Marriage is intimately personal, a sacred union between two individuals, a man and a woman. But it is never a private affair; marriage must involve the community. The couple would want the blessings of God and their community as they start a family. In many wedding services, the presiding minister will conclude with the congregation praying for God’s blessings upon the newlyweds. I believe the communal approval and prayers encourage the permanence of the marriage.
Boaz asks the elders and townsfolk to be his witnesses (Ruth 4:9–10). But they take it upon themselves to pray for the couple too. Their benedictions include three very specific things (4:11–12). We consider two of these blessings today.
First, they pray for Ruth: “May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel” (4:11). Their specific mention of Rachel and Leah, a reference going back some 900 years, is significant. Like Ruth, both had joined the Israelites from idolatrous foreign nations (Genesis 31:19–20). Rachel had been barren for many years before she bore children (29:31). Similarly, Ruth had been barren in Moab (Ruth 1:4–5).
Rachel and Leah gave Jacob the 12 sons from whom the nation of Israel descended. The townsfolk now pray that the Lord will make Ruth a fertile mother. In committing herself to Yahweh, Ruth has committed herself to God’s people (4:16). The people of Bethlehem now fully accept her as part of the community. Henceforth, she is no longer called “Ruth the Moabitess” (1:22; 2:2, 6, 21; 4:5, 10). Instead, they elevate her to the same exalted status as Rachel and Leah—a member, a mother, and above all, a matriarch of their nation Israel.
Second, they pray for Boaz: that he will “have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem” (4:11). The use of “Ephrathah”, Bethlehem’s ancient patriarchal name, is significant, for the Hebrew word means “fruitful”. This is a prayer for Boaz’s plentiful progeny. The marriage mandate has not changed: “Be fruitful and increase in number” (Genesis 1:28). Children are a blessing and not a curse; they are gifts from God (Ruth 4:12; Psalm 127:3–5; 128:3–4). Through our children, God is faithfully building our house. Like the townsfolk, we need to ask God to bless the family, for “unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain” (Psalm 127:1).
Boaz is already prominent, “a man of standing” (Ruth 2:1) known for his benevolent kindness. They now pray that he will become even more “famous in Bethlehem” (4:11).
God will answer their prayer in ways “immeasurably more than all” they can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). Boaz’s grandson, Jesse, will have eight sons, the youngest of whom will become the nation’s most beloved and greatest king (Ruth 4:21–22; 1 Samuel 17:12)—David—from whom their Eternal King—Jesus Christ, their Messiah—is descended (Micah 5:2; Isaiah 11:10; Romans 15:12).
Boaz and Ruth are now famous beyond measure, for we are still discussing their story today. God himself established their house forever (2 Samuel 7:16; Psalm 89:4).
In what way is marriage a community event? What roles can the church family play in your marital life?
If the elders of the church were to pray that “you have standing in [church] and be famous in [your community]”, how would you like the church to remember you? What would you like to be known for?