Assuming the Attitude of the Great Go’el
(Parts of this article were adapted from the Pillars of Zion series. Click here to receive the free PDF books: www.pillarsofzion.com)
A friend recently spoke to me of his preparation to marry. I found his approach to be both unique and refreshing. Although he has not yet met the woman whom he hopes to take to the temple one day, he nevertheless prays for her night and day with the expectation that the Lord will bless her. In other words, he is beginning to serve her now in anticipation of offering her a lifetime of service. How many women would love to meet such a man and know that he had cared for her in advance?
My friend’s example lifted my remembrance to a little-known principle in the scriptures: the go’el. Anciently, the Lord provided a means of rescue for widows in Israel. This rescue came in the form of a “levirate marriage” (not to be confused with the tribe of Levi).[i] A kinsman of the deceased husband was to marry the widow to provide her love, security, and to bless her with children, even knowing that those children might eternally belong to the deceased husband. We cannot imagine such a sacrifice! This extraordinarily selfless man was called a go’el or literally redeemer.
The word here rendered ‘redeemer’ we translate literally from Hebrew go’el and this is its proper translation. It is rendered merely ‘kinsman’ in the King James English translation. The function of a go’el was to make possible for a widow who had lost home and property to return to her former status and security and to have seed to perpetuate her family.
It is easy to see why the later prophets borrowed this word from the social laws of Israel and used it to describe the functions of Him who would become the Divine Redeemer. Think of what He does to restore us to proper status with God, and to give us future security and eternal ‘seed.’[ii]
It is interesting to note that Jesus, the Great Go’el, chose to be born through at least two significant levirate marriages. In each case, the lesser go’els selflessly stepped forward to redeem despairing and at-risk women, who would otherwise have forfeited love, safety and security. Perhaps the most famous of these levirate marriages was that of Boaz and Ruth, who became the great-grandparents of David. But we also recall that Joseph the carpenter was a kinsman of Mary. He acted as her go’el by stepping in to redeem her and rear another Man’s (The Man of Holiness) Son.
I see in my friend the attitude of a go’el. His focus on finding his eternal companion is not centered on what she can do for him, but what he can do for her. And he is making good on his commitment by praying for her now. Imagine the kind of husband he will be to her when the Lord finally introduces them. I wonder how many single men would similarly find their eternal sweethearts by changing the focus of their prayers and dating.
I am surrounded by people who take the attitude of a go’el. For example, I recently served in a bishopric with Steve. Whenever he greeted me, he was wont to ask, “How can I bless your life today?” And he meant it. In the 20+ years that I have known Steve and his wife, I have ever known them to be serving someone. I’ve wondered if they ever pray for themselves. They seem to view life through the lens of giving charitable service. I think they pray for such opportunities constantly, and the Lord blesses them with those opportunities.
And there are other go’els. My friends, Blaine and Kathy, sold everything and moved into a mobile home so they could afford to serve full-time in the temple. My friend Paul emptied his fortune to build orphanages, feed the poor, and create refuges of hope. Two artist friends have anonymously donated millions of dollars of art to beautify Church locations and to honor the Prophet Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ. Additionally, when they have some extra money (which is seldom), they go to the temple and ask who might need a little help. They always step forward at Christmas time to bless struggling families with exquisite art. I can recall times of slender means when I have been the beneficiary of priesthood blessings from Ted, and occasionally some Band-aid money. These people are like the selfless go’el, who sacrifices his life to redeem the despairing woman.
Vain Prayers, Vain Fasts
Perhaps by our following the example of the go’el we could experience greater results from our prayers and fastings. We might ask ourselves, Upon what principle does prayer become mighty prayer or fasting draw down the promised blessings? I submit that the simple act of charity transforms prayer and fasting into principles of power. In fact, the scriptures teach us that prayer and fasting are rendered impotent unless they are coupled with charitable service. Here are two examples:
I say unto you, do not suppose that this [prayer] is all; for after ye have done all these things, if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need—I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith.[iii]
Is [fasting] not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward.
Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I [am]. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness [be] as the noonday:
Notice the qualifiers: “then,” “if.” In both of these scriptures the criterion for answered prayers and receiving the Lord’s notice and blessings is charitable service.