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Know the Bible Ruth Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Ruth 1:16 Introduction: The book of Ruth takes place during the spiritually dark days of the Judges. Ruth is a story of a woman (Ruth) who lives during this evil period of Israel’s history, but does not succumb to its moral decay. Ruth’s story is one of integrity, righteousness, and faithfulness. Theme: Faithfulness: The book of Ruth shows how three people remained strong in character and true to God even when the society around them was collapsing. Look: Show me ……. Ruth’s story covers about 11-12 years. She and Esther are the only women who have books in the Bible named after them. Its author is unknown, but some think it was Samuel. The story takes place in Moab and Bethlehem around 1030-1010 BC. Ruth’s faithfulness to follow the God of Israel leads to great blessing not only for her, but for Naomi, Boaz and ultimately for the world as she takes her place in the family line of Jesus Christ. (Ruth was the great-grandmother of King David). Learn: Teach me…… What you think to be a tragedy is God’s opportunity to show Himself faithful. Your abundance is an opportunity to help the less fortunate. God honors faithfulness. Character is a noble quality that God honors. Adverse circumstances give you the opportunity to exhibit godly character. We can trust God to provide what we need, when we need it and to work out our lives in ways that are better than we ever imagined. (Ephesians 3:20) Know the Bible Ruth Listen: Guide me…. * Because the book of Ruth is only four chapters, let’s take the time and read it in its entirety. I will give you a brief overview of the chapter, have you read it, then they’ll be some questions to ponder. But first, let’s set the stage and introduce the main characters of this drama. I love how Max Lucado describes them in his study, Life Lessons with Max Lucado – Books of Ruth and Esther. “Here is a play with four characters. Character number one is a prostitute. Character number two is her son. By the time we meet him he is wealthy, powerful and single. (We wonder if his bachelorhood has anything to do with being the son of a prostitute.) Character number three is a foreign widow of a clannish culture. Everything about her is different. Speaks with an accent. Wears a different name. Eats different food. Her only friend is her mother-in- law who happens also to be a widow and happens to be……. character number four. She is older than the first widow. Too old to have kids. When her two sons die, as well as her husband, she is left only. With only a foreigner as a friend. Four people. Each rejected. Each alone. Four frazzled strings in the bottom of a knitting basket. Left untouched, awaiting the toss of the master-weaver. But he doesn’t discard them. He picks them up and weaves them together. The result? The unmarried son of the prostitute meets the foreign widow who left her homeland to accompany her mother-in-law. The mother-in-law recognized the bachelor as a relative and urges her daughter-in-law to make herself available. She does, the two marry, and the bachelor has a wife & the young widow has a husband. The older widow has a grandson, and we have a story of providential romance….Such is the story of Ruth. You’ll recognize Ruth as the younger widow and her mother-in-law is Naomi. Boaz is the son of the prostitute. And the prostitute? Well, she’s not mentioned in this book, but she is mentioned in the Matthew 1:5 (the genealogy of Jesus)…”Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab…” Who would have thought, a harlot on Jesus’ family tree? These kind of things happen in the Bible. These are the people God uses. Aren’t you glad He does? Aren’t you glad the Master-weaver has a place in His plan for each of us?” (page 9). Know the Bible Ruth Lean: I put my hope, faith and trust in you….. Ruth’s Faithfulness (Tears) Ruth’s story opens with a severe famine in the land of Israel. This forces an Israelite named Elimelech to move his wife, Naomi, and their two sons to Moab. While living there, both sons marry Moabite women but subsequently die, as does their father. Now left alone, Naomi decides to return to her homeland and suggests that her two daughter-in-laws, Ruth and Orpah, remain in their land and re-marry. Orpah chooses to stay and is never heard of again. Ruth, however, chooses to cling to Naomi and follow the God of Israel. Because of her desire to be faithful, Ruth gives up her gods, her culture and her people. (Useless trivia – the infamous Oprah was named Orpah by her birth mother, but the hospital misspelled it on her birth certificate, naming her Oprah instead.) Read Chapter One Think of the most loyal person you know. What about their loyalty impresses you? What did Naomi want for her daughters-in-law? What does that say about her character? What does Ruth’s decision reveal about her character? Ruth’s Service (Toil) Naomi returns to Bethlehem a bitter woman, thinking God is her enemy because of her losses. But God has plans she doesn’t know about, which begin to unfold when Ruth volunteers to go into the fields around Bethlehem to pick up the grain left behind by the harvesters. Such gleaning was permitted to provide for the poor. In God’s plan and providence, Ruth enters the field of a man named Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s. Boaz has heard of Ruth’s faithfulness toward his relative Naomi and gives instructions to his workers to leave grain behind and thus provides for them. Know the Bible Ruth Read Chapter Two Describe the qualities of Boaz. How did Ruth experience God’s faithfulness? How has God recently shown His faithfulness and provided for your needs? Ruth’s Proposal (Trust) Over a period of several months and through the different harvests, Ruth willingly works in Boaz’s fields to provide for her and Naomi. But now it is time for Naomi to repay Ruth’s kindness and to provide for Ruth’s future. She devises a plan that will force Boaz to make a more serious decision. Ruth is instructed by Naomi to engage in a common, ancient Near-Eastern custom of asking Boaz to take her for his wife in place of her dead husband because he is a close relative (a levirate marriage as described in Deut. 25:5-6). All of this takes place at night on a threshing floor during the harvest. Ruth’s proposal is accepted when Boaz throws a garment over her (a symbolic action). Even though Ruth sleeps at Boaz’s feet through the night, there is no hint of improper behavior. Read Chapter Three What risk was Ruth taking by going to Boaz? What admirable character traits do you see in Ruth? Which ones would you like to develop? What blessings have you enjoyed because you took a risk and obeyed God? Know the Bible Ruth Ruth’s Reward (Truimph) Boaz agrees to marry Ruth as a close relative, but reveals the next morning that he must first ask another man, a closer relative, so see if that man wanted to fulfill the levirate custom. In this final chapter, we see Boaz come before the local elders and, with them as witnesses, ask the closer relative about Ruth. The man declines, thus permitting Boaz to marry Ruth. God blesses Ruth’s faithful devotion by giving her a husband in Boaz and a son, Obed, who would later be the grandfather of the famous future king of Israel, David. Read Chapter Four What lessons can we learn from Boaz about dealing with people? For what reasons do people compromise their integrity? In what circumstances is it difficult for you to do what is right? Summary: In chapter 1, Ruth had nothing but her faith. In chapter 2, she lived on leftovers, and in chapter 3, she received generous gifts. But once she belonged to Boaz, everything he owned belonged to her. What do the following verses say about our “redeemer” and our own “riches”? Write them out: 2 Corinthians 8:9 Ephesians 1:3 Closing Prayer: Father, forgive me for the commitments I have broken and the lack of loyalty I have shown. Thank you for your faithfulness. Give me wisdom and perseverance. Thank you for richly blessing me in so many ways. Show me how I can be kind to others and give me a generous heart to share what I have been given. Father, sometimes you ask me to step out in faith and that makes me anxious. Forgive me when I lack faith to take the risk. Please give me courage to trust you and to obey. Forgive me when I try to do things my own way. Continually remind me that your way is best. Guide me as I make decisions and prompt me to do what is right.
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