The UnSandaled Savior

Click here to read Deuteronomy 25 on BibleGateway.com

“His brother’s widow shall go up to him in the presence of the elders, take off one of his sandals, spit in his face…That man’s line shall be known in Israel as The Family of the Unsandaled” – Deuteronomy 25:9-10

When you think of the worst thing that could possibly happen to you, losing a sandal probably isn’t at the top of the list. Bran muffins kicking in during rush hour – sure. Tripping on the carpet on the way into that job interview – awesome. Losing a sweet flipflop – not so much.  But for the people of ancient Israel, losing a sandal was akin to discovering that secret ninja tryout video you sent in is trending on youtube.

Plus, you have the whole public perception thing that was so important in those times. It’s a little strange in our day to think of the emphasis on honor in those days, but we’re not that far removed from the days of duels. As recently as the last couple hundred years, even US presidents had dueling on their resume. Being barren had that kind of seriousness for a woman, and being publicly mocked was one of the worst disasters that could happen to a man.

SPIT SHINE

So here in Deuteronomy we have a story when both shames collide – the theoretical woman in the story is barren, and the man refuses to honor her, thereby bringing shame to himself as well. If a man’s brother died, it was the brother’s duty to marry his widow and carry on the family line. But what if the surviing brother doesn’t want to? According to this chapter, she gets to publicly spit in his face and, the ultimately insult, take his sandals. Even his last name shall be changed to “The Unsandaled.” It seems almost kind of silly to us, but it was serious business for people then.

THE SHAME

Ironically, this scenario happened not once, but twice in Jesus’ line of ancestors. Back in Genesis, Judah (whose descendants were all the kings of Judah, and ultimately Jesus himself) and his children refused to honor this custom with a woman named Tamar. One of his kids was even killed by God for his refusal. Tamar was in pretty dire straits until Judah inadvertently slept with her and continued the family line. In a slightly less soap-operatic scenario, Ruth was also barren after the death of her husband. She was reduced to abject poverty because her husband’s closest relative wouldn’t follow this guideline, until Boaz stepped up. Rather than being shamed as they thought, both of these women have a prominent place in Jesus’ family line.

That’s how Jesus works; He takes our greatest shame, or what we think is our greatest shame, and brings out the greatest glory and honor. Lose that job? Maybe God is moving you on to something better. Get left at the altar? Perhaps God has a greater marriage planned for you. It doesn’t always seem that, and certainly not at the time, but how many times can you look back on what you thought was a humiliating disaster, only to realize it was the very thing that made you who you are today. We never know what God is up to; all we know is that He works all of it together for good for His plan and His children.

Even the Unsandaled.

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