Check out these seven great ways to study Ruth.
WHERE IN THE BIBLE ARE WOMEN MENTIONED MOST?
Thanks to Bible search programs, this question is now easy to answer. The frequency with which "woman" and "women" appear is much higher in RUTH than in any other book. (First Timothy is a distant second.) If terms such as mother(s), sister(s), daughter(s), daughter-in-law, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, wife, wives, widow(s), and nurse are included in the search, RUTH stands out even more.
This graph shows that the highest frequency is at the end of chapter two and in the first part of chapter three. Since Ruth is a short book, why not read through Ruth looking for these terms and thinking about the special emphasis on women?
What positive points should be said about the ending of the famine (1:6)? Here are some such taken from the Describe-It-Yourself list. It was: about food, a blessing, for God's people, from the Creator, God's provision, important, life changing, life saving, of God, meeting needs, an opportunity, and providential. Which of these points do you think is the most important? For the people in Bethlehem, above all it was probably life saving, but for Naomi and Ruth it was an opportunity. For Naomi, it was like the ending of a war and an opportunity to go home and stop living like a refugee. From the end of the story (4:13-21), we know that it was a great opportunity for Ruth as well, but at the time it was about loyalty and love.
Unurprisingly, there were some negatives that came with the ending of the famine as well, since it involved change and relocation. Here are some such negative points from the Describe-It-Yourself list. The ending of the famine was: challenging, disruptive, divisive, local, a mixed blessing, not explained, not just about food, not permanent, a test, involving travel, and two-sided. Again, which of these was most important? Obviously, it was the testing aspect, which Oprah, the other daughter-in-law failed. Of course, the testing became a positive for Ruth, however. So the ending of the famine and the testing that came with it were indeed two-sided.
From this, we are reminded that life invovles opportunities and testing. Of course, faith is required in order to pass such tests and enjoy the opportunities that God provides. Beyond this however, Ruth's decision and loyalty also show that her love for Naomi was intertwined with her faith in Naomi's God (1:16-17). Notice what the neighborhood women said about Ruth in 4:15.
How would you describe Ruth's statement in 1:16-17? Some descriptive terms and phrases quickly come to mind without looking at the Describe-It-Yourself list.
Her statement was or is: clear, about commitment, firm, emotional, emphatic, exemplary, faith-based, famous, far-reaching, about the future, godly, good, honest, life-changing, about loyalty, personal, a rebuke, relational, revealing, somewhat long, strongly worded, thought-provoking, a vow, involving the will.
As one scrolls or reads through the Describe-It-Yourself list many additional appropriate descriptive terms and phrases stand out. Most of these would never have been thought of otherwise. So please consider the following helpful additional points.
Ruth's statement was: against idolatry, blunt, by a Gentile, courageous, cross-cultural, decisive, down to earth, evidence of genuine faith, followed by God's blessing, full of personal pronouns, horizontal and vertical, irreversible, about leaving Moab, like Abraham leaving Ur, like Moses' choosing to suffer, the most famous lines in Ruth, necessary, of God, pleasing God, practical theology, probably unexpected, involving repentance, somewhat somber, spiritual and social, submitting to God's will, timely, unlike Jezebel's vow (1 Kings 19:2), unselfish, unusual, and very different from Orpah's silence.
In addition, the D.I.Y. list shows that many "not _______" phrases are fitting. Ruth's statement was not boastful, not focused on fame or fortune, not looking back, not out of the blue, and certainly not passive.
Which of the many points above do you think are the most important? Certainly Ruth's statement was faith-based, but it was also an expression of loyalty and love toward Naomi and the Lord. The contrast with Orpha helps bring out these two key points.
Ruth's declaration of faith and loyalty was also important because it was followed by God's blessing of her life and through her Naomi and eventually the entire nation and the world (4:14-21). Ruth was in the line of the Messiah (Mat. 1:5). Orpah, however, was never heard of again.
What then is the main practical application? Obviously we should be like Ruth rather than like Orpah. Moreover, as we dedicate ourselves to God's will, we can expect his blessing on our lives, even though the way may also be difficult and challenging.
The main characters in the book of Ruth are revealed through their interactions with the lesser-known ones. So this study is focused on the women in Bethlehem who spoke to Naomi in chapter one when she returned from Moab and praised Ruth and named her son near the end of the book in chapter four. It is one of about twenty studies on Lesser-Known Women in the Bible.
How would you describe Boaz in chapter two?
After this key question is asked, the group should read and think through the chapter a few verses at a time. For instance, verse one shows that Boaz was a wealthy man of ability, which probably involved courage. (The same phrase is used in Judges 6:12 and 11:1.) Verses one, four, and twenty show that Boaz was also a near relative from Bethlehem rather than a stranger from far away. His words and actions show that he was godly, kind, generous, protective, fatherly, firm, responsive, knowledge, inquisitive, strong, merciful, gracious, and serving God. These and other points can be made and discussed using various cards from the Describe-It-Yourself set.
What is the main thing that should be said about Boaz in chapter two?
What do the various points above as a whole say about Boaz? Since they are all positive, they, of course, show that Boaz was good. More specifically, however, they show that Boaz was a model leader, and hint at the possiblitily that he might be able to become the needed redeemer since he was a near relative. In addition, Boaz was somewhat like the Lord Jesus whom he prefigured in various ways.
What applications flow from this descriptive study?
When we think about Boaz's character, strength, words, and actions in chapter two, we should think of the Lord Jesus, our Redeemer. For instance, Boaz protected Ruth by directing her to stay close to his workers (Ruth 2:8-9). Jesus guides and protects us as well. Boaz also provided for Ruth's needs (2:14-16) as the Lord does for ours. Perhaps the key thing to remember is that Boaz knew about and responded positively to Ruth's faith (2:11-12). God does the same with us as well.
How would you describe the marriage of Ruth and Boaz?
Some terms and phrases that readily come to mind before looking at the Describe-It-Yourself list are that their marriage was: closely linked to David, faith based, blessed, life-changing, messianic, a new beginning, of God, redemptive, special, and unusual in various ways.
THINKING THROUGH THE LIST
What else do you see through the Describe-It-Yourself list?
Some additional interesting and important points are that their marriage was: arranged by God, a blessing to Naomi and others), costly (involving debt), cross-cultural, future oriented, for God's glory, in Bethlehem, in the culture, in line with 1 Peter 1:18-19, legal, like the church, about loyalty (and love), necessary for various reasons, not barren, not forgotten, not lustful, overcoming loss, problem solving, praiseworthy, public, a second marriage for Ruth, somewhat mysterious, transformational, triangular (because it also included God), voluntary, involving the will, and unselfish.
Which of the many points above do you think are most important?
After asking this question, the focus should turn to what stands out in the book of Ruth as a whole and especially in the ending. (See the final study below.) The ending points to David and to God's special and gracious leading to include a godly Gentile woman, Ruth, in his royal line. Did she deserve to be included? In various ways, no; yet God led in her life in a special way so that she was. So perhaps the main thing that should be said about the marriage of Ruth and Boaz was that it was special. Moreover, it is probably important to remember that this special marriage and the birth of Obed was in Bethlehem, like the birth of the Messiah in Luke chapter two, which, of course, was even more special. Judges points to the need for a king; Ruth points to the provision of a kingly line; and the Gospels in the New Testament point to the first coming of the Kingly Redeemer.
What then are the main practical applications? Obviously, we should remember the special things that God did for and through Ruth and Boaz and link these things in our minds with the special Bethlehem event which we celebrate at Christmas time. God led in both and over the many years between the two. Moreover, God is still leading in special ways today in the lives of those who are open to His leading, even if they do not live in Bethlehem.
Let's take turns spinning the arrow and randomly discussing the financially situation (green), physically condition (red), social position (yellow), and God-given wisdom (blue) of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz! Four categories times three main characters = 12 important topics. This is a great way to think through the entire Book of Ruth using the "Life Is Not Fair, but..." spinner and (optional) cards.
Alternatively, UNO ® game cards can be used to make the same points.
FIRST THOUGHTS WITHOUT THE LIST
How would you describe the way Ruth ends? This question can be answered quickly, if you are pressed for time. Some descriptive terms and phrases readily come to mind without looking at the Describe-It-Yourself list.
The ending of Ruth is obviously a happy one, because it is about family, closely linked to David, far reaching, about God's blessing, about life, messianic, a new beginning, not about death, not just about Ruth, and about redemption.
THINKING THROUGH THE LIST
When there is more time to think through the Describe-It-Yourself list, you will discover much more. If this is done by scrolling through the list, it will take about an hour. That may seem like a long time, but an hour of quality biblical meditation will do wonders for your soul.
Some of the additional points that will be discovered from the list are as follows: the ending of Ruth is also happy, because it is about God-given life, down to earth, hopeful, in Bethlehem, in line with Matthew 1:5-6, about love, about mercy, about the need for a good king, not about King Saul, not just personal, not the end, ongoing, peaceful, personal & social, pointing to God's kingdom, profound, somewhat like Luke chapters one and two, tone-setting for Samuel, ultimately about Jesus, unlike the sad beginning (1:1-5), and unlike the sad ending of Judges.
Which of the many points above do you think are the most important? This is a great question which may lead to some debate. Yet, the main theme clearly goes beyond personal blessing to the need for a righteous king which ultimately points to the need for Jesus the Messiah. Thus, the ending of Ruth is messianic and like Luke chapters one and two in various ways.
What then is the main practical application? Obviously, we should be unselfish as Ruth (3:10) and Boaz (4:1-13) were. Secondly, we should rejoice in the Lord, knowing that his plan of redemption is a far reaching one which thankfully also includes us.