Love protects, which suggests that there are those who need protection. Though God created our world as a place where every man, woman and child can flourish safely, sin has shattered that reality, so that instead the world is a dangerous place for many. Such was the case for Ruth. As a foreigner, a widow, a young woman, and a person in poverty, Ruth was vulnerable to exclusion, abuse, and deprivation. She represents the “quartet of the vulnerable,” that collection of persons that God— again and again in the Old Testament—says he is for: the orphan, the widow, the poor, the immigrant. The narrator makes it clear in many ways that Ruth is at great risk and needs protection.
And love is at work protecting. We see Boaz using his strength and privilege as a landowner to extend protection to Ruth, a young immigrant who wanders into his fields. We see Ruth, despite her vulnerable position, doing everything she can to protect Naomi, using the strength she has to ensure the future of a vulnerable person. Above all, we see God himself, the hero of this story, protecting the vulnerable ones, covering them with his wings and offering refuge (Ruth 2:12).
These verses challenge us to open our eyes to see the vulnerable among us, to see those who are under threat of harm, and to be a community that offers shelter and protection at cost to ourselves. As you prepare for worship this week, ask yourself: who are the vulnerable ones around and among us, in our congregation, our neighborhoods and parishes, our city and world? What would it mean for us to become people who protect?
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8 So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me.9 Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.”
10 At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She asked him, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?”
11 Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. 12 May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord,the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”
13 “May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord,” she said. “You have put me at ease by speaking kindly to your servant—though I do not have the standing of one of your servants.”