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Surprised by Hesed … where love and the law meet

“Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from town records.”
Ruth 4:9-10

With these words Boaz did indeed seal the deal, redeeming both Ruth and Naomi. The laws of the time had prevailed, providing the means for two destitute widows to live a comfortable life again, for the property to be maintained in the family, for a son to be born in the lineage of Elimelech. The ten witnesses at the town gate agreed (4:11).

However, Liz Curtis Higgs (The Girl’s Still Got It) is quick to point out that Boaz had indeed done more than the law required. Oh yes, the nearest kinsman was to step up and buy Naomi’s land (4:4) according to the Law of Go’el in Leviticus 25:25. And the Levirate Law of Marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-6) required a dead man’s brother to marry his widow. Technically though, this law only applied to a blood brother or father. (Hmmm—seems Boaz skewed that law a tad, 4:5).

It didn’t matter to Boaz that if he invested in Naomi’s land, that land would go to Elimelech’s kin along with Ruth’s first son, and be lost to him. He didn’t care one bit that he could lose face by marrying a foreigner. Her nobility had shone through and plucked at his heartstrings.

In a way the law has always complicated matters. Yes it had become necessary, these laws and others for the protection of widows and orphans. But what if the law of love prevailed? You know, love God first and foremost so you can love your neighbor as yourself. Would not Naomi and Ruth have been looked after?

So it was not the law after all, but something much more dramatic. The complex maneuverings of the story of Naomi and Ruth and Boaz—the bitterness of circumstances in the Elimelech family, the subterfuge at the threshing floor in the dark of the night, the courtroom diplomacy at the town gate—are summarily superceded by the Savior. He came, bringing with Him ultimate hesed.         

God is full of loving surprises. Our kinsman-redeemer Jesus was first in line in eternity, taking on humanity for our sakes. When the time was right He was ready and willing to go to the cross, the only One able to seal the deal between sinful us and a holy God. Call it grace. Call it loving kindness. Call it amazing!

Nancy P

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