Learning the Ropes
Three Men Named Boaz
by Jacob Riggs
I’m sure you are familiar with the story of Boaz in Scripture. A woman named Ruth married into a family headed for disaster. Her husband, father-in-law, and brothers-in-law all died during a famine. Ruth came to a point where her mother-in-law Naomi urged her to leave, to marry someone else. Ruth refused. Her high character wouldn’t let her leave her mother-in-law who, like her, had nothing.
They returned to the land Ruth’s husband had owned but forfeited at his death. Ruth eked out an existence by gleaning scraps of grain left behind by harvesters from a wealthy man’s field. One day she met the owner, a man named Boaz. He informed his hired hands not to touch Ruth but to protect her. Not all owners or workers were so kind with vulnerable single women trespassing on their property. But Boaz had heard about how Ruth had stayed with her mother-in-law, and he wanted to honor her.
Ruth and Naomi still had nothing. They were without a home, future, or livelihood. They had no land, and they couldn’t own any because there were no men in their family—the custom of their day. There was only one chance to regain all they had lost. They needed someone to “redeem” them. This person had to meet four qualifications: (1) He had to be in the same family, (2) he had to be wealthy enough to purchase the forfeited inheritance, (3) he had to be willing to buy it back, and (4) he had to marry Ruth since it was her husband’s land.
Naomi took notice of how gracious Boaz was to Ruth. And it just so happened that Boaz was from the same family line. She “put a bug” in Ruth’s ear, suggesting Ruth go to Boaz’s house and—in the manner of their culture—propose marriage. Ruth needed someone to redeem her and her family. Boaz was her only hope.
Boaz took Ruth up on her offer. He paid the price to redeem Ruth and Naomi. He was the person God had prepared to buy back Ruth’s land, marry her, and provide for their family.
A Modern Example
Another, more recent story is incredibly similar—the story of Pearl and James Stack. In this story, Pearl was a 46-year-old Tennessean. She had a husband and a son. Then her husband died and her son left home, leaving behind his daughter Cathy for her to raise. She had no job, no property, no car, little education, and a nine-year-old granddaughter turned daughter for whom she was responsible. She prayed, “Lord, I need your help. I have got to feed Cathy, and
I don’t know what to do.” The Lord answered her clearly: “Write James.”
Pearl had known James growing up, but he enlisted in the army after high school and served several years in Iran as a train engineer. After his military service, he moved back to Clarksville, Tennessee, and bought a nearby farm. His mother had died in his infancy, he didn’t know his father, and had been raised by family friends. Like Pearl, he was alone.
Pearl’s letter was simple and to the point. “I’m alone. I have no money. I need help. And I have to take care of Cathy.” She sent the letter to the farm some 15 miles down the road and waited…I’m sure she prayed.
James got the letter and put it in his front pocket on his way down to the barn to finish some work. After he read it, he was so excited he ran out of the barn and through the field, tripping over farm equipment left and right. He had his eye on the young widow and was hoping something like this might happen. James had all the characteristics Pearl needed to redeem her. He was nearby, he had the land and money, and he was willing. He wanted to take Pearl as his wife.
James immediately went to get Pearl and Cathy. He brought them to his farmhouse where Pearl cooked them all dinner. They sat and talked at the kitchen table, and it didn’t take long for them to make the decision to get married. He chose to redeem Cathy. He gave them hope, life, security, and a future when they had none. And until the day he died, Pearl Stack (affectionately called Ma-maw) and Cathy called James Stack (Pa-paw) “our Boaz.”
A Third Boaz
You might read this story and think like I did, “Wow, that is amazing. I want to live a life like Pa-paw with that kind of character and grace. That’s right and true." His life is worth emulating, and we should do that.
But if you’re like me, you’re often not gracious or of high character. I often respond to people in need with indifference, even disgust. I am often the opposite of Boaz or Pa-paw Stack. I am more like Ruth and Ma-maw—lost, alone, hopeless, needing someone to redeem me.
The good news is there is One even greater than Pa-paw and even greater than Boaz. This third Boaz fulfilled all the characteristics Ruth and Ma-maw needed in a redeemer. He was the right person. God sent His Son into the world to become one of us so that we might be saved. And because Jesus is God, He had the wealth needed to pay the price of sin we owe the Father.
While Pa-paw and Boaz sacrificed their livelihood to care for their needy ones, the True Boaz gave His life to redeem us. He gave of Himself willingly, not forcefully. He took the forgotten people we are and made us His bride.
As great as Boaz and Pa-paw were, they are both gone. Boaz has been dead for centuries. James Pa-paw Stack, “our Boaz,” died March 25, 2012. The True Boaz, our Redeemer, also died. But he rose again, defeating death. And one day, death will be no more and all who have come to Christ will live forever when the True Boaz, our Lord, returns.
About the Writer: In addition to his amazing biological family, Jacob Riggs was also blessed to have James and Pearl Stack as his adopted grandparents—faithful followers of the True Boaz.