Faithfulness of God
Setting the Context: Read Judges 21:25 and Ruth 1.
* What was the context in which the story of Ruth takes place and what was the ruling/governmental structure in place in Israel at the time?
* If you lived in Israel during this time, would you be anxious about the political situation? Are there aspects of it that sound like anything like we experience today?
* Have you made choices in the midst of difficult circumstances that seemed right in your own eyes, but didn’t work out?
In tough times when we’re afraid and anxious…sin looks right in our eyes. No one gives into temptation unless they believe what they are turning to will give them what they want. To say it plainly, we give into temptation and turn from trusting God simply because we think what we are turning toward will make us happier! Nobody desires something thinking, this will bring me and those I love destruction and misery…but as people kept doing what they thought was best, things just kept getting worse! – Brad, from the sermon
Brad mentioned that the drought in Israel is part of the covenant curses mentioned in Deuteronomy 28:12/22.
* Why is this important for understanding the way in which God is interacting with His people?
* What was the relationship between Moab and Israel during the time of Ruth?
Leaders: Another way to ask this is “how does God use the drought to bring his people back to Himself?”
In our series of studies on Ruth and Esther this summer, the theme that has arisen time and time again is the “providence of God.”
* How Does Brad describe/define the providence of God?
* Have you seen God’s hand of providence in your life? What about in the lives of your parents or friends?
Leaders: Brad said, “God’s providence basically means how his Control and his Care come together.” And said that Ruth and Esther are “books where everything seems to go wrong, when life seems to be entirely out of his control, when we feel separated from his care, and yet Esther and Ruth show us what we need to know about God in our fear…they show us that God is in control and that he cares!”
Brad mentioned that anxiety comes when we try to find our hope, comfort, and meaning in something that’s unstable and uncertain. This is the crossroads where we find Ruth when she chooses between Judah and Yahweh, and Moab and false gods.
* How does Ruth respond to this crossroads moment? What is Orpha’s response to Naomi’s entreaties that she stay in Moab?
* What are examples of things we often place our trust or hope in? What do we turn to in our fear?
* How has this led you to anxiety in the past?
* Can you give examples of how God has revealed to you the weakness of unstable objects of hope?
Leaders: For Ruth, this was a seminal moment in her life. She isn’t just pledging herself to Naomi, but she is clearly and strongly (with an oath!) putting her faith in the God of Israel. If you’re comfortable sharing or have a poignant example to give, it might be a good opportunity to share some personal experience with God’s mercy to you in the area of trusting God over other good, yet unstable things.
God is faithful even in their failures and faithlessness…and he pursues…and we see even their sin and their suffering are redeemed and are wrapped up in his blessing. No matter what you’ve done or what mess you are in…don’t think for a moment that it is to far gone. The point isn’t how Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth got into the mess they’re in, but what does God do now that they are there, and how will they respond. – Brad, from the sermon
Knowing our Bibles: Often God lavishes his mercy and goodness upon us in the wilderness in order to lead us to repentance – Ruth is a beautiful example of this! The Bible often uses stories to illustrate important principles and gospel truths that can refresh our hearts even thousands of years later.
* How does the geography in Ruth 1 hint at the broader concept of repentance?
* What literary technique did writers in the Old Testament use to emphasize their point?
* Perhaps you’ve grown up in a church environment and have read this story many times in years past; are there things about Ruth that occurred to you on Sunday which you’d not considered before?
Leaders: Brad mentioned that our English translations miss this, but Hebrew would repeat the same word over and over over again as a way to reinforce a point. In this case, 10 times in 15 verses the narrator used the Hebrew word “ hub” which means “return.” There were several words he could use to communicate that idea, but “shub” is the main word used for turning back to God’s grace and mercy – its a word that means repentance. As Brad said, “There is more happening on this road than a geographic returning to the promised land, the question isn’t just will the return to the land, but will the repent and turn to God? Will they trust him and experience his grace?”
The bigger picture: Brad mentioned that Ruth 1 started with a famine and it ends with a harvest. There is bread in Bethlehem…A harvest that came because God visited his people, but there’s a bigger work at play here.
* If we look at the end of the book, what descendent eventually comes from Ruth?
* How does this illustrate the nature of God’s work in our lives? Does He only work through blessings and good times?
Leaders: Ultimately, God brings a worldwide blessing through Ruth – Jesus the Christ will descend from Ruth! God uses the ordinary and mundane along with the suffering to bring about good for all who trust in Him (Romans 8:28). Just like Ruth, we cannot see now how God is using the circumstances in our lives for good, but like Ruth we need to trust in God’s providential care and work in our difficulties and our ordinary days.
Takeaway questions for further reflection…
* Am I following God to get what I want…or is following God enough for me?
* Are there concerns I have that are bringing me anxiety because I’m placing my hope in unstable things rather than in God’s providential care for my life and family?
* Do I really trust that God is working through the mundane and the difficult circumstances of my life for my good and his glory?
* Am I open to guidance from Christian friends when they see me pursuing a path that seems right to me, but not to others?
* How does my heart respond to trials (and…what are my natural inclinations)? Do I grow bitter; do I return to my own gods; or do I trust Yahweh?
* Are there people I can encourage with the truth that God is providentially working in even the wilderness of difficulty, or the mundane details of daily life?
In the worst times, God is at work. He doesn’t give us all our desires he lovingly teaches us to desire him; and then he gives us himself! Trust him, as Peter says, cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you! – Brad, from the sermon