Third in the series “Wonder Women of Advent”
We have come to our next “Wonder Woman” from the genealogy of Jesus, who is the only one to have an entire book of the Bible dedicated to her story. The Book of Ruth is a beloved story for many, and it contains one of the most popular biblical passages used at weddings. Couples often want to read from 1:16 in preparation for their vows: “Where you go, I will go. Wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.” Often these couples miss the context, however, and don’t realize that this is something that Ruth actually says to her mother-in-law, which puts a different spin on the vows!
But in some sense that verse is appropriate for a wedding because it is ultimately a statement about the value of commitment, of family, and the character of compassion. That’s really what the story of Ruth is about when we look at it in total, and in many ways it is the most heroic of the stories we are looking at in this series. There’s a Hebrew word used in the story to describe Ruth and Boaz (who will become the grandparents of King David) that few people get labeled with in the Bible. It’s the word hayil – which means something like “great” or “mighty,” a word generally used for select warriors or people who have power. Boaz we might expect to receive this moniker, but Ruth? She is, like Tamar and Rahab before her, a Gentile. In this case, she is also an illegal immigrant who works in the fields—a person whom all of Israel would have considered to be an outsider. And yet it is her extraordinary way of living that makes her a “woman of hayil” or “a woman of worth” (3:11). She is a wonder, and her story is one that has a lot to teach us about character in the face of a evil world.