WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday August 14, 2011
CHOOSING A COMMUNITY
(A relationship based on GOD lasts forever)
The book of Ruth is a shining example of how GOD continues to move on the hearts of HIS people, even during their times of spiritual, moral, and economic struggle and decline. The events chronicled in the story of Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, take place during the period when Judges ruled over Israel. It was one of the darkest periods in Israel’s history and it sets itself against the backdrop of massive national irresponsibility, and declining moral and spiritual character.
The book of Ruth is one of only two books in the Christian bible that is named after a woman, the other is Esther. It is also one of only two books in scripture that are named after a Gentile, the other of course being the Gospel of Luke. Early, but un-substantiated rabbinic tradition identifies the prophet Samuel as the author of the book of Ruth, as well as Judges, and first and second Samuel, which bear his name.
Here in the book of Ruth, we find people (namely Ruth, Boaz, and Naomi) who seem to portray a welcoming contrast to the chaotic era of the Judges. They provide us with a refreshing relief from the immorality, bloodshed, famine, and mayhem that was running rampant in the land of Israel during the eleventh century B.C. This book serves to show us 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”. However, we can only access those virtues when we choose to incorporate GOD’s plan, instead of our own, into our lives.
Here in chapter one we find a man called Elimelech, who is struggling to survive in a time of great famine in Palestine, moving his family from Bethlehem to the country of Moab. His family consisted of his wife, Naomi, and their two sons, Mahlon and Kilion. Unfortunately, while in Moab, Elimelech died leaving Naomi alone with her two sons. The two sons each grew up and married Moabite women. One’s son’s wife was named Orpah, and the other son’s wife was named, Ruth. Ten years later, however, both sons died leaving all three women alone with no children (Ruth 1:1-5).
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, she decided that maybe it was not the best thing that Orpah and Ruth should 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, and besides, it wouldn’t make sense for the two women to have to wait years for those sons to grow to marrying age (Ruth 1:6-13).
One of the women, Orpah, agreed with Naomi and decided to return home to Moab, while the other, Ruth, made the decision to stay with Naomi and commit to finding a new life, in a new community, in the land of Judah (v. 14). In verses 16-17, Ruth utters her, now famous statement of loyalty to Naomi, and to GOD, when she says, “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. I will die where you die and will be buried there. May the LORD punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us” (NLT).
This renowned expression of commitment to Naomi, not only shows her loyalty to a friend, but it also exhibits clear theological insight. In Old Testament times, even most outsiders 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 blessed community of GOD, where JESUS exemplifies through HIS OWN vicarious sacrifice, that HE wants us all to be.
Ruth made a commitment to stay with Naomi, and, to care for her. She desired to have the kind of life that she had observed in Naomi’s family over the years. It didn’t seem to matter to her about the living conditions, or the challenge of following the laws of their GOD. She voluntarily gave up the worldly ways of her Moab tradition and upbringing, and instead, chose to follow the ways and traditions of the true and living GOD, WHO is our SAVIOR, through JESUS CHRIST. And as a result of her decision, she went on to become a prominent member in the direct lineage of CHRIST, through her future Jewish husband Boaz.
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
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