Ruth said [to Naomi], “Do not press me to leave you or 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—there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!”
Ruth 1:16-17 NRSV
In our Sunday worship we are reading (in part) from the Book of Ruth. One commentator opens our eyes to a deeper understanding of one of the treasures found in the Book: “Near the end of the book, the Bethlehemite women will articulate to Naomi what has been evident all along, that Ruth’s love is worth more than seven sons. Grace is walking right beside Naomi, unseen, yet refusing to leave her.” Let’s explore grace and “hesed.” ~dan
The wind sets the sounds of the chimes free to come to us. It is amazing. What do you hear?
I believe we can begin to approach an understanding of the grace of God—cosmic as it is—in the ordinary graces of human life. The daily graces in our embodied, incarnate, fleshly existence offer us one way to begin to understand what is ultimately incomprehensible: the grace of God. Brother Mark Brown SSJE
Br. Mark Brown on Brother Give Us a Word
Ruth, along with Song of Songs and Esther, has become a primary text for feminist theologians and critics who have found in it a corrective to the patriarchy that pervades much of the Bible. These books not only feature women as central figures but—perhaps more important—suggest ways in which the marginalized can act as agents of their own life within and despite patriarchal dominance. Ruth’s generous spirit also demonstrates the capacity of women to mirror and model divine covenantal love (Heb. hesed). From, “Ruth” in The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Books of the Bible on Oxford Biblical Studies Online. Emphasis is mine.
‘Love‘ Love here translates “ḥesed,” a frequent attribute of God in the Bible. “Hesed,” a common biblical term, describes the relationship between individuals or groups, and between God and human beings, especially Israel. It expresses both an attitude and actions devolving from that attitude; English “loyalty” best approximates its sense, which combines obligation and kindness or favor. When used of God toward Israel, it may be related to the covenant, and it expresses God’s faithfulness, goodness, and graciousness. Note in the NJPS for Psalm 5:8 (Oxford Biblical Studies Online)
‘loving-kindness‘ One translation of the Hebrew hesed, an attribute of God, associated with his mercy, and, also of human beings (Ps. 141: 5), sometimes translated ‘great kindness’ (Gen. 19: 19, NRSV; ‘unfailing care’, REB). It is used by Hosea of the care he promises for his wife (Hos. 2: 19). The NT ‘grace’ is an approximate equivalent. From “loving-kindness” in A Dictionary of the Bible on Oxford Biblical Studies Online
‘mercy‘ In Hebrew the noun hesed (‘mercy’) is also translated ‘loving-kindness’, and implies the loyalty of God to the covenant. In the NT God’s mercy is revealed in the salvation offered through Jesus (Luke 1: 58; Rom. 11: 30–2) and a similar outgoing compassion towards human suffering is shown by Jesus (Luke 17: 13). From “mercy” in A Dictionary of the Bible on Oxford Biblical Studies Online
We continue to pray for others
God, we pray for the recovery of all the areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. Continue to strengthen the responders, give hope and comfort to those who are hurting, and provide for those who have lost. Amen.
Photo: By Tarimo at zh via Wikimedia Commons ~dan