This past week, our country bid farewell to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsberg was a "pioneer" in the true sense of the word. Against all odds she attended the prestigious Harvard Law School where she was one of only 9 women out of a class of 500 prompting the dean of Harvard to ask her why she was taking up a place that "should go to a man." However, Justice Ginsburg was undaunted by such comments and became the catalyst for advocacy of women's rights. Some would say Ruth Bader Ginsberg was the "architect" of the legal fight for women's rights in the 1970's. She changed the way the country treated American women. For more than a decade until her first judicial appointment in 1980, Justice Ginsburg led the fight for gender equality. When she began her legal crusade, women were treated, by law, differently from men. Hundreds of state and federal laws restricted what women could do, barring then from jobs, rights, and even jury service. By the time she was elected to the Supreme Court, however, Ruth Bader Ginsburg had worked a revolution.
A Revolutionary "Rock Star"
For over 27 years of serving on the Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg's decisions forever changed life for American women. By the time she was in her 80's, Justice Ginsburg had become something of a "rock star" to women of all ages and was dubbed the "Notorious RBG." She was so well respected on the Supreme Court that Justice Ginsburg and her conservative colleague Justice Antonin Scalia developed a close personal friendship. Despite their political differences, Justice Scalia once gave Justice Ginsberg two dozen roses on her birthday after she had denied him a vote that he needed for a particular case. When asked why he gave her the roses, Justice Scalia replied, "Some things are more important than votes." Indeed it can be said that Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a trailblazer. Even in death she was still breaking down barriers not only as the first Supreme Court Justice to have two days of viewing at the Supreme Court but also becoming the first woman in U.S. history to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Additionally, she was the first Jewish American to ever lie in state at the U.S. Congress.
The "Other" Ruth
The Bible tells us about another woman named Ruth who changed history forever. Her beginnings were more humble. In fact she was a foreigner, a Moabite, who left behind all she was familiar with, including her family, to stay by her mother-in-law's side after she and her mother-in-law were both widowed. We read in the book of Ruth after Naomi urges her daughters-in-law to return to their own people and their gods, Ruth declares, "Don't urge me to leave you or turn back from you. Where you go, I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me." (Ruth 1:16-17 NIV) Ruth's commitment to Naomi was significant. One could say it was life changing. We're told when the two women returned to Bethlehem, "the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, "Can this be Naomi?" (Ruth 1:19b NIV) Can you imagine what it was like for Ruth to become the center of attention? A Moabite among a people that were ethnically and culturally different. However, this did not hinder Ruth's determination to do whatever it took to help her mother-in-law.
A Sacrificial Love
Ruth loved her mother-in-law so much that she was willing to go into the barley fields to pick up leftover grain to help support them. In Biblical times, women were considered property and were dependent on men to support them. If a woman was widowed, she lost that source of support, especially if she had no children, specifically sons. Naomi was equally dedicated to Ruth as she suggested Ruth go down to the threshing floor of a close relative named Boaz. Boaz subsequently falls in love with Ruth and is able to secure the rights to Naomi's deceased husband's property from a guardian-redeemer who had first rights to the property. However, that person also had to marry Ruth in order to maintain the name of the dead man with his property. When the guardian-redeemer refused to marry Ruth for fear of endangering his own estate, he willingly turned the property over to Boaz. (Ruth 4:1-8) Ruth and Boaz married and brought forth a son. Ruth 4:17b states, "And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. (NIV) The Davidic line ultimately brought forth the Messiah, Jesus.
A Lasting Legacy
Women helping women. Two Ruths, both women the unlikely beneficiaries of lasting legacies. One Ruth, whose legacy made a difference here on earth, the other Ruth whose legacy has eternal value. Through one woman came freedom for women from oppression in the here and now. Through the other woman came freedom from sin forever for all humanity through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Both women willing to stand against culture and convention out of love for others. Praise God for the sacrifice of these women to accomplish God's sovereign plan.
Thanks be to God!