Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Understanding the Book of Revelation - Chapter Three, Kinsman Redeemer

Chapter 3 - Kinsman-Redeemer

Have you ever heard the term kinsman-redeemer before? Even if you have, I think it would be safe to say that you might not understand exactly what a kinsman-redeemer is or what a kinsman-redeemer does. And what on earth does it have to do with Revelation and the questions we have raised? Let’s find out.

There are three Scripture passages we need to look at to better understand what a kinsman-redeemer is and the circumstances in which a kinsman-redeemer would be necessary. The first is Leviticus 25:23-25, and has to do with land ownership and its redemption.

“The land shall not be sold into perpetual ownership, for the land is Mine; you are [only] strangers and temporary residents with Me. And in all the country you possess you shall grant a redemption for the land [in the Year of Jubilee]. If your brother has become poor and has sold some of his property, if any of his kin comes to redeem it, he shall [be allowed to] redeem what his brother has sold.”

Here we see that the Lord God is the rightful owner of the land of Israel. The people who “owned” the land and subsequently sold it were not selling the land itself, but the right to use the land. And we see that God provided for the original party – or one of their kinsmen – to redeem the land and take possession of it once again after it had been sold.

The next passage is Leviticus 25:47-50 and outlines the redemption of a person who has sold himself to a stranger or sojourner and the conditions for his redemption.

“And if a sojourner or stranger with you becomes rich and your [Israelite] brother becomes poor beside him and sells himself to the stranger or sojourner with you or to a member of the stranger's family, after he is sold he may be redeemed. One of his brethren may redeem him: Either his uncle or his uncle's son may redeem him, or a near kinsman may redeem him; or if he has enough and is able, he may redeem himself. And [the redeemer] shall reckon with the purchaser of the servant from the year when he sold himself to the purchaser to the Year of Jubilee, and the price of his release shall be adjusted according to the number of years. The time he was with his owner shall be counted as that of a hired servant.”

The final passage we’re going to look at is Deuteronomy 25:5-10 and addresses a brother’s duty to his widowed sister-in-law. It also speaks to the man who would refuse this duty.

“If brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, his wife shall not be married outside the family to a stranger [an excluded man]. Her husband's brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her. And the firstborn son shall succeed to the name of the dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. And if the man does not want to take his brother's wife, then let his brother's wife go up to the gate to the elders, and say, My husband's brother refuses to continue his brother's name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of my husband's brother. Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him. And if he stands firm and says, I do not want to take her, then shall his brother's wife come to him in the presence of the elders and pull his shoe off his foot and spit in his face and shall answer, So shall it be done to that man who does not build up his brother's house. And his family shall be called in Israel, The House of Him Whose Shoe Was Loosed.”

From these passages we can see that a kinsman-redeemer is a person who is willing to set aside their personal interests in order to restore a relative to their rightful position, to restore the family’s land, or to ensure that the name of a brother will not pass away.

Now, let’s take a look at Revelation 5:1-5 – “And I saw lying on the open hand of Him Who was seated on the throne a scroll (book) written within and on the back, closed and sealed with seven seals; And I saw a strong angel announcing in a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the scroll? And [who is entitled and deserves and is morally fit] to break its seals? And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth [in the realm of the dead, Hades] was able to open the scroll or to take a [single] look at its contents. And I wept audibly and bitterly because no one was found fit to open the scroll or to inspect it. Then one of the elders [of the heavenly Sanhedrin] said to me, Stop weeping! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root (Source) of David, has won (has overcome and conquered)! He can open the scroll and break its seven seals!”

It becomes apparent rather quickly that this scroll plays a crucial role in what’s taking place in the book of Revelation. Every time a seal on the scroll is broken something momentous occurs; judgments are poured out on the earth, signs and wonders take place, angels fly and demons are let loose. Considering the important role this scroll plays, I think it might be a good idea to try and find out what it is exactly. And for that we’ll need to take a look at the Book of Ruth. The Book of Ruth is a relatively small book, only four chapters long. But in those four chapters God unfolds a beautiful story, not only about Ruth, but about our Messiah and one of the roles He plays in our lives.

In chapter one, we are introduced to Naomi (which means beautiful or agreeable) and her husband Elimelech (which means my God is king). They are forced to leave their home in Bethlehem, sell their land (the use of the land, not the land itself), and journey to Moab because of a famine. They take with them their two sons, Mahlon (which means invalid) and Chilion (which means pining). While living in Moab, a heathen nation and enemy of Israel, Elimelech dies. Naomi stays in Moab with her sons who eventually take wives for themselves from among the Moabite women. The women’s names were Orpah (which means neck or skull) and Ruth (which means drunk or satisfied). After ten more years in Moab, both of Naomi’s sons die, leaving her alone with her daughters-in-law. At this point Naomi, Orpah and Ruth head out for Bethlehem because Naomi had heard that the famine was over. But rather than sentence the young women to a life of widowhood, Naomi urges them to each return to their mothers’ house and then she blesses them. The young women refuse, but Naomi is insistent. At this point Orpah does indeed return to her mother’s house. But Ruth will not be deterred and stays with Naomi. It is here that we find what I believe is one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible.

“And Ruth said, Urge me not to leave you or to turn back from following you; for where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts me from you.” – Ruth 1:16-17

So off the two women went, back to Bethlehem, where Naomi then tells people to call her Mara (meaning bitter) rather than Naomi because God had afflicted her.

The second chapter begins by telling us that Naomi had a kinsman-redeemer (a relative of her late husband) named Boaz. When she and Ruth had returned from Moab at the end of chapter one, it was the beginning of barley season. By this time several months have passed as Ruth is now asking permission of Naomi to go to the fields and glean what she could. (It was the custom in those days that when a field was being harvested, the reapers could only make one pass in the field, thereby leaving grain behind for those who were in need of grain for their sustenance – a sort of welfare program, if you will.) So Naomi sends Ruth off to the fields with her blessing, and before long Ruth finds herself gleaning in a field belonging to Boaz.

When Boaz returns to his home in Bethlehem he notices Ruth in the field and asks his servant who she is. Learning that she is Naomi’s daughter-in-law, he tells Ruth to stay in his field as she will be safe there. Ruth is amazed that he has taken notice of her, but Boaz says that he knows of the kindness she has shown his relative, Naomi. Boaz then instructs his harvesters to purposely leave grain on the stalks and handfuls of grain on the ground for Ruth. In the evening, after Ruth had beaten out the grain she had gleaned, she went home and told Naomi of her good fortune that day. Naomi praised God at the good news of Ruth meeting Boaz, and told Ruth of his relationship to them. Naomi then instructed Ruth to stay close to Boaz’ handmaidens in his fields so that she would not be molested. We are then told that Ruth worked in Boaz’ fields until the end of the barley and wheat harvests and that she continued to live with Naomi.

The faithfulness Ruth showed her mother-in-law certainly did not go unnoticed. In chapter three we find Naomi stepping into the role of matchmaker. She instructs Ruth, then sends her off all primped and perfumed, to present herself to Boaz making sure she waits until after he is finished eating and drinking and has lain on the threshing floor (the grain had to be guarded from thieves during the night). Being the obedient young woman that she was, Ruth does just as Naomi says.

After Boaz lay down at the end of the heap of grain, Ruth sneaks in, uncovers his feet and lies down. When Boaz wakes during the night he is startled to find a woman lying at his feet and asks who she is. Ruth identifies herself, and then asks Boaz to cover her with the corner of his garment since he is a kinsman-redeemer.

Wait a minute! That sounds a little risqué to most people, Ruth asking Boaz to cover her with his garment. Is she trying to initiate a little hanky-panky to secure the deal with Boaz? Heavens no! In ancient times a man’s authority was displayed in the hem of his garment, which identified his family and tribe. Far from being naughty, Ruth was abiding by Jewish law in asking Boaz to step into his role as kinsman-redeemer on behalf of herself and Naomi.

Boaz, who had obviously already taken an interest in Ruth to a certain degree, is now completely flattered and overwhelmed by her approaching him in this matter. He reassures her that he will look into the matter in the morning. Boaz knows of one kinsman who is closer to Naomi than himself, but vows that if the other relative refuses to perform for Ruth, then Boaz will gladly do so. Boaz then fills Ruth’s mantle, or shawl, with six measures of barley and sends her back home to Naomi, where the women wait to hear how the matter will be settled.

Chapter four opens with Boaz entering the city gates, finding the nearer kinsman of Naomi and filling him in on the details of what has taken place, all in front of ten witnesses. Initially the nearer kinsman agrees to redeem the land, but upon hearing that redeeming and marrying Ruth and perpetuating her late husband’s name are part of the bargain he reconsiders and declines the offer. And just as Deuteronomy 25:5-10 mandates, the nearer kinsman pulls off his sandal and tells Boaz to buy it for himself. At least nobody spit in his face!

At this point Boaz marries Ruth and returns Naomi to her land. Then Boaz and Ruth have a son, named Obed, who goes on to father Jesse, and Jesse fathers David, who becomes the king of Israel and the ancestor of the Messiah. In fact, it could have been the very fields that Ruth had gleaned where the angels appeared many years later to make their announcement of the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem!

One thing that we need to understand is that prior to all the festivities of redeeming the land and marrying Ruth, Boaz would have been the recipient of a sealed scroll which would have had the terms of redemption written on the outer portion of the scroll so that these terms could be met prior to the seal being broken and the redemption being completed. Does that sound vaguely familiar?

It seems we find a similar situation in chapter five of Revelation. Father God is holding a scroll – a deed – which is subject to redemption. Now a kinsman-redeemer, one who is qualified to perform in that role, must be found. The only one found in heaven or on earth that is able to fulfill the conditions written on the outside of the scroll mentioned in this chapter is Jesus the Messiah. But if this is in fact a deed subject to redemption, what is it the deed to? And who allowed the subject of the deed to lapse into this state? And why is Jesus the only One able to redeem it? For the answers to these questions we need to go back to Genesis and the Garden of Eden.

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