The Name of Anonymity

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And Boaz said to the family redeemer, “You know Naomi, who came back from Moab. She is selling the land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. I thought I should speak to you about it so that you can redeem it if you wish. If you want the land, then buy it here in the presence of these witnesses. But if you don’t want it, let me know right away, because I am next in line to redeem it after you.”The man replied, “All right, I’ll redeem it.” Then Boaz told him, “Of course, your purchase of the land from Naomi also requires that you marry Ruth, the Moabite widow. That way she can have children who will carry on her husband’s name and keep the land in the family.” “Then I can’t redeem it,” the family redeemer replied, “because this might endanger my own estate. You redeem the land; I cannot do it.” Ruth 4:3-6

This un-named anonymous nearer kinsman who although not subject to the laws of levirate marriage (because he was not a brother to Mahlon), does have a covenant responsibility to  care for his extended family and to redeem the family property is unwilling to do so because the personal cost was too great. He was unwilling for fear that it would cause his own inheritance to be put into question if he married Ruth. He was happy to redeem the land and add it to his family’s wealth that would be eventually passed along to his descendants. Because Elimelech had no heir, the family redeemer who redeemed the land got to keep the land (at least, theoretically, until the year of Jubilee). This un-named nearer kinsman knew full well that Elimelech had no heir, so whatever money he paid to the mystery man who currently owned Elimelech’s land, would be well-spent because he would now possess Elimelech’s land for himself and his posterity. This was a good deal for him. He was initially anxious to conclude his bargain. But then Boaz closed this seemingly straightforward redemption deal by reminding the nearer kinsman that accepting the obligation as the family redeemer also meant that this un-named nearer kinsman would have to marry Ruth. And from Ruth would come an heir for her dead husband, Machlon, son of Elimelech. Because there would then be an heir, the un-named nearer kinsman would be obligated to GIVE the land that he paid money for to Ruth’s son. He’d be out the money, and out the land, and this of course diminished his own wealth (also called inheritance). This bargain would cause the un-named nearer kinsman to pay redemption money for land he’d soon have to give away to Ruth’s son; a son who would NOT be considered his own son, but rather the son of Machlon. The un-named nearer kinsman would thus get no benefit from paying money for the land or for marrying Ruth, so he declined and deferred to Boaz who had already said he was willing to redeem the land regardless of the cost. 

This un-named nearer kinsman considered how  this transaction might benefit him and calculated what it would cost him. For him, the math just didn’t add up. What he could not calculate however was the math of God’s kingdom. What he didn’t understand was the principle that in God’s kingdom, there is blessing upon blessing for those who live by His principles rather than the “letter of the law”. Because this un-named nearer kinsman clung to what he understood, he missed out on far greater blessings than he could have ever imagined. It is also significant that he remained un-named in a chapter of the Bible that has as a central thread the redeeming of a name. Geneologies were of the utmost importance in the Old Testament. While the central story of Ruth is a picture of Christ as our redeemer, it is also a wealth of sub types. On the surface, the land transaction was to redeem the land, thereby keeping Elimelech’s family name alive. By his unwillingness to redeem the land and family name, he remained un-named (and not an heir to Christ’s inheritance).

who-are-you1.jpgOne of the major things that all generations of God’s people can learn from this story of Ruth is how to carry out God’s justice and mercy even when none of the 613 laws of Torah seem to directly apply. We do this by discerning God’s principles that underlie  all of His laws and commands. As followers of Christ, we are called to more than just following the letter of the the law. We are called to something much higher. We have to be willing to sacrifice for other’s even when there is no law that demands our sacrifice. We do it with a humble heart putting others above ourselves loving them as Christ loves us. My given name is Tracey. My name and identity in Christ is redeemed from the curse of the Law Galatians 3:13 and qualified to share in His inheritance Colossians 1:12

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