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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

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 t...

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