The Law of Kinship
by Rayola Kelley
For the last two months, we have been considering redemption in light of inheritance. Due to sin, our real inheritance has become lost to us. This inheritance does not have to do with the fleshly or earthly domain, but with the unseen, heavenly eternal domain. Since we are so earthbound, it is not unusual to seek in this present age an inheritance that will give us some type of security for the future and hope as to the unstable world around us. The truth of the matter is there is no real hope in this present world, no lasting security in the fleshly life in which we now live, nor is there any stability that can be found in the ever-changing events that are taking place around us.
As Christians, we know that God is our eternal Rock. He cannot be moved regardless of events, nor can the hope He offers be taken away from those who cling to Him. He is immovable and immutable. All that is associated to Him is trustworthy. He alone represents our real inheritance. However, much of this inheritance will not be realized in this present lifetime, but in the next world that is yet to come. Meanwhile, Christians must remember where their real hope must rest and understand the inheritance they should be seeking after to possess.
This brings us to the other aspect of inheritance. It must not only be secured by those who go before the recipients of such inheritances, but sometimes it must be restored by those who are in the position to do so. The one enemy of inheritance is the slavery brought on by unforeseeable debt. Such debt causes people to have to sell their inheritance in order to survive. In such debt individuals either become enslaved or sojourners and wanderers among strangers in a land where they have no identification or hope of future inheritance. Such individuals often become lost in that which holds no real meaning or purpose.
We see this in the case of Lot. The land could not hold the herds of both Abraham and Lot. Lot chose the lush valleys of Sodom and Gomorrah. Most of us know the story of what happened. However, my question is why did someone who owned herds and was a tent dweller end up in a city without any visible assets? Somehow, Lot lost what he had when he separated from Abraham. Clearly, his status changed when he ceased to be a tenet of the land and herdsman and became a city dweller. First, he, along with his possessions, were taken by a wicked king. It was Abraham who delivered Lot from the king and restored all of his possessions. Perhaps Lot chose the protection of the city, but in the end, he lost almost everything he had in Sodom including his wife. Although his descendants did receive an inheritance, Lot ultimately became a stranger in a land that appeared to hold no real personal inheritance for him (Exodus 13-14; 19).
Clearly, this has been true for every believer before they possessed the essence of their real hope and inheritance. Sin clearly took each of us captive in our former, fallen state. We became lost to all that once belonged to us. We became wanderers in a world that held us in captivity to its ways and practices. We had no real hope ever to possess a valuable inheritance marked with the qualities of eternity.
God provided a way in which His people’s inheritance could be restored. We get an insight into His provision in regard to His Law. The purpose of such redemption was to ensure the integrity of heritage and future inheritance for His people. It was vital to the people of Israel that they keep the inheritance in the family in order to maintain a heritage that could be passed down from generation to generation. As believers, we must also recognize that much of the heritage that was to be preserved had to do with the Messiah.
God’s Law provided a couple of ways in which to redeem both heritage and land back to its original owners. The laws governing redemption give us some important insight into the character of God as well as the importance of being able to restore inheritance. In Leviticus 25 God provided the year of Jubilee where every enslaved or indebted Jew would be restored to his original inheritance. Jubilee occurred every 50th year after counting seven sabbatical years. It was a time of complete restitution for the descendents of Israel.
We are told in Luke 4:19 that Jesus came to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. According to Matthew Henry’s commentary, the term the “acceptable year of the Lord” alluded to the year of release or of jubilee when the servants were to be set free from all debts in order to be restored to their original inheritance. We know that Jesus accomplished this on the cross.
God also provided the Law of the kinsman in Leviticus 25. If a brother had to sell his property because of debt, a kinsman could redeem it to keep it until the brother could buy it back interest free or until the year of jubilee. If a brother sold his services due to poverty, he was not to be treated as a slave, but a hired servant until he could secure his own release or until the year of jubilee, regardless of whether it was ten years off or a year away. Every point of redemption was calculated up to the year of jubilee.
In Nehemiah 5, we see where the Jews were not recognizing their responsibility towards each other. They were not only unfairly enslaving their brethren, but they were charging interest. Their brethren were kept hopelessly oppressed there without hope of restitution. In a sense, Nehemiah called judgment down upon those who did not possess the intent of ensuring the means God provided to restore His people to their inheritance. The example in Nehemiah shows us that people’s greed will always prove to be oppressive concerning enslaving others.
In Nehemiah, we see the greed and abuse of even brethren towards one another because the love that expresses itself in obedience was clearly missing. However, there are a couple of incredible examples of redemption when it comes to that of kinsmen redeeming the inheritance for the sake of others. After all, if a person decided to become a responsible kinsman towards an oppressed brother, he risked compromising his own inheritance. This brings us to one of the first examples of the law of kinsman being put into practice in the Old Testament.
It has to do with the story of Ruth. Ruth was the widowed daughter-in-law of the Jewess, Naomi. She was a Moabite, and her point of identification was that of idolatry and paganism. However, her marriage to Naomi’s son identified her to the Jewish nation. After all, before the Jews had become a distinct people, they had come out of paganism. Their identification to Jehovah God is what made them a special people.
To appreciate what happened, we must understand what it cost Naomi and Ruth concerning their earthly inheritance. For Naomi, the famine of Israel cost her any future inheritance for it was sold or fell into the hands of others, while the harshness of a foreign life cost the life of her husband and sons. In the end, Naomi had no inheritance, nor did she have the means to regain her original inheritance.
Ruth was eventually brought to a personal crossroad in her life in regard to an earthly inheritance. She could return to her family and be received back and taken care of until she remarried again. It all seemed so logical for Ruth to veer away from the unknown and settle for what her culture would provide for her until she could take her place as a married woman in society.
Since Ruth wanted to know the God of Israel, she chose the unlikely way, and followed Naomi back to Bethlehem. However, Naomi had no real claims on her husband’s inheritance. It had been sold in a time of famine. She had no way of it ever being restored back to her because there was no seed to carry on the lineage. She needed to have someone redeem back her husband’s legacy with the intent of raising up a son in a union with Ruth who would ensure the inheritance of Naomi’s dead husband and sons. What Hebrew man would become involved with a pagan, and risk his inheritance for his future generations?
God had a plan. He would raise up seed on behalf of Naomi’s husband and sons by having a particular man in place. This honorable man would be willing to serve as the redeeming kinsman. His name was Boaz.
Boaz would point to the second greatest example of a kinsman taking responsibility to redeem His brethren back: That of Jesus Christ. Like Boaz, Jesus would agree to become responsible for our well-being and future. He came from the glories of heaven to take on human form in order to serve as a kinsman to you and me. He would clearly redeem people by dying on a cross. In His work on the cross, Jesus would provide a way to raise up seed to eternal life. This seed would have an eternal inheritance restored and made available to those who possessed this new life.
However, in order to cause Boaz to consider himself in such a position, Ruth had to obey Naomi’s instructions. If Boaz failed to be an honorable man, Naomi’s instructions could have cost Ruth her reputation, as well as a future in Israel. Ruth had to lay at the feet of Boaz in humble submission to show him her willingness to be a vessel that was putting her reputation and life in his hands to ensure a heritage for a widowed woman.
Boaz proved to be an honorable man who was willing to compromise his inheritance to preserve a lineage of a man whose inheritance would have become extinct. We know that the heritage that Boaz and Ruth preserved was that of the Messiah. King David would come forth out of their union. In addition, instead of remaining pagan and unknown, Ruth’s story is recorded in the Bible, and she is named along with four other women in the lineage of Jesus that are recorded in Matthew 1.
As believers, we must believe and obey Scripture as to what it will mean for us to secure a future inheritance. We must risk the old life and choose to embark on a new life to know, love and serve the true God of heaven. We must then come to the feet of Jesus, at the point of the cross, seeking His redemption. In humility we must humble ourselves in sincere faith to receive a new life, and in submission we must trust Jesus to be a kinsman that is honorable and worthy in securing our inheritance. If we seek such refuge at the feet of Jesus, we will be named in His book of life that will clearly identify us to not only a new existence, but a new lineage that places us in the family of God and a new inheritance that will afford each of us eternal benefits.
The question is have you received Jesus as the kinsman that would secure such a future for you? Have you chosen to follow the true God of heaven into a new life? Have you placed yourself at the foot of His cross in sincere humility, faith and obedience? Keep in mind, probably only Boaz, Ruth and Naomi knew of her actions until it was recorded in Scripture to preserve the integrity of her reputation, and only God and you will know if you have truly taken such a journey to discover your eternal Kinsman.