Advent: Abuela Ruth – Part I

By Inés Velásquez-McBryde

December 6, 2023

Scripture — Ruth 1:16-18 (NRSV)

But Ruth said, “Do not press me to leave you, to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!”

Focus

As I read Ruth’s words, which have been used in modern times as wedding vows, what I see is the hesed love of God overflowing to Naomi through Ruth. The seed of the Messiah is inside her without her knowing. Her steps secure the steps of Obed, Jesse, David and Jesus. Ruth is a carrier of the covenantal love of God because no human can say these words and keep them, apart from God’s grace. I love that these vows of love occur in the context of friendship, which means we all have access to this kind of friendship love. I love that Ruth sees past Naomi’s bitter and valid grief as if she is saying: “Listen, I’m not going anywhere.”

Devotion

As we turn our hearts towards advent, Abuela Ruth’s words turn my heart towards God’s everlasting and ongoing love for us, a love that remained steadfast and true in the lineage of Jesus Messiah.

The context surrounding the book of Ruth is important before we enter into this story. This is a post-exilic book which means the protagonists have experienced trauma and oppression. Trauma and oppression distort our view of self, of God, of others, and of our circumstances. The people have experienced exile as well as a famine.

Elimelech, whose name means “my God is king” is from Bethlehem, which also means “house of bread” and he lives in a land that is experiencing famine. Out of necessity and survival he is displaced and moves to Moab with his wife Naomi and his 2 sons. Elimelech dies, so Noemi becomes a widow. The sons take Moabite wives Orpah and Ruth. Ten years later the sons also die, so Naomi decides to return to Judah with her daughters-in-law.

Naomi blesses her daughters-in-law and tells them to return to their mother’s households. She blesses them with kindness and safety. Perhaps these are what vulnerable women in crisis need the most. To be met with kindness and find a place of safety. However, Ruth is persistent and presses Naomi to not depart from her.

What a beautiful and uncommon friendship between two very different women. An older and younger woman from two different people groups, each without animosity towards the other, even though they are no longer legally bound as widows by their spousal relationships. Ruth is driven, determined, committed, loyal, faith-filled, courageous, and a risk-taker.

As I read Ruth’s words, which have been used in modern times as wedding vows, what I see is the hesed love of God overflowing to Naomi through Ruth. The seed of the Messiah is inside her without her knowing. Her steps secure the steps of Obed, Jesse, David and Jesus. Ruth is a carrier of the covenantal love of God because no human can say these words and keep them, apart from God’s grace. I love that these vows of love occur in the context of friendship, which means we all have access to this kind of friendship love. I love that Ruth sees past Naomi’s bitter and valid grief as if she is saying: “Listen, I’m not going anywhere.”

In this Advent season, in your waiting and in your going forth, in your speaking and in your listening, in your ups and downs, in your endings and in your beginning again, please beloved, may you remember the hesed love of God. This is a love that never leaves. This is a love that is covenantal and unconditional.

May you look up and see a Ruth to your Naomi.

May you be a Ruth to a Naomi.

Reflect

How does this Advent season find you in this story?

Act

How can you embody the spirit of Ruth in one of your current relationships? How might God invite you to embody the love of God to another?

Pray

God of Ruth, who is a great-great-uber-great-grandmother of Jesus, we thank you for faithful and persistent and stubborn women who embodied your hesed love in the lineage of the Messiah. Thank you for your love deposited with utmost faithfulness throughout the generations. God of Ruth, teach us to love like this and to receive a love like this. May we be a people who are known for scandalous, stubborn, and persistent love in our communities, workplaces, and homes. Amén.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project’s online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Tragedy Strikes the Family of Ruth and Naomi (Ruth 1:1-22).


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Inés Velásquez-McBryde

Chaplain at Fuller Theological Seminary & Pastor, Preacher, Speaker

Inés is an ordained pastor, preacher, reconciler, writer, and speaker. We are pleased to feature Inés as a regular Life for Leaders writer. On June 15, 2019, Inés received her Master of Divinity degree from the School of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary where she now serves as...

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