As we have been working through the book of Ruth, we have continually returned to the concept of how God provides for his people through his people, and how he redeems them through the law. We have followed the themes of God’s sovereignty in loss and uncertainty; God’s wisdom toward his people in the Biblical conceptions of favor, worth, and refuge; and we have touched on his love for his people in redemption. This final post will attempt to sum up our study, although there is so much more in this short book that could keep us busy for an entire semester!
What is in a blessing? We tell each other, “The LORD bless you!” or, “The LORD keep you!” We ask the Lord to give the ‘peace of Christ’ to each other every Sunday morning in worship. We ask God to bless our homes, our families, our meals, and all our activities for the day. But what does this blessing look like in our everyday lives and how does it work out over the course of time? Does God’s blessing have an ultimate purpose? And if so, to what end is it working?
Once Boaz bought the property and rights from Naomi which belonged to her husband Elimelech, and her sons, Mahlon and Chilion, the witnesses at the gate speak a blessing to Boaz. They say to him in chapter four, verses eleven and twelve:
“May the LORD make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah, and be renowned in Bethlehem, and may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the LORD will give you by this young woman.”
Let us first consider the references to these people just mentioned as the witnesses invoke the LORD to give fertility to Ruth in her marriage to Boaz. Rachel and Leah, both wives of Jacob, who together with the help of their servants Bilhah and Zilpah, bore to Jacob the twelve sons who would lead the twelve tribes, were considered the mothers of the nation. The witnesses at the gate wished Boaz to have many children as a result of his marriage to Ruth, so many so, that they would become like “the dust of the earth” (Genesis 13:16), come to “number the stars” (Genesis 15:5), and that he would “multiply them greatly” (Genesis 17:2). Not in the least of note is the fact that these Israelites – townsfolk and elders alike – are wishing that the LORD would grant a foreign woman a place among the matriarchs of the nation!
Second, the witnesses also exhort Boaz to “act worthily in Ephrathah,” and “be renowned in Bethlehem.” They wish that Boaz would prosper in Bethlehem and be remembered for all time by future generations of Israelites. As we have already seen how Boaz has maintained a “worthy” character throughout the book of Ruth, there should be little doubt about his ability to continue this trajectory. And Boaz’s name was indeed renowned later in Bethlehem, as the subsequent genealogy will show.
Third, the witnesses call for a blessing akin to the house of Perez, an important descendant who fathered the clan in Bethlehem, and thus Boaz. They call out the name of Tamar, who bore Perez to Judah, who in a similar manner to Ruth, was barren and could not conceive. But they had no idea the revelation of their blessing on the lives of the nation. For if they had lived to see the line of Boaz and Ruth, they would see the greater descendant, the exalted King David, who is without a doubt the most honored king in the history of the nation. We are pointed to this in the closing genealogy of the book.
Just considering some of the implications for us today, believers have been “grafted in among the others,” the Old Testament people of God (Romans 11:17). We now comprise a family larger than the sands of the sea (Genesis 32:12), and from a multitude of nations (Genesis 17:4-6).
Whose name could be renowned in Bethlehem more than the exalted King David? It was to David that the LORD promised to give a sure kingdom before the LORD forever (2 Samuel 7:12-16). Of course, David’s line ended up broken and crooked, and the nation decimated through unbelief and apostasy. But, the LORD, who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, kept his promise through all of the sinfulness and brokenness of his people, raising up one of the line of Judah (Genesis 49:10), who would descend from the line of David (Matthew 1:1; Luke 1:32). And we, on the other side of the cross, know just how much his name is remembered through the life of his most conspicuous descendant, the Lord Jesus Christ!
God weaves a rich tapestry of his steadfast love to Abraham, David, and the Lord Jesus Christ through the wayward lives and actions of his people, through the calling of those outside the people of God into fellowship with him, through the small acts of everyday faithfulness to his Word. His sovereignty oversees our whole existence, as we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). The need to hold onto God in trial and suffering as Naomi, as well as in rejoicing in his blessing upon our lives as we act with deference toward and honor the dignity of others, shows the world the evidence of the hope we carry within us.