The short Book of Ruth in the Hebrew scriptures has three main characters, Ruth, Naomi and Boaz, from whom you can learn many lessons. The story of Ruth covers a period of loss and despair for Naomi, persistence and devotion for Ruth, a time of bestowing grace and favor for Boaz and an ending of joy and blessing for all three.
Naomi Overcomes Shattered Dreams
Naomi left Israel with her husband and two sons during a famine. They likely planned on staying in the foreign land of Moab for a few years to earn a living until the famine ended, but they ended up staying many years. Naomi's sons married Moabite women. Then her husband and sons died, leaving her bereft. As a woman in ancient Israel, Ruth's loss of a husband and her sons was equivalent to losing her security and future. All of her dreams were shattered. The Book of Ruth can be used to study how to respond to shattered dreams as the bible study participants follow Naomi's development from a bitter, depressed woman returning home with nothing but a foreign daughter-in-law into a joyful woman with an adopted son at the end of the story. Some passages to focus on are Ruth 1:11-13, 1:20-21, 2:19-22, 3:1-4, 3:16-18 and 4:14-17.
God Shows Kindness to Outsiders
Ruth was a Moabite woman, not an Israelite. Despite this fact, the Book of Ruth shows how God demonstrated kindness to her and blessed her several times. Some items to focus on are Ruth 2:3-4, 3:8-11 and 4:5-8. A Bible study focusing on this aspect of Ruth can help people see that God cares for all people, not just the Israelites. Ruth decided to accept the Israelite God as her God in Ruth 1:16, and even though she was a foreigner, God accepted and blessed her.
Hard Work Pays Off
Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, are destitute in Israel when they return without husbands, sons or other close family members to support them. Instead of despairing, Ruth gets permission from Naomi to go out to the fields and pick up leftovers in Ruth 2:2. This type of gleaning was done by poor families and could be dangerous for women alone, but Ruth was not above working hard to support herself and her mother-in-law. Not only does she end up with food, but she also catches the eye of Boaz, Naomi's kinsman redeemer, who is impressed by Ruth's devotion to Naomi and her hard work and eventually marries her. Focus on Ruth chapter 2 in this Bible study, and discuss how being humble and working hard can sometimes result in bigger rewards than you expected.
Jesus is Our Kinsman Redeemer
The character of Boaz in Ruth can be seen as a foreshadowing of Jesus. In Ruth 4:1-12, Boaz takes responsibility for Ruth's well-being, agreeing to marry her, care for her, care for her mother-in-law and give children to her deceased husband's bloodline -- basically, to save her life. Ruth soon bears a son, and she and Naomi are lifted out of despair and bitterness into joy. Like Ruth in Israel, all people are foreigners to God who need the help of a loving benefactor. Jesus agrees to be the spiritual groom, lifting people out of their isolation and despair into a richer life with him. For this study, look not only at the Book of Ruth, but also passages such as Revelation 21:1-4, Ephesians 5:25-27 and 2 Corinthians 11:2, in which Jesus is considered to be the groom and the body of believers the bride.
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