January 17, 2017

Merciful, Noble, Obedient

Ruth 1:16-17; 3:1-13

May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.

—  Ruth 2:12

Why should Ruth obey Naomi and make herself available to Boaz? Why not make her own choices? The answer is straightforward. When she refused to go back home, Ruth “clung” to Naomi (Ruth 1:14). The same verb in Hebrew is used elsewhere to describe a husband and wife being united together (see Genesis 2:25).

As in marriage, Ruth left her home willingly to join herself to another. In this case, she willingly shared Naomi’s family situation, her God, her sorrow, her emptiness. Going to the threshing floor that night was a gesture requesting marriage—for the purpose of filling a part of Naomi’s emptiness: her lack of a child and heir. When Ruth said to Boaz, “Spread . . . your garment over me,” it meant, “Take me under your wing to be your wife, by the terms of God’s covenant for our related families.”

In a way, this story is like Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Both stories teach God’s people what it means to love their neighbor. When Jesus asked which ­traveler showed the love of God to the man who needed help, the response had to be “The one who had mercy on him.”

Ruth went to the threshing floor because she was a merciful, noble person who wanted to honor God. Let us also honor God by being merciful and noble to our neighbors.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for not passing us by when we were in need of your love. Help us to respond with your love and care for our hurting neighbors. Amen.

About the author — Arie C. Leder

Dr. Arie C. Leder is the Martin J. Wyngaarden Senior Professor of Old Testament Studies at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He previously served as pastor at Ebenezer Christian Reformed Church, Trenton, Ontario, and with Christian Reformed World Missions in Latin America. He teaches courses on the Pentateuch and on historical books of the Old Testament.

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