When Life Hands You Feet, Propose to Your Relatives: Life Lessons from Ruth

What’s your most embarrassing moment? Here’s mine: I was home from college with my family at the church I grew up in, and I had an inner ear infection, so I felt miserable, but more importantly I couldn’t judge the volume of my voice. At some point during the sermon, the fire alarms started going off. Someone came and told the pastor that there was indeed a fire, so he announced we would have to cut the service short and to please exit the building. I “whispered” to my brother in excitement, “YES!!!” Except it wasn’t a whisper and literally everyone heard me. Like the whole congregation (we have 4,000 members) turned around to stare at me. Even the pastor. He stared me down from the pulpit. Keep in mind, there’s literally a fire, and I’d done something shameful enough that people paused their emergency exit to look at me in judgment.

So, that was seriously the worst moment of my entire life (or so it seemed at the time and still kind of seems). But now let’s look at Ruth, because I think her embarrassing moment might be even worse. Imagine getting married and having to leave your entire community before the era of cell phones and Facebook. Then, imagine your husband, brother-in-law, and father-in-law all die, and you’re asked to marry one of your husband’s relatives for the sole purpose of having a baby in your dead husband’s name. Now, as if that isn’t bad enough, imagine if that relative doesn’t know he’s supposed to “redeem” you, so you have to propose. But not the American proposal of getting down on one knee with a ring – no, you have to sneak into a camp where he’s sleeping with all his pals and lay across his feet and hope he wakes up and sees you creeping there and still decides to love you. Uncomfortable in more ways than one, am I right?

That description I just gave is one perspective, and it’s probably the way I’d see it if God asked me to do something like that. The thing is, that wasn’t Ruth’s perspective. As Hallie talked about last week, Ruth was faithful and selfless. While her sister-in-law returned to her own people where life was comfortable, Ruth was willing to do whatever it took to obey her God and serve her mother-in-law. She saw things from God’s perspective.

So now, let’s examine this “most embarrassing moment” of Ruth’s in a different light. Ruth was a foreign girl who the Israelites would have considered a “pagan,” an enemy of God. She married into an Israelite family who taught her about their God, a family who she came to love so much that she decided to stay with the one surviving member, Naomi, rather than return to her Moabite family. Then, even though her husband and other male relatives died, God met her and Naomi’s need for food through Boaz’s kindness with his harvest. But not only did He provide the food they needed, eventually (because Ruth obeyed Naomi’s godly wisdom and humbled herself before her redeemer), He provided a new husband and protector, Boaz (who was rich and also not directly her husband’s brother, so hey, two pluses).

You see, sometimes the Old Testament is super weird; let’s just be honest. I mean, why would God command us not to boil a baby goat in its mother’s milk, or not to cut your hair (Samson), or, in Ruth’s case, to propose to your husband’s relative by creeping into his camp (while making sure his friends don’t see). But everything—every odd law and seemingly ridiculous commandment—ultimately points to Jesus, our Redeemer. Now, I can’t explain the baby goat or the haircut, but I can tell you that Ruth’s unexpected and honestly undeserved redemption paints the picture of our own.

My study Bible (The NKJV Study Bible) draws three parallels between the requirements of a “kinsman redeemer” in ancient Israel (like Boaz) and Jesus as a kinsman redeemer of humankind. (Let’s forget any feministic tendencies for the time being and understand that in ancient Israel a woman could not provide for herself; without a husband to protect and provide, she would remain in poverty and in danger, which is why God provided the option of the “kinsman redeemer.” A kinsman redeemer did not to redeem a woman like you would redeem a prize, but rather he redeemed and cared for her as the jewel she was in the eyes of God. Now back to the point.)

First, a kinsman redeemer in Israel had to be a relative of the woman whom he wanted to marry, i.e. redeem. Boaz was a relative of Ruth through her husband’s family, and Jesus was a relative of the human race by being born fully human. Second, a kinsman redeemer had to be able to pay the price of the redemption. In Ruth’s case, the potential redeemer had to buy Naomi’s land before it was taken away (a woman couldn’t own land), in essence redeeming the estate and taking Ruth as his wife. Boaz was not the closest relative, but he was the only one who was willing to pay the price, just as Jesus was willing to pay the price for our sins with His death and resurrection. Lastly, the kinsman redeemer had to be debt-free himself. Boaz was a wealthy man, and his lack of financial debt entitled him to freedom. Jesus lived a sinless life, so he was debt-free before God. Just as Boaz redeemed Ruth, Jesus redeems us if we, like Ruth, choose to humble ourselves at the feet of the only One who can save.

I know sometimes Bible stories feel more like God asking people to walk into the most awkward situations imaginable. But, just as God was bigger than that embarrassing zit in middle school and that embarrassing display of misplaced priorities at church, God is bigger than the emotions we feel when we’re asked to do something uncomfortable. He always has a plan, and His ways are not our own. So the next time He asks you to do something that doesn’t make sense, trust Him. (Figuratively, because this isn’t ancient Israel and I don’t want you to walk into a random camp and propose to a rich guy.)

But really, girls, God’s got this, no matter what “this” is.

-Carolyn

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