In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
In ancient Israel there was no life insurance, no Canada Pension Plan, no Old Age Security, or widows benefits. But there was always family. And in order to take care of the fatherless and the widow the Lord had instituted a practice called the “Kinsman redeemer”. (Deut. 25:5-10; Lev. 25:23-28, 47-55) That is, if a man dies without giving son to his wife so that there would be someone to take care of her in her old age, then his closest male relative makes sure she has a son. He marries her. Of course you can see problems that may be brought about by this arrangement. For though a woman may be your wife, the son is not reckoned as your son, but as the dead man’s son. (Lev. 25:6) And if he already had a wife, does he really want another? Think of the complications… And of top of all that, what if you never have another son of your own, then your land and your relative’s land goes to your “relative’s son”. So you can see why men might be a little weak kneed about doing what the Lord says to do.
So, they go home to Bethlehem, the house of bread, for the famine there was over. And the Lord had also provided a law that said Israelites should not harvest their fields that closely. Let some of the grain drop, don’t pick up every last bit. Leave it for the poor, the destitute. Let them labour, and have dignity through honest work, gleaning the grain that fell and was missed when the harvesters went through. (Lev. 19:9-10)
Now gleaning out in the fields could be dangerous work for an unknown foreigner. Despite the laws of God saying to provide hospitality to foreigners, to tell them of your God, to include those who trust in Him and His promises the natural state of our hearts dislikes those who different. Consequently, we often suspect foreigners. We never quite trust people whose language, culture, customs, and beliefs are different from our own. We harbour suspicions against them, let alone a single, widowed, good looking young women out in the countryside with all those young men… A dangerous situation for her.
Boaz took a shining to Ruth. (Ruth 2:11-13) Maybe she reminded him of his mother. Definitely whether she was a physical beauty or not he gloried in the beauty of her faith. For she was clothed in piety and faithfulness to the Lord (1 Pet. 3:3-5) and this was glorious to him. Just as this same faith had been strength to Boaz throughout his life.
So, he agreed to redeem her (Ruth 3:9-13), to provide for her, to love her, to buy her dead husband’s land, to take Naomi the mother-in-law into his house, to care for these lovely women of faith, and give her a child to perpetuate the name and inheritance of her dead husband. Talk about acting in strength! The nearest kinsman wouldn’t do it. Understandably. Who wants that burden, that mess, that complication? But Boaz, in the strength of faith from the Lord, was given a new man of faith who lived in him. He gladly did what the Lord said to provide for these women of faith.
For Boaz, mighty man of God, acted in the strength of the Lord to redeem Ruth, and by extension Naomi. To provide for them. To prosper them. To purchase them from the calamity that had befallen them. To give them safety and security. Dignity after a crushing loss.
He did it selflessly, pouring out himself, laying down his life for Ruth. (Eph. 5:25) On account of his faith in the Lord—for this was Lord’s command (Deut. 25:5-10)—he did according to His Word. The Word of the Lord was His strength. In faith he was a mighty man of valour. Even in his old age.
And Boaz, son of an Amorite, husband of a Moabite, shows that God’s grace is not for Israel alone, but for all families, all nations. (Gen. 12:3) For Jesus came through Boaz’ line to save not only Boaz, but all people from their sin, their desperate situation.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON