Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Apr 17 2019 - Ruth 3 – The threshing floor

Now it's Naomi's turn to look after Ruth by seeking to find her a husband. Naomi has her eyes set on Boaz since he is a relative of her late husband, Elimelek. Boaz is able to act as kinsman-redeemer (or guardian-redeemer), one able to rescue a relative from a situation of difficulty.

For the Israelites, the land did not belong to them to be sold and bought at will, it belonged to the Lord and had been given to them as a trust (see Leviticus 25:23-24). Land had been apportioned to the various tribes and families within Israel and each portion of land had to be passed on within the family. In this way all Israel shared in the inheritance which God gave his people.

But what if a man died without children? In that case an unmarried man who was a close relative would need to marry the widow and seek to raise up a child who would be considered as son and heir to the previous husband who died. This practice, which seems so strange to us, was referred to as the role of a kinsman-redeemer. This is the background to the question with which the Sadducees sought to trick Jesus (see Matthew 22:23-28). Naomi believes that Boaz could do this for Ruth, marrying her and raising up a son who would inherit their family properties.

Naomi knows that Boaz will be sleeping that night at the threshing floor for he will need to guard his harvested grain (see Judges 6:11). She tells Ruth to go there at dead of night and lie at his feet – a symbol of seeking his protection.

Boaz wakes with a start, perhaps thinking someone has come to steal his grain but finding instead that Ruth is lying at his feet and wanting him to be her kinsman-redeemer. Boaz is moved; it would seem that he is quite taken with this young girl whose godly character is evident. He would be glad to become her husband and guardian, but there is one obstacle; there is a closer kinsman who has prior rights on the inheritance. Boaz will need to negotiate for Ruth. What will happen next in this drama being played out in ancient Bethlehem?

Boaz sends Ruth off in the morning with her shawl full of grain and the promise that he will do all he can to help her. Naomi is delighted with Ruth's news and the abundance of grain she brings home from Boaz. Naomi adds her assurance to that of Boaz that "the man will not rest until the matter is settled today."

Christ has become our kinsman-redeemer. He took upon himself our humanity that he might identify himself with us and take us to be his own. He has loved us, redeemed us at great cost, cast his protection over us and has heaped his riches upon us. He is the one through whom we have gained the inheritance which God has promised his people – not a field or two of land and a lap full of grain, but "an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade", an inheritance of glory.

There is a redeemer,
Jesus, God's own son,
Precious lamb of God, Messiah,
Holy one,

Thank you O my Father,
For giving us your Son,
And leaving your Spirit,
'til the work on earth is done.

Father God, we thank you for Jesus our kinsman-redeemer who has covered us with the garment of his righteousness. May we always sit at his feet, learn from him and follow him. May we, like Naomi, point others to the one who can be their redeemer also.

Apr 17 2013 - Luke 18:18-43 – Many homes

Quite a number of people in the UK now own a second home, but very few can be said to have many homes. Yet this is Jesus' promise to those who give up all manner of things to follow him. "Jesus said to them, 'no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God  will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.'” (Luke 18:29-30). What is quite remarkable about these words, as they are recorded by Luke, is the promise of receiving back in this age many times what has been sacrificed. What can Jesus mean?

Some, of course, use such texts to preach a prosperity gospel; "God wants you to be rich and will give plenty of money, fine houses and fast cars to those who follow him." The experience of the majority of Christians in the developing world gives the lie to such claims. But Jesus' promises are not empty words. Those who follow him become part of a vast international family and find that they have a welcome into many families and many homes. Jesus does not promise vast personal possessions; he promises a place in his kingdom in which he says, "All that is mine is yours" (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:21-23). We become part of the family of him who owns the cattle on a thousand hills.

We who belong to Jesus Christ have untold riches now, "and in the age to come eternal life."

These are encouraging words, but they do not alter the fact that many Christians go on living lives of desperate poverty. How is this promise addressed to them? We have to recognise that the promise is realised by them only as we share with them what God has given us; we are their brothers and sisters in the kingdom and our homes and possessions are theirs also. This is the implication of Jesus’ words to the rich young ruler which we have read this morning. Jesus tells him to use his riches to meet the needs of the poor.

In his seminal book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1978, p. 163), Ronald Sider writes, "I must confess my fear that the majority of affluent 'Christians' of all theological labels have bowed the knee to Mammon. If forced to choose between defending their luxuries and following Jesus among the oppressed, I am afraid they will imitate the rich young ruler." His book made a deep impression on me as a young Christian. But I wonder how much impression it has really made upon my life.

This morning’s passage concludes with Jesus’ encounter with a blind beggar sitting by the Jericho road. Jesus heals Bartimaeus (cf. Mark 10:46) of his blindness. We read in 18:43, “And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.” Jesus has opened our eyes that we might follow him, and that in following him we might bring blessing to the lives of others and so cause them to praise our God.

Heavenly Father, I am sad when I read of the rich young man turning away from Jesus but I am glad that begging Bartimaeus received his sight and followed the Lord Jesus. You have opened my eyes to see the incomparable riches of your grace in the Lord Jesus Christ. Help me to follow him and to use all that I have wisely in the service of his kingdom. Strengthen me by your Spirit that I may keep myself from idols.

Peter Misselbrook