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Be faithful like Ruth
The Book of Ruth continues our Advent study of women important in the story of Jesus. Esther, through her heroism, saves the Jewish people in Exile and, "who knows,” possibly preserves the line of ancestry from Abraham to Jesus. Ruth, through love and loyalty, now takes her place in God’s great plan. Ruth is a short book, only four chapters, and another wonderful story. Read the entire book before you begin the study in detail.
Monday Ruth 4:17 (NRSV)
Let’s start at the end of the story … or maybe at the beginning of God’s plan for Ruth. The book of Ruth is considered important because it places this ordinary woman, a Gentile, in the line of Jesus ancestors. If there had been no Ruth, there would have been no Jesus of Nazareth! Take a look at Matthew 1:1-16 for the details.
Why did the women say a son was born to Naomi, not Ruth?
Think about your place in the story of your family. What might be possible ... and not possible ... in the future if you had not been born?
And (if the case) had not bore a child? Who knows?
Tuesday Ruth 1:11-13 (NRSV)
But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I should have a husband tonight and bear sons, would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the Lord has turned against me.”
Later, Ruth again laments, “I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty; why call me Naomi …” (1:21)
Why is it “more bitter” for Naomi? Her daughters-in-law also have lost their husbands. What does it mean for Naomi to return “empty”?
She is returning to her homeland where she has heard the Lord is looking after the people. Has Naomi lost her faith in God?
When have you felt “empty”?
What had you lost?
Had God turned against you?
Wednesday Ruth 1:16-18 (NRSV)
But Ruth said, “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die – there I will be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!” When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.
In the language of the time, Ruth meant “companion” and Orpah meant “disloyal.” The story of Ruth is an “edifying” or moralistic tale. It is intended to demonstrate Jewish law and custom, in this case about the care for widows and aged persons. Later, Boaz’s actions stand as an example of Jewish traditions around inheritance and legal transactions. Of course, the story also is about unselfishness and love.
Can you think of other stories of unselfishness in the Bible?
In our times?
In your own experience?
In your own story?
Thursday Ruth 2:1-3 (NRSV)
Now Naomi had a kinsman on her husband’s side, a prominent rich man, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain, behind someone in whose sight I may find favor.” She said, “Go, my daughter.” So she went. She came and gleaned in the field behind the reapers. As it happened, she came to the part of the field belonging to Boaz …
This is where Naomi catches on to God’s plan and where her outlook changes. She now understands her role in the story. “Go my daughter”, she says? And as Ruth tells her of Boaz’s favor, she understands his role: “Blessed be he by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead (2:20). And then knows what she must do: send Ruth to Boaz and be prepared to part with her dead husband’s property. Finally, she becomes wise counsel: “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest, but will settle the matter today.” (3:18)
Our lives are filled with instances where we believe the world has turned against us, then only to understand that this “world,” the very circumstance and people in it, hold our salvation. We catch on. We act.
Can you think of such an instance in your life?
What helped you catch on?
Friday Ruth 2:10-13 (NRSV)
Then she fell prostrate, with her face to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your sight, that you should take notice of me, when I am a foreigner?” But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. May the Lord reward you for your deeds, and may you have a full reward from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge!” Then she said, “May I continue to find favor in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, even though I am not one of your servants.”
The morality tale continues. Ruth’s persistence in seeking favor pays off again. Ask for what you need is the lesson. Ruth’s loyalty and unselfishness is rewarded. That she is a foreigner is irrelevant; that she demonstrates the law and custom is what’s important. And, Boaz's planfulness and kindness will be rewarded in time!
When were you persistent in asking for what you need?
Did it pay off?
Have you ever been in a “foreign” place or situation and somehow found just the right words or actions? What was the result?
Saturday Ruth 4:13-15 (NRSV)
Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a next-of-kin and may his name be renowned in Israel. He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.”
Through the actions of Ruth, Naomi is restored to her community and nourished in her life, even though she has lost much. And through the actions of Ruth, we are restored and nourished through the life of Jesus Christ. Naomi’s next-of-kin is our Savior, thanks to an ordinary young woman. That story will be repeated soon!
God, thank you all who act in your great plans! Amen.
La Jolla Lutheran Church is a member of Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, a fast-growing association of churches that believe the Bible. Other LCMC churches in the San Diego area include Penasquitos Lutheran Church at 14484 Penasquitos Drive; and St. Timothy Lutheran Church at 2602 Reo Drive. Check the list of more than 800 congregations to find an LCMC church near you.
The Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible (NRSV), copyright, 1989, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S. A. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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