The Messiah would be our Kinsman-Redeemer
This is not a prediction of the Messiah, but a picture that would ultimately be fleshed out in Jesus. The key word here is “redeem.” The term “redemption” is familiar from the book of Exodus (see 6:6) in which God redeems Israel from bondage in Egypt. God continues to be the great redeemer when Israel is in need: “I am the one who helps you, declares the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 41:14).
Human society also reflected God’s character as redeemer. In each family or clan of ancient Israel, a family member was responsible for “redeeming” others in the clan at various times of need. Leviticus 25:25 speaks of redemption of property, when a family member bought back land that a relative had sold. A relative who had sold himself into slavery was to be bought back (redeemed) by another in the clan. In the book of Ruth, the family redeemer also provides a child in the case of a man who had died without descendants. In the situation that Ruth shows us, the family redeemer was under no obligation to perform the act of redemption, yet he willingly did so.
In the book of Ruth, the idea of chesed, often translated lovingkindness or mercy, lies behind the action of the redeemer (Hebrew, go’el). Chesed implies acting to meet the deep needs of others based on relationship of commitment and covenant. Because of this, it also implies that a more powerful person will be the one showing chesed to one who is weaker, and it is done voluntarily. In the same way, God’s chesed lies behind His acts of mercy on behalf of His people Israel.
In the New Testament, we see the coming of Jesus as an expression of God’s chesed, His mercy:
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
– Luke 1:50
Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.
– Luke 1:58
… to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant.
– Luke 1:72
… because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high.
– Luke 1:78
Specifically, God’s chesed is shown when Jesus redeems His people:
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people.”
– Luke 1:68
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.
… in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
– Colossians 1:14
Jesus is likewise our family, our kin, like the redeemer in the book of Ruth:
For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he [Jesus] is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
– Hebrews 2:17
Significantly, like the redeemer of Ruth, there was no obligation on Jesus’ part to redeem us through his death – yet he did so willingly and sacrificially:
For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ [Messiah] died for us.
“For this reason the Father loves me [Jesus], because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
– John 10:17-18
Jesus is our redeemer – and even more so, our kinsman-redeemer. He is our kinsman, our family, by virtue of being human as well as divine. And by being born Jewish, he is especially a kinsman to the Jewish people. Perhaps this is why even Martin Buber, the renowned Jewish theologian, could say, “From my youth onwards, I have found in Jesus my great brother” – even though he did not believe in Jesus as the promised Messiah of Israel.
More than that, he is also our redeemer – the ultimate expression of God’s chesed. The book of Ruth ends with a genealogy showing that King David descended from Boaz. And we know that Jesus was himself a descendant of David. Boaz’s act of chesed towards Ruth enabled a greater chesed, for (humanly speaking) he enabled Jesus to be born!