Some of the songs we sing talk about Jesus being our redeemer. Perhaps it seems like a Christian word, but we also use it when we talk about paying off debts, redeeming a mortgage on a house or reclaiming something that has been a down payment for a loan. Coupons or vouchers may also be redeemed for a free item in a supermarket or a special offer on a burger. When some of us went to the Gourmet Burger Kitchen the other week we got a good deal because we redeemed a voucher.
Companies don’t usually want to give you something for free – to get the voucher I had to give them my email address and I guess I will hear about other offers from them in the future. They didn’t just pay the price so I could have a good value meal – they want a relationship with me. I want to tell you a story from the Bible about redemption.
Elimelech was a Jewish man living in the promised land after the time of Joshua, when the Judges were ruling Israel. There was a famine and he and his wife Naomi left Bethlehem and went with their two sons to Moab, a land God had cursed for their evil ways.
Their sons married Moab women called Ruth and Orpah. But within about ten years, Elimelech and his two sons died.
Naomi decided to go back to Bethlehem to return to her family. She told her daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah to stay behind with their own people and their own gods. But Ruth had become a strong believer in the one true God, and made a faithful promise to Naomi:
Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.” (Ruth 1 v 16-17).
So Ruth went with Naomi to Bethlehem. Naomi had some land that belonged to her husband, but it had been sold. Only a close relative could buy it back for her, according to Jewish law. They were hungry and Ruth went into the fields because it was harvest time. She ended up in a field belonging to Boaz, one of Naomi’s relatives. She was gleaning – picking up the very last of the grain after the harvesters had finished.
Boaz spotted Ruth and spoke kindly to her. He had heard how she had been faithful to Naomi and travelled so far to stay with her. He prayed that God would reward her for what she had done. He encouraged her to gather grain in his field and told the men not to harm her but to make sure she got plenty of grain to take away.
She had so much to carry that Naomi was very impressed and asked where she had been gathering grain. Naomi thanked God for Boaz’s kindness, and said how he was a close relative, who could be a kinsman-redeemer.
In Israel, a kinsman redeemer could buy back land which belonged to someone who had died. A close relative would buy the land and would take on any widow, children, animals and possessions as his own. Ruth did not have children but she and Naomi were vulnerable. Naomi encouraged Ruth to gather grain in Boaz’s field until the harvest was over.
When the harvest was finished there was a gathering in the barn where they were threshing the grain. Naomi told Ruth to dress up nicely and get close to Boaz after he had been eating and drinking. Specifically, she told Ruth to uncover his feet and lie down by his feet. This was quite a forward move, asking him to spread his garment over her and to take her to be his wife. Although he had noticed Ruth, he would not have made a proposal to her because he was a generation older and it would not have been done.
Boaz is pleased with her and pleased that she is not running after younger men. He wants to take on the role of the kinsman-redeemer, but he is a godly man and wants to do things properly, and he thinks another man has a better claim. He gives her even more grain to take away and goes to meet with the elders of the town.
There is another closer relative who is keen to buy the land, but not willing to take on Ruth as his wife. This is not God’s plan – he doesn’t just want debts paid, he wants Ruth and Naomi to be protected and provided for in the future. The other relative is not willing for this ongoing relationship, so he formally hands on the task to Boaz. The elders witness Boaz buying the land that belonged to Elimelech, and prayed blessing on him as he took Ruth to be his wife and welcomed Naomi into his family. They prayed that God would bless them with children who would bring honour and fame through generations.
And though Ruth had not had any children with her first husband, she soon became pregnant with a boy, Obed, who later became the father of Jesse, the father of King David. She is mentioned in Matthew as one of the ancestors of David as part of the ancestry of Jesus. The Bible story of Ruth closes with Obed happy in the arms of his grandmother Naomi, and linking Ruth into God’s big story for Israel and all humankind.
Ruth was chasing after scraps, but God had much better for her. From gleaning grains, she was given ears of corn, allowed to gather freely, given large quantities of grain and finally married the landowner, providing for her, Naomi and her family to come. Ruth was from Moab, but she was welcomed into God’s family.
The book of Isaiah recounts prophecies against Moab, but also talks about how:
6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD
to minister to him,
to love the name of the LORD,
and to be his servants,
all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it
and who hold fast to my covenant—
7 these I will bring to my holy mountain
and give them joy in my house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house will be called
a house of prayer for all nations.” (Isaiah 56 v 6-7)
Abraham was also promised that all nations would be blessed through him (Genesis 18, 22 & 26) – God’s big story was always to include people from outside the Jewish nation.
God used women from outside Israel, like Ruth and the Canaanite woman Rahab before her. Rahab was the prostitute who sheltered the spies in Jericho and later became Boaz’s mother.
Later Jesus meets another Canaanite woman, who begs him to heal her daughter (Matthew 15). Jesus tells her how he has come first to the lost sheep of Israel, and uses an image of not giving the children’s food to the dogs. The woman insists that even dogs are allowed to eat crumbs from under the table, and Jesus is moved by her faith to heal her daughter. After that Jesus again multiplies bread to feed 4000 people, and later again (Matthew 21, Mark 11) when clearing the temple, Jesus quotes the passage from Isaiah about his house of prayer for all nations.
Boaz redeemed the land which belonged to Elimelech and his sons. He redeemed Ruth, bringing her fully into God’s family.
Jesus redeemed us. He paid the price to bring us into God’s family, but it cost him more than money. Jesus paid with his blood to bring us redemption. Ephesians 1 v 7 says:
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.
Hebrews 9 v 12 says
He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining[b] eternal redemption. 13
God uses the picture of Israel and later the church as his bride throughout the Bible. Boaz is one of the figures who foreshadows Jesus, displaying one of his characteristics as a kinsman-redeemer. Jesus became one of us, being made in human likeness (Philippians 2). He called the early Christians his brothers and sisters – he was a kinsman. But he was also still fully God, able to welcome us into God’s family and to redeem us from sin and death.
But it doesn’t end there – Jesus didn’t just pay the price for us, he wants a relationship with us. Boaz didn’t just do his duty and buy the land, he took on Ruth as his wife and brought her fully into God’s family. Accepting that Jesus paid the price for our sin and saved us from death is a very important step, but it is not the end of what God wants for us. Throughout the Bible we see how God wants a relationship with his people, with you and me, and with our friends, family members and people across the world who don’t know him yet. Can we pray for them now?
Lord Jesus, I thank you that you died to pay the price for all our sins and to restore us into relationship with God. Thank you that this wasn’t just for the people of Israel but that we are all welcome – that you want people from all nations to be your family. We pray for people who don’t know you, that you will work in their lives and draw them closer to yourself. Please help us to share your good news with other people boldly, and help us each to know a deeper relationship with you.