IDENTITY AND INCLUSION
Gracious and Merciful God, help me to bring any darkness in my life to Your light. Forgive and restore me.
Read RUTH 1:19—2:13
19 So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”
20 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
22 So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.
Ruth Meets Boaz in the Grain Field
2 Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, a man of standing from the clan of Elimelek, whose name was Boaz.
2 And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.”
Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.” 3 So she went out, entered a field and began to glean behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she was working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelek.
4 Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The Lord be with you!”
“The Lord bless you!” they answered.
5 Boaz asked the overseer of his harvesters, “Who does that young woman belong to?”
6 The overseer replied, “She is the Moabite who came back from Moab with Naomi. 7 She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.’ She came into the field and has remained here from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.”
8 So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me. 9 Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.”
10 At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She asked him, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?”
11 Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. 12 May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”
13 “May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord,” she said. “You have put me at ease by speaking kindly to your servant—though I do not have the standing of one of your servants.”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Ruth seems to be a person who believed in Carpe Diem, which, being loosely paraphrased means, “seize the opportunity.”
The shock at Naomi’s return to Bethlehem was predictable. Rather than bringing sons and grandchildren to admiring relatives, she comes home with a single, foreign woman. Three times, the passage reminds us that Ruth was a Moabite, indicating her low status in new surroundings. The Torah (the teachings of Judaism), notably, makes provisions for resident aliens and poor widows. They are allowed to follow the harvesters and glean the grain droppings (Lev. 19:9,10). Ruth, however, is also Naomi’s daughter-in- law, which brings a different identity and significance. It gives her the protection of Naomi’s kinsfolk, especially Boaz, the landowner. His invitation to her to stay in his fields, instructing the men not to touch her, is vital for her safety. Without protection, she is an immigrant, vulnerable to abuse.
As the day continues, we can see that Ruth’s integrity will make it easy for her to forge a new identity in this community of faith. Her perseverance and hard work gain the respect of the foreman; her readiness to leave her homeland to fill the void in Naomi’s life earns the appreciation of Boaz; and his prayer, that she will know blessings from the God of Israel as she seeks refuge in him, begins Ruth’s transition from life as a Moabite to inclusion and fellowship with the
people of Judah.
Acceptance into a community of believers is not always easy. It relies on community integration—where spiritual life spills into hospitality, kindness and concern. Boaz didn’t simply pray and share God’s truth with Ruth. He showed empathy and compassion; he understood her situation and shielded her from harm. When our own welcome to newcomers is generous and unstinting we make it easier for them to belong and to find their own refuge in the living God.
What three things might your church do differently to welcome people unfamiliar with church culture and give them a sense of belonging?
Lord, may my identity be so rooted and grounded in You that I can sense Your love for those around me and be their bridge to You.