The Book of Ruth: Lesson 1

Rev. Haak is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Lynden, Washington.

"Trust and Obey"—Ruth 1:1-18

Under Joshua's guidance, the land of Canaan had been divided among the twelve tribes (Joshua 13-19). Every family had its own inheritance, within which the family was to continue to live in its generations (I Kings 21:3Num. 36:7). This represented the Lords gracious care for them, and their inclusion in the covenant rest of God (Ps. 16:5, 6). Yet, sometimes the faith of the Israelites grew weak, especially when outward circumstances of famine and apostasy were heavy; and of themselves they severed that link with their inheritance. This was unbelief, a lack of steadfastness, an unwillingness to bow under the judgment upon the land and await the time of deliverance. 

The book of Ruth opens with the history of Elimelech and his family. These were true, believing children of God who had never shared in the idolatry and wickedness which had become so prevalent in the nation as a whole. But this does not mean that the wickedness of the day did not have its effect upon them. In the midst of a famine, Elimelech moves his family to Moab. Did he believe it was only a temporary move? No doubt he did. Yet, under the distress of the famine upon his family (Mahlon—"sickness"; Chilion—"wasting") he severed his tie with his holy inheritance. This was sin. 

The Lord is faithful to chasten, and to work in all of this His own gracious purpose, namely the bringing in of Ruth as a mother in the line of Christ. This does not excuse, but shows God's power and grace. Elimelech died in Moab. His sons, after marrying Moabitish women, also died. Thus, after ten or more years, Naomi is left a poor widow, living with her two daughters- in-law (seeIsaiah 47:9). 

Naomi decided to return to Judah, for she had heard that the Lord had granted deliverance and bread to His people. She urges her daughters-in-law to turn back. But Ruth reveals the work of God's love in her heart, implanted by the faith-testimony of her mother-in-law. She is bound to Israel's God and desires to live with Gods people. She returns with Naomi.

Points to Ponder:

1. Why did Elimelech take his family to Moab? What does the presence of a famine indicate?Deuteronomy 28:15-18

2. Was Elimelech's action justifiable? Why or why not? Are there similar examples of this same thing in the Old Testament? See Genesis 12

In light of your answer: 

a. In what ways do we show we are more concerned about the needs of our earthly life than with what we need spiritually? 

b. How do we sometimes at - tempt to escape the cross laid in our way by changing our place, rather than to take up that cross as we ought? 

3. Was the death of Naomi's, husband and sons a punishment? 

4. Should Naomi have encouraged her daughter-in-law to return with her so they could be with believers? Explain why she handled the situation the way she did. 

5. Give a character sketch of Naomi. Did she have self-pity, bitterness, godliness, a loving heart? 

6. Study in Names Find the meaning and significance of the following: 

Elimelech

Naomi 

Mahlon 

Chilion 

Mara 

Ruth 

7. Ruth's beautiful confession: 

a. Memorize Ruth 1:16, 17

b. Give the main points of her confession. 

c. Find other powerful professions in Scripture (i.e., Peter's, Joshua's, etc.) 

d. Are these words appropriate for weddings? 

e. What does Ruth's confession teach us about the bonds between us as Christian sisters/brothers? 

f. On another sheet of paper, write out your own profession. (Thinking through, and writing, can strengthen faith. Using Scripture's pattern and words is helpful.)