie down next to Boaz and “uncover his feet….”
C: Everyone wants to know about that part! Tell us: are we talking feet with toes or “feet” without? His genitals, in other words….
R: Wouldn’t you like to know. Let’s just say that either way, the message was clear.
C: Talk about tense moments!
R: You don’t know the half of it. And then, when he pulled that rabbit out of the hat about the existence of a “nearer kinsman….”
C: So, help me to understand. That meant that there was someone else in line ahead of Boaz who was responsible to take care of you and Naomi.
R: Exactly. The minute Boaz mentioned the nearer kinsman, I understood so much. Naomi had said that Boaz was next-of-kin, but now I find out that he isn’t! I would never have agreed to the threshing floor scheme if I had known that.
C: Do you think Naomi knew about the nearer kinsman?
R: Of course she did. It was her own family tree, for pity’s sake. But she sent me anyway. I guess she thought she needed to force God’s hand—or at least give God a bit of a nudge. Believe me, I had some strong words for her when I got back from the threshing floor.
C: Not so fast. Boaz kept you there until morning. We want details!
R: No comment…except to say that the nearer kinsman might as well have been sleeping between us.
C: Fair point. So, Boaz sent you back to Naomi empty-handed?
R: Of course not. Read carefully! He was a really kind person. He sent me back loaded with grain and even more importantly, with a promise that he would speak to the nearer kinsman the next morning. I knew I could trust him. After all, he had known about the existence of the nearer kinsman all along. That proved that his previous generosity to us had been completely out of the goodness of his heart. He knew there was nothing in it for him.
C: Say more about Boaz’ character. He seemed to be the only one in Bethlehem who saw you for who you really were.
R: Yes, to everyone else I was “that Moabite woman.” But Boaz saw me through the prism of my love and loyalty to Naomi.
C: Where do you think he learned to see beyond boundaries?
R: I’ve always suspected that it had a lot to do with his own family history. His mother was Rahab, whom you interviewed last week. And if you go back a few generations more, you’ll see Tamar’s name; she was another faithful foreigner who found her way into the family tree.
C: Yes, we interviewed her, too! The presence of those two women must have had a powerful influence on Boaz’ family culture—not to mention his DNA.
R: I can’t speak to the “DNA” thing, but you’re right about the rest. I would like to point out that your own culture could learn a few things from “faithful foreigners.” From what I gather, you’re having a few tense moments of your own.
C: Touché. We’ll remember you and Rahab and Tamar the next time we’re given an opportunity to welcome a stranger.
Ponder: How does Ruth’s story empower you? Convict you?
Pray: Help us to see beyond boundaries, gracious God, and to welcome others as you have welcomed us.