“May your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring which the Lord will give you from this young woman” (Ruth 4:12)
Here we have part of the prayer lifted up by the people of Bethlehem in their joy over the marriage of Boaz and Ruth. It’s an interesting petition. Notice first the focus of this prayer. It has to do with Boaz’s house; the house that would come from the offspring the Lord would give him through his marriage to Ruth. They’re not talking about a building with three bedrooms, a kitchen, a dining room and a living room, not that kind of house. This is common O.T. language to refer to one’s progeny, one’s descendants; a clan or family line. So the concern here is with the family line that would descend from this marriage. What is their prayer concerning that family line?
Well notice, secondly, the house to which they compare it. “Let your house be like the house of Perez.” They pray that the family line descending from this marriage would be like the family line of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah. Do you remember that story? The story of Tamar and Judah is in many ways a very sordid story but the emphasis of the prayer is not that Boaz and Ruth would be like Judah and Tamar. The prayer has reference to the house of Perez who was born to Tamar and Judah. And what was significant about the house of Perez? Well Perez ended up being the most important and influential of the twin sons of Judah and Tamar. He had a large number of descendants and, in fact, he was the direct ancestor of Boaz himself, as we see in in verse eighteen of Ruth chapter four. Atkinson comments, “The expression house of Pharez points probably to the large number of his descendants—of whom the people at the gate are some. Pharez was certainly one of Boaz’ ancestors. The people pray that Boaz will, like his ancestor, have a numerous and renowned family of descendants”. So I believe this petition could be summarized in this way, they pray that the marriage of Boaz and Ruth will be the beginning of a numerous, prominent and influential family of descendants among the people of God. There are some encouraging and challenging lessons we can learn from this prayer.
First of all, we learn that it is a good and desirable goal that our families would be the beginning, if not the continuation, of a long line of prominent and influential descendants for the glory of God. This is one of the goals we should have, a vision we need to have for our families. So often we only think about the here and now, our immediate situation, our immediate children. But we should also think about, and pray about, and order our family life and instruct our children with a view for the good of the generations to come.
It is quite amazing the influence one family can have for the glory of God and the good of others. I’m thankful that I’m the beneficiary of something that is becoming increasingly rare in our country. What am I referring to? I’m referring to a godly heritage. I knew several of my great grandparents and as far as I can recall those I knew professed faith in Christ. The same was true of my grandparents. Two of my grandfather Smith’s brothers were Baptist preachers. All three of his sons became Baptist pastors, including my father. And, of course, one of his grandsons is as well, me. In addition another grandson, my cousin, is preparing for the ministry. Both of my sisters are active members of Baptist churches. I’m not bragging about these things. That’s not my intention, God forbid!! It’s all of God’s grace but I do thank God for my godly heritage and I pray that God would allow me to pass it down through my children.
You may not have that kind of family heritage. All of your most recent ancestors may have all been and still are unbelievers and there may be some very shameful things in your recent family history. But, perhaps, your little home could be the beginning of a change, the beginning of a new line of descendants, many of whom love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to believe that this can happen and we should be motivated in the training and teaching of our children by this hope, that not only will they be blessed by growing up in a godly Christian home, but that our grandchildren will be blessed and our great grandchildren, and if the Lord tarries, many, many descendants who will follow on after we have left this earth. Not only should this motivate us in the raising of our children, but in the way we live our lives. I don’t want to do anything that will leave a shameful blot upon my Christian testimony as the story of my life is passed down to my descendants. May God grant that what they hear about me and know about me will be the story of a grandfather or a great grandfather who consistently and faithfully walked with God to the end. I pray for this conscious of my need of God’s grace to keep and preserve me in the way. This is also true of you. Without Him we can do nothing.
Brothers and sisters, don’t underestimate the influence one godly family can have upon future generations. Some years ago I read something very interesting about the descendants of Jonathan Edwards. It’s fairly common knowledge. Edwards was a great preacher, mightily used of God during the Great Awakening in the early to mid 1700’s in this nation but if you’ve ever read about his family life, he was also a wonderful, loving and diligent father. Indeed, it could be argued that as great as his preaching was and his writings are, his greatest work was the quiet work of raising his children for Christ. A study was made of 1,394 known descendants of Edwards and his wife Sarah back in 1900. In roughly 150 years this one marriage had produced 13 college presidents, 65 college professors, 100 lawyers, 30 judges, 66 physicians, 3 U.S. Senators, three mayors of large cities, three state governors, and a vice president. His descendants had authored 135 books and edited 18 journals and periodicals. Scores entered the ministry and at least one hundred served as missionaries overseas. And this is just the public visible fruits of that marriage. Only God knows the quiet unnoticed influence of Edwards and his family that is multiplied over and over in hundreds and thousands of lives down to our present day, even in the lives of some of us who are reading this article, including the person writing it.
I know that even if we faithfully and diligently raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord this doesn’t guarantee they will all be saved or that their children will all be saved. God said that He was a perfect father to Israel but they rebelled against Him. Yet at the same time we can be encouraged by the fact that God’s general purposes of mercy towards His people often include many blessings, both temporal and spiritual, for their children and their children’s children, if not always all of them, often at least some of them. Prov.20:7, “The just man walks in his integrity, his children are blessed after him.” Ps. 112:1-2, “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who delights greatly in his commandments, his seed shall be mighty upon the earth.” From these, and many other similar promises in the word of God, we can safely deduce that God so loves his people that He frequently includes their descendants in His saving purposes. This gives us much cause to hope and to pray and to labor to that end. As we lead our families may God help us to do so with a vision for the powerful influence our families can have for the glory of God and the cause of Christ in coming generations, should the Lord tarry!!