Under Ruth's Wing

These days I have been studying again the biblical book called Ruth. As Professor Ted Campbell writes in his translation and commentary on Ruth, "We can say that persons act as God to one another in our story." Wow. Persons act as God to one another. I had to go back and re-read that sentence.

Dr. Ted Campbell was my Professor of Biblical Hebrew at divinity school. Every day, he was a transformative teacher. But I had forgotten that he had written that wonderful sentence about God and about us.

What leads Professor Ted to that insight is his close following of the actions and words of three persons in this ancient story--Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz--as they show steadfast lovingkindness to one another in a perilous time and begin to create a new community together.

Ted's commentary celebrates how lovingkindness "in the human scene is evidence of God's lovingkindness.... Boaz invokes God's blessing upon [the stranger] Ruth, only to become himself the agency for the fulfillment of that blessing; the God he invokes is the one under whose wings she has come to seek refuge, but it will be the 'wing' of Boaz" that shelters Ruth as she risks a new way of life.

Where did Ruth find the courage to set off with no assurances and start her life over in a strange new place? In her daring lovingkindness, Ruth refuses to abandon Naomi, and together they depart from Moab, where they have endured so much loss, and become refugees.

Soon after Naomi and Ruth arrive in Bethlehem, and through Ruth's taking the initiative to glean in the barley fields there, they meet Boaz, whom Naomi recognizes as "a covenant brother," and so, as "one of our circle of redeemers."

As events unfold, it is under Ruth's "wing" that the first little baby of a new community of lovingkindness is born, and we see divine blessings begin to abound for many generations to come.