Monday, August 22, 2011

“Respecting Community Standards” Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday August 28, 2011

Purpose: To examine what it means to fulfill God's mission through our communal lives

Scripture Text: Ruth 4:1-10

Ruth 4:1-10 (NRSV)
(1)No sooner had Boaz gone up to the gate and sat down there than the next-of-kin, of whom Boaz had spoken, came passing by. So Boaz said, “Come over, friend; sit down here.” And he went over and sat down. (2)Then Boaz took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, “Sit down here”; so they sat down. (3)He then said to the next-of-kin, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our kinsman Elimelech. (4)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, so that I may know; for there is no one prior to you to redeem it, and I come after you.” So he said, “I will redeem it.”( 5)Then Boaz said, “The day you acquire the field from the hand of Naomi, you are also acquiring Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead man, to maintain the dead man’s name on his inheritance.”(6)At this, the next-of-kin said, “I cannot redeem it for myself without damaging my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.” (7)Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, the one took off a sandal and gave it to the other; this was the manner of attesting in Israel. (8)So when the next-of-kin said to Boaz, “Acquire it for yourself,” he took off his sandal.

(9)Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have acquired from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon. (10)I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, the wife of Mahlon, to be my wife, to maintain the dead man’s name on his inheritance, in order that the name of the dead may not be cut off from his kindred and from the gate of his native place; today you are witnesses.”

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

The Book of Ruth is only four chapters, but it offers us a glimpse into God's plan and His sovereignty. The book was obviously written many years later as referenced by its continuous use of the phrase “as was the custom in those days.” The author seems to bridge the generations from Judah to David by way of a few foreigners; First Tamar, then Boaz's mother Rahab, and finally Ruth. It appears from the very beginning God's plan was inclusive, and it focused on the family unit. Outsiders were continually brought into this chosen circle of families.

Today's lesson begins by implying God's divine intervention into a routine/happenstance business meeting. Did this unknown relative of Naomi go through the city gate every day? Boaz went to the courthouse and just happened to meet the one person he needed to negotiate with. As I look at the negotiating skills of Boaz, it makes you wonder where the Boazs of today are. In the past few months we have seen a lot of negotiating in our society. There was the NFL lockout, the NBA lockout, the budget and debt ceiling debacle.

Boaz knew the law as established in Deuteronomy 25:5-10. In order for Boaz to become the legal owner of Naomi's land and that of her late sons, it would be necessary for the closest relative to pass on the option first. You have to admire Boaz's skills; he presents a fact, but not all of the facts. The relative was more than happy to buy the property and take in Naomi as one of his own. But then Boaz ups the ante by informing the relative that Naomi's sons are also entitled to an heir, so not only Naomi would need to be provided for but also Ruth. That would require a longer term investment and commitment, and it might even cause problems with his present sons and wife. This seems to be a higher price than the relative was willing to pay, so he yielded his rights to Boaz.

The entire scenario takes place in front of the town council or elders so there is no doubt about the legality of the transaction. Instead of a Notary Seal, they use the exchanging of sandals as a seal of the transaction. I am reminded of the USSR ruler that took off his shoe at the UN and beat it on the lectern, some years ago. Maybe he was looking for an exchange of shoes to seal a deal.

It was a popular thing a few years ago for fans of Labron James, the basketball player, to hold up signs and wear T-shirts stating “we are witnesses,” but, then things changed, they no longer want to be “witnesses.” Boaz wanted everyone to know that he had legally acquired all rights to Naomi, and more importantly to Ruth.

The marriage of Boaz and Ruth produced a son named Obed, who fathered a son named Jesse, who fathered a son named David. The Book of Ruth was written so we would know that today, and from David's seed a thousand years later was born Jesus, coincidentally in the same house or property where a Moabite woman and a half Canaanite man conceived David's grandfather. David who is celebrated as one of the greatest of Jewish leaders started out ¼ Jew. God's plan was completed, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem and crucified in Jerusalem.

Boaz is an example of someone that followed the traditions and laws and provided for those outside of his community. He was very much aware of his responsibilities as well as the laws and traditions of his father. God rewarded him and his offspring, by providing through them, one that would be called the Messiah, God with us, Jesus the Christ.

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