From the Pastor

The Radical Love of Ruth

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Here is this week's study guide for Ruth.  Please take time to pray for God to help us apply these things.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Daniel Block, Judges & Ruth, 1999.

Elyse M. Fitzpatrick & Dennis E. Johnson, Counsel from the Cross, 2009.

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, 1971.

Paul Miller, A Loving Life, 2014.

Head:  Understanding the Bible

 

1) Read Ruth 1:6-18.  Where does the conversation between Naomi and her two daughter-in-laws take place?  Why does she try to get rid of the only family she has?  What specifically does Naomi pray God will do for her daughters?

Hesed—Hebrew for covenant love.  It is in verse 8, “May the Lord deal kindly with you.”  Sometimes it is translated steadfast love or unfailing love.  Hesed is tricky to translate because it includes all of God’s positive attributes committing to his people.  God is stuck with us because of His hesed.  Or a better theological way of saying this would be: God voluntarily binds himself to us with his hesed.  He is willingly trapped in a relationship with you.  Love in this case is being used not as a feeling but an action.1

 

2) Were Ruth and Orpah followers of Yahweh at the time of this conversation?  (Read vs. 15 closely)  How does your answer shape your view of Ruth’s commitment to Naomi?

 

3) What is Ruth giving up to stay with Naomi?  What does Ruth have in her possession as she walks towards Bethlehem?  How will a depressed widow like Naomi survive alone? 

 

4) Read Genesis 12:1-3.  Compare Abraham’s sacrifices made in faith with Ruth.  How did God bless Abraham’s faith?  How then should we expect God to work through Ruth’s faith?

 

5) Compare Ruth’s deeds of faith with Jesus’ description of the deeds demanded by faith in Mark 8:34-38.  Who seems to have a better understanding of God’s hesed:  Naomi or Ruth?

 

Heart: Using the Gospel on Our Affections

“We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”            ~Madeleine Engle2

6) Why is a Ruth-like commitment so difficult?  What is your natural reaction to hard relationships? 

 

“There is no safe investment.  To love at all is to be vulnerable.  Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken.  If you want to be sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.  Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.  But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change.  It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable…The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and [anxieties] of love is Hell.”    

~C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

 7) Compare Ruth’s sacrifices made for Naomi with Jesus’ sacrifices made for us.  What do each have to put up with in this hesed relationship?  Whose sacrifice is greater?  Describe Jesus’ love for his people in your own words.

 

 

8) Read Ephesians 5:1-2.  How does Ruth model the principle of love as we have been loved, even before Jesus came?

 

 

Hands: Applying the Gospel to Our Lives

 

“...walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us…” ~Apostle Paul, Ephesians 5:2

 

9) Who is Jesus calling you to do hesed for?  In light of the command to do hesed, what do we need to repent of?

 

 

10) How can we model hesed in our relationships at home, in the workplace, and at Hope Church?  Make sure to process this question in light of the little word, as, in Ephesians 5:2. 

 

God’s disposition toward us is entirely different because we are beloved.  He isn’t simply tolerating us, regretting that he opened the door to the likes of us.  No we’re beloved.  This is the same word the Father used to describe his disposition to his Son, Jesus (see Matt. 3:17; 17:5; Eph. 1:6)3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

in Lament

Responding to Naomi's Grief

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I wanted to share two things with you in response to yesterday's sermon

First up is the quote from Nicholas Wolterstoff, Lament for a Son that ended the sermon:

“Blessed are those who mourn.” What can it mean? Who then are the mourners? The mourners are those who have caught a glimpse of God’s new day, who ache with all their being for that day’s coming, and who break out into tears when confronted with its absence. They are the ones who realize that in God’s realm of peace there is no one blind and who ache whenever they see someone unseeing. They are the ones who realize that in God’s realm there is no one hungry and who ache whenever they see someone starving. They are the ones who realize that in God’s realm there is no one falsely accused and who ache whenever they see someone imprisoned unjustly. They are the ones who realize that in God’s realm there is no one who fails to see God and who ache whenever they see someone unbelieving. They are the ones who realize that in God’s realm there is no one who suffers oppression and who ache whenever they see someone beat down. They are the ones who realize that in God’s realm there is no one without dignity and who ache whenever they see someone treated with indignity. They are the ones who realize that in God’s realm of peace there is neither death nor tears and who ache whenever they see someone crying tears over death. The mourners are aching visionaries."

Second is a study guide to help personalize what Naomi went through.  Here it is:

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Daniel Block, Judges & Ruth, 1999.

Paul Miller, A Loving Life, 2014.

Eugene Peterson, Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work, 1980.

David Powlison, Good and Angry, 2016.

 Head:  Understanding the Bible

Read Ruth 1:1-5, the background for understanding Naomi’s plight.  Here are some helpful definitions that will give deeper meaning to the verses.

*In the days when the judges ruled— in the days when few believed Yahweh to be King

*Bethlehem— “house of bread” or “storehouse for bread”.  It’s a picture of fullness.

*Elimelech— “my god is King” * Mahlon— “weak”

*Naomi— “pleasant” *Chilion— “frail”

Now re-read the introduction substituting in the above definitions.  What options would does Naomi have at this point?  List everything she has lost.  What does Naomi have to live for?

 

  2) Who is to blame for this tragedy?  Elimelech?  The husband makes all the decisions.  Mahlon & Chilion?  They married outside of the faith in clear violation of God’s law (Deuteronomy 7:14).  God?  The covenant in Deuteronomy 28:15-68 describe consequences for disobedience which includes drought and famine.  Does the author blame Naomi? 

 

3) Who does Naomi blame ? (Ruth 1:13)  Do you have the freedom to blame and be blunt like Naomi?  Consider Psalm 10:1, 13:1, 22:1, 88:14-18 or Isaiah 63:17. 

 

 4) Read Ruth 1:19-21.  What two words are used to describe God?  The Lord, is the covenant name for God, Yahweh.  What do these words tell us about God’s character?

 Heart:  Using the Gospel on Our Affections

 “Naomi’s cry has all the depth of covenantal grief about it.  Sure, maybe Yahweh could be expected to stand against some Moabite girls, but Naomi is an Israelite, a member of his covenant, one of his own children, and yet his hand has persecuted her.  There is deep, ancient, forever-binding covenantal anguish in her complaint.  Yahweh is her God and yet he is against her.  He has not only allowed but orchestrated the min-holocaust of which she is the sole survivor, left destitute and without hope.  That hurts!  You might expect to be treated badly by some stranger on the street, but not by your dad.”                   ~ Libbie Groves1

 5) What’s the difference between lament and complaining?  Is there an acceptable kind of bitterness, done in faith?  Should we raise our fist to God?  Why is this hard to do?

 

6) Bitterness is a kind of anger.  It is anger mixed with hurt.  And anger in it’s simplest form, according to David Powlison, is: “I’m against that!”2  Father, I needed that!  What are you angry, hurt and bitter about?  What has God taken away from you?  Take time to write them out.

 

7) Consider Jesus.  What would Jesus have to complain about?  Did he have a life with bitter circumstances?  Read Matthew 26:36-44.  How does Jesus lament?  What about his cry from the cross (Psalm 22:1)?  The gospel teaches us that Jesus’ lonely lament on the cross was the revelation of God’s greatness, power and love (John 12:23, 13:31).  How is that comforting?

 

Hands:  Applying the Gospel to our Lives

Everything is needful that He sends; nothing can be needful that He withholds. - John Newton

8) We must learn to lament.  A lament is an honest cry addressed to the God whose hand seems to be treating us like an enemy.  A lament says, “I am against this, God help me trust you!”  A lament assumes God is sovereign over every detail and is a good Father.  A lament deliberately tells ourselves to move from the misery of our current circumstances and towards the steadfast love of the Lord.  As you write out a lament, preach to yourself the gifts God has promised you in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

 9) Lament should not happen alone.  The Psalms are songs sung together asking God to be faithful.  Who can you talk to about your grief and frustration?  Set up a time to pray together.

 

 10) Did God leave Naomi alone in her bitterness?  (Ruth 1:16-18)  Does God leave you alone in your bitter situations?  How can God use you to comfort another in their time of lament?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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