Day 76: Ruth 1-4; The Kinsmen Redeemer

The story of Ruth is a beautiful story of the way the people of Israel were supposed to be living according to the Law that was given to Moses.  In our Biblical Cannon, it has a very interesting juxtaposition, following the last words of the book of Judges, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes,” and the book of Samuel and the beginning of the story of the kings of Israel.  Amidst the chaos of the time of the judges, an apt description of the cycle of brokenness that Israel finds itself participating in and the time when Israel demands a human king to rule over them instead of God, we find this book of peace, love, and a Shalom like following of the Law and providence of God.  If the book of Judges was an example of the curses that would come when the people didn’t follow the law, the book of Ruth is a prime example of the blessings that come when people did follow the Law and live as God called them to.

The laws about the “Kinsmen Redeemer,” a phrase not specifically used in the ESV as far as I have seen, but one  that summarizes well the duties of family members to each other, come from Leviticus 25 and Deuteronomy 25 in which God lays out laws for the people of Israel regarding the care of those who are vulnerable.  Generally speaking, it would be common, because of the patriarchal society, for a woman who was widowed to end up poor and destitute because she would not be able to have a (legitimate) job and, if she didn’t have grown children, would end up not being cared for.  Women in this situation would find themselves alone and in need.  Sometimes they would be sold into slavery to pay their debts.  Sometimes they would prostitute themselves to make money.  It was a difficult, especially in a society that didn’t really care about the poor and downtrodden.  Not so for God or for Israel.  The Law says that the next closest kinsmen is to take her as a wife to perpetuate the husbands name through him.  In this way, she would not be left to herself, but would be cared for.

In some cases this would not work out either, which is where things like “gleaning” come into play.  Ruth goes and gleans what the harvesters don’t pick up, or some of the crop on the side of the field.  This comes from Leviticus 19 and Leviticus 23.  The people weren’t supposed to reap right up to the edge of the field, and if they dropped something, they were not allowed to pick it up.  These were left for the poor and the sojourner and in this way the poor would not be left starving but would be provided for.

This is such a beautiful picture of the peace and reconciliation that God is working toward in creation.  It is also a beautiful picture of how God cares for all those that we would consider the “least, last, and lost.”  How often do we just cast these people out, even in our minds, so that we don’t have to think so much about those difficult things.  We find it uncomfortable that there could be suffering in the world, even in our own backyards, so we don’t think about it.  God doesn’t turn a blind eye to them.  In fact, there is a special place for the “least of these” in God’s heart to which Jesus remarks “whatever you did for the least of these my brothers, you did for me.”

The truth is though, that as we are all marred with sin, we are all the “least of these” in the sight of God.  We truly are the Ruth’s of the world, just hoping to get a piece of something that drops from the Harvester and not be turned away.  And yet, like Boaz who is a Christ figure in the Bible (foreshadowing if you will), Jesus Christ spots us gleaning what we can and says “who is that?”  He points out to His harvesters that we will never be sustained doing that, in fact we won’t even get enough to feed ourselves for that day.  He walks across the proverbial field as offers us something we could never get on our own… Himself… the Bread of Life.  Moreover, He doesn’t just give us Spiritual food, He says to each and every one of us, “I want to take you into my house.  I want to redeem you.  I want you to become my bride!  You are mine to claim as my own NO MATTER WHO ELSE would seek to claim you.  All you need to do is accept this free gift of grace, the salvation I offer you, by believing in me.”