1In the meanwhile, Boaz had gone to the meeting place at the town gate and was sitting there when the other close relative came by. So Boaz invited him to come over and sit down, and he did. 2 Then Boaz got ten of the town leaders and also asked them to sit down. After they had sat down, 3 he said to the man:
Naomi has come back from Moab and is selling the land that belonged to her husband Elimelech. 4 I am telling you about this, since you are his closest relative and have the right to buy the property. If you want it, you can buy it now. These ten men and the others standing here can be witnesses. But if you don’t want the property, let me know, because I am next in line.
The man replied, “I will buy it!”
5 “If you do buy it from Naomi,” Boaz told him, “you must also marry Ruth. Then if you have a son by her, the property will stay in the family of Ruth’s first husband.”
6 The man answered, “If that’s the case, I don’t want to buy it! That would make problems with the property I already own. You may buy it yourself, because I cannot.”
The Man Who Let Her Get Away
There’s this book in the Old Testament called Ruth – many of you know the story.
It’s the story of an Israelite family – dad, mom and two growing sons. The family leave Israel during a famine and head to the land of Moab where they settle as refugees. They abandon the land of Israel. They abandon their lives as God’s people. But in my experience you have to be pretty desperate to become a refugee. I’m sure that was just as much the case for them back then as it would be in our world today.
While they’re in Moab the dad dies. Eventually the two sons get married. Then both of the sons die about ten years later. They leave their wives childless and their mother a widow with no sons to take care of her.
It’s utter devastation for the three women.
Eventually, two of them return: the mom – Naomi – and one of the daughters-in-law – Ruth. But now the question is, how to survive?
Enter in the concept of a ‘kinsmen-redeemer’. It’s from way back in the early laws of the Israelites. In it, if a man dies without a son, someone else can marry his wife and have children with her. The land would be his for a generation, but the first son that the couple had together would inherit the original man’s land. This would mean that he could carry on the original family line, which was really important back in the day.
So the best way for Ruth and Naomi to survive is to find a ‘kinsmen-redeemer’. But it’s a big ask. Marry a childless woman? Take on the burden of caring for her and her mother-in-law in the hope of getting something from land that hasn’t been farmed in years? And then complicate things by having to raise a child who is essentially someone else’s only to have to give the land you’ve worked so hard to bring back to the point of profitability to this child when he becomes a man?
When asked of the man at the city gates he says, ‘no thanks’. He says, ‘it’s not worth the hassle’. He says, ‘there are way too many strings attached there for me to want in on that gig!’
So he walks away.
I wonder whether it’s because her father-in-law left Israel? Whether it’s because her first husband left her childless? Whether it’s because she’s a refugee – a foreigner – who grew up worshipping other gods? Maybe it’s because he has a wife already who would be jealous? Or because of her age? Or maybe there’s just an awful lot of gossip in the town about her and he doesn’t want to be part of it?
Regardless, what he doesn’t know is that Ruth is going to give birth to a son named Obed, who will give birth to a son named Jesse, who will give birth to a son named David, who will be one of the greatest kings Israel ever has and from whom Jesus will eventually be descended.
What he doesn’t know is that God is going to bless the faithfulness of this foreign widow so that she is remembered throughout history.
What he doesn’t know is that he is going to miss out on God’s faithfulness and blessing in his own life because it’s just ‘too much’ to say yes to.
- What people, relationships or opportunities is God bringing into your life at the moment?
- Which ones do you feel excited by?
- Which ones are leaving you nervous – making you feel that they’re ‘too much’?
- What would it look like for you to take some time this week to ask God whether God’s presence would be enough to make it possible for you to say yes?
- The man in the story may have seen barriers such as culture, language, status, wealth or religious background as things that would make this relationship complicated. What barriers do you see when you look at the people, relationships or opportunities in front of you at the moment?
- What would it look like to ask God to show you how to love across those barriers?
This summer we are looking at ‘stories you missed’ in the Bible. Feel free to check out the other stories in the series here.