Thursday, January 22, 2015


Jesus is not the only character in Scripture to do redeeming work (although His is the most important of the redeeming works). There's another man, one named Boaz, who is called a redeemer, and you have to really stop and look at the story of Boaz to understand how he got this way.

You can't just get Boaz's story from the book of Ruth, although that is where it is told almost in its entirety. Boaz was the closest living male relative of the family of Naomi, who had gone to the land of Moab with her sons, who had died, and returned to her own land with her daughter-in-law, Ruth, who vowed to stay with her. As the closest living male relative, it was Boaz's responsibility to marry the widow Ruth and provide offspring for her for the sake of the family line. It's a beautiful story.

But it gets better.

Where did Boaz get the strength of character to say yes to all this? Certainly, it would have been the Israelite custom, according to the law, for him to do so. When you read the story, though, he admits there is one other male relative who may be better suited for such a commitment and that male relative declines the opportunity. Boaz, however, does not decline. What makes him look at this Moabite woman and say yes to her? What gives him the heart to be the kinsman-redeemer he is called to be?

I think there are a couple of factors at play here, and they both come as a reflection on Boaz's mother. This is the part you're not going to find in the book of Ruth; you have to go to the genealogy of Jesus in the book of Matthew to get this little gem. What's the secret? Boaz's mother is Rahab.

Yes, that Rahab. Rahab the prostitute from the city of Jericho. Rahab the hooker who hid a couple of spies on her roof. Rahab the whore who took a chance on God's people and in turn, God took a chance on her. Rahab with a reputation. This...was her son.

So Boaz certainly learned a few things about redemption from this woman. He had to. He learned it, likely, directly from her as she told the stories about the spies. He learned the strength of his mother, who either believed or hoped more for herself than the life she was currently living. He learned about the bigger things in life, the times when you just have to take a chance and stand for something right even when it doesn't seem like the popular thing to do. Maybe Ruth comes along and Boaz can't help but think about some other foreigners, some once-upon-a-time spies, also in need of hospitality. Also in need of a place to lay their heads. Also in need of someone to protect them. He thinks about the example his mother set, and he just cannot say no. His mother has taught him well what it means to be a refuge.

There's also the other side of this, the lessons he learned being a son of Rahab. The character he developed listening to the whispers about his mother. The brokenness he felt when people talked about Rahab the whore, the hooker, the prostitute. Maybe he spent his life in reflection on his mother's redemption. God has certainly brought her a long way - from a ruined reputation in a fallen city to be, well, his mother. Maybe she was a fantastic mother. Maybe she was gentle and kind, always had something cooking in the kitchen, always greeted him and his friends with a smile. We have no evidence, no testimony that Rahab the prostitute continued to prostitute herself (although we also have no evidence, no testimony that she did not), but maybe Boaz had seen what the presence of a redeemer can do in the life of a woman. And he was already used to the whispers, already accustomed to the rumors. He looks at the Moabite woman and thinks, maybe I can do this for her. Maybe I can give her this second chance she needs.

I'm not really sure which is worse - to have been a prostitute in a foreign city or to have been a Moabite in Israel.

What I'm really thinking when I'm thinking about all of this is just how much we are all a product of our stories. We're a product of our families, the ways in which we grew up, the people who have helped to shape us and the things that have helped to shape them. Boaz is known as a redeemer, but I don't think he just woke up one day and decided to be a better man. I think a lot of it came from growing up with Rahab as his mother - the things she taught him directly and the things he could only glean by being in so close proximity with her. He grows up, and he can't separate himself from the lessons he has learned.

The same is true with us. We're a product of our stories. Some are messier than others, of course, and some seem so hum-drum as to be almost forgettable. But there's nothing forgettable about you. You've learned some things on the road you've traveled. You've been shaped and formed. Your moment is coming, and you can hardly even anticipate right now what that moment might be. But one day, Ruth is going to walk into your barn. Your moment is going to come. The opportunity is going to present itself.

And you'll know what to do only because you'll understand deeply how much it means. You'll know what it means to be a redeemer. Because you've seen it your whole life, and now that it's your moment, you just can't help yourself. You've been made for this. Without even knowing life would bring you here.

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