13 August 2017

The Guardian Redeemer of the Family

Previously from Ruth, Elimelech and his wife Naomi relocated from Judah to Moab. Their sons, Mahlon and Kilion married Moabite women named Orpha and Ruth. All three men died, leaving the women poor, desperate and hungry. Naomi hears there is food back home in Judah, so she goes back, but only Naomi goes with her. Now back in Judah, Naomi’s hear has become bitter and resentful, blaming God for her changed circumstances in life.

In stark contrast, Ruth’s faith, believes things will get better. She gets permission to collect leftovers in a harvested field, shows humility and self-sacrifice, and serves her mother in law, Naomi. God’s providence leads her the field of Boaz, a wealthy relative of Naomi, who impressed by her work ethic, invites her to a meal, and treats her with great kindness. Ruth returns home, tells all that has happened, and Naomi becomes uplifted with joy as she realises it was Boaz, a close relative. She begins to see that in spite of everything, God is still working for their good and she starts to believe that redemption is ahead of them.

In chapter three, Naomi guides Ruth in a course of action. First of all, Ruth must wash, put on perfume and get dressed in her best clothes, to make herself attractive to Boaz. She must go to the threshing floor unnoticed, while Boaz is eating. After he has finished eating and about to take his sleep, Ruth would come closer and uncover his feet. It get’s more interesting — this is a challenge to see if Boaz might be willing to take the responsibility of being their kinsman redeemer. Ruth did everything that was told to her by Naomi.

So Boaz finished eating and was in good spirits, and he went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile. He is asleep quite quickly. Ruth approaches him quietly, uncovers his feet and lays down. During the middle of the night, something wakes Boaz. He is fully startled to discover a prettily dressed, sweet smelling, and attractive woman, sleeping gently at his feet. Boaz asked, “Who are you?” Ruth identifies herself, and suggests he spreads the corner of his garment to her … because he was a guardian redeemer to the family.

In today’s language it would mean something like: you are closely related to my dead husband, so I am offering myself to you as your wife. Interested? Well, he was! He says he would love to fulfil his family duty. I suspect that she was also kind of cute in his eyes too. There is a slight problem, he realises because there is another man more closely related, who must get first option on Ruth. Imagine that today! Boaz is frank: if the other fella wants you, he can take you as his wife, but if he does not, he would happily redeem her. And so, Ruth lay at his feet until morning. Boaz asked Ruth to give him the shawl she was wearing and in return, Boaz gave Ruth six measures of barley which she brought home to her mother-in-law. Naomi was excited to receive the gifts from Boaz and said to Ruth, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today.”

What is the kinsman redeemer? The kinsman-redeemer is a male relative who, according to Mosaic law, had the privilege or responsibility to fulfil one of two roles: redeem a member of his family who had become a slave, or, marry a close relative whose husband had died in order to deliver her from poverty and to continue the name of her dead husband. The Hebrew term “goel” for kinsman-redeemer means one who delivers, one who rescues, one who redeems the person from slavery or poverty.

Why is this story in the Bible? It is an allegory that is meant to point forward to the time when Jesus Christ would become all humanity’s kinsman redeemer, not to end the family line, but to redeem us from the life of sin, and also from the penalty of sin, which is death. We live our human lives in a world that has been corrupted. Always has been, and it will stay that way until the day that God calls time, and the judgement happens. It is both challenge and opportunity then — running Christian homes, and for those of us who are married, being Christian spouses.

Just to be clear, there is no such thing as the prefect home or the perfect marriage. As much as we desire to be fully for God, we face spiritual warfare, where the enemy of our souls, Satan, attacks us. We must also be honest about our own imperfections, and about how often they take us away from what God desires of us. So there is a daily tension and battle ground between our eternal Father’s desire to give us an abundant life, and our eternal enemy’s efforts to steal, rob and destroy every good gift from God. I think it is a true saying that we read of in  (NIV) “26 Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.”

The word “secure” means it is well protected, well defended and heavily shielded by Christ’s presence in the home. If we fear the Lord, if we submit to the Lord’s guidance and protection, if we allow Christ to be our kinsman redeemer, then our family will be strong. This idea of the kinsman redeemer is something we encounter in Boaz, and his story is in the Bible because it points forward to the way Jesus Christ is yours and my kinsman redeemer, who reestablishes and rescues us from what would be a pitiful end when sin is judged, because he paid the full price for all our sin, at Calvary. And this is what we learn from the third chapter of the Book of Ruth.


#Verses: 1-5

Marriage is meant to be a good thing, a healthy thing, and a partnership at rest with one another. It is meant to be a connection for life, and so it must be something we enter into with great seriousness and also with earnest prayers that we might have the blessings of God, and that we may also have a high regard for His ways.

As a parent with children yet to marry, it strikes me as an important responsibility that I need to help them understand these things, in order that they enter into marriage in ways that will prove right for their souls. I believe the Bible is very clear that what is best for us are always the things that are best for our eternal destiny.

What Naomi advised Ruth to do does seem strange to us; but remember it was according to the laws and then customs of Israel. I think we can be satisfied that if Naomi’s advice had in any way appeared wrong or evil, Naomi would not have advised it.

Law and custom gave Ruth, a legal claim upon Boaz. We know from **** that widows could and often did assert their legal right to be redeemed from poverty by a relative of their late husband. It does not happen anymore, and certainly it seems strange in our day and age, but again, if there had been anything wrong or evil in this, Ruth was a young woman with much too much virtue and sense, to have listened to it.

#Verses: 6-13

We have grown up in an age where this kind of behaviour would be considered improper, so here again, the context of the times and the customs of a very different nation must be understood, because what behaviour that we would see as rather risqué or not what a gentleman would do, was not improper then.

Boaz was a highly respected man in his community, with some considerable standing. He has much to lose by being improper. He was also a righteous and law abiding man who loved God, and he tells Ruth what she needs to do. Remember she is a foreigner, who has not grown up knowing how Hebrew society worked. Boaz tells her that there is something in the way of a marriage between him and her — that there is another kinsman who is a closer relative, and that this man must have the right of refusal first. He promises Ruth that if the other fella will not redeem her, that he will.

The conduct of Boaz calls for the highest praise. Having been woken in the night by a pretty young woman, all dressed up and swelling lovely, he has not attempted take advantage her; he did not disdain her as a poor, destitute stranger, nor suspect her of any ill intentions. He spoke honourably of her as a virtuous woman, made her a promise, and as soon as the morning arrived, sent her away with a present to her mother-in-law, a promise to redeem the family by marrying Ruth, conditional on the decision of the kinsman who was a nearer relative, and to whom the right of redemption belonged.

#Verses: 14-18

Ruth had done all everything that she could possibly do, and now there must have been some very tense waiting, but she patiently waits for it to all take place. There is a lesson here for you and me. Remember that this story is in the Bible to teach us something about the redemption we have through God’s ultimate kinsman redeemer, Jesus Christ. Just as Ruth was content to patiently wait for Boaz to do the right things, and just as she was also willing to trust Boaz to manage everything well, we can know that as true believers in Jesus, we can cast their care on God, because he has promised to care for us. We are often strongest when we are confident enough to just sit still and wait upon the Lord.

** but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.**

So what do we learn from Ruth chapter 3? I think we learn that there is genuine advantage to be gained by laying ourselves by faith at the feet of Christ because He is our near Kinsman. How is Jesus our near kinsman? Remembering that Jesus Christ is God, who existed before the foundation of the earth, who was present at the creation, who is eternal — this same Jesus willingly took on human nature, lived among us as a human, experienced what humanity faces, and then paid for all of our sin, when as a sinless person allowed Himself to be sacrificed upon a cross to provide forgiveness for sin. He has the right to redeem.

Another thing we can learn from this chapter in Ruth is that we should actively seek to receive instructions from our Redeemer. In everyday life, it is the right thing to ask: ‘Lord, what would you have me do?’ and to test that against what you want to do. If there is any difference, then choosing to do things God’s way will take you further down the road of redemption, and the other way — well it simply leaves you to your devices. I want to close by relating a true story from about 15 years ago, in Afghanistan. It was a short time after 9/11, so things were very tense.

Missionaries in our modern era, often go into Muslim countries under guise of another occupation. A group called Strategic Frontiers, part of YWAM, had volunteers in Kabul, teaching English classes, but who were also informally witnessing for Christ. A Muslim woman, a university professor, was attending one of these English classes, and she later related her story to them:

“I started to go to sleep & suddenly my bedroom filled with light. At the foot of my bed stood Jesus, & I knew He had come to kill me!” The reason she thought that was that the day before, she had stormed out of the English class after the teacher had begun to answer questions and to speak about Jesus to his students. As she loudly protested as she was leaving, she said she cursed the teacher.

“I cursed you all the way home,” she told him. “I went home and I lay in bed and I was praying, ‘Allah, I want you to kill those people because they are not English teachers – they are missionaries and I want them out of my country! Kill them!’” It was then that she saw the vision of Jesus standing at the foot of her bed. “I knew He had come to kill me because I was asking Allah to kill His workers. So I got out of bed on my hands and knees. I was trembling and I crawled to the feet of Jesus, waiting for Him to slay me.”

“As I was trembling at His feet, I started to feel warm all over. I started to feel love wash over my body – love and mercy. I looked up at Him,” she said. “Jesus was so beautiful, I had to give Him my heart.”

Over my years of travel in Muslim countries, I have heard similar stories again and again. God is at work there, in ways we do not comprehend. Jesus was human for a while, but let us never forget that he is also eternally God, and that having conquered death and sin, He is here today hoping we will come to Him, one by one, and ask Him to be our redeemer. What a faithful God we have. Amen.