Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
When we hear the term “blessing” in church or use it ourselves, generally we’re talking about good things from God. For example, you may say, “Oh, the Lord is really blessing me with a great job and wonderful spouse” or “Man, I really could use some blessings from the Lord with my life.” There is, however, another kind of blessing that doesn’t make it into sermons quite as much: the act of blessing others. While listening to the Bible via my mp3 player on the subway (which I recommend to anyone with a commute), the Holy Spirit lit up a few verses in Ruth I had usually read over quickly.
After acquiring Ruth as his wife, Boaz is blessed by the city elders. We read,
The elders and all those at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house 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” (Ruth 4:11-12).
This sort of behavior is nothing new in ancient Israel, so it is easy to glaze over it. I mean, the women of the town to the same thing to Naomi when Ruth has a baby. Scripture tells us,
The woman said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth” (Ruth 4:14-15).
Again, this is sort of common so it’s easy to ignore. But check this out: they bless that her offspring be famous in Israel. Well, in a couple of generations, this blessing ends up being realized. We learn, “The women living there said, ‘Naomi has a son.’ And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David” (Ruth 4:17). Sure enough, Obed was the grandfather of the greatest king of Israel. I’d say that makes him pretty famous.
What of the elder’s blessing? They blessed that the future offspring give Jesse standing in all Bethlehem as well as Ephrathah and they compare Boaz’s family to that of Perez. Obed was actually being born into the line of Perez and his grandson would certainly make Bethlehem famous (as David was born there). Ruth 4:18-22 reminds us,
This, then, is the family line of Perez:
Perez was the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nashon,
Nashon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz,
Boaz the father of Obed,
Obed the father of Jesse,
And Jesse the father of David.
So we’ve got Perez and Bethlehem. But furthermore, the line of David (or Obed if you will) features another famous Bethlehemite,
[…]Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
And Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
Solomon the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asa,
Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,
Jehoram the father of Uzziah,
Uzziah the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah,
And Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.
After the exile to Babylon:
Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel the father of Abuid,
Abuid the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Akim,
Akim the father of Eliud
Eliud the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
And Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ (Matthew 1:5-16).
It’s a long read, I know. But from the marriage of Boaz and Ruth came Jesus. And what of Ephrathah from the blessing? God’s got it covered in a Jesus prophecy,
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are small among the clans of Judah,
Out of you will come for me
One who will be ruler over Israel,
Whose origins are from of old,
From ancient times (Micah 5:2).
All of the blessings came to fruition, sometimes twice.
This story tells me that as believers we wield great power in how we address others. And why shouldn’t we? When we come to Christ, we become inheritors of the promises to Abraham (and the rest of Israel). Well, way back in Genesis, God made this promise to Abraham:
I will bless those who bless you,
And whoever curses you I will curse;
And all peoples on earth
Will be blessed through you (Genesis 12:3).
Again, we have a tendency to not really understand the weight of such a verse. God said that blessings will be reflected and curses will be honored (and presumably the reverse is true since we’ve already seen blessings being honored).
Blessings are serious business. Take the story of Jacob and Esau for example. When Jacob tricked Esau out of his birthright, it was not a very big deal. But check out Esau’s response when Jacob steals his blessing: “When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, ‘Bless me- me too, my father!’” (Genesis 27:34) Esau freaked out. He was overcome with sorrow because of losing the blessing meant for him. Esau was so upset that he was ready to kill his brother. We read, “Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, ‘The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob’” (Genesis 27:41). Esau was planning on killing his brother all over what we’d think of as just some nice words. Surely there is more to blessing that we understand.
To get a better idea of how blessings work, let’s take a look at Jacob’s blessing to Judah:
Judah, your brothers will praise you;
Your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
Your father’s sons will bow down to you.
You are a lion’s cub, O Judah;
You return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
Like a lioness- who dare rouse him?
The scepter will not depart from Judah,
Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
Until he comes to whom it belongs
And the obedience of the nations is his (Genesis 49:8-10).
There’s more, but I don’t understand either of the two other verses as much. Anyway, Jacob states that Judah will be praised and that the scepter will never leave his hand. Now we already read that Perez was the son of Judah, which means that David is in the line of Judah. Later, this blessing is echoed in the prophecies of Jeremiah,
For this is what the Lord says: David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of house of Israel, nor will the priests, who are Levites, ever fail to have a man to stand before me continually to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to present sacrifices (Jeremiah 33:17-18).
This tells us that blessings can be binding (which is what God told Abraham). More likely though, blessing is based in prophecy; because Jacob’s blessing to Judah turned out to be a prophecy about Jesus. For we read in Mark 16:19, “After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he say at the right hand of God.” Jesus, from the line of David, Obed, and Judah, was taken into heaven alive and continues to sit on his throne next to God as king over Israel (and all believers). Therefore when you are blessing someone, you are actually prophesying good things into their lives.
Blessings are powerful and important in the lives of others. This was true before Christ and remains true today. The Bible tells us, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). When we pray blessings into peoples’ lives we bring healing, restoration, and great joy. Jesus speaks to us, “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18). What we speak for others will come to be; for the Lord listens to his children. God gives those in Christ Jesus a great power. This is why Paul admonishes us, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). So, my friends and yokefellow; trust in Christ and bless those around you. May the Lord give you peace and security in all situations as you serve him wholeheartedly, amen.