Chapter Twelve: “Talk About Happily Ever After!” Ruth 4:13–22
One of the real joys of doing this study has been connecting with you by way of your online blog comments, your emails and Facebook messages, your hugs when we’ve met in person, and through photos like this one of the “Bad Girls of Sanlando UMC,” who first gathered in 2000 to study Bad Girls of the Bible, and have been reading The Girl’s Still Got it with us this Fall. Look how adorable they are!
Way back on page one / week one, you and I agreed that we all have “something vital and meaningful to offer, no matter how many times we’ve been around the block.” With that in mind, check out Mary’s one-of-a-kind birthday cake. Love it.
Speaking of Mary, I do hope you’ll join me here for The Women of Christmas: Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna every Wednesday through the holidays. I’m beyond excited about creating this new study for you!
For now, let’s press on with the final verses of Ruth’s story.
1. a. Edith Deen described Ruth as “modest, meek, courteous, loyal, responsible.” Are all five qualities still held in high esteem in today’s culture? Should they be? Why or why not?
Much depends on which culture we’re talking about! “Modesty” is applauded in some settings, yet ridiculed in others. “Meekness” is often misunderstood as “weakness” (a negative term), when in fact it means, “gentle” (a positive word).
Certainly the meek are precious to God: “I will remove from this city those who rejoice in their pride… But I will leave within you the meek and humble, who trust in the name of the Lord” (Zephaniah 3:11-12). And in the New Testament we’re assured, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). That’s definitely how things worked out for our Ruth!
“Courteous,” “loyal,” “responsible” employees may earn gold stars from our bosses, yet anger some of our coworkers. Even so, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness rank high on God’s list of Spirit-led attributes.
I definitely think all five qualities should be upheld, along with the many other virtues described in Scripture. While our culture focuses almost solely on appearance and achievement; the Lord urges us to “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2).
1. b. In many ways Psalm 113 parallels Ruth’s life. Read all nine verses, then pick three that seem especially suited to her story, and explain why.
Ruth praised God’s name from her first words—“Your God will be my God”—so all the early verses in this psalm suit our young widow. But the last three really capture her life:
v. 7: “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap;”
From Moabite to Israelite, from humble gleaner to honored villager, from poor widow to wealthy wife, this neatly describes how God lifted up Ruth.
v. 8: “he seats them with princes, with the princes of their people.”
By God’s design, Ruth took her place beside Boaz, who was honored and respected, a prince among men.
v. 9: He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the Lord.”
Though Ruth isn’t called barren, she was childless at the start of her story and a happy mother by the end. Praise God indeed!
2. a. Of all the times we might expect Naomi to speak, this would be a major one. Maybe her heart is simply too full. If you’ve held a newborn in your arms, what was that experience like for you?
Whenever someone places a baby in my arms, a sense of warmth, peace, and contentment falls over me, even if I don’t know the mother who is kindly entrusting me with her child. My voice is softer, my touch is lighter, and all my attention is drawn to that baby. (Can you tell I am so ready to be a grandmother?!)
Maybe it’s a faint recollection of being held by my mother, or much stronger memories of embracing my own children. Either way, cradling a baby is pure joy for me. Here I am with our daughter on her first Christmas in 1989 (gotta love those huge ‘80s glasses!).
What thoughts come to mind when you consider that the overwhelming love you felt for that little one pales in comparison to the love God feels for you?
Oh my. Oh my. The thought of God looking at me the way I gazed at our baby girl makes me teary. I know how much I loved her then, and how much more I know and love her now. Yet God has known us fully and loved us completely from the beginning!
- “For great is your love toward me.” Psalm 86:13
- “Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens.” Psalm 36:5
- “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” 1 John 3:1
2. b. Think of all the ways Obed redeemed Naomi just by being born. Now think of all the ways Jesus redeemed us by dying on the cross.
The Redemptive Birth of Obed The Redemptive Death of Jesus
Obed claimed the land for his family Jesus claimed us as his family
Obed carried on Elimelech’s family Jesus fulfilled his name, “Jehovah is
Obed would someday provide for Jesus ascended into heaven to prepare
his relatives, Ruth and Naomi a home for us
How does Ephesians 1:7–10 bring the truth of that redemption alive for you?
Though the cross is our symbol of redemption, the work of Christ stretches far beyond an empty tomb. Yes, our sins are forgiven and the riches of God’s grace are heaped around us. Thank you, Lord! But it’s so much more.
God also lavishes us with “all wisdom and understanding” (Eph 1:8). That’s why we can read his Word and grasp the truth of it. For me, the Bible was a book of words, nothing more, until I received God’s grace. Then his Word became light and life and food and nourishment. From that very first week I couldn’t get enough of it. Still can’t!
His redemption also makes it possible for us to know “the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ” (Ephesians 1:9). Wow. How many times have I said, “I just wish I knew the will of God”? It’s clear in this passage Jesus has unlocked that mystery for us.
Open our eyes, Lord, so we can see what is already before us!
Though I did not take this photo, I cherish it nonetheless, having stood on the women’s side at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, watching our Jewish sisters reverently touch the stones and slip prayers between the cracks.
Perhaps the women who sang praises to God at the birth of Obed looked and sounded a bit like these devout souls.
3. a. Ancient listeners had tears of joy in their eyes by the time the storyteller reached the last word: “David,” their beloved king. We have even more reason to be moved, knowing whose name appears in the first sentence of the New Testament: “Jesus Christ the son of David.” How far back can you trace your ancestry?
On my own, I can stretch back only to my grandparents, and even then, I know precious little about them. Three of the four had already passed away before I was born, so they were only names to me. Few photos existed, and even fewer stories. I think my parents were so busy raising the six of us they didn’t take time to reflect on those who had come before. Practical, but also quite sad.
When you look at the sea of names in Matthew 1:1–16, what strikes you about that detailed listing?
I’m awed by how wise these people were: reciting the family names over and over, teaching them to their children, writing them down for posterity. I’m also overwhelmed by the inclusion of those five named women. All the men had wives and mothers, but the Lord, through Matthew, highlights five: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary.
How might this list of women build up your faith?
These aren’t the Good Girls of the Bible…they’re Bad Girls! Each one has a story that’s told at length in the Scriptures, meaning God not only chose to graft these women into the lineage of his Son, he also made sure later generations knew about them and would be encouraged by their stories.
For all of us who lived part of our life in the shadows, the five women found in the opening verses of Matthew shout across the ages, “We mattered to God. And so do you!”
3. b. There is a far longer list of names that will be revealed someday. David is the first to mention “the book of life” in Psalm 69:28, and Paul makes reference to it in Philippians 4:3. You’ll find a more complete description of the Lamb’s book of life in Revelation 21:27. How can you be certain your name appears there?
Our names are written in the book of life in blood—the blood of the Lamb. Faith alone is our assurance. Grace alone is our guarantee. Christ alone is our signatory.
What hope does John 10:27–30 offer?
This beautiful passage puts to rest any fears about the permanence of our salvation. Jesus says, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” Furthermore, he promises, “no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”
Jesus saved us on the cross. He can do no more, nor does the Law require it of him. It’s a finished work. If you hear his voice and respond, you are his. Done.
Before We Go: Have You Got It?
Wherever you may be spiritually right now, you can be sure the Lord wants to deepen your relationship with him.
a. One of the ways we demonstrate our love for him is through trusting his Word. Ruth’s great-grandson certainly did! What assurances about God’s Word do you find in from Psalms: 12:6; 119:89; 138:2?
His Word is flawless, pure, eternal, and highly exalted. Worthy of our trust, then.
b. Another way we express our love for God is by obeying the prompting of the Holy Spirit. How do Paul’s words in Romans 15:13 and Titus 3:4–7 help you understand the Spirit’s role more clearly?
In 30 years of knowing Jesus, I’ve come to appreciate the unique presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. He knits us together almost instantly. Like when you meet someone and know they love the Lord before either of you confesses it. Chills.
Because of the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us, we can “overflow with hope” (Romans 15:13). Overflow? Now, that’s a lot of hope! The Holy Spirit also assures us that, “by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7). More hope.
c. In closing, write out your commitment to God in words as simple and heartfelt as Ruth’s pledge to Naomi: “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” What would you like to say to the Lord who loves you?
“Where you lead me, I will follow, and where you place me, I will serve. Your family, Lord, is my family, and your risen Son my Savior. Whatever may come, Lord, I love you, I love you, I love you!”
Now, my sisters, it’s your turn. Will you share with us your own commitment to God? I know your closing words will bless all who read them, because week after work, your words have certainly encouraged me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy” (Philippians 1:4).
Your sister, Liz
Our weekly Bible Study Blog will continue with a brand-new study all through December on The Women of Christmas: Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna. No book to buy (I haven’t written it yet!), and no questions to prepare (this is a busy season). Just read the blog each Wednesday and respond as you wish. Can’t wait to share my discoveries with you!
Then in January and February we’ll walk through the pages of my book, Embrace Grace. The chapters are short, the questions are shorter still, yet each page contains important truths that speak to our hearts. What a joy it will be to start the New Year together!
Here’s what readers are saying about
“I bought Embrace Grace thinking maybe it would give me the peace in my life I’m looking for. I can’t put the book down. I’m beginning to see that there may even be hope for me.”
Yvonne from British Columbia
“I read Embrace Grace in one sitting. I felt like my heart was being exposed. For the first time in my life I realized what it was like to feel the embrace of God.”
Glenda from Tennessee
“I just finished reading Embrace Grace and feel a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I was always ‘trying’ to be better, better, better, instead of accepting God’s grace. He really loves me just as I am!”
Ann from Florida
“Embrace Grace really helped me see the unconditional love God has for me. I never imagined that I could feel this free and loved. The bad girl is gone, and the forgiven girl is here!”
Becky from Kentucky
Pick up Embrace Grace at your local bookstore, your local library, or order your copy online, and you’ll be ready to start our journey together on Wednesday, January 2, 2013!