Today we’re beginning a series of studies in the book of Ruth.
The book shows how God's promises were fulfilled in the lives and through the actions of ordinary people, through the faithfulness of a single family. It all takes place in everyday circumstances (e.g., a barley field, a city gate), where ordinary people (e.g., a worker, a landowner), were going about their daily tasks (harvesting, business, marriage, childbearing).
Nevertheless, they were being guided by the mysterious hand of God, who was using their uncommon faith to prepare the way for Israel's greatest king, David (4:22). No event in the life of God's people is truly common or insignificant, because He is always involved.
Setting the scene
- How does Judges 21:25 explain the broader cultural circumstances to the events we discover in this book?
- What cultural influences affect the way we see God today?
Please read Ruth 1 verses 1 to 18
Listening and sharing together
These verses begin with famine, move on to tragedy and climax with an expression of unselfish love and affection. Elimilech dies leaving Naomi a widow and Mahlon and Chilion fatherless. Tragedy strike again, when Mahlon and Chilion die leaving Orpah and Ruth widows.
For a few moments we will begin to look at God at work, as we consider what Naomi's experience of God was. The key verse here is verse 8: "May the Lord show kindness to you"
- What happens when we try and fix our own lives?
- How has God helped you to cope with the tragedy?
- What did you learn from the experience that helps you to cope with similar events?
- How does this help you to support others going through the same things?
Setting the scene: God at work
At first glance, the book of Ruth could almost be an everyday story of country folk. It centres around a few central characters, living in a very rural setting, who spend their time sorting out their family problems.
At another level, it would be true to say all of human life is found in this story; marriage, death, separation, and a love story that will last down the generations. There is the promise, too of hope for the future. All this is set within the context of God's love for his people, those who he calls.
- Please re read verses 6 to 13, considering all the times where "the Lord" is mentioned. What do they teach us about God and how Naomi understands Him?
- What do we learn about Ruth's character and faith? What kind of a person is she? (vv. 14-18)
- How can we continue to honour and respect others if we disagree with them?
- How might we (constructively) influence the lives of others in the same kind of way as Naomi guided Ruth?
- Which verse(s) in this passage speak to you? Why is that?
- What one thing would you like to know about these very personal events that the passage doesn't cover? (It might be a question you would ask one of the key characters or perhaps a wider idea of the background).
Let's use what we have been studying and learning together to prompt our prayers.
We have seen the impact of tragedy on family life; we have observed human weakness and loneliness but, we have also seen what it is for someone to respond to God's faithful and continuing love and care. That is, we have seen God's Sovereignty at work.
Let's pray together with these lessons and observations in mind.
For Personal Study ...
Read the passage again on your own and consider what lessons you have learned today.