Delivered at Ames UCC on August 12, 2018
©The Rev. Eileen Gebbie
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Remember how Ruth used sex to trap Boaz into marrying her and redeeming Naomi’s land? The next day we see Boaz trick a kinsman, referred to either jokingly or pejoratively as So-and-So, into giving up his claim to the role of redeemer-kinsman.
Recall that being a kinsman-redeemer is an opportunity to demonstrate God’s preferences for manna and mercy over money and might. There is no profit in buying Naomi’s land because Naomi will continue to work it for her own benefit and buy it back one day. Yet the opportunity to honor covenant living is powerful enough that it will take a little doing to get it away from Mr. So-and-So.
So Boaz tells a lie: If you serve as redeemer you also have to marry Ruth.
No, he doesn’t.
The only marital law regarding widows is, as I described last week, between brothers. Mr. So-and-So is not a son of Naomi or a brother-in-law to Ruth. Nonetheless, Mr. So-and-So is duped (or possibly glad to be shut of the kinsman-redeemer burden).
And so, after a little sandal removal, the honor of being a kinsman redeemer is Boaz’s. And the sacrifice of being husband to Ruth is, as well. For when Boaz and Ruth have a son, it will count as son to her late husband.
No wonder the townspeople then begin to celebrate: Look at the good and godly choice Boaz has made. They cry out,
May the Lord make Ruth like Rachel and Leah,
may your house be like that of Tamar!
Wait, what? What kinds of blessings are these? Who would want to live like Rachel and Leah and Tamar? Are they actually offering a curse?