Truth

Redemption of a Family Legacy

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“Then Boaz said to the leaders and to all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon.” Ruth 4:9 GW [see full devo text in NIV below]

Words require context to be understood. Many words have different meanings according to their context. Redemption is one of those words. Various words are used to define the meaning of redemption—to buy back or repurchase; to free from, release, or extricate; atone, reform, or restore.

How a word is used is what gives it meaning within its context—other words it’s associated with, when it’s spoken and by who, and how it’s expressed.

The word large can describe the size of a shirt, a generalized amount, such as, a large segment of the population, and even the idea of excess or extravagance—they were living large on borrowed money.

When a word can be defined in different ways and with various words, context is very important. And context isn’t just about words. Historical time or time sequence and culture with its various customs also help shape our understanding of a word. This is especially true in the Scriptures.

The mercy and grace of God

The concept of redemption by a kinsman-redeemer requires insight into ancient history and culture, along with the Jewish Law of Moses. This concept is spoken of in two places in the Old Testament—Lev 25:23-28 and Deut 25:5-10—and is related to the Year of Jubilee (Lev 25:8-13).

The Year of Jubilee was a sacred or holy year where no work was to be done in the fields and took place every 50 years. In that year, all property reverted back to the original family owners. It’s a picture of God’s mercy and grace.

Mercy and grace are the basis for all of God’s redemptive work.

In the case of the kinsman-redeemer (go-el in Hebrew), the property is restored to the original family line and the widow of the deceased husband is taken in as a wife.

The family legacy is restored and the widow is restored. She is included in the family’s legacy and returned to the status of marriage—no longer alone or dependent on others.

Consider how this works for Ruth the Moabite, a Gentile (non-Jew). Though she is not Jewish, she is included as if she were because of Boaz’s commitment to marry her. Unlike her sister-in-law Orpah, she trusted in the God of Israel, which brought great blessing to her life.

God’s redemption brings restoration

The commitment and role of a kinsman-redeemer is important and significant. Boaz makes sure it is witnessed so it complies with the Law of Moses and the customs of that time [see NIV text below].

The witnesses at the city gate included elders from the community. They acknowledge the commitment of Boaz and pronounce a blessing on Ruth, Boaz, and their offspring. As will be seen in the last segment of the story of Ruth, their blessing reaches beyond the morning of this transaction.

Although it may seem from the words used in the text that Ruth is “bought” with the property, this is not the case. Redemption isn’t a mere legal transaction or purchase or repurchase—it is a process of restoration.

Restoration is always the intent of the Lord in redemption.

This is why Jesus is the great Kinsman-Redeemer. He repurchased all humanity back from our indebtedness and judgment because of sin. He did this with His atoning sacrifice on the cross.

Why? To restore those who trust in God back into fellowship in the family of God, even as Ruth trusted in the God of Israel. We see this illustrated in the three parables of Luke 15, especially the parable of the lost son (Luke 15:11-32).

Redemption and restoration is what King David—a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam 13:14)—knew after he repented from his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah (Psalm 51:12). David expressed this with assurance in Psalm 23—He restores my soul (Ps 23:3).

What about you?

Have you experienced God’s redemption and restoration?

Reflection—

Mercy and grace are the basis for all of God’s redemptive work. Restoration is always the intent of the Lord in redemption.

Prayer Focus—

When you find yourself struggling in your faith, remember to reach out to God in prayer and ask Him to restore you by His mercy and grace.


Devo Scripture Text

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!”

Then the elders and all those at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel.

May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.” (Ruth 4:9-12 NIV 84)


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I Cannot Assume That Responsibility

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“Take all my rights to buy back the property for yourself, because I cannot assume that responsibility.” Ruth 4:6 GW [see full devo text in NIV below]

Have you ever made a commitment you couldn’t keep or made a decision you later regret? I’m sure we’ve all done both at some point in our lives. As I mentioned in an earlier devotional, it’s easy to jump to conclusions or make commitments too quickly.

When you or I make a decision or commitment and later go back on our word, it’s because we didn’t realize the responsibility involved with our decision or commitment.

Some of the decisions we regret are the ones we didn’t make but later wished we had. Some commitments are beyond our scope of understanding, while others are rash and impetuous.

I’ve painted a lot of things in my life but not as an artist. More than a few times, I bid painting jobs too low because I needed the money right away. I underestimated how long a job would take and overestimated my ability to do it.

Each time, when I realized my mistake, I would try to renegotiate the price. But this was rarely successful. Then I was faced with a further decision—to quit or to finish the job. Finishing the job often meant doing a month’s worth of work for a week’s amount of wages.

We might keep a commitment even though it costs us to do so. But there are times when the wise decision is to suffer loss to our pride and admit we can’t fulfill our commitment.

Looking ahead to our redemption

When the nearest kinsman-redeemer realizes buying the property of his relative Elimelech requires marriage to Ruth the Moabite, he reneges on his commitment.

If he married Ruth, he would give up his own legacy of family and property. Marrying Ruth would extend the family lineage of Elimelech but interfere or end his own family line. It’s also probable that the man was already married.

So, he deferred to Boaz—Take all my rights to buy back the property for yourself, because I cannot assume that responsibility (verse 6). And Boaz was willing to accept this responsibility.

At this point in the story, Boaz can become the kinsman-redeemer for Ruth and Elimelech’s property and family line. He also becomes a figurative type of Christ—the ultimate Kinsman-Redeemer.

To understand this requires some explanation and looking ahead to the New Testament Scriptures. A figurative type is when a person or event or thing is a picture of something or someone greater in the future.

A simple example is when Abraham was willing to offer his only son Isaac as a sacrifice (Gen 22:1-14). The angel of the Lord intervenes and Abraham figuratively receives his son back from the dead, as it says in the book of Hebrews (Heb 11:19).

This is a picture of God the Father sending His Son Jesus as an atoning sacrifice for all humanity. Though Jesus died on the cross, He rose from the dead. By doing this, Jesus not only paid for all humanity’s sin, He conquered the power of sin through His resurrection to redeem all those who trust in Him.

The responsibility of redemption

When the first human lived on earth, Adam, he was innocent of sin and lived in the paradise of the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:7-9). But when the man and his wife selfishly chose to eat what was forbidden to them (Gen 3:15-17), they lost their innocence and were sent out of paradise (Gen 3:6-11, 22-24).

When Jesus came—as the perfect God–Man—He came to redeem all humanity, for all time, from all sin and its consequence and power.

Why did Jesus need to come as a Savior for all humanity? Because none of us are able to redeem ourselves from the consequence and power of sin. We are like Adam who is represented in a figurative sense by the unnamed kinsman-redeemer in the story of Ruth.

This man could not accept the responsibility of redemption and neither can you or I. It is beyond our ability. We are powerless to overcome the power and consequence of sin on our own (Rom 3:20-26; 5:18-21).

Boaz was willing and able to accept and assume the responsibility as a kinsman-redeemer of Ruth and the property and legacy of Elimelech. He set aside his own legacy for the sake of Ruth a Moabite—a gentile—just as Jesus set aside His glory for our sake (Phil 2:5-8).

This Moabite woman—an outsider, a foreigner—was included in the Jewish lineage of Elimelech. This is another important event to consider, but we’ll look at it another time.

Do you understand how each of us is unable to redeem ourselves from the consequence and power of sin?

Take some time to review the thoughts I’ve shared in this devotional and the related scripture references—consider and reflect on all this and ask the Lord to give you a more clear understanding of the fullness of His redemptive work—for all or us—on the cross.

Reflection—

None of us are able to redeem ourselves from the power and consequence of sin. This is why Jesus came as the Kinsman-Redeemer of all humanity—for all time and for all sin.

Prayer Focus—

If you’ve already trusted in the Lord’s redemption, praise Him and give thanks as you go through your day. If you haven’t yet, ask the Lord Jesus to give you understanding for why you need to trust Him for His redemption of your life.


Devo Scripture Text

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.”

(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 4:4-8 NIV 84)


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It's All a Matter of Perspective

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They happened to enter Bethlehem just when the barley harvest began. Ruth 1:22 GW [see full devo text in NIV below]

Basically, there are three ways to see things in life—our own outlook, the viewpoint of others, and the way things are in an objective sense. Only one person sees all three perspectives—the Lord.

When we or others view people, life events, or whatever else, we see things subjectively. Each of us have our own biases. How we see the world and all that’s in it—including ourselves and others—is viewed through our beliefs, emotions, experiences, and values.

We can claim a sense of objectivity but that’s all it is—a sense. Only the Lord sees things in the truest objective way because He is eternal. When God reveals His perspective, as in the Scriptures, we still tend to see it through our own biased lens.

3 Perspectives

This final vignette of this first chapter of Ruth gives us a glimpse of all three perspectives—Naomi’s, the viewpoint of other people, and the actual situation.

The arrival

After Ruth’s declaration of commitment to stay with Naomi, they traveled from Moab to Bethlehem in Judah—a journey of at least 2-3 days by foot.

As they enter Naomi’s hometown, everyone is excited to see her and the women wonder at Naomi’s presence with a young Moabite widow and no husband—Can this be Naomi?

Naomi’s response is telling. It reveals how she sees her situation and why it happened. Not only is it subjective, it’s somewhat typical for most of us.

Naomi’s outlook

Let’s consider each of Naomi’s three statements.

  1. Don’t call me Naomi…Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.— Naomi’s name can mean both pleasant or sweet and Mara means bitter. It’s a play on words to describe both her inner state and her outlook on life. And she holds the God responsible for her situation.

  2. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty.— Do you see how she puts the blame for her situation on the Lord? Naomi sees her life’s misfortunes as God’s hand against her and uses a play on words to make her point. Her statement about going out full but coming back empty is her view now but it will change by the end of the whole story of Ruth.

  3. The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.— It’s pretty clear Naomi is playing on the sympathy of others as a victim of circumstances though it was her husband and her choice to leave Judah ten years before. She only returns because things have reversed—they left because of a famine and she returns because of God’s provision for Israel. Her answer may be posed as a question but it’s rhetorical—the answer is clear—the Lord is the cause of her problems.

When things go wrong, most if not all of us are quick to find some reason it happened and someone else to blame. Many people blame God for all the problems in the world. Somehow He’s responsible for everyone’s choices and all the bad and evil things that happen.

Here’s our conundrum—we want God to intervene when and where we think He should but don’t want Him to interfere with our own choices and pursuits. It’s as if we want to be in control of God. This is one of the many consequences of eating the fruit of the forbidden tree.

A full circle

Ancient writings followed the common literary structures of their time. Some of the literary devices are more obvious than others. The use of contrasting words and concepts is one of the most common.

Chapter one of Ruth begins with a famine but ends …as the barley harvest was beginning. The scope of the book starts out with a timeframe of ten years but telescopes down to one day and a pivotal meeting in the last chapter.

The heart of the story begins in the next chapter where Ruth becomes the main character in this story of redemption. Even this first chapter ends with a redemptive focus—going from famine to harvest and coming from a far country to home.

Naomi can’t see this for now but she will in the end.

It’s all a matter of perspective.

Reflection—

When things go wrong, we tend to blame something or someone else rather than ourselves. We’ll even blame God because of our own expectations in life. We don’t see things from a clear and objective perspective.

Prayer Focus—

When you find yourself shifting blame to someone other than yourself and not facing your own responsibilities, ask the Lord to show you His perspective of your situation. Ask Him to help you learn a better way to handle things.


devo Scripture Text

So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”

So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning. (Ruth 1:19-22 NIV)


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How Concerned Are You About Fairness and the Needy?

Speak out for the one who cannot speak,

for the rights of those who are doomed.

Speak out, judge fairly,

and defend the rights of oppressed and needy people.” (Proverbs 31:8-9 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 31:1-9 GW)


It’s easy to demand fairness and tolerance coming from an ideological stance, a personal view, or even a philosophic approach. But real life isn’t ideal. Ideology and philosophy don’t fit within the harsh lines of reality.

Reality and objective truth will never conform to anyone’s ideological, philosophical, or religious viewpoint. And yes, absolute and objective truth exists no matter how relativistic culture and morality become and the personal challenges of others to the truth.

Relativism meets reality

Personal opinions are just that—personal. They aren’t objective but subjective. They’re captive to emotions and the influence of others. And personal opinions are fickle.

Culture changes. It’s not objective nor absolute. A simple review of modern history reveals how culture doesn’t just waver—it swings from one extreme to another.

Personal opinions, politics, and philosophy—including ideologies and religious views—drive the currents of culture change. This should be self-evident but I realize our present culture is characterized and driven by relativism.

And it isn’t just moral relativism, it seems as if everything can be questioned as to its veracity—even physical and scientific realities. Just because you can think or imagine it doesn’t make it a reality.

Speaking out or speaking for?

As I read and think on what is expressed in these two verses in Proverbs 31 (above), I hear the polarized arguments and opinions of our present American culture in the background.

People are speaking out for those who seem to have no voice and appear defenseless. I’m thinking of those concerned with refugees and illegal immigrants. But is anyone really listening to them? Are these voices speaking on behalf of those they’re concerned about or for them?

There is a difference. We can speak for someone yet not express what they think and feel. I’ve seen this when one spouse answers a question for another in their presence. When we speak on behalf of another, we should speak what’s in their heart and mind not ours.

One segment of our population—worldwide—who are doomed and defenseless and have no voice of their own are pushed aside and ignored for the sake of another large segment of the population. I’m referring to the unborn whose life is cutoff before it begins outside the womb.

Life begins at conception. This is a biological reality. This may not be the existing interpretation of the law in the USA but it’s true.

America’s Declaration of Independence and the 14th Amendment to the constitution speak of equal rights. The 14th Amendment is the basis of civil rights for all humanity and recognized former slaves as humans with equal rights.

Before this, slaves—any gender or age—were considered chattel—they were mere possessions of their “masters.” The Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision (1973) did the opposite for the unborn and some states have already extended this beyond actual birth.

The rights of the unborn are denied by a legal interpretation based on opinion not scientific fact. This was and is a slippery slope as prophetically expressed in the book, Whatever Happened to the Human Race.

Concern or cause?

Causes, whether secular or religious, usually begin with a concern but at some point develop a life of their own. How does this happen? Emotions, opinions, and personal views take over.

My wife and I worked with abandoned and abused children and young women for many years. Prior to developing our ministry in the Philippines for the abandoned and abused, we were foster parents for several years in the US.

We have real-life, firsthand experience as advocates of those in dire need and who need protection and restoration. But we were never protesters. We still aren’t. We’re doers along with thousands of others engaged in similar work throughout the world.

We’ve heard and seen many people show concern, even speak out on behalf of those who are oppressed and at risk. But talk is cheap. Causes and opinions come and go. Real advocacy has no agenda but to do what is needed to help those in need.

If you have a genuine concern for the defenseless, needy, and oppressed, then consider these three specific admonitions—

Speak out, judge fairly, and defend the rights of oppressed and needy people.

Speak out It’s good to speak out for those who have no voice but be sure you do so for their benefit not just your view of them and their situation.

Judge fairly Be objective not subjective. Don’t be driven by emotions and opinions. Ask genuine questions and listen to those you want to defend. Put yourself in their place and see things from their point of view.

Defend the rights… Throughout history and in every nation, there are those who are guilty but get set free and those who are innocent yet are condemned. The Lord knows about this firsthand—He was betrayed and put to death as the only truly innocent Man (Matt 27:19-26).

Ultimately, we will all come before the only One who is able to judge justly—God. Here are some final thoughts from the Scriptures—

But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. (Psalms 10:14 NIV)

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. (Psalms 68:5 NIV)

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you—But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 NKJV)

Reflection—

If you have a genuine concern for the defenseless, needy, and oppressed, then consider these three specific admonitions—Speak out, judge fairly, and defend their rights as their advocates, not for your own cause.

Prayer Focus—

If any of what’s written above challenges your own convictions or points of view—be willing to set those aside. Ask the Lord to help you see them first from His point of view.

©Word-Strong_2019


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Things and People Who Are Never Satisfied

The bloodsucking leech has two daughters—“Give!” and “Give!”

Three things are never satisfied. Four never say, “Enough!”:

the grave, a barren womb,

a land that never gets enough water,

a fire that does not say, “Enough!” (Proverbs 30:15-16 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 30:1-16 GW)


Have you ever wanted something so much you’d do most anything to get it? And when you got whatever it was you wanted, you realized it wasn’t enough? It didn’t satisfy the want inside you.

This is the reality of greed and lust—not just sexual lust—but a deep longing that never seems to be satisfied. It’s the unrestrained self—like a bottomless pit of want.

This sense of dissatisfaction is not because of a lack of something but abundance. This abundance is the entrance to the bottomless pit of want. It sets a person up to want more but it never brings satisfaction.

As mentioned in a previous devotional, the use of numbers and lists in the book of Proverbs provides helpful ways to remember various truths. In these two verses, our list moves in a progression from two to four but with one theme—never satisfied.

2 daughters—Give and Give more

It begins with the descriptive picture of a bloodsucking leech. Those worm-like, slimy creatures whose flat undersides attach to a person’s skin with their other side rounded which grows more round as blood is sucked from their host victim.

Not a flattering description of someone who attaches themselves to another for provision and sustenance! But it makes the point in a graphic way.

Not everyone who begs is a leech. But some people only seem to know how to take and never give. The more given to them, the more they want and take. One Bible version says this—

A leech has twin daughters named “Gimme” and “Gimme more.” (Prov 30:15 MSG)

When a person develops a dependency on another or others, it becomes more and more difficult for them to let go of their dependency. It doesn’t matter what form the dependency takes—they will always want more. In some ways it’s like an addiction.

Isn’t it interesting how lottery winners are sought after by friends and family, and others who have all sorts of advice on how to handle the winnings. Some are more subtle than others but a lot of hands are extended in expectation of the lottery winner sharing their wealth.

Wealthy people always seem to have at least one if not a few family members who feel entitled to the family wealth. This is a universal reality down through the ages.

Government assistance is essential for many people to survive. No question. But it can be taken advantage of and milked in many ways. This type of dependency becomes a way of life and livelihood and the system often discourages efforts to be weaned from this dependency.

Never enough

It’s not all about leeches though. Four other examples are given of this unsatisfied state.

The grave

The grave is a reminder of the universal reality of death. As many have said before—no one gets out of this life alive. None of us escapes the grasp of death. Even cryogenics happens after death, well…unless someone volunteers to be frozen alive.

Although the grave—death—isn’t just for the old. I’ve presided over too many funerals and memorials of people who died too soon. But as we age, the finality and reality of death claiming life presses into our psyche more and more.

A barren womb

A woman who longs for a child of her own bears a heavy weight. There are no easy answers. Only well-meaning platitudes that fall flat and increase the harsh longing of a mother-to-be.

There are stories in the Bible that illustrate this, such as Sarah—Abraham’s wife who was to bear the son of a man called the father of many nations (Gen 17:1-8; 15-20). Hannah’s story, the mother of Samuel the prophet, illustrates the heaviness of a barren womb even more so (1 Sam 1:1-18).

Land and water

Farmers, gardeners, even firefighters know how thirsty the ground is for water. Water either soaks in too fast or not at all, or runs off before it can soak in and satisfy the needs of plant and tree growth.

Keep in mind this is a picture. It illustrates something of life from nature. Think of the different situations it might represent—flooding or drought, the cycle of seasons in relation to farming. Now, consider how this relates to your own life. Need a start? How about—you don’t miss the water till the well runs dry.

Fire

Fire brings us full circle. A close friend and firefighter told me this about fire years ago—as long as there is fuel and oxygen, the fire stays alive and consumes whatever is in its path. It’s never satisfied. It never says enough!

Anyone who has experienced a powerful fire firsthand—whether in a building or a forest—can attest to the fierce consuming power of fire. My wife and I have. It is hard to put the experience into words except to say—it’s fierce and powerful and indiscriminate in its destructive power.

The sense of not being satisfied only stops when we surrender it to God and ask for Him to rescue us. We may be able to dull it or try to avoid or ignore it but it doesn’t just go away because it’s embedded in us.

King Solomon understood this personally, as seen in the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.

This is why Jesus made so many personal invitations to come to Him. And He showed us the way of surrender in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-42) so we could be set free of this unsatisfied sense and be fulfilled in Him.

Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:37-38 NIV)

Reflection—

Whatever dissatisfaction we might have will only be quelled when we surrender it to God and ask Him to rescue us. For the Lord desires to rescue and free us, and to fill us with contentment and life.

Prayer Focus—

Are there ways you find yourself longing for something or someone that hasn’t been satisfied and leaves you wanting? Bring these desires, longings, and wants to the Lord and surrender them in prayer. Give them to Him in your heart and ask for His help.

©Word-Strong_2019


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