Throughout Epiphany we have traveled with Naomi of Bethlehem to Moab and back. Last time we saw her working behind the scenes to ‘help God’ bring about a good outcome to the years of sorrow and disaster. Her scheming pays off. Boaz and the widow of Naomi’s son are married.
Love and God are triumphant. God, however, isn’t quite done yet. Boaz and Ruth were married. And she became pregnant. The women of Bethlehem celebrate, They “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.’ After this "Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse." In the fullness of God's timing she can claim a new child. "The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, ‘A son has been born to Naomi.’ They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David.” (Ruth 4:14-17).
We might wonder why (how) Naomi becomes the baby’s nurse. Did Ruth die in childbirth? Did she just claim the boy as hers in place of the sons who died? The Biblical record is silent about those details. What we do learn is that the son of the foreigner from Moab, Ruth, and the good Hebrew man, Boaz, are the ancestors of David (and much later, of Jesus).
The Book of Ruth closes with a genealogy that goes back to the grandson of Jacob, patriarch of Israel. The genealogy in the Book of Ruth starts with Perez, who was the son of Judah, one of Jacob's 12 sons. Interestingly, Perez is Judah's son through his relationship with is daughter-in-law Tamar. In Genesis 38 we learn how Perez was conceived through some trickery on the part of Tamar to make Judah live up to the levirate duty of raising up children for his [dead] sons. The same genealogy is listed in 1 Chronicles 2:5 and at the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew.
“Now these are the descendants of Perez: Perez became the father of Hezron, Hezron of Ram, Ram of Amminadab, Amminadab of Nahshon, Nahshon of Salmon, Salmon of Boaz, Boaz of Obed, Obed of Jesse, and Jesse of David.” (Ruth 4:18-22) It never fails to amaze me that in that lineage at least two non-Hebrews are hidden-Rahab and Ruth. (And Tamar herself was likely not a Hebrew either.)
Salmon was one of the spies who came to Jericho who Rahab hid. When Jericho was attacked, "the spies went in, and brought out Rahab, and her father and mother and brothers and all that belonged to her; and they brought all her kindred, and set them outside the camp of Israel." (Joshua 6:23) Salmon later married Rahab, and their son was Boaz. (While the marriage of Salmon and Rahab (harlot of Jericho) isn't specifically stated, we can extrapolate their marriage from the Matthew genealogy that says "Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab...") And of course, Ruth married Boaz, and bore Obed the great-grandfather of David.
God is not exclusive. God is extremely inclusive! What does that tell us about how we are to interact with the ‘stranger in our midst’? How does that change who we perceive as our neighbor? As Jesus points out in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, our neighbor cannot be labeled by their nationality or religion, nor by the color of their skin or their accent.
After telling the parable, Jesus asked, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? “The one who showed him mercy,’ replied the expert in the law. Then Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” (Luke 10:36-37)
How can we show mercy to those who might not at first glance be considered ‘neighbors’? What is your definition of neighbor?
Lent starts on Wednesday with, for many of us, the ‘Imposition of Ashes’. We are reminded to take a hard look at our lives during the 40 days of Lent. Come back and meet some of the Women of Lent over those weeks.