When’s a redeemer not a redeemer? When he is unable, or unwilling, to redeem.
In ancient Israel it wasn’t enough just to have the right to redeem another’s land, but the next redeemer in line also needed to have the means. He needed to be able to pay the price. But as I read the last chapter of Ruth this morning, I’m also reminded that even having the right and the means to redeem doesn’t necessarily make you a redeemer if you’re not willing to pay the price . . . if you’re not really willing to redeem.
While Boaz was a relative of Naomi’s late husband, Elimilech, and therefore had the right to redemption, there was a closer relative who legally had the first right of refusal on acquiring Elimilech’s estate. And it’s evident that this closer relative would have no problem coming up with the cash. So, when Boaz pulls him aside at the gate in front of many witnesses to offer him first dibs on the estate, potential redeemer No. 1 is all in. He’ll take the land Naomi has put up for sale.
But then Boaz points out that what’s to be redeemed is a package deal. That the field was to be accompanied by a female. That keeping the land in the family was only part of the deal. But that the greater priority was keeping the family on the land. And so, according to Mosaic precedent (Deut. 25:5-6), and the condition of sale insisted upon by Naomi, to buy the land also meant taking a wife–Naomi’s interest being not only for her own welfare, but for Ruth, her widowed daughter-in-law, as well.
At that the point, the redeemer isn’t. While he has the cash, it’s too high a price to pay. Taking on another parcel of land is one thing, but taking on another person? That’s a totally different matter. Though the transaction might increase his assets, it would dilute their value and impact his plans for his own inheritance. And so he passes.
Did he have the right to redeem? Yes. Able to redeem? You bet. Willing to redeem? No way! And so, the redeemer is really no redeemer at all.
Enter the true redeemer . . . the redeemer who redeems.
Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and to Mahlon. Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day.”
(Ruth 4:9-10 ESV)
Boaz was ready to redeem. He was able to redeem. And he was willing to redeem. Willing to pay the price for the real estate. Willing to invest his life in the relationship. A redeemer who redeemed.
And as I chew on Boaz’s act of redemption, I get a fresh taste of the redemption secured by another redeemer, Jesus, the Greater Boaz.
He had the right to redeem, as all things were made by Him and for Him. He possessed the means to redeem, by virtue of the fact that His blood shed as the Lamb of God was sufficient to pay the wages owed for the sin of the world. But, here’s the thing that moves me this morning. His willingness to not only pay the price, but to take on the relationship, too.
The spotless, pure, and holy Son of God willing to be yoked with a sinner, though a redeemed sinner, such as I. Not just to tolerate me abiding in His presence, but desiring, even more, to come in and sup with me in all my work-in-progress imperfections. Not only willing to be the Shepherd of often fickle sheep, but to have paid the price so that He might call us His brothers and sisters. Looking way beyond us as just those redeemed to be part of His inheritance, but willing, even desirous, that as His precious possession, we might one day share with Him in the glorious inheritance that will be His from the Father.
Jesus the Christ . . . the Redeemer who redeems.
Ready, able, and willing to save to the uttermost.
Shedding His blood that I might have life, even life to the full.
O what a Savior!
Such amazing grace. To Him be all the glory!