Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Whither Thou Goest....I Will Follow - Kinsman Redeemer
"But Ruth answered, “Don’t force me to leave you. Don’t make me turn back from following you. Wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and I will be buried there with you."
One of the most loved Scriptures of all time is above. It's found in a pretty powerful story of loyalty, love, courage and Redemption in the Old Testament called Ruth
When I received the prompting to go and prepare something about Ruth I had no idea it would teach me the powerful stuff it would teach me. My first surface thoughts were I could relate to this Godly woman who shows fierce loyalty, sacrifice and courage.
But little did I know that the essence of the story itself would point towards a more Higher picture of the Savior Himself in the character of Boaz (the man who becomes Ruth's husband.) Also Ruth herself is the picture of who we are as we seek God. Plus Ruth's name itself means "mercy". An epitome of yet again our Lord.
As I researched it became pretty compelling. It's a beautiful narrative with a higher purpose that I would like to share today in this entry.
The story itself is a lovely inspiring one. It centers around two women : Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi. The story starts 10 years before when Naomi and her family had left Bethlehem. There had been a severe famine there. The clan in order to survive had migrated to the enemy territory of Moab. Once in Moab, Naomi's two sons would marry two local Moabitesses; Ruth & Orpah.
After some time Naomi's husband would pass away as would also her sons leaving her & eventually her two daughters-in-law widowed.
Left with no male providers; Naomi concerned for the welfare of her two daughters-in-law Orpah and Ruth; made a decision to send them home to their families rather than stay with Naomi who would be moving back to Bethlehem. As Naomi shares her decision; Ruth cries out in an impassioned speech:
“Don’t force me to leave you. Don’t make me turn back from following you. Wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and I will be buried there with you."
Moved, Naomi relented allowing Ruth to stay. Eventually the clan & Ruth would migrate to Bethlehem.
For me this part is rather courageous as Ruth is moving rather far from her culture; her family and friends and everything known to her.
Can you imagine doing that? Leaving everything you know and entering a foreign culture, a place so alien to you where you know only a few people? Also a place you may encounter non-acceptance as it is an enemy area? That is exactly what Ruth did. Her decision in the end blessed not only her & Naomi but each of us as well. Which I will touch on in a bit.
After settling in Bethlehem; Naomi advised that Ruth should go to the fields of a local kins-men to them named Boaz to glean there. Israelite law demanded that the corners of the fields not be harvested. Any grain that was dropped was to be left for poor people, who picked it up and used as food (Leviticus 19:9; 23:22; Deuteronomy 24:19). This was called "gleaning". This would provide for Ruth and Naomi. Plus it would become a wonderful way for God to work His will as well.
One day while she was gleaning in his field, Boaz approached Ruth stating he had knowledge of her. He had heard of the decision she had made to come to Bethlehem with Naomi. He gave Ruth permission to glean his fields. He has a great deal of respect for Ruth going as far as to offer her protection while gleaning. The ideal position for a gleaner was right behind the harvesters, where one would be the first to pick up whatever stalks fall from the sheaves. However, a gleaner who followed too closely was vulnerable to rough treatment by the workmen. Moab had ordered his workers not to lay a hand on Ruth.
This is a huge victory for Ruth as firstly she is an alien and considered enemy in the area she now resides. Secondly, she is also child-less which is something that is frowned upon in their society. Thirdly, single widowed women in those times had very few options to survive. Perhaps prostitution, begging, being sold into bondage or to become the wife to her nearest male relative a term called kinsman redeemer. Boaz was spiritually astute enough to see the true virtue in Ruth and to look beyond the stereotypes of ethnicity; poverty and the stigma to eventually fulfill the role of kinsman redeemer.
Ruth shares all of this with Naomi who sees God's hand in this. Naomi knows that Boaz is a nearest male relative so Naomi urges Ruth to go to the threshing floor of Boaz's fields and to lie there beside him. Once he awakes she would offer herself to him in marriage which she does. Boaz states that there is a closer relative and that he would speak to this relative first & then sent some grain back with Ruth as proof of his interest in providing.
Boaz then approached this relative who opted out of taking Ruth as his wife. Fearing any children he would have with Ruth would inherit before his current offspring would. Plus he had some misgivings as well about Ruth being a Moabitess. To seal this decision the relative offered his sandal to Boaz to show Boaz could legally take Ruth as his wife. It was then that Boaz could take on the role of kinsman-redeemer to Ruth & his divinely appointed role in her life.
Upon marriage Naomi would also live with them as well. The reward for Ruth, Naomi and Boaz was a son named Obed who would become the grandfather of one of the most beloved Biblical kings; King David. (1 Samuel 16-31; 2 Samuel 1-24; 1 Kings 1:1-2:11; 1 Chronicles 11-29) and through this lineage (Matthew 1:1-17) they become direct ancestors to Jesus our true Kinsman Redeemer.
When you look at the sheer definition of kinsman Redeemer
He must be a Kinsman.
He must be Free himself.
He must be able to Pay the Price.
He must be Willing to pay the price.
This can be summed up as well to describe our Savior Jesus Christ.
As in Ruth's case we were all aliens. But for us it was to God through sin.(Genesis 3) The wages of sin is death. (Rom. 6:23) To provide a reconciliation to God and be freed from this penalty; we would need a Kinsman Redeemer.(John 1:29) who would offer Himself up as a Sacrifice for us. We needed someone free from the blemish of sin. Jesus became our sole option.
Through Christ we become reconciled to God.
"And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation"
(2 Corinthians 5:18)
We find forgiveness through accepting Christ as our Savior. As a reward we ALL become joint heirs and receive the ransom Sacrifice. (Romans 8:17; Galatians 3:6)
Plus as in Ruth's name we find "mercy" and love (John 15:13)
We are no longer in "spiritual bondage" but are freed!
"Stand fast therefore in the liberty with which Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."
Just as the purest love, grace and mercy shines in the book of Ruth so it does in the larger perspective of Jesus as the larger Boaz. This wonderful book foreshadows the depth of the love God has for each and every one of us. A love that should make us yearn to follow as Ruth was to Naomi.
God loved you enough to provide this miracle. What an amazing gift!