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Anne O’Brien’s

WEDNESDAY

BIBLE STUDY The Book of

Ruth

This study notes provide the core content of a group of bible studies on the Book of Ruth. While the core message of the study has been captured for you to read, written text can not fully express the sense of anointing upon the discussion of the word or the joy of corporate fellowship. We encourage you to pray before you begin reading that the Lord would open your heart and mind to be receptive and responsive to God’s message contained within this study. There may be times when you find it difficult to reconcile God’s truth to your own opinion or worldview, God’s truth is eternal, it does not change, our understanding of the truth does change as we allow God to work in our hearts and minds. 1


RUTH

The story of Ruth is like a rose among thorns. It’s a beautiful story set in most desperate times. From Genesis through to Joshua we learn the story of how God chose a special people and how that, in Joseph’s time, they ended up in Egypt. It also recounts their escape from Egypt and the subsequent 40 years in the wilderness, after which they finally settled in the Promised Land. And then the Book of Judges describes the difficulties they experienced settling into the land, and how their disobedience brought them many problems. For, although Judges were leading them, they gradually became more depraved and grew away from God. The last verse of Judges sums up the situation: “everyone did that which was right in his own eyes”. And so the story of Ruth begins with a famine in Israel – most likely allowed by God as a punishment for their sin. Read Ruth 1 v 1-­‐5: Introducing Naomi’s family We see Naomi (whose name means beautiful and agreeable) and her husband living in Moab because of the famine in Judah, Israel. (Judah was to the west of the Dead Sea, Moab was to the East, about 50 miles away from their home in Bethlehem). Naomi’s husband died, leaving her with her 2 sons and their wives. Sadly, after 10 years, her sons also died and she was left with her daughters-­‐in-­‐law. In ordinary circumstances this would not work. Moab was Israel’s enemy and Israelite men were told not to marry Moabite women. Q. Things might not have turned out so badly for Naomi had she stayed behind in Bethlehem. Do you think Naomi’s move to Moab was wrong, was it a mistake? Did she have to pay a price for not being in God’s will? Or was it all part of God’s plan? Can God still use us even when we make mistakes? If we do wrong we often have to suffer the consequences of our action, but Praise God, he shows us mercy and can still use us. Read Ruth 1v 6-­‐9a: Naomi shows love to her daughters-­‐in law Naomi was free to return to her home where there was no longer a famine. There are two ways of looking at her actions. A) She could have asked Ruth and Orpah to accompany her, but thought only of their best interests, to remain in Moab. Or B) She was ashamed to go back to Bethlehem with them because she had been disobedient in allowing her sons to marry foreigners. Read Ruth 1v9b-­‐18: Ruth declares her intentions Husbands were necessary for survival! Here we have three women who are actually in desperate need. If a Jewess lost her husband she could expect his brother to marry her and provide for her. This couldn’t happen for Ruth and Orpah. Therefore Orpah chose to stay in Moab. But Ruth declares her love and commitment both to Naomi and to her God. Despite all the errors Naomi had made and her subsequent disappointment and even bitterness, she had still maintained a testimony. Ruth found she was accepted by the one true God and avowed to follow Him. God was gracious in this because Naomi need not be ashamed when she returned to Bethlehem. Read Ruth 1v19-­‐22: Naomi goes home So they return to Bethlehem, but Naomi is no longer the woman who had left several years before. She has become bitter (Mara) and blames God. Maybe at this point Ruth has the stronger faith. Q. What should Naomi have done to get right with God? 1


The character of Naomi: She knew what the Lord was doing when the famine ended and she wanted to be in the place of blessing. She had loving concern for her daughter-­‐in-­‐laws. She was prayerful , unselfish , she shared faith and kindness. She was bitter because she couldn’t help her daughters-­‐in-­‐law. She accepted God’s will but was in despair, but she was helped by the strong bond with Ruth. She changed her name but not her character. She called God ‘The Almighty’ (El Shaddai) showing acceptance of His plan and will. Her faith was a beacon in unsettled times. Naomi’s story shows us that even when we make errors of judgment, God in his grace brings us back to the place of blessing if we continue to trust in him. Ruth chapter 2 Read verses 1-­‐3: Ruth finds work Ruth was a young widow in mourning. She was also a foreigner. Both of these things made her very vulnerable and she could easily have been exploited. As a woman and an outsider we would think she had no rights. But God, in his mercy, had made provision for such as Ruth in the Old Testament Law. Leviticus 19v9-­‐10 says: When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest ... leave them for the poor and foreigner. I am the Lord your God. Knowing this (from Naomi) Ruth set forth to find a field to glean and she “happened upon” the land of Boaz, who just happened to be related to Naomi. This was no coincidence, but a God-­‐incidence. Her steps were guided by God. God in his grace was looking after Ruth, both providing and protecting. Read verses 4-­‐7: Ruth meets Boaz Boaz was a man of standing and his name means “strength”. But he was also a man who portrayed God’s grace in this story. Ruth was less than a servant or hired help (referred to in verse 6 merely as the Moabite), and yet Boaz noticed her and asked after her. It makes one wonder – was he already falling in love with her? Read verses 8-­‐12: Boaz introduces himself As the landowner, Boaz lowered himself to talk to Ruth, but more than that he showed her kindness (by calling her ‘daughter’) and love, and also promised protection for her. Q. How is this a picture of what Christ has done for us? Boaz made the first move, he spoke first. It was not Ruth’s place to talk with him as she was merely asking for permission to glean. Read verses 13-­‐18: Ruth is showed favouritism! Ruth was to walk with those who followed immediately after the reapers and would therefore get good pickings – but more than that, Boaz instructed them to deliberately leave stalks of wheat for her. Amazingly, Boaz shared his meal with her. Doesn’t this also speak of how Jesus invites us to share with him, and how he comes down to our level and raises us up with him? As gentiles, we are undeserving foreigners too! But God shares his grace with us – praise his name. Q. What was it that endeared Ruth to Boaz? Do you think her faith in God made a difference in her situation? 2


But Ruth still had to work hard – there was a job to be done. She had to provide for Naomi, and the harvesters had to get the harvest in while the time was right. Likewise, we are saved to serve. An ephah (verse 17) was about 13 kilos – this was probably enough to feed Ruth and Naomi for a week. Read verses 19-­‐23: Boaz – a Kinsman Redeemer A Kinsman Redeemer or Guardian Redeemer This is a legal term for a man, usually a close relative, who has an obligation in Jewish Law to redeem a relative who is in serious difficulty, with the purpose of providing for them and giving them a new beginning. As Naomi’s relative, Boaz could redeem (buy back) Elimelech’s property and keep it in the family. The redeemer had an obligation to marry the wife of the deceased and bring up her children, who would then inherit the property and perpetuate the family name. Naomi is beginning to see God’s blessing at last. Naomi had hope because of who Boaz was. In the same way, we have hope because of who Jesus is. Our hope is a sense of assurance and confidence that comes through trusting God. And we know we can trust him because He is our Father who loves us and has paid the redemption price with the blood of his own son, Jesus. Both Naomi and Ruth had hope because they knew they could trust Boaz who was an older relative who loved them. Ruth chapter 3 When reading this chapter we can see how Boaz and Ruth are a beautiful analogy of our relationship with God. Read verse 1: Naomi has a plan for Ruth’s future! Ruth has sacrificed everything for Naomi, leaving her country and family, working hard in the fields to provide food, and embracing her culture and her God. Naomi wants Ruth to be blessed with a home and children – and she’s identified a good husband! Read verses 2-­‐5: Naomi prepares Ruth. Ruth was washed Christ ... makes the church holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word. And we must get rid of those things that make us unclean. Ruth was anointed The anointing oil speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit, with perfume preparing us to meet with Jesus. Ruth was Salvation is pictured as leaving off our dirty rags dressed in her (our sinful self) and putting on the garments best clothes of righteousness. Ruth submitted We can never save ourselves. Relying on God’s mercy and to Boaz’s grace the work of our guardian redeemer, Jesus, is the only way and mercy to salvation. Naomi’s intention was that Ruth should become Boaz’s wife. She wanted only the best for her, because she loved her as her own. 3


Q. Do we merely want to be one of God’s workers or followers, or do we want the best -­‐ to be the Bride of Christ? Are we, like Ruth, prepared to do what it takes? Read verses 6-­‐9: Ruth obeys Naomi’s plan. As we know, it was harvest time and it was hard work getting the harvest in. However, there would also have been celebrations, especially as this harvest followed a time of famine. No doubt Boaz and his workers ate and drank and slept well at the end of the day. But, sleeping on site, Boaz would have had one ear open because he was there to protect the harvest. Ruth, obedient to Naomi’s instructions, crept onto the scene and lay at his feet. This was not a sexual act. It was an act of humility and a claim on his position as a guardian-­‐redeemer. “Spread your garment over me” is both a suggestion of marriage and a request for protection. Q. In verse 9 what 2 descriptions did Ruth give of herself? (Compare with her earlier identity as a Moabitess.) Q. How can the way we identify ourselves affect our destiny? Read verses 10-­‐14: The problem with Naomi’s plan. Ruth showed commitment to Naomi and to Boaz and to God’s ways. No wonder Boaz described Ruth as a woman of noble character. The words, “Don’t be afraid” must have comforted Ruth in this situation. We see how Boaz obviously cared for Ruth, but there is a hitch. Legally, the nearest kinsman would have the right to redeem Ruth and there was a younger man more closely related than Boaz. Q. When things go wrong with our plans what is our reaction? Can we rest? That is what Ruth did because she trusted in Boaz. Read verses 15-­‐18: A reward for Naomi. Ruth’s obedience resulted in a blessing she hadn’t asked for. Boaz filled her shawl with grain – 2 weeks food for herself and Naomi. This generous gesture was an indication of Boaz’s love and intention to care and provide. Ruth gave her all to God, to Naomi and to Boaz. God blessed her with abundance. It never works the other way round! That is, we shouldn’t wait for God to bless us before we tithe or give to others – we could have a long wait!. Read Luke 6v38 to see the Biblical principle given by Jesus. Ruth Chapter 4 Picture the city gate – it was a wide place where the people would gather both to talk and to see justice administered; it was also the place where the poor would wait for aid. Legal transactions also took place here, overseen and ratified by the elders of the town. Read verse 1: Coincidences or God-­‐incidences? On Ruth’s first day in Bethlehem, she unknowingly chose Boaz’s field to glean in. And ‘as it happened’ (2v4) at that moment, Boaz also arrived and noticed her – possibly one amongst many extras in his field that day (2v5). And amazingly Boaz just happened to be a guardian-­‐redeemer in Naomi’s family, but not the most closely related. Having decided to speak to the other, closer relative Boaz went to the town gate – and just at that very moment the other man came along! We have seen Naomi’s planning, and Boaz’s willingness to provide. But at every stage we see God’s hand guiding events. 4


Read verses 2-­‐4: A Good Man Boaz was a thoroughly good and kind man. He was also a man of propriety. That is, he was respectable, decent, courteous, moral and discrete. And he was careful to maintain moral standards and formalities. Everything he did fulfilled the Law. Q. Can you see how Boaz continues to be a picture of Christ? For a legal contract to be binding there must be 10 elders as witnesses to confirm and ratify the contract (Deut. 25v23). So, wasting no time Boaz gathers the witnesses and speaks to the other relative. But what Boaz says is a bit of a surprise, “Naomi is selling a piece of land,” because we didn’t know she had any land! Had he been doing some research to find out about Elimelech’s land? We are not told. But Boaz has obviously thought this through. The relative’s reply also comes as a surprise – “I will buy it”! (We assume the relative thought he would buy the land and marry Naomi so that his sons would have a double inheritance. He perhaps did not know about Ruth.) Read verses 5-­‐8: Boaz declares his hand. Boaz explains: On the day you buy the land you also acquire Ruth, Naomi’s daughter-­‐in law (Levirate marriage) so that she might bear sons and restore the name of Elimelech and his inheritance. Naturally, this was disagreeable to the other relative as he would have to share his own inheritance with them. So he removed his sandal in the presence of the elders and gave his assent to Boaz redeeming Ruth. It was in order that he might marry Ruth that Boaz had engineered his plan. To act as kinsman-­‐redeemer would require a sacrifice that only Boaz was prepared to make. He gave of himself that Ruth might be free, and that her offspring would be blessed. Once again this is a picture of Christ – it was an act motivated by love. Read verses 9-­‐12: Absent for her own engagement! Everyone witnessed the transaction of land and Boaz’s promise to marry Ruth without her being there! The witnesses prayed blessings on Boaz, little realising that they were prophetic. Boaz and Bethlehem did indeed become famous, and Ruth was surely blessed in her offspring. Ruth – a widow, a foreigner, a poor woman; whose only right was to glean in the fields – was now established in the ancestry of the people of God. Q. How is Ruth’s life a picture of our relationship with Christ? Read verses 13-­‐22: The genealogy “The Lord enabled Ruth to conceive” – all life proceeds from God and begins with God and is not to be taken lightly. Here we see Naomi as the proud mother-­‐in-­‐law and grandparent, rejoicing that Ruth is better to her than 7 sons. Naomi’s faith is fully restored and she is thankful for all God’s blessings. God has changed her bitterness into joy. Naomi and Ruth were given a future and a hope. Read Matt 1v5. God, through Jesus, has redeemed us and given us an inheritance and a future and a hope; and graciously cares for us. 5


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