Our 4-week Bible study on the book of Ruth begins today. Each week we’ll focus on one of the four chapters. On Mondays, I’ll give you a little background information on each chapter, some questions to answer during the week (which will take you beyond the book of Ruth) and a challenge for the week.
You’ll see that the questions are interspersed throughout the text below. I kept them that way so that you are answering them both in order and in the context of the ideas I’m expanding on.
I’ll return each Friday with my thoughts on the chapter and encouraging words that offer practical application.
We have a little more to unpack this week since I’m also including the introduction. I thought it was best to do it this way instead of stretching the study out past the four weeks.
If you haven’t done so already, you can purchase a copy of the study guide at Amazon. Click here.
If you don’t want to purchase a study guide, you don’t have to. Everything you need for the study will be provided for you each Monday right here on the blog.
Introduction to the Book of Ruth
As we embark on this journey through Ruth, we’ll explore what courageous faith looks like. We’ll see what it means to lay down our lives, and to take up our cross. And then, we’ll uncover a beautiful account of kinsman redemption that points the way to our Kinsman Redeemer.
Our goal is to listen as God speaks through His Word, and to follow as He takes the lead. You may have read through this story before, in fact, you might have studied it deeply. But here’s the thing, there’s something new to be learned each time we open God’s Word. Amen?
And so, I encourage you, dear friend, to open your ears as wide as you can, and open your heart all the more. Be ready to listen, be ready to learn, and most importantly be willing to follow His lead.
Ruth is the only woman in the Bible specifically referred to as “virtuous.” As we uncover some of those virtues, we’ll understand why. Ruth’s extraordinary devotion to her mother-in-law, Naomi, is an incredible love story between two women that offers us a pattern to follow in our lives.
Ruth, the grandmother of Jessie, and the great-grandmother of King David, was one of the five women listed in the genealogy of Christ along with Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba, and Mary. The book was written between 1500-1600 B.C., and although the authorship is undetermined, Bible scholars commonly believe it was penned by Samuel.
In Jewish tradition, the Megillah (scroll) of Ruth is commonly read during the feast of Shavuot (The Festival of Weeks). Why Ruth? Because it’s more than simply a beautiful love story. Both the timing of the events and the events themselves are closely related to Shavuot.
Unlike her sister-in-law Orpah who wasn’t willing to give up everything she had to follow God, Ruth died to herself. She gave up her home, she gave up her people, and she gave up any financial security she might have had to follow God. Her future was uncertain, and still, she followed, showing us that she was willing to put her faith to the test.
This is the heart of the Shavuot message and the reason that the Megillah of Ruth is read aloud during the celebration. It’s a reminder of the promise spoken thousands of years ago at the foot of mount Sinai, when the Israelites vowed before Moses and God saying, “We will do everything the Lord has said.”
We’ll further discuss this as we move through this study, taking note of the timing and how it lines up with the other festivals appointed by God, paving the way for coming Messiah and His work on the cross.
As I was searching for a main theme within the book of Ruth, I discovered that it began in the very first verse, and in fact, within the first few words of that verse, “In the days when the judges ruled…” You see, during that period between the death of Joshua and the crowning of King Saul we find disorder, chaos, and a spiritual void as “every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6). In the midst of that tumultuous time, we see this beautiful story emerge from the ash where Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz choose to follow that which is right in the eyes of the Lord. We see women of God and a man of faith who put aside their own interests for the sake of others. We see a virtuous woman willing to leave everything behind to follow God. Again, it echoes those words spoken hundreds of years earlier, “We will do everything the Lord has said.”
The main characters within are all to be admired for their devotion to family and loving kindness one to another. I pray that throughout this study, the things we uncover will inspire you to reshape your character and courageously pursue our Kinsman Redeemer, our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Ruth Chapter 1 – Where You Go, I Go
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”
– Matthew 16:24-25, NIV
The book of Ruth opens by telling us how Elimelech and his wife Naomi took their two sons to live in the country of Moab, to escape the famine in Bethlehem-Judah. After their father died, the two sons married women of Moab. Naomi, her sons, and their wives lived in Moab for another ten years after Elimelech died.
What prompted Naomi’s decision to return to her homeland?
UNDERSTANDING THE MOABITES
In studying this, it’s important that we understand who the Moabites were and why they were looked down upon by the Jews.
In Genesis chapter 19, we see that Lot fathered two children by incest. In an attempt to preserve the seed of their father, Lot’s daughters caused him to get drunk, and without his knowledge they both conceived his children.
What were their son’s names? (Genesis 19:30-38)
The Moabites, like the Ammonites, were a corrupt nation of idol worshipers, with no regard for Israel. Therefore, God commanded:
“No Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, not even in the tenth generation. For they did not come to meet you with bread and water on your way when you came out of Egypt, and they hired Balaam son of Beor from Pethor in Aram Naharaim to pronounce a curse on you.” – Deuteronomy 23:3-4, NIV
We all know the story of Balaam’s talking donkey, and how the donkey refused to move when confronted by the angel of the Lord. What a lot of us don’t remember however is that Balaam was commissioned by the Moabites to put a curse on Israel that day. Thankfully, he didn’t follow through with their evil plan because God was directing his path.
Without a close look at the underlying conflict between the two cultures, one might not fully understand that Ruth’s decision to stay with Naomi took courageous faith. Moving away from her people to live in a foreign land wasn’t an easy choice.
What are some of the concerns that Ruth may have had in leaving Moab behind?
A CLOSER LOOK AT COURAGEOUS FAITH
After insisting that she travel to Bethlehem with Naomi, Orpah chose to return to Moab. The contrast of the two women illustrates the difference between a true follower of God and one who simply vows to follow God but doesn’t follow through. Both women set out on the road with Naomi, and both of them chose to follow her home, but only one of them (Ruth) stayed true to her vow.
What five things did Ruth promise Naomi in her plea to follow?
Courageous faith says that we’re willing to leave everything behind to follow Christ. It calls us to take up our cross daily to follow Him. It means that we are willing to lose everything to find Him.
What do you think Jesus meant in Matthew 16:24 when He said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me?”
It says a lot about one’s faith when they courageously choose to follow God, regardless of the cost. Digging deeper into scripture, we find some who were ready to leave everything behind to follow Christ, and others who weren’t willing to let go just yet.
In Matthew chapter four, we see two fishermen, Peter, and Simon who left their nets behind to follow Christ. The thing is they left more than just their nets: they left their jobs, they left their boats, they left the security of a steady income, and the list goes on.
Likewise, in Luke chapter five, we read about a tax collector, Levi who “left everything” to follow Christ. It’s interesting to note that the scripture doesn’t say, “he left work for the day” or “left his job,” but rather it says that he, “left everything and followed him.”
Let’s look at a few other examples from scripture. Briefly explain who each of these people were, and the sacrifices they were willing to make in order to follow God.
On the other hand, we see others in the Bible who were eager to follow God but changed their minds the moment they were challenged. Briefly explain who these people were and what transpired.
Luke 22:54-62 (Note, this individual later repented and turned back to God)
GOD’S TIMING IS EVERYTHING
As you are reading this story, pay close attention to this powerful, yet often overlooked verse:
“So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.” – Ruth 1:22, NIV
The “barley harvest” mentioned in this verse is key because it’s aligned with Passover and the Feast of First Fruits, a day when the Jews would wave their sheaves of barley as an offering to the Lord. What’s interesting about this particular feast is that it begins on the very same day that Jesus rose from the dead. In fact, Paul refers to Christ as our “firstfruit” when he writes,
“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” –1 Corinthians 15:20
What do you learn about the Feast of Firstfruits from Leviticus 23:9-11?
You might be asking yourself, What’s the connection? Why is that important? And, how does it relate to this story?
Before Jesus died on the cross (Passover) and rose from the dead (The Feast of Firstfruits), there was a separation between the Jews and Gentiles. The promises given to Abraham were passed down to his seed from generation to generation, but through the death and resurrection of Christ, we have become one through grace by faith. We are heir to the blessings of salvation and have been grafted in alongside our Jewish brothers and sisters in Christ.
Describe in your own words what Paul is saying in Galatians 3:14
Naomi and Ruth are a picture of this unity, and God’s timing is everything as He points to the coming Messiah and His work of redemption. We see Jew and Gentile grafted together as one, arriving in Bethlehem at this specific time of the year.
In closing, here are a few more questions to help you dig deep:
What could Ruth’s decision teach us about our walk of faith?
Why was the mention of the barley harvest in this chapter significant?
When they arrived in Bethlehem, what did Naomi wish to be called? Why?
Who are the people we read about in this chapter, and what do we know about them?
You are loved by an almighty God,
The Time-Warp Wife
P.S. I’ll see you on Friday for part two of chapter one.
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THIS WEEK’S CHALLENGE
If you haven’t done so already, make a vow to follow the Lord. Promise to walk with Him regardless of the cost. Ask Him to forgive you and to cleanse you from sin, then make a decision to turn your back on the sinful life you leave behind. If you’ve already made this vow to the Lord, recommit yourself today considering anything that might be holding you back from following Him with all of your heart.
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. – Matthew 16:24-25, NIV .
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Darlene Schacht and her husband Michael live in Manitoba Canada where the summers are beautiful and the winters are cold. Together they’ve come to learn that relationships aren’t always easy, but that marriage, the way God intended it to be, is a treasure worth fighting for.
She began her publishing journey about twelve years ago when she pioneered one of the first online magazines for Christian women, known at the time as “Christian Women Online Magazine.” After three years, Darlene left CWO to blog as a solo author at Time-Warp Wife Ministries.
It was also during this transition that she worked alongside actress Candace Cameron Bure to write the NYT Best-Selling book, Reshaping it All: Motivation for Spiritual and Physical Fitness. Reshaping it All was the winner of both the 2011 USA Best Book Awards and the 2012 Christian Reading Retailers Choice Awards.
Author of more than 15 books, Darlene continues to write and to minister to her readers through her blog at TimeWarpWife.com.
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