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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Today's Scripture Reading | Ruth 2:14–23

At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here, and eat some of this bread, and dip your morsel in the sour wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he heaped up for her some parched grain. She ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. When she got up to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, “Let her glean even among the standing sheaves, and do not reproach her. You must also pull out some handfuls for her from the bundles, and leave them for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.”

So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. She picked it up and came into the town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gleaned. Then she took out and gave her what was left over after she herself had been satisfied. Her mother-in-law said to her, “Where did you glean today? And where have you worked? Blessed be the man who took notice of you.” So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked, and said, “The name of the man with whom I worked today is Boaz.” Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “Blessed be he by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a relative of ours, one of our nearest kin.” Then Ruth the Moabite said, “He even said to me, ‘Stay close by my servants, until they have finished all my harvest.’” Naomi said to Ruth, her daughter-in-law, “It is better, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, otherwise you might be bothered in another field.” So she stayed close to the young women of Boaz, gleaning until the end of the barley and wheat harvests; and she lived with her mother-in-law. (NRSV)

When the big reveal happens in verse 20—Ruth learns that Boaz is a relative, which we as readers knew earlier in the chapter—a weighty phrase is used, though we might overlook it. Naomi exclaims that Boaz is their “nearest of kin.” That is how many translations render the Hebrew word go-el, which carried a specific, legal meaning in the culture from which it came. It means “next of kin,” yes, but also “redeemer.” The go-el is the person, usually a relation, who has the responsibility to bail one out when an individual is in deep trouble, to “buy one back.”

We’ll see in coming days how Boaz handles that duty, but let’s step back from the story for a minute. We automatically associate the world redeemer with Jesus. He is, indeed, our nearest relative, the person who buys us back. While that is an amazing truth, it is not always so comfortable to think about. It means we need redeeming. That fact brings to mind something I read years ago in Michael Casey’s A Guide to Living in the Truth: St. Benedict’s Teaching on Humility: “In theory salvation seems desirable. At the level of feeling it is different. It is humiliating to be saved. . . . Nobody applauds the one who is saved; the hero is the rescuer” (p. 58).

Ruth and Naomi are excellent models here. Two widows, living in a culture in which the status of widow made a woman as economically and socially vulnerable as she could be, getting their food from others’ throwaways, they needed a savior. They are humble and honest about it. Not defensive or angry or embarrassed. I want to be more like them.

God of love that creates and redeems and sanctifies, thank you for buying us back. Thank you for your Son, Jesus, who saved us once and continues to save us from prideful desires to save ourselves. Grant us the humility, honesty, and graciousness of your daughters Ruth and Naomi. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Written by Susan Quaintance, Program Coordinator, Center for Life and Learning

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