To Moab and Back: Ruth 1 (7)
Opening Prayer: Psalm 4.1
Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have relieved me in my distress;
Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer.
Sing Psalm 4.1
(Picardy: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent)
Answer when I call, Lord Jesus, God of all my righteousness!
Bend Your holy ear, relieve us from all terror, all distress!
Lord, receive our prayer, release us; send Your grace to save and bless!
Read Ruth 1; meditate on verses 6 and 7.
1. Why did Naomi say to call here by the name, “Mara”?
2. Compare verse 1 with verse 22. What contrasts can you identify?
There is an elegance to the structure of the book of Ruth. Whoever the writer was, he or she wanted to make this book a joy to read. We see that already in chapter 1, where verse 22 contrasts with verse 1 to plant the seeds of hope and blessing in the soil of rebellion and loss: famine, harvest; leaving, returning; to Moab, from Moab; with a faithless husband, with a faithful daughter-in-law. There is a simple beauty in this careful structuring of Ruth’s story that we will see in various other ways as we continue. The effect of this is to make the story delightful, memorable, and compelling.
Naomi experienced a good deal of bitterness in the land of Moab. She lost her husband and two sons. She seemed to understand the hand of the Lord was in this; He is sovereign over all things. But she did not rail at the Lord nor curse His “unfairness.” She accepted His work in her life and sought Him once again. God had not blessed her in Moab – at least, so she thought. She longed to return to the place where God visited His people and blessed them. Returning would be painful, but she was willing to admit her mistakes and be reunited with the people of God, whatever that required.
While in Moab, she gained the great blessing of Ruth, the Moabitess. Ruth loved her, sympathized with her suffering, and determined to accompany her wherever she went. She was willing to give up future prospects of a husband and family, if that’s what accompanying Naomi required. She committed herself to Naomi’s God, although she could not have known very much about Him at this stage. She knew enough to believe in Him as good and faithful. God would take it from there.
What is the purpose of the book of Ruth? We’ll have more to say about this later in our study. For now, the purpose is to turn our eyes to God, call us to seek His promises, and hope in Him, rather than in our own wits or wiles, for the blessings we need. Chapter 1, which looked like the beginning of disaster, will turn out to be the beginning of blessings, which always begins in repentance and return to the Lord and His promises.
Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
“Now they [Naomi and Ruth] came to Bethlehem…” (Ruth 1.22)
“Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child” (Lk. 2.4, 5). They came also.
Naomi and Ruth had hope because they had heard the stories about God. Mary also had hope because she too had heard about God. And before these three faithful and hopeful women, there was Rahab. She had hope because she had heard about God: “I know that the LORD has given you the land…For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites…And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (Josh. 2.9-11).
Rahab was recounting to the two spies things that had happened forty years before; and yet the terror and awe that these people felt about God was palpable. “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down…by faith…Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace” (Heb. 11.30, 31).
Here are the stories of four women who by faith believed the things that they heard about God. And their simple and determined faith led to actions that were the beginning of blessings that have reached through history to us in Jesus (Matt. 1.5; Ruth 4.17-22; Lk. 2.11-16).
Have we heard about God? Do we believe what He says? And do we act on what we believe?
1. What had Rahab heard about God? What about Naomi and Ruth? How about Mary?
2. What have you heard about God? What does God expect you to do with what you’ve heard?
3. What blessings might you expect to see in and through you as you act on what you’ve heard about God?
“I say with the prophet, in the words, as it were of destroyed Jerusalem, ‘He who should comfort me has departed far from me.’ … For I, my good man, have, as it were, lost my children, since through earthly cares I have lost works of righteousness. Therefore ‘call me not Naomi, that is lovely; but call me Mara, for I am full of bitterness.’” Gregory the Great (540-604), Letter 1.6
Closing Prayer: Psalm 4.6-8
Seek the joy of the Lord for the day ahead. Rest in His Presence and love. Commit your concerns and fears to Him. Review your day at the end of the day, and lie down in the Lord in peace.
Sing Psalm 4.6-8
(Picardy: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent)
Wicked men may scorn and try us, casting doubt upon Your grace;
send Your Spirit, Lord, don’t deny us till we see Your glorious face.
You Who sent Your Son to buy us, fill our hearts with joy and grace.
Safely in Your peace, let us lie, Lord; keep us in Your love and care.
Rooted in Your strong and wise Word, may we know Your comfort there.
Guard and keep us till we die, Lord; go before us everywhere.
T. M. and Susie Moore
We’re in the process of moving, so our Scriptorium series on Luke will resume April 17. All the studies in Ruth are available for free in our bookstore by clicking here. Order a copy for yourself and a friend, and work your way through this great book together.
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