If you tell the story of King David, Israel’s most celebrated ruler, and if you describe his ancestry, you have to include a foreign woman, a Moabite named Ruth. Through her selfless devotion, Ruth became an indispensable link in the succession. In Matthew 1, the genealogy finally includes Jesus.
When we read Ezra and Nehemiah, we face a post–exilic attitude of nationalistic exclusiveness (“put away foreign wives”). Ruth and Jonah exemplify the inclusive, universal yearnings of Israel. If we want a story that reflects the way foreigners, outsiders, and immigrants can profoundly bless the life of a welcoming nation, Ruth is a perfect choice.
I pastored a congregation for thirty years in Nashville, Tennessee. Because of the church building’s proximity to several universities, families from Africa, Asia, Latin America, Australia, and the South Sea Islands enriched our congregational life!
Having lived in the same city all my life, I have found that the influx of God’s children from all parts of the world has wondrously diversified our city’s languages, food choices, labor force, and religious traditions. Life is more and more like a wonderful stew into which all the varied ingredients, without surrendering discrete identity, blend into one another and produce a delicious result.
All around us, as in Israel’s history, we hear sounds of resent-
ment, fear, nationalism, exclusiveness. But this passage reminds us to approach diversity with anticipation, not fear; with thanksgiving, not competitiveness; with hospitality, not separation. Allow the simple beauty of these verses glow in your heart and mind, creating initiatives of welcome and hospitality. The promise is one of blessing.
Fill me, O God, with a heart and arms that enfold and embrace, so that I too may receive your blessing! Amen.
Ruth’s story forms part of the background of the family of Jesus. The son of Ruth and Boaz, Obed, is David’s grandfather. The women of Bethlehem rejoice with Naomi at the birth of her grandson, and the psalmist declares that children are a blessing from God. In the scriptures children are spoken of only as a blessing, never as a liability (unlike some narratives in our culture). The Hebrew writer builds upon the eternal nature of Christ’s sacrifice, proclaiming that his death was sufficient once for all. In Mark, Jesus warns his disciples not to be fooled by appearances. Those who put on a big show of piety do not impress God. God wants us instead to give from the heart, even if no one but God sees.
• Read Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17. How has your life been enriched through the diversity of people around you?
• Read Psalm 127. How do you actively ensure the shaping of your household around godly practice?
• Read Hebrews 9:24-28. What spiritual income do you draw upon to keep your faith and hope alive?
• Read Mark 12:38-44. How do you guard against duplicitous living?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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