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Surprised by Hesed … enter, the matchmaker

One day Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not try to find a home for you, where you will be well provided for?”
Ruth 3:1

Yesterday, ladies, we left Naomi and Ruth at the gates to Bethlehem, surrounded by the curious women of the city. There the bitter emptiness of Naomi’s soul has fallen into their laps. That she has laid it all at the feet of the LORD is not as recriminating as one might suppose. Rather it is a statement of fact: “It is what it is!” she is saying. 

Today let’s take a closer look at Ruth, the heroine of our story. If you thought Naomi was empty, imagine how Ruth must have felt. Young, vibrant, full of life, married, secure, only to be suddenly widowed, without sons of her own to look after her and no hope of finding a husband in Bethlehem (1:11-13). Not exactly a rosy future.

Yet when Naomi bluntly urges Ruth to return to her mother’s house, she counters with the most amazing statement of commitment to her mother-in-law: “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me” (1:16-17).   

Something very personal has been going on in the confines of this little family, despite all the trauma of life. And Ruth has gotten to the heart of it. She has glimpsed the God of Israel and she is not about to let Him go.

The book of Ruth has been otherwise dubbed the book of Hesed by various of the commentators, hesed meaning unfailing love, kindness, mercy. The first words we see of hesed come from the mouth of Naomi: “May the LORD show kindness (hesed) to you, as you have shown to your dead and to me” (1:8). Ruth oozes kindness.

Indeed, one has to wonder how the girl survived the 40 to 60 mile trek with a woman who calls herself Mara, bitter (1:20). But survive she did, and continued to show her true colors. It was Ruth who offered to glean the leftovers behind the harvesters. It was Ruth who stuck with the back-breaking work until the harvest was over. Let’s face it, it would take a lot of hesed to live with anyone in the doldrums, let alone your mother-in-law.  

Imagine Ruth’s great surprise when one day Naomi suggests it is high time she find a home for her where she will be well provided for.    

Nancy P

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