As I look around this room I do not believe a single person present has not had a tragedy, to some level, in their life. Tragedy impacts every person: male or female; without regard to race; rich or poor: important or a minion. Tragedy is no respecter of persons.
1. What are some types of tragedies that come into our lives? (Illness, broken relationships, death, job loss, great financial loss, home burns, etc.)
2. How does tragedy impact our spiritual lives? (My maternal grandfather buried his wife and all four of his children and yet he continued to trust in God.)
God does not bring tragedy into our lives! But sometimes He allows tragedy to come into our lives because of poor choices we make and at other times it is simply because we live in a fallen world. Each of us, as individuals, must deal directly with God to realize the best outcome spiritually for each tragedy we encounter.
3. If you had to pick an overriding theme from the Book of Judges, what would it be? (The final verse in Judges is repeated several times in the book: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever he wanted.” Judges 21:25. One could choose to say God’s never ending love and efforts to turn His people back to trusting in Him. There are several themes running throughout Judges that would fit.)
The theme of rebellion to God in the book is a general statement about the nation’s attitude. There were individuals who remained faithful to God throughout their lifetimes.
Today’s study is the first of two in Ruth and we will see how God can work to bring about His purposes, even in the tragedies of our lives. While God does not bring tragedies upon us, in His sovereignty He can use them to bring about His eternal purposes. While we do not know the exact date of the events in Ruth, we do know it was in the last century of the Judges based on the genealogy provided in the last chapter.
The Setting: Read Ruth 1:1-6
A Desperate Return! Read Ruth 1:6-10
1. What facts contributed to Naomi’s situation that made it desperate? (An older woman, living in a foreign land, her husband and two sons had died, and no visible means of income.)
2. What did Naomi decide to do? Why? (She would return to “the land of Judah”, her homeland, “because she had heard in Moab that the Lord had paid attention to His people’s need by providing them food.” Although not stated, there was perhaps the possibility that a “kinsman redeemer” might provide for her.)
3. What did Naomi’s daughters-in-law do? Why? (Although Naomi told them to return to their families and prayed that God would give them rest and that they would find new husbands, they would not turn back.)
Ruth didn’t want them to venture to a place and people they didn’t know where she couldn’t promise them a family (husbands). This was a sign of kindness from Naomi.
4. What does this say about her daughters-in-law?
5. What does this say about Naomi?
6. What steps could we take toward trusting God if life turns bitter for us? (Job 13:15 “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him;…” Completely sold out to God no matter what.)
7. Should a believer be ashamed for feeling desperate or distraught? (No. When we experience tragedy in our lives there are phases we must work through and allow God to do His work in our hearts. David, the man after God’s own heart felt desperate and distraught many times. But every time he turned to God—as we should. See Psalm 69; 40)
We need not ever feel ashamed for feeling desperate or distraught. God cares for us and provides help through the support of family, friends, fellow Christians, and healthcare providers.
A Bitter Plea! Read Ruth 1:11-14
1. What reasons did Naomi give for wanting her daughters-in-law to return to their homes? (So they could take husbands from their own people.)
2. What does this say about Naomi? (Even in her desperate situation, she was thinking about what was best for them.)
3. How did Naomi view her situation at this point?
4. What makes it so hard to honestly express our feelings when facing a difficulty? (Many times we are confused and may not have clear thoughts about how we feel in our own mind.)
5. Do you find it more difficult to express emotions to others or to God?
6. After Naomi’s speech, how did the two daughters-in-law react? (Orpah wept and tearfully agreed to do as Naomi asked. Ruth, however, “clung” to Naomi, remaining steadfast in her commitment to go with her.)
Notice that all three women wept over their struggle in this situation. There was no easy solution or quick fix. Orpah followed Naomi’s urging and headed back to her home, but Ruth continued on the journey with Naomi.
Our next passage contains a very familiar promise. Although many people can tell you what it says, few can give the context of the promise.
A Lifelong Promise! Read Ruth 1:15-18
Naomi made one more attempt to encourage Ruth to go back to her people, but to no avail.
1. What does a person’s response to life’s difficulties reveal about what he or she values?
2. How do the difficulties of life sharpen our faith in God?
Although it can be hard to see the good when we are in the midst of some trial in our lives, with the benefit of hindsight, we can often appreciate that our faith grows most during these challenging times. Just as Naomi and Ruth were a part of God’s much larger plan, so we are part of a much larger picture. Our task is to remain faithful to God throughout all of life, regardless of what is impacting our lives at various times.
Compare Ruth’s pledge to Peter’s pledge: Matt. 26:33-34, 74-75; Mark 14:29-30, 68-72; Luke 22:33-34, 60-61; John 13:37-38; 18:27.
· Go where you go
· Live where you live
· Your people, my people
· Your God, my God
· Where you die, I die
· Where you are buried, I’ll be buried
· My God punish me severely if I fail to do this.
· Though everyone else leaves you, I never will leave You
· I’ll never forsake You
· I’ll go with You to prison and to death
· I’ll lay down my life for You
3. How are these pledges similar? (They are all said with great confidence and out of love.)
They are different in the sense that Peter spoke without really counting the cost or knowing what the cost might be.
4. How do these pledges compare to your pledge to follow Christ?
Summarize and Challenge:
1. What does Ruth’s response to Naomi teach us about the value of community and relationships?
2. What similar promises can you make to God today?
3. Do our actions challenge others to have a desire to worship the same God we worship as Naomi’s actions did for Ruth?
4. What trial might someone we know be experiencing that we can come along beside them and encourage them in their struggle?
5. What trial or difficulty are you presently facing? What actions can you take that will demonstrate faith in God to see you through?
Pray: That we will help others when needed and accept help when needed.