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Los Lunas Cornerstone

Church of the Nazarene

Study (Ruth 1)

    When I was taking my ministry preparation classes, one of the first classes I took was titled “Preaching and Teaching”, and the goal of this class was to give ministers and future ordained ministers tools and methods for preaching and teaching a Biblically founded sermon or lesson. Part of that process was to actually prepare a sermon to preach to the class, and then the class would give you constructive criticism about the sermon.
    As the teacher was giving the assignment and giving parameters for us to work within for the assignment so everyone was about on equal ground as far as what we would be critiqued on, one of the things he said has always stuck with me. He said that generally, when we pick a passage to preach on, we should not preach on a passage that’s more than ten verses long because the scope is too wide. At the time I thought, “Oh yeah, that’s a really good idea. After all, there are some passages that you could preach on just one or two verses!”
    Generally, it’s a pretty good guideline…but today, I’m tossing that guideline out the window.
    There’s a specific reason for that though, and it’s not without the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Today, I want to continue this conversation we’re having about developing an ear for God’s voice, how to listen better to Him, and acting on what He says. Last week we talked about the habit of retreating to a special quiet place to better connect with God. Today, we’ll talk about another habit that is vital for disciples of Jesus to develop in order to be more sensitive to God’s voice and more aware of His presence with us all the time.
    2 Timothy 3:16-17 says this, and I love the way the New International Reader’s Version says this, “God has breathed life into all Scripture. It is useful for teaching us what is true. It is useful for correcting our mistakes. It is useful for making our lives whole again. It is useful for training us to do what is right. By using Scripture, the servant of God can be completely prepared to do every good thing.”
    This passage assures us that every word out of Scripture is useful for some Godly purpose in our lives. All of it. Whatever it is that God wants to accomplish in our lives will be guided in some way by His Holy Word. This is important for us to remember because as we’re becoming more active listeners to His voice, we need to understand that if what we’re hearing is contrary, or opposite, of what the Bible says, then we’re not hearing the voice of God. The Spirit speaking to you will always speak Biblical truth.
    Hebrews 4:12 is important for us to call to mind as well as we look at today’s passage, “For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, even penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (NASB).
    The Bible is unique from all other books for this reason right here: that His Word will speak directly to your life and what you are dealing with right now. His Spirit uses His Word to speak life into our lives. He takes passages that have never touched us before and opens our eyes to His character through those passages in ways that touch us deeply and change our relationship with Him.
    No other book can do that. Not one single book is capable of doing that because no other book is inspired by God, breathed into life by the Spirit.
    So, the Bible is important to us, we know this. But how do you study it so the Spirit can use it the way He desires to? How do you feel about trying to read the whole Bible? Is that a daunting or overwhelming thought? Have you read it all before? If so, you probably learned a few things about getting the most out of Scripture.
    Do you see the Bible as information to be gathered? A tool to learn how to live life? As a way to get to know God?
    This may be surprising to you, but most Christians do not actually know how to study the Bible. And I’m not talking about getting out Hebrew-English dictionaries and Greek Lexicons and keeping a library full of commentaries put together by Biblical scholars. I’m talking about every day, sit down with the Bible, just you and God, and getting into His Word in a way that allows Him to bring it to life within you.
    So, that’s exactly what we’re going to do this morning. We’re going to dig into the first chapter of Ruth, and we’re going to learn some practical, every single day tools and methods for digging into and studying God’s word without all the fluff.
    Here’s where the most challenging part for you this morning is going to be: I’m going to read the whole first chapter of Ruth. You may be tempted to kind of…zone out. Try to stay engaged. Start asking yourself some of these questions as I’m reading: Who is speaking? What’s happening in this passage? What does this teach me about God’s character? What does this teach me about His relationship with me?
    So, we’re going to just as a series of questions to guide our study of this passage so we can learn how to study the Bible every day through practicing together.
1. Who?
—Who is speaking, who are the speakers, who is being spoken to?
    Well, we don’t have the name of the author who wrote down the book of Ruth. The writer is an unnamed person. I can tell you that tradition says it was the prophet Samuel, but this passage doesn’t state that. So, as far as what we can know from Scripture, the writer is unnamed.
    Who are the speakers in the passage, then, and who are they speaking to? In verse 8, we have the first person speaking, and it’s Naomi, and we’re told that she’s speaking to her two daughters-in-law. In verse 10, her two daughters-in-law answer her. In verses 11-18, we see a back and forth conversation between Naomi and her two daughters-in-law, and in verse 14 we learn their names: Orpah and Ruth. So there we have the main persons in this passage: Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah.
—How does that help us understand the book/passage?
    One of the things that could be said about not knowing definitively who wrote the book, but knowing for sure who it is about, may help us understand that what is important here is the people in the story. This is a story about two ordinary women and a part of their lives. Maybe one of the things that we could understand from this knowledge is that even in the lives of ordinary people and their every day actions, God is alive and working, and deeply concerned for the welfare of His people.
—Who is the author writing to? Who was the original audience?
    This question helps us understand context. The author of the book of Ruth doesn’t state specifically who it is written to. So here’s where you have to sometimes carry a question over to the next chapter, or even until the end of the book. So, if we do that, we find at the end of the book in chapter 4 a genealogy from Ruth’s line that leads to King David. Since that’s included in the book, we can understand from the context that this was probably written to the Jewish people at large, because they would be the ones interested in where King David came from.
2. What?
—What is happening in this passage?
    Here’s where we make sure we understand what exactly is happening. Verse 1 tells us that there was a famine in the land and so a man of Bethlehem moved to Moab with his wife and sons, and verse 2 says they remained there.
    Verse 3 says that the man, Naomi’s husband, Elimelech died. Verse 4 says that Naomi’s two sons took Moabite women as wives, and that they lived in Moab about ten years. Then Naomi’s sons also died.
    Upon hearing that there was food again in Judah, Naomi decided to return to Judah, but told both her daughters-in-law to return to their mothers homes. They both told her that they would not leave her but would go with her. Naomi insisted however, that the women should go back home. One daughter-in-law does, Orpah. But Ruth gives this beautiful speech about how she will follow Naomi to the point of death.
    Naomi and Ruth both come to Bethlehem and Naomi, out of bitterness for all that had been taken away from her, gives herself the nickname, Mara, which if your Bible has footnotes like mine for verse 20, means bitter.
—What is the context (what happens before and after?)
    This is a question that is particularly important when you’re looking at a much smaller passage, like a few verses settled in the midst of a larger passage. We need to understand overall what is happening as well as the specifics of the passage.
    There’s nothing before this passage because we’re at the beginning of the book, but we can briefly look after. Just after Ruth 1, we see that Naomi remembers a family member named Boaz who was wealthy. Ruth goes to Boaz to gather food for her and Naomi, and as she’s doing that, Boaz starts to take notice of her.
    See, that helps us understand how God was working in the lives of Ruth and Naomi, and even Boaz. God was using this situation, a famine, the death of Naomi’s husband and sons, to work what was good for Naomi and Ruth. He brought them back to His land to provide for them in a way that wouldn’t have been possible in Moab. So again we see that God was working in the lives of ordinary people.
—What genre is this?
    Sometimes this can be helpful information so we can understand how a passage might be applied to us. Is it narrative, is it prophecy, is it a gospel, is it poetry, is it history, is it law, is it a letter, is it apocalyptic, is it wisdom literature?
    In the case of the book of Ruth, it fits into two genres: it’s a narrative, it tells a story; and it is history, it gives historical information about a historical figure of importance, who in this case ends up being King David. So, the fact that this is a narrative genre again tells us that God is working and interested in the lives of every day people. The fact that it is history tells us that this story is important to the past and future of God’s people.
3. When?
—When was the book written, or when did it take place?
    Sometimes you can answer both of these questions, sometimes you can’t. Verse 1 tells us that this happened in the days of the judges. When was that? There’s some wiggle room there, but a good guess is between 1380 and 1100 BC. How do I know that? Well, here’s where modern technology and greater access to information can come in handy. Google it! “When was the period of the judges?” I promise you, Googling information like this isn’t cheating, just make sure the site you get the information from is Christ-centered.
    As far as when the book was written, we have a clue for that as well. Remember I told you about that genealogy at the end of Ruth? Well it starts with Naomi, to Ruth and Boaz, to Obed, then Jesse, and then David. They couldn’t have known that information if this was written during Ruth’s lifetime, right? This tells us that the book of Ruth was written sometime during or after King David’s rule. Now, when was that? Well, vast knowledge available to each of us online tells us that it was sometime after 1010 BC.
    Why is this information important? Well, because knowing the “when” helps us understand what kind of cultural issues may need to be considered. Israel in the time of the judges was culturally much different than Israel in the time of Christ.
4. Where?
—Where does this take place?
    This is a fairly simple question to answer for most of the Old Testament. Really, with the exception of parts of Genesis and Exodus, when God’s people were in Egypt, and the books that were written when God’s people were in exile in Babylon, most of the Old Testament takes place in Israel. The New Testament gets a little trickier as the apostles and disciples travel to make disciples in different places, but for the book of Ruth, it takes place in Judah, which at the time was still part of Israel. The country of Moab is mentioned, but only as a point of detail in the story.
    Why is this detail important? We find out that Ruth is a Moabite. She is not Jewish. Yet, she makes the choice in Ruth 1:16 to follow the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to follow Naomi’s God, the one true God. She wasn’t one of “God’s people”, but still she was able to make the choice to follow Him. He blessed that decision when He put her in the line of David, and ultimately…in the line of Christ. That is important for us to know. It tells us that know only does God work in the everyday lives of ordinary people, but that He is willing to work through anyone that wants to follow Him. He is accessible to all people. That’s good news!
5. Why?
—Why was this written, for what purpose?
    This is where it’s handy to go back to 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man or woman of God may be fully capable, equipped for every good work.” (NASB) In light of this scripture, what might be the purpose of the book of Ruth?
    Well, it teaches us that God works through ordinary people like you and me. It teaches us that God invites all people to come to Him. It teaches us that Ruth was an ancestor of King David and ultimately Christ Jesus. It connects with Romans 8:28, which gives the truth that God causes all things to work for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Naomi loved God, and all things were worked for her good. Ruth made the choice to love God, and all things were worked for her good. Boaz loved God, and all things were worked for his good.
    So, this passage might not rebuke or correct us, or train us in righteousness, or equip us for good work, but it teaches us a lot of really important theology. Theology is simply what we believe about God, who He is, and what He does. This passage teaches us a lot about who God is and what He does. And isn’t THAT the point of reading the Bible and studying it in depth like this? The point is to know the God who inspired it to be written. Wow! So we learned a lot about this God that we have a relationship with just by asking these questions.
6. How?
    This is the last of the questions that I use to shape my study time. What I’m going to do with these questions though, is give you the questions, and ask that this week as you study and spend time with the Lord, you use these “how” questions to dig in to Ruth 1 deeper and connect with it more.
—How does this Old Testament passage reveal Christ Jesus?
—How should I relate to God through what this passage shows me?
—How can I apply what I’ve learned to my life today?
    In addition, on the back of your bulletin, I’ve listed additional questions you can apply to this passage, or other passages as you read them. Not all of them apply to each passage, but when they do, they will greatly help you understand the Bible better and thereby understand the God who wrote it better.

1. Is there any cultural background that would be helpful to know?
2. Is there any historical background that would be helpful to know?
3. (Old Testament) How does the passage/concept find its fulfillment in the New Testament?
4. (New Testament) Does this passage or verse show up in the Old Testament? If so, how does the original context give insight into the NT passage?
5. (NT) Can this passage be illustrated from the Old Testament? How?
6. What are the key words in this sentence? Why are they important?
7. Is there any repetition of words, phrases, ideas? (This can show importance)
8. Is there a contract of things that are different?
9. Is there a comparison of things that are alike?
10. Is there a list given? Why might that be important?
11. Is there a cause and effect?
12. Is there a conjunction? (And, but, for, therefore, since, because…means you need to search for the rest of the context!)
13. Are there figures of speech or idioms? (Lamp unto my feet; harden your hearts; double-edged sword—what do they mean?)
14. Are there questions asked…or answers given?
15. Is there a purpose statement given?
16. Is there actions or roles of God mentioned?
17. Are there any emotions or emotional terms?
18. Does the passage give me a command?
19. What do we learn about God’s character or nature?
20. What do we learn about people?
21. What do we learn about how to relate with God and/or others?

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