Once upon a time, there was a family. This was a beautiful family who fell upon hard times. Resources were scarce and money was tight. Due to the pressing circumstances, and facing few other choices, the family decided it was time to pack up and move. Not long after they arrived at their destination things started to look up. The two sons of this family found their future brides and soon married. But the joyous times were not meant to last. The father of the family passed away suddenly causing a shockwave of heartache to ripple through the family. Just when it seemed that life couldn’t get any harder, the two sons also passed away leaving the mom and her two daughters-in-law to fend for themselves. In a time that was very man-dominant, women faced few options for income. Difficult choices lay ahead.
Some readers may be able to relate to this story so far. The situation is bleak, and hard, and desperate. Life seems like a roller coaster of hardship to joy, and back to hardship. For every step forward in life, it seems like they take one or two back. They just can’t get ahead. People who have faced difficulty such as this hesitate to ever utter the phrase, “it couldn’t get any worse than this.” That’s because they’ve tasted the “worse” that seems to lay right around the corner. But Jesus doesn’t want to leave anyone here. These are the circumstances that God’s grace shines the brightest. For the family in this story had a beautiful future ahead of them. Ask them at this juncture and they may have had their doubts. But God’s love and God’s plan is not contingent upon our strength or our certainty.
In various passages of the Bible, we see the concept of a kinsman redeemer. Passages like Genesis 38, Deuteronomy 25, and Leviticus 25 all address this role. It’s a role that reveals something about God’s heart for the hurting and the destitute. The basic idea is that the closest family member would step in to take care of those who found themselves in a situation like the family from the previous story…the family from the book of Ruth. Naomi (the mom), and Ruth and Orpah (the daughters-in-law) were in need of such a person.
As the story progressed, Naomi and Ruth journeyed back to Naomi’s former home – to the land of Israel. When they arrived in Bethlehem the reception was somewhat mixed. It would be as a soldier returning home after a terrible defeat. The shame and hurt were immense and Naomi was in no mood for a welcome home party.
So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”
Ruth 1:19-21 ESV
Naomi’s heart would not remain in despair. In a short span of time, both her and Ruth would be rejoicing over the goodness of God. It is in our darkest times that we can experience His goodness the most. Naomi and Ruth are a testament to that. By the end of this story, Ruth meets the key character in the journey from ashes to beauty. His name – Boaz. The name means ‘strength is within him’. He is a successful landowner and farmer in Israel who had endured the famine which had motivated Naomi and her family to leave the land. Not only is he successful, but he is also compassionate and kind. He demonstrates this in the way that he tenderly cares for Ruth from the moment he laid eyes on her. The first time they met was when Ruth had gone out to glean scraps from the harvested fields so she and Naomi wouldn’t starve. Boaz doubled down and supplied for their every need. He didn’t stop here. Boaz would also restore the land back to Naomi from before she had left with her husband Elimelech. He was their kinsman redeemer.
Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and to Mahlon. Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day.”
Ruth 4:9-10 ESV
The institution of the kinsman redeemer was not only a method of grace bestowed upon God’s children, but it also pointed to a much greater act of grace to come to the entire world. Even if life’s circumstances haven’t placed all of us in a disposition of empathy for Naomi and Ruth, the Bible describes all our spiritual circumstances as far more desperate.
According to the Bible, we were:
- Dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1 and Colossians 2:13)
- Sinners and enemies of God (Romans 5:8-10)
- Far off from God (Ephesians 2:13)
- Unrighteous, immoral, and idolators (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
Homelessness does not compare. Being in need does not compare. Suffering tremendous does not compare. Humanity’s situation without Jesus is far more dire than anything we will ever face in our temporal lifetimes. But we have the Great Kinsman Redeemer – the Messiah. The Messiah of God was sent to buy us back with a far greater price than that of Boaz. Our Messiah paid with His life.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insightmaking known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
Ephesians 1:3-10 ESV
Peace in our Messiah, the Great Kinsman Redeemer!