Fellow Passengers: This week’s Promise Passage* (Ruth 4:10-17) transports me to a surprising celebration of the fruits of forbidden love, as two parents from enemy countries have produced an offspring destined to change the course of history. Lest we forget the significance of this taboo coupling, no less than six times in this short book Ruth is identified as “Ruth the Moabitess.” The story is set in the context of a long history of warfare between Israel and Moab. Throughout the Hebrew scripture we read things like “a scepter rising out of Israel will crush the foreheads of Moab.” We read about Israeli armies striking down ten thousand Moabites, “all vigorous and strong; not a man escaped.” When King David defeated Moab he laid all the survivors down on the ground and measured them with a length of rope. Every two lengths suffered execution, every third length lived.
For all the Hebrew people who were familiar with this long held animosity, the story of Ruth had to have been quite a shock. Good Hebrew boy Boaz must have grown up learning to despise these enemy combatants, and yet one day in his early manhood he spied this foreign prize gleaning in his field, and the next thing you know it was “jungle fever” and “guess who’s coming to dinner.” Boaz and Ruth chose to make love, not war, and their love child, Obed, fairly well laid to rest the law which clearly stated, “No Moabite or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, even down to the tenth generation.” Only three generations later, mixed Moabite-Hebrew descendant David became King and a few generations later, mixed Moabite-Hebrew descendant Jesus was born.
So it should be no surprise that Jesus started expanding the notion of who’s in the household of faith, who’s a part of the family of God. The story of Ruth and the story of Jesus challenge us to examine all of our prejudices, to figure out who our Moabites are, and to overcome the divisions that determine who we let into the family gatherings. For Jesus, the welcoming and affirming love of God is never forbidden. We are family. . .
*Daily Passages are the weekday reflections of Stan Dotson, connecting culture to biblical texts. Each week takes its guiding theme for the daily posts from the gospel reading on Monday, the “Primary Passage.” This week’s theme is “Household of Faith.” As always, your feedback and comments are welcome. Feel free to share where the passages take you in your journey of faith.