Friday, March 19, 2010

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary

For Sunday March 21, 2010
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COMMITMENT TO A NEW COMMUNITY
(GOD knits the hearts of HIS family together)
(Ruth 1)

The Book of Ruth is a shining example of how GOD continues to move on the hearts of HIS people during times of struggle, especially when HIS people remain faithful to HIM. The events chronicled in the story of Ruth, and her mother-in-law Naomi, occur during the period when Judges ruled over Israel. It was one of the darkest periods in Israel’s history, and it sets itself against a background of national irresponsibility and weak spiritual and moral character among the populace.
The Book of Ruth is one of only two books in the Bible named after a woman, (the other is Esther) and it is also one of only three books in all of scripture that are named after a Gentile (the others are Luke & Titus). Early, but unsupported rabbinic tradition identifies Samuel as the author of the book of Ruth, as well as Judges, and first and second Samuel, which bear his name.
Here in Ruth, these eleventh century B.C. characters (Ruth, Boaz, and Naomi) portray a contrasting side to the chaotic times of the Judges, and provides us with a welcome relief from the immorality, bloodshed, famine, and mayhem that was, then, permeating the land of Israel because of her sins against GOD.
This book shows us quite clearly, that, even in times of crisis and despair, we can still continue to live by GOD’s principals and directives, and also that, GOD will reward us richly when we do. Faith, hope, and love are the three great enduring things. They are “virtues” that will always overpower the “anti-virtues” which are doubt, depression, and fear, but we can only access those virtues, when we choose to incorporate GOD’s plan into our lives, instead of our own.
Here in chapter one, we see a man named Elimelech, during a time of great famine in Palestine, move his family from Bethlehem to the country of Moab. His family consisted of his wife, Naomi, and their two sons, Mahlon and Kilion.
While in Moab, Elimelech died leaving Naomi alone with their two sons. The two sons each grew up and married Moabite women. One’s wife was named Orpah, and the other, Ruth. Ten years later, however, both sons died leaving all three women alone with no children.
One day Naomi received news that the famine in Palestine was over and GOD had begun blessing the people of Judah with bountiful crops again. She decided it was time to return home, and so, she struck out on the road back to Judah taking her two daughters-in-law with her. Along the way, however, she decided that maybe it was not the best thing that Orpah and Ruth leave their homeland and travel with her to Palestine. She felt that she had nothing to offer these two young women in the way of security through new marriages. She felt that she herself was too old to bear more sons for them to marry. Besides, it wouldn’t make sense for the two women to have to wait years from those sons to grow up to the marrying age.
One of the women, Orpah, agreed with Naomi and decided to head back home to Moab, while the other, Ruth, made the decision to stay with Naomi and commit to live in a new community in the land of Judah, by stating in verse 16 (NLT), “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. I will go wherever you go and live wherever you live. Your people will be my people, and your GOD will be my GOD”. Ruth’s, now famous expression of commitment to Naomi, not only shows loyalty to a friend, but it also exhibits clear theological insight.
In Old Testament times, everyone eventually came to know that GOD had a covenant relationship with Israel, and by Ruth identifying herself with GOD’s covenant people, she also qualified herself to claim Israel’s GOD as her own. Apparently Naomi had lived the kind of exemplary life around Ruth that enabled her to draw Ruth out of the world, and into the community of GOD. We should all strive to be the kind of people who draw others to us through right living, which will ultimately draw others into the community of GOD, where CHRIST, through HIS vicarious sacrifice, has shown, that HE wants us all to be.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
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