What am I doing here?
The young widow, curled up fetal warming the feet of a man she barely knew, shivered slightly as she considered the implications. The warm smell of the just-threshed grain mingled with that of her fading perfume as she thought back over the events that landed her right here, right now.
Ruth was a foreigner, an alien to these people. She’d come to them along the avenue of tragedy. Death, poverty, hunger, violence in the land … she was at the end. There was no where else to go. She was desperate. And everyone knew it.
Bitterness. Her mother-in-law wore it like a garment. But still, she loved her. Through the tragedy the older woman talked about Israel, and the Lord. Something about this held her, stirred her heart, and motivated her to stay close, to never leave, to follow wherever the woman went, and to want her God more than any other.
For hours she had watched Boaz, his friends, his family, his servants from the shadows just beyond the threshing floor. Days before they had lay the wheat out circular, and then led the oxen over the grain trampling out the kernels. Now was the winnowing. She loved this part. She smiled as she watched Boaz tossing the grain into the air. The chaff blew away and that which held value fell to the threshing floor.
And she thought, “Tonight is my winnowing. My pride has been trampled. Tonight my past will be carried away in the wind. A new day is coming.”
As the summer breeze swirled and the celebration began, Ruth had eyes for Boaz. She knew he was a good man, a kind man. Even more than wealth, this warmed her heart. He had already proven he would protect her and provide for her. Tonight she would ask him to redeem her.
The merriment was enlivened by storytelling and drink. Boaz loved his life. Loved these people he had gathered around him. And he smiled in the beauty of the evening. But still there was a longing. A longing stirred by the widow who had impressed him with her loyalty, her bravery, her kindness.
Boaz withdrew to the furthest pile of grain as the celebrating continued. He needed quiet to think, to consider his options, as he thought about the woman who had captured his heart.
Ruth watched as Boaz nodded off. The threshing floor, the piles of winnowed grain, the servants who had been so kind to her blurred as the widow fixed her eyes upon this kinsman she was growing to love. Would he redeem her?
As the moon crept higher in the sky, Boaz’s breathing deepened. Ruth crept silently around the edge of the threshing floor and slipped to where he lay. The widow uncovered his feet. He stirred, but then settled down as she became his blanket warming his feet with her own body.
As Boaz slept and the merrymakers found their own nests, Ruth worried. “What am I doing here? Why did I ever think this would work?”
Ruth drifted in and out of sleep, but her senses were on high alert. A movement in the shadows woke her. Boaz startled and sat up. His first thought was protecting the grain, his livelihood. But that thought vanished when he realized he was not alone.”
“Who are you?” he whispered as he peered through the darkness.
She took a deep breath. “I’m your handmaiden, Ruth. Cover me. Be my kinsman-redeemer.”
The moment was pregnant with possibility.
Weeks earlier Boaz had shared with Ruth that he was impressed with her character — how she had left her parents, her homeland, to care for her mother-in-law, and join a people she had never known. Boaz had prayed God’s blessing over Ruth.
He had prayed spiritual covering for her. And now she was asking him to be her physical covering, her wings of refuge, her redeemer. What would he say?
In the curse, a promise was made. A redeemer would come. One who would crush the enemy’s head even while his heel was wounded. One who would come close taking on flesh, becoming our so very near kinsman. One who would replace a legacy of death, of widowhood, with life germinating in softened hearts. One who would pay the ransom, the bride price. One who would do more than cover our debt, but would set us free. A Kinsman-Redeemer would come.
Boaz claimed his bride. And shut the mouth of bitterness. He brought beauty and life and legacy. And he set his bride free from death, and poverty, and hunger. He gave the widow more than she could ever ask or imagine. And through their union would come the ultimate Kinsman-Redeemer.
In our desperation, our longing, we can lie buried in bitterness or we lift our eyes and welcome the Kinsman-Redeemer. Can you see the hope of the promise kept alive through Ruth and Boaz? In the longing of Advent, will you look beyond the presents and parties to the promise of a Kinsman-Redeemer?
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