The Biblical Story of Ruth
Jun 13, 2017 · Courtney Jacob
When I couldn’t focus on the sermon as a young girl, I often grabbed a Bible from the back of the pew and thumbed through the pages until I found the book of Ruth. I could easily read the short, four chapter book during an average 20-minute sermon. The story of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz quickly became a familiar favorite. It had a strong female lead; it had drama; it had romance. I found the story captivating.
When we decided to study Ruth on Groundwork, I was excited. Studying this familiar story was going to be like savoring my favorite comfort food. But I was surprised to find so much more. What I didn’t expect was such an eye-opening, soul-growing, faith-deepening experience from these well-worn pages of my Bible.
In this series, Groundwork hosts Dave Bast and Scott Hoezee observe and follow the pervasive theme of God’s providence in the story of Ruth. As we prepared for the series, the truth of God’s provision came alive for me and I discovered profound reassurance and comfort knowing that we are never outside of God’s care no matter our circumstances.
Like many scholars and commentaries, Dave and Scott observe and suggest a budding romance between Ruth and Boaz. However, in her book The Gospel of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the Rules, Carolyn Custis James asserts that our Western perspective reads romance into the story. While Boaz does ultimately take Ruth to be his wife. James argues that in its cultural context, the story speaks less of romance and more of Boaz’ upright character and his unwavering devotion to God and his law.
James also provides a study of the Hebrew word hesed, which she claims is the motive behind Boaz’s repeated kindness toward Ruth. James writes,
“...hesed is a strong Hebrew word that sums up the ideal lifestyle for God’s people. It’s the way God intended for human beings to live together from the beginning—the “love-your-neighbor-as-yourself” brand of living, an active, selfless, sacrificial caring for one another that goes against the grain of our fallen natures...It’s actually the kind of love we find most fully expressed in Jesus. In a nutshell, hesed is the gospel lived out” (p115).
Thinking about hesed, faithfulness, and God’s providence opened my eyes to new details as I re-engaged the biblical story of Ruth. All four Groundwork conversations brought me deeper into the story, beyond the romance to discover the heart of God from a new perspective and strengthen my faith. Here’s what you can expect from Groundwork’s study of the book of Ruth:
- To be assured that God provides and cares for his people. In times of struggle, it can be difficult to cling to the promise of God’s providence. In the book of Ruth we get a front row seat to watch how God remains intimately involved in the lives of his people and makes extraordinary things happen through established systems and ordinary, faithful people.
To discover what it means to live faithfully. We know we should “live faithfully,” but sometimes it’s hard to know what that means for everyday life. By observing the choices Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz make throughout the story of Ruth, we discover powerful examples of how we too can live by faith even when our life circumstances are less than ideal.
To realize the importance of trust and obedience in everyday life. When it feels like you’ve done everything right, but life is still against you, it can be difficult to trust God or see why obedience even matters. The story of Ruth shows us that trust in God is crucial and that even a simple act of obedience can be an important piece of God’s larger plan.
Listen to and study along with all four Groundwork episodes on Ruth:
Walking in Faith—A discussion about Ruth 1 and what it looks like to speak and act from a place of faith, even when life leads us to a place of bitterness, despair, and questioning God.
Faithful Obedience and God’s Providence—A conversation about Ruth 2, how God works and answers prayer in the lives of his people, and why our simple acts of faithful obedience matter.
The Redeemer—Ruth 3 is filled with hope and reveals how God is planning to provide for our needs, even before we know what we need most.
From Emptiness to Fullness—This episode celebrates the outcomes revealed in Ruth 4 and acknowledges the great work God can accomplish through our unwavering, unfettered faithfulness.
Together we can contemplate new thought-provoking discoveries and find our hope refreshed and strengthened by this familiar, yet ever remarkable book.