This is the third part of our four-part series on the book of Ruth. In today’s service, we are also introduced to Tamar (Genesis 38).
Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, shouldn’t I seek security for you, so that things might go well for you? Now isn’t Boaz, whose young women you were with, our relative? Tonight he will be winnowing barley at the threshing floor. You should bathe, put on some perfume, wear nice clothes, and then go down to the threshing floor. Don’t make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, notice the place where he is lying. Then go, uncover his feet, and lie down. And he will tell you what to do.”
Ruth replied to her, “I’ll do everything you are telling me.” So she went down to the threshing floor, and she did everything just as her mother-in-law had ordered. – Ruth 3:1-6 (CEB)
Lot’s daughters were shamed for their actions; whereas, Tamar and Ruth are called righteous. In Matthew’s Gospel, both Tamar and Ruth are named in Jesus’ genealogy. Whether a decision is scandalous or faithful is often determined by those in power.
While both Tamar and Ruth are honored, their actions still help feed the myth of woman as tempter. This is true even though Jesus said it was the man who committed the sin when he looks at a woman lustfully. Despite this, society still tends to blame the woman. What was she doing? How was she dressed?
Tamar and Ruth’s stories also perpetuate the myth of women as schemers. They work to manipulate the men around them, deceiving them for their own gain. I read a reflection one pastor wrote that despite Tamar’s “scandalous past,” God’s grace still includes her in Jesus’ genealogy. These patriarchal myths sideline women to an invisible existence in the father’s house or otherwise disadvantaged.
In her book Out of the Depths: Women’s Experience of Evil and Salvation, Ivone Gebara names the difficult decisions women often have to make,
Incorporating women’s daily life in that knowledge called universal means including the concrete, those things necessary for life or mere survival… Daily life, and especially that of women, is a place where history is made and where different forms of oppression and of unacknowledged evil show up.
Are Tamar and Ruth truly scheming temptresses? In both of their stories, they are forgotten by the men in their lives who are supposed to protect them. They remain unseen until they become visible again because of their sexuality. Could it be that these women are merely working within the societal boundaries that have been placed on them? If this is the only value society places on women, their sexuality, what other options do they have?
How long do they need to wait?
It’s true Tamar and Ruth personally benefit from their actions. But Tamar’s scandalous act restores Judah’s honor. Ruth’s, is another example of selfless faithfulness to Naomi. What is shameful and what is redeeming?
The Revised Common Lectionary stops in chapter 3 with Ruth agreeing to do all that Naomi has said and picks up again with the happy ending in chapter 4. It conveniently leaves out the “scandal.” Tamar’s story isn’t told either. Either is the story of David’s daughter Tamar who was raped by her brother and refused justice by David.
We might want these parts of Scripture to be left out of our Sunday morning worship. We want to praise God and be uplifted when we leave. But the stories of these ladies in waiting are included in God’s Word because they are stories that need to be told.
In them, many of us might find our own story. We need to know we aren’t alone. We need to know that God sees us. We need to know that our only choice isn’t to sit and wait, forgotten.
These stories also need to be told so that are reminded that God still cares about the immigrant, orphan, and widow; the oppressed, abandoned, and hurting; the person who has no choices available to them but bad choices. We need to hear them because God calls us to see and care about them as well.
We tell these stories of ladies in waiting — waiting for hope, justice, to be seen, to be believed — because their stories are all around us. God calls us to see, hear, and then act. Because there has been enough waiting.We need to know we aren’t alone. We need to know that God sees us. We need to know that our only choice isn’t to sit and wait, forgotten. #grace #courage Click To Tweet
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Come to the Table is a collection of communion liturgies inviting worshippers to experience and respond to the Gospel. These meaningful liturgies enhance and reinforce the biblical message of the day as they welcome worshippers to the Table to experience the Word, preparing them to go out into the world and live it. Come to the Table includes liturgies for the entire liturgical year providing pastors with a valuable resource in worship planning.