There is a beauty to these verses. Naomi, Elimelek, Kilion, Mahlon, and Ruth are all named – the living and the dead. The land has been saved for the family. But crucially, Ruth – “the Moabite”, the outsider who threw in her lot with Naomi and her people and her God – has become an insider. The prayer of blessing uttered by Naomi, that Ruth might find a resting place in the home of another husband (1:9) is answered not in Moab, but in Israel. And not just anywhere: in Bethlehem, amongst her dead husband’s family, in his hometown.
Not included in our reading today are the words of blessing spoken by the elders over Ruth and Boaz, “May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah” (4:11-12).
By the grace and purposes of God, Ruth is brought into a much wider family, and a much wider story. The prayer of blessing spoken over Ruth and Boaz has some key elements to note: they pray for standing, fame and offspring. Our reading tomorrow will demonstrate how those prayers are answered.
From emptiness to fulness; from famine to harvest; from widowhood to marriage and family; from outsider to insider. God worked in the lives of all the characters in this story to bring about life, and blessing, and salvation. And through this family, God will work to fulfil his promise to their forefather Abraham, that, through his offspring, “all peoples on earth will be blessed” (Gen 12:3)
Do we believe that God can work in our families and our circumstances in similar saving ways?