So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son. Then the women 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.’ Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. The women of the neighbourhood 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. 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.
Hands up… who just glanced over those names at the end of today’s reading?
You may have seen the many adverts for websites which allow one to research one’s family, and others which will reveal our origins though a DNA sample. Ancestry and family heritage have always held a fascination for many. For example, a friend of mine has recently discovered a half-brother in Texas.
The Bible contains many such lists, and while the historicity of them cannot be verified, they do bolster the arc of Scripture, support prophecy and provide valuable insight.
As yesterday’s author mentioned, the book of Ruth speaks powerfully about how the marginalised should be treated: the poor, the immigrant, the disenfranchised. You might not be aware that Ruth also speaks to a group of people who often feel rejected by church: the LGBT community. The connection between these two women, Ruth and Naomi, is a very special one. Ruth 1:16-17 is often used at weddings!
Looking backwards into Ruth’s ancestry, we find the Moabites’ beginnings in Genesis 19: Moab born to one of Lot’s daughters, sired by her own father, an account which itself revolts us. Looking forward from Ruth, we find Israel’s great King David with his notable personal relationships with Saul, Jonathan, Michal and Bathsheba. We might find these unsettling.
At Christmas, our readings about Jesus’ birth begin with Matthew 1:18, missing out the first 17 verses. But if you read them, you will find another genealogy – for Jesus. (A similar list can be found in Luke 3:23-38.) There, you will find both Ruth and David.
Many people have felt judged harshly by the Church because of whom they love. If those same judgemental standards were to be applied to some of Jesus’ ancestors…
Those very relationships recorded in the Bible that stand out from the normal can be found in the very ancestry of Jesus Himself!
Lord Jesus, You say to us:
“Do not judge,
and you will not be judged.”
Forgive us when we judge others.
Forgive us when we suddenly
grow cold towards others,
when we learn something about them
that unsettles us.
We pray for those hurt by those
who claim to speak in Your name,
but have separated others from Your love.
Give us the strength to speak Your unconditional love afresh.
Lord, in your mercy:
Hear our prayer, and let our cry go unto You. Amen.
Walt Johnson is an Elder at Wilbraham St Ninian’s, Chorlton, Manchester