Readings: Numbers 36:7-10, Deuteronomy 25:5-10, the Book of Ruth, Isaiah 54:4-6, Ephesians 1:1-14
Redeem. It’s one of those words, in all its different forms, that we use and hear often in the church. Redeem, redeemer, redemption—we know they are supposed to mean something to us. But do we know what?
Biblically, the image around the word “redeem” is rich with meaning far beyond our simple English definitions. In Hebrew, it means “to claim” or “to act as a kinsman”—an image that goes all the way back to Genesis 38, and the failure of Judah’s sons to take care of their sister-in-law Tamar, whose future as a childless widow is impoverished at best, unless one of the other sons claims responsibility for her as a kinsman and raises up for her a heritage of children.
The duty of the kinsman-redeemer was written into law for the nation of Israel in Numbers 36 and Deuteronomy 25, and our clearest example of it in action is the story of Ruth and Boaz. Ruth, as a foreigner whose Israelite husband and children died, has even less future and hope than Tamar if left on her own—she is a stranger among God’s people and is shouldering not only her own survival, but her mother-in-law’s as well. Furthermore, the man who is legally responsible to redeem Ruth’s inheritance refuses to do his duty, lest it jeopardize his own.
But there is a man named Boaz—a man of integrity and honor, obedient to God’s Law. And graciously, he steps into the gap, inconveniencing himself to take on the welfare of a woman who would surely die destitute without him.
The Christ came as our Redeemer—as the One who claims responsibility for our future and raises up an inheritance for us that we never could have achieved for ourselves. We were impoverished, forsaken, and without hope—bound for a destitute eternity—until He graciously stepped into the gap.
The reproach of widowhood you will remember no more. For your husband is your Maker, whose name is the Lord of hosts; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, who is called the God of all the earth.