Paul Miller, in his helpful book, A Loving Life, declares that you don't apply the Grand Canyon or a visit to a majestic cathedral. Stunned by beauty, you can only worship and look in awe. Ruth is meant to be applied in this way. So here are some helpful resources to better understand and apply the book of Ruth:
First up is a short video summarizing the teaching of Ruth by the folks at the Bible project. They tell the story well and connect the dots to Jesus. Click here for the link. It's also listed below.
Second, the plan for small groups that will begin in a few weeks is to get together to discuss and apply the sermon texts. I put together a study guide based on yesterday's message. I hope you find it helpful:
Iain M. Duguid, Esther & Ruth, Reformed Expository Commentary, 2005.
Sinclair B. Ferguson, Faithful God, 2005.
Paul Miller, A Loving Life, 2014.
Eugene Peterson, Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work, 1980.
Rebecca Manley Pippert, Out of the Saltshaker and Into the World, 1979.
Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Living in a Pluralistic Society: Judges, Daniel & Joseph, 2006.
Ruth is a Moabitess, from the land of Moab. To get to Moab, one would have to cross the Jordan River and go south east to the other side of the Dead Sea, outside of the Promised Land. Moab can be translated, “Whose your father?!”
1) Read about Moab’s father in Genesis 19:30-38. Read the name of the Moabite king and how he was defeated by Ehud in Judges 3. Then check out the future of the Moabite god, Chemosh, in Isaiah 25:10-11. Israel called this god, “filth.” Does the Bible talk kindly about Moabites? Summarize what it was like to be a Moabite in your own words. What or who is in your story that you are ashamed of?
The Moabites repeatedly oppressed and harassed the nation of Israel. They are simply living out mankind’s obsessive desire for power, to be like God, in order to hide shame and weakness. It is life outside of Eden. What do you think you need in order to be respected and liked?
Reread Ruth 1:1-2. How bad must it have been for Elimelech to take his family to live in Moab? And how welcome would Ruth be in Israel as a Moabitess? Describe what it would be like for Ruth walking into Bethlehem in light of the new information you have about Moab and Israel’s relationship. This is how non-Christians feel about church.
2) Think like an outsider. How do we as Christians use words and terms that would unnecessarily alienate outsiders and keep them from being interested in Jesus?
3) Read Ruth 1:16-17. What kind of life is Ruth signing up for? Is there a better confession of faith in the Old Testament? How can we honor outsiders?
Ruth takes place in the days of the Judges (Ruth 1:1). Between the death of Joshua and the anointing of Saul, there was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in their own eyes. There is a downward spiritual and moral spiral for God’s people throughout the book of Judges so that by the time the book ends, Israel looks and acts just like Canaan. The events that take place in Ruth occur in the midst of spiritual and moral chaos. There is no agreement on who is God, what He is like and whether or not He has the power to act in history.
4) How is the setting of Ruth, during the days of the Judges, relevant to the church in America today? What words would you use to describe non-Christians and the culture around us?
5) What do you chase in order to feel like you are somebody and not just “another bum from the neighborhood? (Rocky) ” Read the quotes below and consider this question. What kind of Lord and master is the God who would honor Ruth? And how does the Lord of the Creation compare with the thing you are pursuing to be somebody?
“There are no outstanding, historically prominent figures in Ruth, no splendid kings, no charismatic judges, no fiery prophets; it is a plain story about two widows and a farmer whose lives are woven into the fabric of God’s salvation through the ordinary actions of common life.” ~Peterson, 77
“Whatever controls you is our lord. The person who seeks power is controlled by power. The person who seeks acceptance is controlled by the people he or she wants to please We do not control ourselves. We are controlled by the lord of our life.” ~Rebecca Pippert
6) What gives Ruth’s story eternal significance? How does the ordinary in Ruth being honored bring relief and comfort to you?
THE FEAST OF PENTECOST:
The book of Ruth was commonly read out loud during the Feast of Pentecost. Pentecost was a celebration of God giving the law to Israel on Mt. Sinai after bringing them out from slavery in Egypt. It took place 50 days after Passover. Three “nobodies” (Naomi, Boaz & Ruth) are given center stage by proclaiming that their story is part of God’s story.
7) “All things are more bearable if we make a story of them. And ultimate [tragedies] are made both more bearable and significant when the story is the Ultimate Story.” ~Joseph Sitler
Who connects Ruth to the Bible’s big story? (Ruth 4) Who connects you and I to the Bible’s true story? (Ruth 4, Matthew 1:3-6)
How are we connected to this story? (Hebrews 11) Read 1 Peter 2:9-12 to read how God sees you in Christ.