At the end of the book of Ruth, many things that once were wrong and sad appear to be set right. A family line that has nearly failed has been restored, redeemed by a kind man provided by God. A dedicated young lady, a foreigner to Israel, has become part of the nation in truth.
But Ruth is far more than a sweet little love story. The book of Ruth is about a very strange blessing on a very strange family tree. Consider what is said to Boaz just after the legal issues surrounding his marriage to Ruth are finalized.
Ruth 4:12 – 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.”
How strange is it to see the names Perez and Tamar in a line of blessing? If you do not know the ugly story of Genesis 38, you will miss how odd this blessing really is.
Judah had found a Canaanite wife for his eldest Son. Her name was Tamar. Tamar’s first husband died. His younger brother then married Tamar, and he died too. And Judah was unwilling to allow Tamar to marry his third son and perpetuate the family line.
Tamar took matters into her own hands. She vailed herself like a prostitute, and placed herself in Judah’s path. Thus, Tamar became pregnant by her father-in-law, Judah. And she had twins. In an odd little miraculous turn of events, Perez was born first, and God showed his sovereignty as he built the family line of Judah.
But nothing about that story is nice. It really is an ugly story of the Lord using human scoundrels to accomplish his will. And this is the story that the elders of Jerusalem use to pronounce a blessing on Boaz.
Of course, one way that this story and Genesis 38 look alike is the fact that both bring into the family of God’s promised one a lady from a foreign nation. God uses this to remind us that his plan is to build for himself a people from every nation. There is, in the kingdom of God, now no room for division based on ethnicity, skin color, or line of descent.
But the blessing is also a hint at what God is doing in a larger way. You see, the book ends with a genealogy, the family line of ten generations. And that is a clue to the whole purpose of the book of Ruth. Yes, it is a beautiful story. Yes, it shows us the glory of redemption. Yes, it shows us kindness in the middle of very dark days. Yes, it shows us the way that God welcomes people into his family who could be rejected. But the story of the book is the fact that God moves to keep alive a very particular line, the line of promise.
You see, the genealogy at the end of Ruth shows the ten generations that lead to the birth of King David. We get to see how the tribe of Judah, the tribe that carries the promise of the Messiah to come, gets to the person of King David, the King from whose family line the Messiah will come. Every step in this book is about God preserving the promise to send the Savior.
So, when we think of this book, we need to remember that it hints to us of the fact that, though humanity is fallen, and though we twist things quite badly, God has also always been at work bringing about his eternal plan for his glory. God promised the coming of Jesus. God used scoundrels like Judah and questionable ladies like Tamar to accomplish something we could never have foreseen. God raised up godly men like Boaz during the dark days of the Judges to bring about a glorious rescue of a family line. God welcomed a Moabite woman, a strong lady from a people who were often enemies of the Lord, into his chosen family line, and she became great grandmother to the greatest king of Israel other than Christ himself.
When we see the odd blessing at the end of Ruth, we see the fact that God is sovereign over us. We see that God uses people, sinful people whom he has rescued, to serve him in glorious ways. We find hope that our own lives may be used by God to accomplish great things, even if we have never been great people. We see redemption, mercy, grace, and sovereignty. We see signs that point us to Jesus, and we find hope.