It’s always so cool when the Holy Spirit reveals something new as I read scripture. In a few cases He has built on something He showed me long ago; the revealing is in stages and that really “wows” me!
I was reminded of one of those lessons this week when we read Matthew’s account of the genealogy of Jesus at mass … but it started long before that.
During a study of Ruth, I was touched by how kind Boaz was to Ruth from the first time he met her. She noticed it too and asked him how she had come to find favor with him and he simply said he had heard of the good things she had done for Naomi.
My original lesson from this was how our words can affect other peoples’ opinions. We are repeatedly cautioned in the Bible to guard our words and that they can be destructive – they can hurt or they can heal. Even one of the commandments is about bearing false witness.
So the Holy Spirit helped me appreciate the unknown person who had given Boaz such a positive report and good first impression of Ruth. Think about it – Naomi left the community with her husband and sons only to return years later with a foreign woman and a story about how the men had all died. Wouldn’t THAT be the topic of hot gossip and uncharitable speculation in any community!
I took that lesson to heart and thought of it once in a while when the Holy Spirit stirred it up within me again – usually when I caught myself about to gossip or say something unkind!
Years later I was starting a study of Matthew and it begins with that genealogy. I was paying attention to it more than usual, trying to associate any of the familiar names with their stories in the Old Testament.
And that’s when I noticed: “Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab.”
Holy cow! That partly explained Boaz’s reaction to Ruth! Rahab was a foreigner who joined the tribe of Israel, too! Boaz would have been a mixed-race child, half Israelite from his father and half Canaanite from his mother. He would have been painfully familiar with the trials a “foreigner” faced within a community. I imagine he suffered certain attitudes toward his mother and toward himself growing up; perhaps he wondered why they had to be “different.”
We can see how God prepared him for the moment he met Ruth, how he shaped Boaz to treat her with kindness and to receive her as his wife. Perhaps as a mixed-race man, he had not been found “acceptable” as a husband to any of the Israelite women.
God brought Boaz and Ruth together in a surprising way and they were blessed to be the parents of Obed, the grandparents of Jesse, and the great-grandparents of King David.
Wow! All ancestors of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
I have never heard a sermon tying all of this together; I have never read a commentary that notes it. I guess it’s just one of those little lessons given to me in a personal way, and I think about it when I find myself suffering a trial and wondering what it means.
Sometimes we eventually see a lesson we were supposed to learn in it or can look back and see how it shaped us in a certain way.
But other times I think we may never know in this life the work that God is doing within us and the ways He uses it for others, maybe even far into the future.
When I am struggling, I find that very comforting.