International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending March 21, 2010
Purpose: To affirm the value and power of covenantal relationship
Scripture Text: Ruth 1:1-9, 14b,16 (NRSV)
Ruth 1:1-9, 14b, 16
(1)In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and two sons. (2)The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion; they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. (3)But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. (4)These took Moabite wives; the name of one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. When they had lived there for about ten years, (5)both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons or her husband.
(6) Then she started to return with her daughters-in-law from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the LORD had had consideration for his people and given them food. (7)So she set out from the place where she had been living, she and her two daughters-in-law, and they went on their way to go back to the land of Judah. (8)But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, ‘Go back each of you to your mother’s house. May the LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. (9)The LORD grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband.’ Then she kissed them, and they wept aloud.
(14)Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
(16)But Ruth said, ‘Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
We continue our study of “community” and this week we look at “family” as our community of focus. The Book of Ruth offers a myriad of lessons on many different subjects, but for this lesson we want to concentrate on the community of family.
The story of Ruth takes place during the time between Joshua and the era of the Kings. In fact Boaz's mother was Rahab, the innkeeper from Jericho that helped Joshua conquer that Canaanite city. So once again we see how God brings about a family community that is highly influenced from those outside the chosen families of the twelve sons of Jacob. Boaz is half Canaanite and half Jew, Ruth is a Moabite, so the lineage of David/Christ starts with just the 1/4th Jewish bloodline of Obed. The underlying mission of God is to reveal Himself to the entire human race.
The Book of Ruth is an amazing story of love and redemption, but it is also a story of devotion and family. Naomi and her husband fled Bethlehem to seek a new start in a more productive country called Moab, which is modern day Jordan. In a desperate situation Naomi and her husband sought out the very thing that ended up destroying the family and Moab becomes a symbol for death. Within a 10 year period Naomi loses her husband and two sons. Naomi is left bitter and disappointed with two Moabite daughter-in-laws in a strange country.
In the two daughter-in-laws we see another example of devotion and family, while both are willing to go with Naomi back to Bethlehem, the difference in devotion is interesting. While Orpah fulfills all that the law would require, she does not show the devotion and commitment to Naomi and Naomi's God that Ruth shows, and chooses to return to her mother's house and to the pagan gods of Moab. I think this points to the difference between being a law abiding person and being a devoted passionate follower of Jesus Christ. Ruth not only loves Naomi, but she also shows love for Naomi's God, and refuses the death of Moab.
Another lesson that we can learn from this book, is that of repentance. Returning to Bethlehem is a form of repentance by Naomi, just as when the “Prodigal Son” returned to his father's house. When we choose to return to our father's house, we are saying we failed on our own, and we are seeking help from those that love us most. Of course Boaz becomes a type of Christ by offering to redeem both Naomi and Ruth and fulfilling the family responsibility, indeed, a kinsman redeemer.
How do you describe the difference between duty and a covenant relationship? How should our relationship with God influence our relationship with others?