Thursday, April 7, 2016
God's Covenant Love - Part I - Tony Hilling
In June 1998, I gate crashed a women’s conference. Let me explain. I didn’t change my mode of dress or anything like that. My wife, Brenda went to a conference in Medicine Hat, Alberta, and it was my job to look after my daughter, Christina. She was nine months old at that time but was an early toddler, so I needed to watch her carefully. But I strategically positioned myself at the front door to better hear the goings-on of the women-folk, and I really enjoyed a super conference. In fact, I became so noticeable that at the end of the talks, they sensed that they should pray over the men. Since I was the only one around, I was shanghaied into being the lone surrogate for all the males of the species. And I had all these women laying hands on me and prophesying. There were words for signs and wonders and miracles and breakthrough. I hit the deck so hard that I must have made a landmark.
It is difficult for us today to understand just how much of a disaster this would be for the women of the Middle East in those days. Every woman in that time in Israel was identified in their relationship with a male figure: some brother’s sister, some father’s daughter, some husband’s wife. The sacred writer of Ruth tells us how devastating this loss was: “Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.”(1:5). With all the males in their family gone, Naomi and Ruth were without protection or support. Their prospects would have been bleak. Who could fix such a hopeless situation?
But before the end of the first chapter of the story, Naomi, in her attempt to dismiss her two daughters-in-law, brings up the subject of the Levirate Law. This provided some relief in such situations, where the scriptures commanded a brother-in-law (or the nearest living male relative) to marry his dead brother’s widow (Deut 25:5). The first male child of the union would be considered the son of the dead brother, so his lineage would be protected and his property would stay in the family. Not inconsequentially, the dead man’s living mother and his widow would also be protected by this near relative, who was called the Kinsman Redeemer. However, the only way Naomi can see that working is for her to marry again and have sons. She knows only too well that this is not going to happen and so insists that Orpah and Ruth return to their respective families. There was little chance of them finding rest in another husband’s home in Israel. Where could they find a relative (as the story later shows) who would sacrifice his first born son to selflessly preserve his dead brother’s lineage?
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