Wednesday, September 03, 2008

September Bible Study - Faithful Love in Human Relationships - Ruth Chapter 1

September Bible Study – Ruth Chapter 1
A Study of Faithful Love in Human Relationships

Welcome to this month’s Bible study. Consider my thoughts and please share your ideas, questions and wisdom in the comments section below.

Let us pray…Father in Heaven, I ask that you would open our hearts and minds to what you have to teach us today. Please bless those who visit here and participate whether actively or silently. Encourage us to share our hearts and what we’ve learned so that we may all experience a deeper relationship with You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Introduction:

Every passage of the Bible sheds some light on God’s Perfect Plan for your life and mine. That Perfect Plan is Jesus. So, how is Christ reflected in this Old Testament book? He is our kinsman-redeemer. We will get into exactly what that means in chapter 3? I will tell you now that this concept is directly related to redemption (notice the word “redeemer”?), and that redemption is a key theme throughout the entire book of Ruth.

If you’re unsure of the meaning of the words “redeemer” and “redemption,” take a moment to look them up. Grab a dictionary or visit a website like dictionary.com. It is important that you understand these terms.

One more thing – the book of Ruth parallels four basic stages of Christian life:

Chapter 1 – Decision
Chapter 2 – Service
Chapter 3 – Rest
Chapter 4 – Reward

Okay, grab your Bible and let’s move right into our study for this month…


Chapter 1 – Decision:

We have all sorts of decisions to make. Coffee or tea? Pants or skirt? Paper or plastic? Follow Christ or not?

Ruth 1:1 sets the stage for us in “the time of the judges.” This was when Israel was immoral and they oppressed each other. Disobedience, idolatry and violence was rampant in this time and place. The famine made living in Judea unbearable, so Elimelech took his family to Moab, where there was plenty to eat.

Have you ever uprooted yourself in search of a better life? Was life better when you got there? How were you blessed by relocation? Or by your decision to stay and “tough it out”?

1:2 – What are Ephrathites? If you take a look at Genesis 35:19, Ephrath was another word for Bethlehem. So, an Ephrathite was someone who lived in Bethlehem.

1:3 – Elimelech died in Moab. But Naomi still had her sons to provide for her.

1:4 – Mahlon and Kilion married Moabite women (Ruth and Orpah, respectively). They may have done this after their father died, since children of mixed marriages were forbidden to worship in the temple, and Elimelech may have objected to this as head of the household. However, since he moved his family to Moab in the first place, this may not have been an issue. After all, where were his sons supposed to meet nice Jewish girls in a place like this?

Do you know the challenges in inter-cultural marriages? What about unequal yoking? The Bible warns against that. Why? Because the non-believing partner may lead the believer astray.

1:5 – As the story continues, both boys die, leaving all three women without a provider. WOW! So the famine that the family sought to escape may lead to all of their deaths, anyway.

What would you do? Panic? Pray? Jump into action?

1:6-7 – Naomi made a decision to return to Judah after she learned that God was providing food for His people. How do you think she might have learned this? Ruth and Orpah left with her.

1:8-9 – After traveling together for a time, Naomi told her daughters-in-law to go back home to their families.

What do you think may have prompted this request?

1:10 – Orpah and Ruth assure Naomi that they will go with her.

Why? Would you choose to return to your family and familiarity? Or would you leave town with your mother-in-law in search of adventure? Do you think the women noticed a quality in the Jewish people that they preferred over the Moabites? Perhaps they thought their families would not take them back after marrying into a Jewish family?

Finish the following: “Let me tell you about my Mother-In-Law…”

1:11-13 – Naomi reiterates her request that Ruth and Orpah leave her and return to their own people. Did she really not want them with her? Could she tell that Orpah really didn’t want to go to Bethlehem? Here’s a thought for you: perhaps Naomi really didn’t want traveling companions. Why? In our grief or depression, many of us retreat to solitary places. Not only was Naomi mourning the loss of her husband and sons, she had become bitter over it. (See 1:20)

Challenge: See ALL of your relationships as blessings.

Have you ever been through a tragic situation where you realized afterward that God had allowed the misfortune to bring you to a certain place in your life or relationship with Him? Are you struggling with something like this, now? Let me stop you right here. God loves you! He does not allow us to suffer without a purpose. And that purpose will benefit us and others. Take a few minutes to chat with your Heavenly Father and thank Him for being there with you through the entire situation. Ask Him to open your eyes to what He is trying to accomplish through your suffering. Just praise Him. Sing to Him. Weep before Him. Let yourself love Him.

Remember, butterflies must struggle when they emerge from their cocoons or they won’t have enough strength in their wings to fly. Without that struggle, they will die. It works the same way with us.

1:16-17 – Ruth refuses to leave Naomi even though she’s young enough to find another husband and Naomi is destined to live in poverty because she has no man to provide for her. (She is willing to give up the possibility for security and having children to care for Naomi.)

Would you have returned to your people or stayed with Naomi? Consider that the only example of the Israelite culture and treatment of Israel’s God came from Ruth’s knowledge of Naomi (and possibly her husband and brother-in-law). Since Naomi appears to be abandoned, why would Ruth decide to follow Naomi’s God? Was it Naomi’s display of peace in the face of extreme adversity that attracted Ruth?

1:19 – When Naomi and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem, they were literally the talk of the town. Gossips probably blabbed Naomi’s misfortune to anyone who would listen as she passed them on the street. Others were certainly offended that a Moabitess would come to live among the Jews. The more discerning were wowed that Naomi’s daughter-in-law would follow her here where they might find themselves destitute rather than returning to her family.

1:22 – The timing of their return is crucial. The barley harvest is just beginning. This meant that they may be able to work in the fields and feed themselves for a little while.

We will discover in our next lesson that this put Ruth in the perfect place at the perfect time. God’s timing is most excellent! Take a moment to praise and thank Him for His timing in your life and circumstances.

Wrap up:
What monumental decisions were made in this chapter of scripture? How have you made huge decisions in your own life? What advice would you give a Christian friend who is struggling with a decision?

So, have you decided to follow Christ? Here is a prayer you can say to declare your desire to follow Him:

Heavenly Father, I come to You today to ask forgiveness for my sins. I know that Jesus died on the cross in my place and that He rose from the dead. I invite Jesus to come into my heart right now so that I may live for You. In His name. Amen.

Next month, our study of “Faithful Love in Human Relationships” continues with chapter 2 – Service.

4 comments:

Martha A. said...

We have been reading Ruth over the summer too! It is a interesting story of trials in someones life.
To answer your questions....
What monumental decisions were made in this chapter of scripture?
Well, it was a matter of faith on Ruth's part to go to a nation that it was in the law that was against Moabites. That was a huge thing!
How have you made huge decisions in your own life?
I have made huge decisions in my own life like honoring my husband and marriage even when it is hard and against odds. I have decided to honor God and promises I made before God even when it looks wrong in our human mind.
What advice would you give a Christian friend who is struggling with a decision?
I would advise them to seek God, read His word to see what it has to say about the decision they have to make, and otherwise I would just let them know I am praying for them to make the right decision.
martha(at)lclink(dot)com

Stacey said...

I LOVE your perspective, Martha! It never impacted me fully until you mentioned that Ruth went against her people. Sure, I could imagine it would be difficult to go back home, but you made me imagine what it would have been like for her to LEAVE home and cleave to an Israelite to begin with. Thank you for your insight.

Pamela J said...

Stacey asked, "Have you ever uprooted yourself in search of a better life? Was life better when you got there? How were you blessed by relocation? Or by your decision to stay and “tough it out”?"

The uprooting that we have done was change our church family. Such a hard thing to do but scripture tells us that we will have to lose all that is important to us in order to follow Him. For us to leave was to step out in faith to move into the work that he has prepared for us before we were formed. I've cried many tears in missing my old 'family' but the new one is so precious and in need of support. Baby Christians are growing, hopefully learning to be strong. God may someday call them forth to step out and support other young new believers or to bring ones who don't believe to that saving knowledge of Himself. Had we stayed where we were, would these lives have been touched by anyone or did God fashion their lives to meet ours where we stepped onto that road to follow Him?
Pam Williams
cepjwms at yahoo dot com

Stacey said...

Oh, Pam, I feel for you in this! I have moved across the country several times, the first of which was a devastating trip from New York to Nevada when I was 16! It's no fun to spend your senior year of high school having to make new friends! I've also had to leave one church and embrace another. That can be very difficult, too - finding a new niche in ministry. But it is exciting, isn't it? I am so glad that your eyes are open to the blessings that are appearing around you. Sometimes it is so easy to wallow and miss what God is doing right in front of you!