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Following God Through It All

The Book of Ruth is much loved as "a tale of charm and delight" (David Atkinson) and "a quiet story of ordinary people going about their quiet lives." (Leon Morris) It is the story of two women, Ruth and Naomi, and their experience of God's providence as they trust in Him. "The book is a book about God. He rules over all and brings blessing to those who trust him." (Leon Morris) The book is set 'in the time of the judges', more than 1000 years before Christ.

Read Ruth 1:1-7

  • Reading these opening verses, what do you think the author wants us to think of Elimelek?

  • The initial 'complication' in the story is that these three women (Naomi, Ruth and Orpah) are left without any male relatives. Besides the grief and loss, what do you imagine would this would have meant for women living in ~1100BCE? (Especially for Naomi as a foreigner in Moab!)

Read Ruth 1:8-18

  • Why does Naomi send her daughters-in-law home? And why does Ruth refuse to leave her?

  • What is Ruth's priority here? Who do you think was more wise - Ruth or Orpah? Why? [1]

  • Consider again Ruth's words in verses 16-17. How do you imagine Ruth came to believe in Naomi's God, and how important was Naomi to her?

  • What can Naomi and Ruth's relationship teach us about making disciples and being disciples together?

Read Ruth 1:19-22

Bethlehem is about 80km from Moab, on the other side of the Dead Sea Rift Valley. The journey on foot would have taken many days, and may have been dangerous for two women to travel alone. Yet the author gives us none of the details of their journey.

  • What reception to the women of Bethlehem give to Naomi on her return home?

  • How does Naomi see herself differently now, compared to when she left? (Naomi means 'pleasant' and Mara means the opposite: 'bitter').

  • Why do you think Naomi blames God for her misfortune? Do you think she should? Why/why not? [2]

  • How do we respond to trials and tragedies in life?

    • Do you blame God, like Naomi?

    • Do you try to turn aside and start afresh, like Orpah?

    • Do you cling to those dearest to you, like Ruth?

  • Share which of these three women you most closely relate to in your own experiences of hard times.

Spend some time in prayer, that God in His Sovereignty would provide care and comfort in our times of need, and give us faith like Ruth and Naomi to follow Him through it all.

[1] The Hebrew word used in verse 14, translated 'cling', is the word dabaq, which is the word used in Genesis 2:24 when Adam is 'united' with Eve to become one flesh. It is almost certainly intentionally used here to make us think of Orpah's hope to marry again in Moab, in contrast to Ruth's decision to go with her mother-in-law.

[2] The theme of God's sovereignty comes up again and again in the Book of Ruth. There is a sense in which Naomi's decision to blame God for her situation is actually an acknowledgement of His sovereignty. After all, she is not blaming the Moabite God Chemosh - nor is she calling her God weak for being unable to protect her - she still believes God is in total control of everything.


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