- Susan Brown
Ladies’ Bible Study – Ruth
Text: Ruth 1-4
Write a thumb-nail sketch of the person’s life.
Ruth left everything behind. She left her security, her friends, and her hope for her future. Ruth decided she would rather have God than family, friends, or security. She was willing to give up everything and follow Naomi back to Israel where she would be a stranger. When we give up everything and trust God, amazing things happen. They certainly happened to Ruth!
We don’t know much about her upbringing and early life, other than she was a Moabite, one of the enemies of God’s people, the Israelites. We know that she probably believed in and worshipped the idol, Chemosh. But things changed for Ruth when she married a young Israelite man. He wasn’t a healthy guy. In fact, his name meant “sickly.” But she must have loved him and his kind mother, Naomi. From them she learned about the kind, loving God they worshipped. When her husband and his father and brother died, Naomi decided to go back to Israel.
Ruth had a choice then. She could go back to her family and look for another husband. But if she did that, she would have to return to Chemosh. If she went with Naomi, she would probably never see her parents and brothers and sisters again. She would be a stranger.
Besides that, the only way a woman could survive in that society was to get married. Her husband would take care of her. If he died, her sons would be responsible for her. Women couldn’t go out and get jobs.
Who would want to marry a Moabite woman? Not the Israelites. They didn’t like Moabites. They looked down on them. Yet Ruth weighed those things against following God. She chose Him. She left everything behind and insisted on going with Naomi to Israel.
Life wasn’t easy for them when they arrived back in Israel. The famine was over, but they were poor. They were so poor that they didn’t have enough food. God had set up a plan for poor people. The landowners were commanded to leave the grain in the corners of the field for the people who had no crops to gather. Ruth willingly went out to gather the grain from the edges and corners of the field, and to pick the grain the reapers missed.
It was hard work — and maybe embarrassing to be out with all the poor people. It didn’t matter to Ruth, though. She went out early every morning and worked hard. She was pleasant and respectful to the other people, even though they probably weren’t very friendly. And every day she took the grain home and gave it to her mother-in-law Naomi. She loved Naomi and took care of her.
The people noticed how hard Ruth worked and how good she was to Naomi. And God noticed. One day the boss came out to check on the progress of the harvesting. His name was Boaz. He was a godly man who owned the fields.
“The Lord be with you,” he greeted his workers.
“The Lord bless you,” they answered.
“Who is that young lady working with you?” he asked.
“That’s Ruth the Moabite girl, Naomi’s daughter-in-law,” they said. “She is a hard worker! She has been out since early morning and has hardly stopped working all day.”
Boaz went to talk to Ruth. “Don’t go from field to field, but stick close to my workers,” he told her. “I’ve told everyone not to bother you, and you can eat the food I’ve provided for them and drink the water from our water jars.”
Ruth said, “Why are you so kind to me?”
“Everyone has heard how good you are to Naomi,” he said. “We heard how you left your family and your god to take care of her and to follow our God. Everyone knows that you are a virtuous woman.”
Boaz told the men to leave extra grain behind for Ruth. That night when she came home, Naomi was amazed at the amount of barley she had gathered.
“Where did you work today?” Naomi asked.
“I worked for a man named Boaz. He was really nice to me,” Ruth replied.
“Boaz! He’s a near kinsman of ours,” Naomi cried.
She explained to Ruth the directions God had put in His Word for the Israelites. When a young woman became a widow, the closest male relative of her dead husband should marry her and buy back any land that had been sold. That way the property would stay in the same family, and young widows would be cared for, too.
“Boaz is our near kinsman,” Naomi said. “We will remind him of that and see what he will do.”
After the barley harvest it was threshing time. The men would beat the grain off the stalk and clear off all the chaff, the bits of the plant that weren’t good to eat. At night they would sleep by the grain so no one would steal it.
Naomi told Ruth to get dressed up and put on some sweet-smelling oil. Then she was to go at night to the threshing floor and lie down at the feet of Boaz. “He is a good man and will tell you what to do next,” Naomi said.
Ruth trusted Naomi and did just what she said. The custom might have seemed strange to her — as it does to us — but she did it. Late that night she went to the threshing floor. She lay down at his feet so quietly that she didn’t wake Boaz up.
Later that night he awoke — and was surprised to find a woman there!
“Who are you?” he asked. “What do you want?”
“I am Ruth,” she said. “Spread your garment over me to show that you will do your duty as a kinsman redeemer.”
Would he be angry? Not interested? No, he was pleased.
“May the Lord bless you,” he said. “You have shown great kindness to me. Many men would want to marry you — younger men than I am and richer. You didn’t chase after them, though. Everyone in the whole town knows you are a virtuous woman. Don’t worry about a thing. There is one problem, though. There is a kinsman nearer than I am. He has the first right to marry you and buy the property. I will talk to him about it right away. Lie down and rest now until morning.”
Ruth lay at his feet until early in the morning. He filled her veil up with grain as a present and she went back to Naomi.
When Naomi saw the present, she knew everything would be okay. “He’ll take care of everything right away,” Naomi said. “Don’t worry about it.”
Sure enough, that day Boaz went to the gate of the city where the men conducted their business.
“Naomi is selling some land that belonged to Elimelech,” he told the man who was the nearer kinsman. “Do you want to buy it?”
“Yes, I’ll buy it,” the man said.
I can imagine Boaz was a bit worried about that!
“When you buy it, you’ll also have to buy it from Ruth, the Moabitess, and marry her,” he said.
“Well, in that case, I don’t think so,” the man replied. “You can go ahead and buy it and marry her if you want to.”
Boaz did want to marry Ruth. To show they had an agreement, he took off his shoe and handed it to the other man. That seems like a strange custom to us, but they probably would have thought shaking hands was weird!
Now there was nothing to keep Ruth from marrying Boaz. She went from being a poor outcast to being the beloved wife of a wealthy man. She was no longer alone and barren. God blessed them with a little boy. They named him Obed. He was a special little boy, because he grew up to have a boy of his own named Jesse –and Jesse had a son named David who became the King of Israel.
Many kings were descended from David, but the most important was the King of Kings — Jesus Himself.
Both Rahab and Ruth were foreigners who trusted God. Both were gentiles, not Jews. Yet the King of the Jews, Jesus Himself, was their descendant. What an honor — and what a hope for those of us who are also not Jews. God doesn’t care where we came from or who we were. He cares that we trust Him and surrender to Him.
List all of her characteristics. What does the Bible say about those character qualities?
She was virtuous.
I was surprised when I looked up the Hebrew meaning of the word virtuous to find that it doesn’t just mean “good” or “doing good things.” It has to do with strength and courage as well as living an upright life. It’s a word used for an army — one who fights with power and bravery and honor.
Because women are called to place themselves in submission to their husbands as well as to decline leadership roles in the church, we sometimes think God wants us to be weak. Actually, it takes a strong person to follow. In fact, I think that God made this decree, not because women they don’t have the strength to lead, but because men have more trouble following.
So the excuse that, “Well, I can’t do anything important or hard because I’m just a woman,” doesn’t work! We can’t be lazy. We are to be virtuous women, which means we must be strong and brave — and ready to fight our spiritual battles with honor.
We see those qualities in Ruth. She made hard decisions. She was brave. She worked hard. She took on poverty, demeaning work, and prejudice. She honorably took the responsibility for caring for her mother-in-law. She did all this for love of God. God saw and rewarded her.
Proverbs 12:4 A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband, but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones.
A strong woman, who is determined to do things right, makes her husband proud. She makes him feel like a king. If he is ashamed of her, she destroys him from the inside out.
Proverbs 31:10 Who can find a virtuous woman, for her price is far above rubies.
There are many women in the world. In fact, there are more women than there are men. Yet, it is hard to find a strong woman who is determined to do right. You can be that woman — far above rubies.
Her faith showed in her life.
I Cor. 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
I John 3:18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
Everyone saw how Ruth took care of Naomi and knew how she left behind in Moab everything that would have made life easy. She didn’t just say, “I love Naomi.” She didn’t just say, “I am following God now.” Everyone saw it. It is much easier to say things than to do them. Ruth showed her faith.
How did her life and character affect her husband and children?
Her husband loved her because he saw her character. She was a virtuous woman and he was proud of her, in spite of the fact that she was a Moabite. Sometimes women don’t get the appreciation they deserve. But, God always sees and rewards. However, if you don’t act like a virtuous woman, you will make your husband ashamed and you certainly won’t be appreciated. Sometimes maybe we aren’t loved, because we don’t act lovable. That doesn’t excuse our husbands who are commanded to love their wives, but we don’t want to be at fault for making it hard for them.
What do you think is the leading lesson taught by her life?
Ruth surrendered everything, her friends, her family, her security, and her hope of having a family, to follow God. When we give up to God, He is never cruel or unkind to us. He always gives us the very best.
What applications can you make to your life?
Coming to God means surrender to Him. We give up our old life — our old pleasures and security — and we trust Him. Have you truly surrendered?
We are to be strong in spirit. God gives us the strength to do what He commands us to do. Our part is to trust Him and to obey.
We should show our love for God and our families like Ruth did. It’s not enough to say the words. We must live the life. That’s what people notice, and that’s what matters to God.
May we all be strong, courageous women, like Ruth!