Greener Grass Read:
The book of Ruth opens on a family looking for greener pastures. Living in the time of Judges, where military conquest was common and God’s judgment for Israel’s idolatry prevalent, one family from Bethlehem decided to escape to Moab for relief during a particularly bad famine. Here, as Naomi will soon bitterly understand, things will not be as green as they first appeared. However, God is at work from the beginning of this book, setting the stage for the coming Messiah from verse 1. With tragedy about to strike, one might wonder if things would have been better for Naomi’s family if they had just stayed home. Yet, God used this rustic story of a struggling rural family to bring about a line of descendants leading to Christ, the Savior.
In many ways, we are no different from Naomi and her family. When facing hardship, it is easier to look back on difficult circumstances and dwell on what could have been rather than trying to find peace and contentment in all circumstances (James 1:2-7).
Think about a difficulty you are facing in life at the moment. In what ways have you fallen into the “grass is always greener” mentality? Take time to ask God for contentment and peace in this circumstance, as well as to use you to further His Kingdom.
How You Can Pray
Pray that Village Seven, your community, and that you personally will better understand and believe God’s perfect plan for His people and His glory. Pray for wisdom, discernment, and peace to accompany this understanding.
Day 2 Read:
After fleeing Bethlehem to find a better life in Moab, Naomi’s husband, Elimelech, dies, leaving her a single mom in a foreign land. Then, her sons commit the same sin God had been condemning the Israelites of for generations by marrying women who worship foreign gods. To top it all off, things go from bad to worse when they both die.
Naomi is in a hopeless situation, grieving her husband and children. At this point, there is nothing left for her in Moab apart from Ruth and Orpah. Her response to this tragedy will reveal her true character. It is in the midst of despair, when life seems darkest, that one’s faith is truly tested and character is clearly seen. Will Naomi seek her refuge in God Almighty, or in her own hands?
Matthew Henry asks the question of Naomi: “When these two things, loss of children and widowhood, come upon her in a moment, by whom shall she be comforted?” When you are faced with life’s difficulties, how would you answer this question?
Imagine how different life for Naomi could have been if she had been surrounded by a loving community. Are there people in your community, small group, family or neighborhood dealing with tragedy you can pray for and love? If so, act on this!
How You Can Pray
Pray for those undergoing great difficulties and suffering today. Pray that God might use you in their life to care for them and, more importantly, point them to the only One who can bring them comfort, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Heart Exposed Read:
Naomi hears good news from home: God has ended the famine in Israel and has literally brought bread to the “city of bread” (Bethlehem). As a result, Naomi determines to return to her native land. Once again, we see that Naomi is not longing to return in order to be in the land God had given His people; she is only going back to satisfy her own needs. She starts with both of her daughters-in-law, but on the road, decides to send them back home. What is going on with Naomi’s heart? Naomi, bitter and despairing, throws herself a pity party and decides that they are better off without her. Naomi is living in hopelessness.
Naomi’s story is not that different from most of ours. We may not experience famine or being stuck in a foreign country, but we all feel despair. We all have times where we will put our own selfish needs before trusting God. How do we respond when this happens?
Where are you despairing in your life today? What is the one thing you believe will satisfy you apart from God? Money? Better job? A spouse? Identify one area where you are failing to trust God and the sufficiency of the Gospel. Share this with someone you trust.
How You Can Pray
Pray that you will believe that God is big enough and loving enough to care for your needs. Pray that Christ will be your hope and the Holy Spirit your comfort. Name the idol(s) from the daily challenge and pray that God will be your portion and daily bread, and deliver you from the temptation to ignore God’s promises.
Day 4 Read:
Two Roads Presented
Having accompanied Naomi to the road, Orpah and Ruth now have to make a choice. Naomi encourages them to go back to their mothers’ homes, that they might rebuild their lives. Both women, having just lost their husbands, would also be losing their families, friends, and religious beliefs by leaving Moab to go to Israel.
At first, both women tell Naomi they will go with her on the journey. Once more, Naomi encourages them to leave her, revealing further bitterness and self-pity as she blames God for harsh treatment. Here they are presented with a difficult choice: Will they return home to a place of comfort and remarry, or stay with Naomi through even the difficult times?
The popular phrase “electricity takes the path of least resistance” is often true of people. When presented with an opportunity to leave work early or finish the job well, attend church or sleep in, return dropped cash or keep it, most will do what is easy over what is right.
While our situation may be different from Naomi’s, we all make choices every day. Consider how you decide what you will choose. Are your decisions motivated more by what is easy or what is right?
How You Can Pray
Pray that Village Seven, your community, and that you personally will seek the Lord in the decisions being made. That God would be glorified as His people determine how to schedule His time, spend His money, and invest in friends and neighbors.
Loyalty Revealed Read:
When Orpah decides to leave and return to her gods, Naomi pushes Ruth a third time to go back to her people. At this point, Ruth reveals her heart and loyalty with a solemn and profound confession. She tells Naomi to stop urging her to leave or turn back and then affirms that no matter the circumstances, she is sticking with Naomi. Furthermore, she proclaims that Naomi’s people will be hers, and where Naomi lives and dies, Ruth will be with her. Most importantly, we see that Ruth declares that she will follow Naomi’s God and makes an oath with Jehovah, the proper name of the God of Israel, to do as she has promised. Ruth is committed to God and Naomi, and chooses the more difficult path out of conviction.
Loyalty is a word often unused in the business and political world of today. People are expected to backstab, manipulate, and climb over one another to advance and succeed. Against this grain, God’s people are called to be faithful, trustworthy, and loyal.
Take a few minutes to think about where you struggle with placing success or even being well-liked above trustworthiness. Where have you sacrificed relationships for self-benefit or social advancement?
How You Can Pray
Pray that you would be a loyal and faithful servant of Christ and a loving neighbor. That in all your relationships, others would recognize that your devotion to God is what motivates you to be honest, trustworthy, and truthful, so that He might use you to glorify Himself and bring them to know Christ.
Day 6 Read:
A Bitter Name
Naomi returns to Bethlehem and the city is stirred. One of their own, who had left more than ten years ago with a husband and two children has returned with a foreigner in tow. As the women of the city see the changes that have come over her, they ask, “Can this be Naomi?” Her response to them reveals the true state of her heart. She tells them to stop calling her Naomi, which means pleasant or amiable, and to call her Mara, which means bitter. She also tells them that she left Bethlehem full, but is now empty. Her bitterness, she explains, is an affliction from God, and the extent of this bitterness is revealed by her ironic use of Shaddai, which means God All-sufficient. Naomi is now wallowing in self-pity and blaming God outright for her problems.
Bitterness is one of those “respectable sins” we tend to overlook. It is not murder, alcoholism, or stealing, and we all struggle with it in someway. It is easily justified in a world where people treat us poorly and life is difficult.
Who are you bitter towards right now? Are there co-workers, friends, family members or church attendees that you feel wronged by and are harboring bitterness towards? If so, you need to recognize that, regardless of their actions, your attitude is wrong.
How You Can Pray
Pray that God would give you a heart of humility, peace, and reconciliation towards Him and others you may be bitter towards. Because He has reconciled us to Himself while we were rebellious sinners, we should seek peace with Him and others out of love.
Redemptive Drama Unfolding Read:
Ruth 1 Summary
When examining a passage of history in Scripture, it can be easy to make bad application of the text. For example, one could read chapter 1 and come to the conclusion: For my life, I need to act like Ruth and avoid being like Naomi. While it is true that some of what Ruth does is admirable and avoiding bitterness is a good thing, this attitude loses sight of the redemptive focus of Scripture. In order to really understand and apply Ruth, it is better to ask how God is using Naomi to accomplish his plan of salvation. The answer is that God, in spite of Naomi and her familyâ€™s shortcomings, is working mightily to take care of His people and utilize them to further His Kingdom. Keep in mind through the rest of Ruth that God is guiding this whole story so that through an unlikely Moabite, Christ the Messiah will one day be born and change the world.
We often fail to see our own lives as a continuation of that redemptive story playing out. Even today, God is using us in spite of our sinfulness and weakness to bring Him glory, care for His people, and bring others to know Christ.
Ask yourself if you truly believe that God is orchestrating even the most miniscule and seemingly unimportant events in your life to do these things.
How You Can Pray
Pray that you will actively engage and joyously participate in being part of the redemptive history God has called you to, regardless of the ease or burden of the circumstances you face.
Ruth – a Devotional and Prayer Guide
Week 1 Notes
One of the biggest problems Naomi faced was a lack of community. She had some family with her as she dealt with tragedy, but no one she could relate to spiritually. Many of us are no different. While we attend a large church service and spend time with family and co-workers, many of us lack a deeper community of brothers and sisters-in-Christ who can come alongside us during times of great difficulty. If you have not yet taken the opportunity to involve yourself in one of Village Seven’s communities, Bible studies, small groups, or outreach opportunities, then do something about it! Check out the various communities listed on the website, talk to friends or family currently plugged-in or stop by the guest reception to learn more. Communities are where the large church becomes small and relationships can deepen and grow as believers live life together.
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