Hi, welcome to Redeem the Commute. I’m Ryan, your host for the Daily Challenges. Yesterday we read the story of Ruth and Naomi, at least parts of it.
Two desperate women who’ve lost everything stick together, and eventually the younger one marries a very kind and generous landowner, establishing a secure future for them once again.
I asked you what the point of this story might be.
Most people think it’s this: Some people in the bible were nice. You should be nice too.
I was asked to preach on this once at a friend’s church, and the pre-set title of the sermon was based on their children’s focus: God wants us to be loving and kind.
But that’s really not the point, that’s not why this story is in the Bible, and it’s not the point of Christian faith. And this is really important to tell the world.
Nervous – reduce Christianity to shorthand for kindness. Nothing unique – there are kind people everywhere. It makes Jesus just seem like the world’s nicest guy, and suggests we’re supposed to be nice people, too.
Author Douglas Adams: Two thousand years one man was nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change.
Why would this be any kind of hopeful message for us to hear? Be nice to each other so you can die, too!
Something doesn’t add up. What does this nice story about nice people really mean? What is Christian faith really about, and why does it tell stories like this one?
Well like I said, Naomi and her daughter Ruth had no rights in a society dominated by men. Their men were dead, so they had nothing.
Their family had willingly left their land in Israel, so they had no right to it anymore after their losses, and lots of Jews would have said it served them right. They’d brought this upon themselves.
Travelling home to Judah, where they had once lived and owned land, their culture wouldn’t allow two women to buy back their husband and father’s land, they could only rely on the kindness and sacrifice of another. On top of that, one of the women, Ruth, was a Moabite foreigner, not a Jew.
But the Jewish law did allow two ways for Naomi to get her land back.
One way was to get the next of kin to buy the land to keep it in the family. Since the sons of Elimelech were dead, perhaps Naomi and Ruth would be able to find a brother or cousin to do this.
The other way was through marriage where the nearest relative of Elimelech would marry his widow, Naomi, have some children. Those children would take the name of the dead man, and receive the land as an inheritance. Since Naomi was too old to have children, her daughter Ruth could stand in and marry this way.
Someone who did this was called a kinsman redeemer. Close relative who redeems, who releases value in something or in this case, someone.
Someone in need of redemption would start with the closest relative they could find, and work their way out until you found someone suitable.
But not easy. First way has a huge cost! Second way has a huge risk! So the Hebrew law said you had to be related by blood, able to pay the price, and willing to do it.
That takes an extreme level of niceness. And Boaz does both. He buys the land for himself to keep it in the family, and marries Ruth to produce an heir for his new mother in law.
How many of us would be able to buy our cousin’s house outright, or take out whole new mortgage so his family could keep living there, marry his wife, and then have children for your mother in law who won’t bear your name, and who will take ownership of the house you just bought? Could we really do it?
If this story is here to tell us to be kind and loving like Boaz, it’s ultimately a story about how we’ll all fail.
But Boaz, probably the nicest person in this story, isn’t in this story to simply be an example for us.
Question: What do you think this story has to do with Jesus? How does it point to him?