Ruthless Love

I’ve been mulling over this article for a few weeks now.

The author ponders the implications of the book of Ruth, and particularly, the possible implications of the plan that Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi, comes up for Ruth to secure a husband for herself and a future for them both.  It involves some eyebrow-raising behavior that may or may not involve direct seduction and even sexual behavior with a man who is not her husband.  
This tends to generate a lot of gasps of indignation.  We prefer our Biblical heroes – particularly ones who are ancestors of Jesus of Nazareth – to be a bit more polished.  Sure, they may have character flaws.  But we want their good qualities to outweigh their moral failures.  
We’re less comfortable with the fact that throughout Scripture we are provided with key figures who are faithful but also quite flawed.  Men and women who certainly would not serve well as role models, yet who play key roles in the story of God’s salvation plan for creation.  David the murderer and adulterer is still a man after God’s own heart.  Moses the murderer still had a special place in God’s plan.  Abraham, who undertook a variety of questionable practices to protect himself or help God in fulfilling God’s promises is still Abraham the Patriarch.  
But Ruth the promiscuous ancestor?  That takes a bit of getting used to.
I like to distinguish between events that the Bible merely describes or narrates, and things that the Bible explicitly indicates that God commands or condones.  Plenty of things happen that are nowhere indicated to be commanded or condoned by God, but are merely reported as part of the overarching story.  Lot’s conduct in offering his daughter in exchange for his visitor’s lives is a good example.  Does the story say that God told Lot to offer this option?  Nope.  Does Scripture indicate that God condoned this offer?  Not that I can recall.  Yet the offer is recounted as part of the story – perhaps a feverish and undoubtedly a poorly conceived of option on Lot’s part.  
So do we have to read Ruth and assume she was chaste and guiltless in her behavior with Boaz – or that Boaz was in his behavior with her?  Not by the text’s standards.  Does this mean that God condoned Naomi’s plan and Ruth’s conduct?  I’d argue no.  It’s just another example of broken, sinful human beings taking things into their own hands, and God continuing to love them and work through them all the same.  Just as He does with you and I.  Messy, to be sure.  But forgiven.  Disappointing, yet still redeemed.
That’s a very hopeful message for you and I.  Even if it’s not a prescription for how to secure a husband.

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