bible blog 1337

This bog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:

“PEACEFUL” RUSSIAN VOLUNTEERS IN UKRAINE

race matters to them

race matters to them

Ruth 1:19-2:13

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)

19 So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them; and the women said, ‘Is this Naomi?’ 20 She said to them,

‘Call me no longer Naomi,[a]     call me Mara,[b]     for the Almighty[c] has dealt bitterly with me. 21 I went away full,     but the Lord has brought me back empty; why call me Naomi     when the Lord has dealt harshly with[d] me,     and the Almighty[e] has brought calamity upon me?’

22 So Naomi returned together with Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, who came back with her from the country of Moab. They came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.

Ruth Meets Boaz

Now Naomi had a kinsman on her husband’s side, a prominent rich man, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, ‘Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain, behind someone in whose sight I may find favour.’ She said to her, ‘Go, my daughter.’ So she went. She came and gleaned in the field behind the reapers. As it happened, she came to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech. Just then Boaz came from Bethlehem. He said to the reapers, ‘The Lord be with you.’ They answered, ‘The Lord bless you.’ Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, ‘To whom does this young woman belong?’ The servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, ‘She is the Moabite who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. She said, “Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the reapers.” So she came, and she has been on her feet from early this morning until now, without resting even for a moment.’[f]

Then Boaz said to Ruth, ‘Now listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. Keep your eyes on the field that is being reaped, and follow behind them. I have ordered the young men not to bother you. If you get thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.’ 10 Then she fell prostrate, with her face to the ground, and said to him, ‘Why have I found favour in your sight, that you should take notice of me, when I am a foreigner?’ 11 But Boaz answered her, ‘All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. 12 May the Lord reward you for your deeds, and may you have a full reward from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge!’ 13 Then she said, ‘May I continue to find favour in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, even though I am not one of your servants.’

gleaners

gleaners

(Ruth a widowed Moabitess has decided to follow her widowed mother-in-law Naomi a Jewess, back to Israel) This story was told to counteract the exclusive racial purity policy introduced to Israel by Ezra, when he insisted that men should divorce the “foreign” women they had married. The first part of the story-see yesterday’s blog- showed how the human affection of Ruth for Naomi could cross racial and cultural barriers. Today’s extract shows realistically the hard work needed for survival by women who had no male relatives. Gleaning may sound quaint, but the labour of harvesting what the reapers had left, and the danger of being a woman amongst working men, are carefully mentioned. 
But the centre of this episode is the depiction of Boaz as one who offers a welcome to the stranger, in the name of Israel’s God. He takes time to understand who the stranger is and what she’s doing, then acts to ensure her safety and her dignity. He tells her that she has sought refuge “under the wings” of Israel’s God-a phrase the Jesus took to himself when he spoke of how he longed to gather his people as a hen gathers her chicks under her wing. Human goodness and the tenderness of God are both displayed delicately and without fuss in this passage. The whole tone of the story is a rebuke to the dishonest and brutal debate in the UK (although perhaps less in Scotland) on the issue of immigration. If the debate started with the conviction that the land is not ours but God’s; and that we can honour God by honouring the strangers he sends us; it would be conducted in a different tone and henwith better motives. An ancient text shows a greater wisdom than contemporary society.

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