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Loose Shoes

Don’t wear loose shoes - you cannot run fast.
Don’t make loose promises - you cannot run away.

The love story of Ruth was set in the ruthless times of the Judges.

Ruth was a Moabite who was married to an Israelite. This happened when Elimelech migrated to Moab with his wife and two sons to escape a famine in the land of Israel. But Elimelech and both of his sons died, leaving three widows: Naomi, Ruth and Orpah.

When Naomi decided to return home in Bethlehem, Ruth not only showed an undying devotion to her mother-in-law, but also an unwavering faith in the God of Israel. Your people would be my people, and your God, my God.

In Bethlehem, Ruth went to the fields, picking up the grains which the workers dropped on the ground. It was by divine appointment that she gleaned in the field of Boaz, a wealthy kinsman of Elimelech.

At the advice of her mother-in-law Naomi, Ruth asked Boaz a kinsman to bear the responsibility of taking care of her. This was is in accordance to a Hebraic law for Levirate Marriage:

Deuteronomy 25:5-10
If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son,
his widow must not marry outside the family.
Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her
and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her.
The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother
so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel.
However, if a man does not want to marry his brother’s wife,
she shall go to the elders at the town gate and say,
“My husband’s brother refuses to carry on his brother’s name in Israel.
He will not fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to me.”
Then the elders of his town shall summon him and talk to him.
If he persists in saying, “I do not want to marry her,”
his brother’s widow shall go up to him in the presence of the elders,
take off one of his sandals, spit in his face and say,
“This is what is done to the man who will not build up his brother’s family line.”
That man’s line shall be known in Israel as The Family of the Unsandaled.

As the story of Ruth unfolded, there was another kinsman nearer to the family of Elimelech who had the first rights to redeem, take and marry Ruth. Thus Boaz went to the town gate to settle the matter with this kinsman and the elders of the town.

Ruth 4:1-12
1 Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate
and sat down there
just as the guardian-redeemer he had mentioned
came along.
Boaz said, “Come over here, my friend, and sit down.”
So he went over and sat down.
2 Boaz took ten of the elders of the town and said,
“Sit here,” and they did so.
3 Then he said to the guardian-redeemer,
“Naomi, who has come back from Moab,
is selling the piece of land
that belonged to our relative Elimelek.
4 I thought I should bring the matter to your attention
and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and
in the presence of the elders of my people.
If you will redeem it, do so.
But if you will not, tell me, so I will know.
For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line.
“I will redeem it,” he said.
5 Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi,
you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the dead man’s widow,
in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.
6 At this, the guardian-redeemer said,
Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate.
You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.
7 (Now in earlier times in Israel,
for the redemption and transfer of property to become final,
one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other.
This was the method of legalizing transactions in Israel.)
8 So the guardian-redeemer said to Boaz,
“Buy it yourself.” And he removed his sandal.
9 Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people,
“Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi
all the property of Elimelek, Kilion and Mahlon.
10 I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife,
in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property,
so that his name will not disappear
from among his family or from his hometown.
Today you are witnesses!”
11 Then the elders and all the people at the gate said,
“We are witnesses.
May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah,
who together built up the family of Israel.
May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem.
12 Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman,
may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.”

The nearer kinsman wanted the property but not the people. He was interested about the wealth but not the welfare of the two widows. After he waived his rights to buy the family property and provide Elimelech an heir, Boaz, the next in the kinship, married Ruth. Their firstborn son, Obed, was accounted as the grandson of Elimelech according to the Biblical laws.

Through this Jew and Gentile marriage of Boaz and Ruth, came forth their great grandson, David who eventually became the beloved king of Israel. This psalmist was the forerunner of the One New Man (Ephesians 2:15). An offspring from a Jew and Gentile marriage union.

Presuming Boaz also chose to have his shoe loosed like the other kinsman, we may not have King David, and if no David, there may be no Messiah coming from that same lineage of Judah.

Family and brotherly obligations and responsibilities must be honoured, kept and fulfilled.

In our world today, the kampong or village spirit is quickly disappearing. Each man lives for his own and his own family. He does not spare much thought for his relatives, uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews and nieces etc.

Worse still, many loose promises are made and not kept. There are more brother-against-brother cases in the judicial courts than ever before, including those in Christian families and the same household of faith.

It is time to review and renew responsibilities, obligations, vows, covenants and promises to God, family members, relatives and friends. Do not gather more family members if you are just getting from them instead of giving to them or if you are not able to bear the responsibility of meeting family needs and duties.

Let’s tighten our shoes again to run the race that is set before us, and press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.