A Seat at the Table
The dining scene in Ruth 2:14 illustrates how feasting relates to fellowship. There is a tender feeling of belonging that follows an invitation to the table. Ruth understood this well.
Ruth knew she did not belong at that table. It would be a mistake for us to expect a female servant in ancient Israel to be so honored by the host of a dinner. Moreover, she was a Moabite—something the text never lets us forget and which Ruth herself acknowledges during her first exchange with Boaz (Ruth 2:10). Beyond that, she was not even Boaz’s servant! In pronounced incredulity, Ruth points out this fact at the end of that first exchange (Ruth 2:13).
Being a Moabite woman who was not a servant of Boaz, Ruth did not belong. And yet it did not matter. Boaz was full of appreciation for her loving heart and diligent spirit, and Ruth was full of appreciation for being seen, being known, being included, being protected, and being exalted.
Perhaps these thoughts crossed Ruth’s mind while she sat there, passing plates of delicious food around the table. Perhaps her heart flickered between elation at the thought of abundant blessing and humility at the thought of unexpected belonging. Perhaps each bite of that meal carried a hint of something more than the food itself. Perhaps that meal was not about the food at all. Perhaps that meal was about what it looks like to receive and revel in grace.
We similarly find meals filled with grace when Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a feast. The guests do not deserve to be there.
The master has no obligation to give them invitations. In fact, the parables of Jesus often emphasize that the invitees are poor, lame, weak, and not necessarily even good! (Luke 14:21-23; Matthew 22:10) And yet it is the kind host who compels them to come and share the bounty. And of course, it is the grateful soul who receives that grace with a balanced attitude of appreciation and adoration, of elation and humility, of rejoicing and respect.
Here is the point: I am Ruth. I am the unnoticeable. I am the outcast. I am the foreigner. I am the one who is not even a servant. I do not belong at the table. And yet the dinner host compels me to come in and join the feast. And yet he bids me share the rich blessing of a bountiful harvest. And yet I am the beneficiary of superabundant grace.
What if we were more like Ruth? What if we saw our position as estranged from God, in need of grace? What if we rejoiced at the knowledge that we were valued enough to have a seat at His table? What if that grace was a reason for us to work more, not less? What if we stopped thinking about “work” as that which either does or does not earn salvation, and started thinking about it as that which gives us the opportunity to become more like our benevolent Creator and gracious Father? And what if we saw our grace-based work as the very means by which God uses us to provide for the needs of others? What if Ruth’s story was our story? Because, in fact, it is.