Monday, December 5, 2011

As God Lives

Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the LORD lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning. -- Ruth 3:13

Against the backdrop of the spiritual and cultural climate detailed in the book of Judges gleams the little story of redemptive romance called Ruth. The contrast is vivid. While "everyone did was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6, 21:25), the worthy man Boaz looks at pathetic, poor, widowed, foreign Ruth and says, "As the LORD lives, I will redeem you" (Ruth 3:13).

What is Boaz saying, really?

One short thing that communicates a few things:

First, he is saying his plan to redeem Ruth (and thereby the clan of Elimelech) is as sure as there is a God in heaven. "Will you redeem me?" Ruth asks, and Boaz says (in a way), "Does the pope wear a funny hat?" That kind of thing. Only he's more reverent than me.

Secondly, and more deeply, what Boaz is saying is that he is going to redeem Ruth because God lives. Boaz is the strange sort of man who does things because God exists. In this sense he is the most logical of men. Does God exist? If so, much must be different about my life. I ought to live my life as if God exists.

What if we all applied this standard to our motivations and determinations? What would our lives look like if we really believed the LORD lives?

Thirdly, and deeper still, Boaz is committing to redeem Ruth -- to paraphrase C.S. Lewis here -- not because a God lives, but because this God lives. This means he is going to redeem her in the Lord's way and for the Lord's purposes. "LORD" is all caps, denoting the divine name there -- YHWH. "As this personal one true God lives, I will redeem you." According to YHWH's glory, to make his name great, to exalt and glorify the God who is my God, Boaz will do this.

Ruth's redemption is not only or primarily for her glory, nor is it only or primarily for Naomi's or Boaz's or Elimelech's or Mahlon's. It is God's glory first and foremost that Boaz redeemed Ruth, and of course we don't just see this in his words or in this short history but as we trace the history through the ages to the first chapter of the Gospel According to Matthew.

As the LORD lives, we have been redeemed. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so.


Anonymous said...

Jared -
great treatise here. I wonder what your stance is on using this kind of language (maybe even resurrecting this kind of language) today?
I've often felt there were good circumstances to include such a statement ( 'as surely as the LORD lives') but have felt constrained by the Christ's words to swear by nothing but simply 'let our yes be yes ...'

What say you?

Jared said...

I think what Jesus (and later James) are getting at is that if one has integrity, insisting an assurance is unnecessary. In fact, insisting an assurance implies a lack of integrity. Simply say yes or no, and then follow through.

I find the assurance swear in view here different than a variety of other kinds of oaths throughout the Bible. Jesus and James are correcting empty sloganeering that takes God's name in vain, ultimately. Boaz is committing to do something for God's glory.

Here's a decent survey of biblical oath-taking: