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Joy

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The Advent theme for this Sunday is “Joy,” and the Scripture reading is Ruth 3 (the whole chapter).

At the end of chapter 2 we are left wondering what will come of Boaz’s status as Naomi and Ruth’s redeemer. Will he continue to show his HESED toward them? But, with the way Boaz was introduced in 2:1 and the way he provided for Ruth and Naomi, there is the hope for a greater redemption to come for them – one that goes beyond providing for their immediate need of food for survival.

Boaz’s status as their “kinsman-redeemer” is an interesting one because many scholars debate what his exact responsibilities were. With the (spoiler alert) upcoming marriage of Ruth and Boaz in chapter 4, many scholars draw connections between this marriage and the practice of levirate marriage (where a brother marries his deceased brother’s wife to provide a son for him) as seen by Judah’s sons in Genesis 38. However, that is not what is going on here; Boaz is not marrying Ruth to provide a son for Mahlon.

As Naomi and Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer, Boaz was the guardian of the interests of the clan of Ephratha. It was his responsibility to ensure that the widows of his deceased kinsmen were cared for. He could be expected to redeem (the Hebrew word used for “kinsman-redeemer” is the word “go’el” which means “redeemer”) land and/or people that have been sold into slavery to pay debts or to ensure survival. However, it is important to note that Boaz, as a kinsman-redeemer, could be expected to act as a redeemer for their clan but they could also choose not to act (as does the closer relative to Naomi and Ruth in Ruth 4:1-8).

The expectations on a kinsman-redeemer are strange though, especially when compared to our modern situation. While we have many different options for caring for ourselves and others, these were not options for Ruth and Naomi. There was no government assistance. There was no access to care for them outside of their family. Therefore, for the survival of a clan (in Ruth, the clan of Ephratha, meaning: “out of you will come”) it was essential that there were individuals who shouldered the burden of caring for those who could not care for themselves. It was essential that members of the clan acted with HESED.

In chapter 3, Naomi doesn’t know if her dream of a redeemer will really come true. But she tells Ruth to “wash and prepare herself” to meet a husband—a gift. In fear, Ruth takes a risk and asks Boaz, “Will you redeem me?” Boaz, the kinsman-redeemer, assures Ruth that she and Naomi will be redeemed “as surely as the LORD lives.”

It’s funny that through this narrative Ruth the Moabitess (Ruth the foreigner!) is an example of the model Israelite. She acts with HESED, she honours God’s covenant law when it comes to gleaning, and she honours God when dealing with her kinsman-redeemer. She trusts God to provide.

But, what about us … Do we expect too little from God? Are we afraid to let God take control of our lives? Are we too afraid of failing to risk serving God?

Our salvation is free and our redemption is assured “as surely as the risen LORD lives.” Jesus Christ paid the price so we could be redeemed (Gal. 4:35). God provides us with His protection and care through Jesus Christ and our only source of Joy.

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Guest Monday, 16 December 2019

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