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  • Gladys Childs

Step out of line people, step out of line.

"Now Boaz had gone up to the gate and sat down there. And behold, the redeemer, of whom Boaz had spoken, came by. So Boaz said, “Turn aside, friend; sit down here.” And he turned aside and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down. Then he said to the redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. So I thought I would tell you of it and say, ‘Buy it in the presence of those sitting here and in the presence of the elders of my people.’ If you will redeem it, redeem it. But if you will not, tell me, that I may know, for there is no one besides you to redeem it, and I come after you.” And he said, “I will redeem it." Ruth 4:1-4 (ESV)

Growing up, we are taught to wait our turn. In school, this begins with who gets to be the line leader. That person turns off the classroom lights, gets to erase the board, and leads everyone to the cafeteria. It does not matter if the first in line wants the job, it is theirs, and we must wait our turn. Most of us have probably been reprimanded for taking over for the line leader and told it is not our job – wait your turn. And thus, we learn to be second in line and not take charge when it is someone else’s responsibility.

In Ruth 4:1-4 we see Boaz, who is second in line, step out of place and take ownership and leadership of a desperate situation. He begins the process of becoming kinsman-redeemer. Boaz stood in the gap between poverty and abundant life. He could have ignored Ruth and Naomi’s plight or told them to see the man who was their first-in-line kin. He did not. Boaz saw suffering and used his power to act.
Boaz goes to the city gate. The gate was the heartbeat of a city and acted as a market, a place for proclamations by kings and prophets, and a court of law where judicial problems were solved, and public business was handled. (2 Kings 7:1; Deuteronomy 21:19; 2 Samuel 15:2) Boaz waited for the kinsman to come by and asked him to sit down.

No name is given to this person as the writer of the passage did not seem fit to honor him with his proper name since he would ultimately not stand in the gap for Ruth and Naomi. With Mr. No Name, we see a glimpse into the honor and shame culture in the Old Testament. Does it matter if the first in-line kinsman did not have his name recorded in scripture? Yes, because he was not considered heavy.

Asking how heavy a person is in some cultures would be considered offensive. However, in honor and shame cultures, heaviness or weight equals honor, authority, or respect. In scripture, the Hebrew word for honor is “kvd.” It generally refers to God and God’s glory (Isaiah 42:8; Psalm 19:1) or with people; it refers to weight or importance (Proverbs 20:3; Job 14:21).

Mr. No Name would have had his name recorded, but it was dishonorable of him not to ultimately buy the land and marry Ruth when he had the wealth to do so. Thus, He was shamed because of his lack of action and went without his proper name in the scriptures.

Boaz then proceeds to ask ten elders of the city to join them. Ten makes it a full court and follows typical Jewish practice of the day. (Deuteronomy 25:7-9; Joshua 20:4; 1 Kings 21:8) If a simple bargain were at hand, only a few elders would be needed, but a full court of ten would be required in significant matters such as marriage, divorce, or property transactions. While in this instance, the elders were there to serve as witnesses, they also held the power to settle matters of dispute between two parties.

With everyone gathered, Boaz states his case and explains that Naomi is selling land that belonged to her late husband Elimelech. (Leviticus 25:25) Mr. No Name is first in line to make the purchase, and then Boaz is second. According to Jewish tradition, it was the responsibility of the closest kinsman to buy the land if he could so the land could stay within the family. While land could pass from father to son and father to daughter (if no male kinsman was available), Naomi could not keep the land. (Numbers 27:1-11; Deuteronomy 19:4) The kinsman, not knowing about Ruth then, agrees to purchase the land.

While Mr. No Name eventually backs out of the deal, Boaz steps in and becomes part of the line from which Jesus was born. Boaz is a foreshadowing of the redemption Jesus provided for all of humanity. He honored God, others, and himself with these actions. And, while he was second in line, he was brave enough to step out and be first to respond.

Consider a time when you struggled to help someone who was suffering. What fear was holding you back from stepping out of line? How might you draw closer to God and let go of this fear?

I struggle with time. The fear of not having enough time to help the individual and complete the other duties I needed to fulfill held me back. I know that God is the giver of all time and will supply me with what I need to help those around me and finish my other work. I have been working with God on this, and I continue to bring it to Him in prayer and ask that He replace my fear with strength and boldness.

Dear God, I confess at times, I see an individual suffering and do not respond as it is another person’s duty to act. In the story of Boaz, I am reminded that You call even the second in line to do the right thing and take up the mantle of responsibility. Thank you for this reminder. I know You will give me the strength to step out of line and respond with Your love, grace, and mercy. May I continue to learn and grow to be more like You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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