The Kinsman Redeemer

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Ruth 3:1 – 4:10

INTRODUCTION: We are continuing in our advent series on the book of Ruth, and we are seeing how the book of Ruth, even though it is in the Old Testament, is really a Christmas story. In week one we saw how it is the story of a young woman who made a radical commitment of faith to God and then journeyed to Bethlehem where she gave birth to a child who would change the world. Well, that could also be a description of the Christmas story. And then in week two we saw how it is the story of a righteous man who offered kindness, protection and provision to a young woman in her time of need. Well, that also could be a description of the Christmas story. This week it gets even better. Because this week we learn that the book of Ruth is the story of a kinsman-redeemer who redeemed his beloved from a desperate situation at great cost to himself. And that is most definitely a description of the Christmas story as well.

Once again we will walk our way through a large section of Ruth this morning, but let’s begin by reading verses 9-13. (Read Ruth 3:9-13 and pray.)

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We have now met all three of the main characters in the book of Ruth. First we met Naomi, who left Bethlehem and moved to Moab with her husband and two sons. Next we met Ruth, who was from Moab and who married one of Naomi’s sons after Naomi’s husband died. After both of Naomi’s sons died, Ruth and Naomi traveled back to Bethlehem where we met the third main character in the story, the man Boaz. It was harvest time, and when Ruth went out to glean in the fields, she “just happened” to glean in the fields of Boaz. As we said last week, the book of Ruth is a love story, and God in his providence orchestrated events so that Boaz and Ruth would meet, and Boaz offered kindness, protection and provision to Ruth while she harvested in his fields.

And so chapter two ended on a happy note, boy meets girl, except for the very last sentence. A happy ending to chapter two would have read like this: “And so Boaz and Ruth got married, and they lived happily ever after.” Right, isn’t that the way a love story is supposed to end? Instead we get this for the last sentence: “And she [Ruth] lived with her mother-in-law.” What? You mean the guy doesn’t get the girl? What kind of a happy ending is that? Well, as with most love stories there are some twists and turns along the way before we can get to that truly happy ending. It’s never a straight path. There are always some obstacles along the way. And the big obstacle right now is that the harvest season has ended, and Ruth and Boaz never got together. And so chapter two ends with Ruth living with her mother-in-law instead of married to Boaz. We are going to need a major plot twist if Ruth and Boaz are ever going to get together. And that is exactly what we get in chapter three: a big, daring, bold, breath-taking plot twist that no one could ever have seen coming. So let’s jump into chapter three.

I. A desperate situation (Ruth 3:1-9)

And what we find in chapter three is that Ruth and Naomi are in a desperate situation. God has provided food for them for which they are very grateful, but their great need is for Ruth to marry. Unless Ruth marries, the two of them will always be in a precarious position, plus neither of them will have any children to carry on the family line. Desperate situations call for desperate measures, and Naomi comes up with a plan that is so shocking that it only serves to highlight how desperate their situation really was. Look at Ruth 3:1-6:

One day Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not try to find a home for you, where you will be well provided for? Is not Boaz, with whose servant girls you have been, a kinsman of ours? Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. Wash and perfume yourself, and put on your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.”
“I will do whatever you say,” Ruth answered. So she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do. (Ruth 3:1-6)

So this is Naomi’s brilliant plan: she will send Ruth to Boaz, alone, in the middle of the night, to lie down at his feet, and then suffer whatever the consequences. This is a desperate plan. This is a reckless plan. This is a scandalous plan. Kids, don’t try this at home. Naomi’s situation is so desperate, she is willing to risk everything so that Ruth and Boaz might finally come together as husband and wife.

You see, Boaz is a kinsman, a close relative of Naomi’s deceased husband. And so there is a long shot that he may be willing to fulfill the role of the kinsman-redeemer. You might remember last week when Ruth first told Naomi about Boaz that Naomi exclaimed: “The LORD bless him! That man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers.” (Ruth 2:20)

The kinsman-redeemer was a close relative who was responsible to help a family member out in their time of need. If a family member became poor and had to sell off their land, the kinsman-redeemer was supposed to buy the land back for them. (Leviticus 25:25) The kinsman-redeemer was also responsible to buy back family members sold into slavery (Leviticus 25:47-49) and to avenge the killing of a close relative (Numbers 35:19-21). And then there was the special case of a widow who had no children. In this case the man’s brother was to marry the widow, and the first son she bore to him would carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name would not be blotted out from Israel. (Deuteronomy 5:5-6)

Naomi is hoping that Boaz will fulfill the role of kinsman-redeemer by marrying Ruth so that her family name will continue. So she has Ruth prepare herself as a bride. Ruth washes and perfumes herself. She puts on her best clothes, and she leaves for the threshing floor. Let’s pick up the story in verse 7:

When Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile. Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down. In the middle of the night something startled the man, and he turned and discovered a woman lying at his feet. (Ruth 3:7-8)

After a long day of harvesting and a good hearty meal, Boaz lies down for the night on the threshing floor to protect his grain from any robbers. Ruth waits until he is sleeping, and then quietly, oh so quietly, uncovers his feet, lies down, and waits. In the middle of the night Boaz is startled by something and awakens. Perhaps the chill of the night hits his uncovered feet. And then he is really startled, because he finds there is a woman lying at his feet!

“Who are you?” he asked. “I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.” (Ruth 3:9)

Spreading the corner of your garment over a woman was a pledge of marriage. In fact this custom is still practiced in parts of the Middle East today. And so Ruth first identifies herself, and then she boldly asks Boaz to fulfill the role of kinsman-redeemer by spreading the corner of his garment over her with the protection of marriage.

Now Ruth is in an extremely vulnerable position here, and Boaz could respond in any number of ways. If he were a dishonorable man, he could rape her right then and there on the threshing floor. Or he could take advantage of her, claiming that Ruth had seduced him in the middle of the night. There were other harvesters sleeping nearby, so he could cry out in a loud voice, exposing Ruth to public disgrace and severe punishment.

Ruth and Naomi were in a desperate situation. And so Ruth risks everything here. By visiting Boaz in the middle of the night and proposing marriage, she has thrown herself completely upon the mercy of Boaz and his good character.

II. A loving response (Ruth 3:10-18)

So how does Boaz respond? Well, Boaz is a good man, and this is a love story, and he responds with mercy, righteousness and love. Look at verses 10-13:

“The Lord bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character. Although it is true that I am near of kin, there is a kinsman-redeemer nearer than I. Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to redeem, good; let him redeem. But if he is not willing, as surely as the Lord lives I will do it. Lie here until morning.” (Ruth 3:10-13)

Boaz realizes what a risk Ruth has taken by coming out to him in the middle of the night. And he is touched that she would seek him as a husband instead of one of the younger men. But Ruth wants Boaz. One of the younger men might make a good husband, but they would not be a kinsman-redeemer to carry on the line of Naomi. So Boaz speaks kindly to her and promises her that he will do all that she asks.

But – there is just one hitch. There is another kinsman-redeemer who is a nearer relative than Boaz. This other man has first right of redemption, and so Boaz will need to approach him first. Boaz doesn’t want Ruth wandering home in the middle of the night, so he instructs her to stay there at the threshing floor until morning. Look at verses 14-15:

So she lay at his feet until morning, but got up before anyone could be recognized; and he said, “Don’t let it be known that a woman came to the threshing floor.” 15 He also said, “Bring me the shawl you are wearing and hold it out.” When she did so, he poured into it six measures of barley and put it on her. Then he went back to town. (Ruth 3:14-15)

When morning arrives Boaz continues to shower Ruth with his love and protection. He makes sure she gets up and out before anyone recognizes her. He gives instructions to the other workers not to say anything about a woman coming to the threshing floor. And then he gives her six measures of barley to bring back to Naomi as a token of good faith.

Poor Naomi. I imagine Naomi was up all night wondering what had happened with Ruth. And so when Ruth returns she immediately asks her:

“How did it go, my daughter?” Then Ruth told her everything Boaz had done for her and added, “He gave me these six measures of barley, saying, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’ ” Then Naomi said, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today.” (Ruth 3:16-18)

Naomi had left Bethlehem full and came back empty. But now God through Boaz is assuring her that she will not remain empty. Naomi and Ruth risked everything in going to Boaz. But Boaz’s loving response was exactly the answer they needed to their desperate situation.

III. A costly redemption (Ruth 4:1-10)

And so we come to chapter four and the redemption of Ruth and Naomi. And it is here that we learn of the cost involved in all this. This was a costly redemption, one that would involve great sacrifice on Boaz’s part as evidenced by the reaction of the kinsman-redeemer who was nearer than Boaz. Let’s pick up the story again in Ruth 4:1-4:

Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate and sat there. When the kinsman-redeemer he had mentioned came along, Boaz said, “Come over here, my friend, and sit down.” So he went over and sat down.
Boaz took ten of the elders of the town and said, “Sit here,” and they did so. Then he said to the kinsman-redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our brother Elimelech. I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if you will not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line.”
“I will redeem it,” he said. (Ruth 4:1-4)

So Boaz meets the other kinsman-redeemer at the town gate along with ten of the town’s elders. The town gate was where legal transactions took place, sort of like city hall today, and the elders would serve as legal witnesses. Boaz tells the kinsman-redeemer that Naomi is selling some land and advises him, “Why don’t you buy it, right here and now, but if you’re not interested, then I will because I am next in line.”

Notice Boaz hasn’t said anything about Ruth yet. He’s being a little sneaky here, because the land is not the main point. Boaz wants to marry Ruth, but he first needs to establish before the elders that if the nearer relative will not fulfill his role as kinsman-redeemer, then Boaz will. So he just mentions the land first, and the kinsman-redeemer says, “I will redeem it.”

Not so fast, says Boaz. Look at verses 5-6:

Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi and from Ruth the Moabitess, you acquire the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.”
At this, the kinsman-redeemer said, “Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.” (Ruth 4:5-6)

Boaz drops a bomb on the proceedings. When Naomi’s husband died, the property passed on to her two sons. And so if the man really wants to fulfill the role of kinsman-redeemer, he will also have to marry Ruth the Moabitess. And notice how Boaz stresses that Ruth is from the hated country of Moab.

Well that is a different matter entirely. This man doesn’t want to marry a Moabitess. Not only that, he would also be endangering his whole estate. If Ruth bears a son, that son will be reckoned to Naomi’s family. And then if something were to happen to his own sons, his entire estate would be transferred to Naomi’s family. This is a costly redemption, and he is not willing to pay the price. And so he tells Boaz, “You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.”

In the next verses we read of an interesting legal custom of the day:

(Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalizing transactions in Israel.) So the kinsman-redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it yourself.” And he removed his sandal. (Ruth 4:7-8)

When he removed that sandal, he forfeited his right as kinsman-redeemer. That right passed on to Boaz, and Boaz wastes no time enforcing it. Verses 9-10:

Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from the town records. Today you are witnesses!” (Ruth 4:9-10)

It was a costly redemption, so costly that the other kinsman-redeemer backed out of the deal. But Boaz loved Ruth. He didn’t mind marrying a Moabitess, and he was willing to pay the price. Remember, the book of Ruth is a love story. It is the story of a kinsman-redeemer who redeemed his beloved from a desperate situation at great cost to himself.

Back to the Christmas story:

The Christmas story is also a love story. And wouldn’t you know it? It is also the story of a kinsman-redeemer who redeemed his beloved from a desperate situation at great cost to himself.

1) Our desperate situation (Galatians 3:22-23)

We are the beloved, and our desperate situation is described in Galatians 3:22-23: “The Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin … we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed.” (Galatians 3:22-23)

We were prisoners of sin, held prisoners by the law. We were lost in our sins, cut off from God, deserving of eternal punishment. We were desperate, and in desperate need of a savior.

2) God’s loving response (Galatians 4:4-5)

And how did God respond to our desperate situation? Galatians 4:4-5 tells us: “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)

God’s loving response was what we celebrate at Christmas. God sent his Son. Jesus, the eternal Son of God, was born into our world as a human being. He became like us in our flesh. He became kin with us. He is closer than a brother. Jesus is our Kinsman-Redeemer! He was born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.

3) A costly redemption (Mark 10:45)

Jesus became our kinsman-redeemer, and it was a costly redemption. We read in Mark 10:45: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) Just as Boaz did not serve himself, but served Ruth and Naomi, so Jesus came not to be served, but to serve. And it cost him dearly, far more than it ever cost Boaz. The other kinsman-redeemer was worried about endangering his estate? Jesus left his estate for us. Jesus left the glories of heaven. He entered our world as a human being. He was forsaken by the Father. He gave his own life as a ransom for many. It was a costly redemption.

Jesus is our kinsman-redeemer, but his redemption is not automatic. You need to come to Christ for salvation. Just as Ruth recognized her own desperate situation and cast herself completely on Boaz’s mercy, righteousness and love, so you need to recognize your sin and cast yourself completely on God’s mercy, righteousness and love.

And just as Boaz responded lovingly to Ruth and did not cast her away, we have this precious promise from Jesus in John 6:37: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” (John 6:37)

There’s an old song that goes like this:

He paid a debt he did not owe;
I owed a debt I could not pay;
I needed someone to wash my sins away.
And now I sing a brand new song: “Amazing grace!”
Christ Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay.

Christmas is the story of a kinsman-redeemer who redeemed his beloved from a desperate situation at great cost to himself. Jesus is that kinsman-redeemer. Christ Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay.

© Ray Fowler

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