LESSON ONE | RUTH 1

Where Is God?

When our son Nathan was barely two, he'd squeeze his eyes shut and say, "I can't see, I can't see!" He thought that if he couldn't see me, then I couldn't see him either. Playing hide-and-seek was a breeze. I never had to run and hide; I'd simply whisper, "Close your eyes, Nathan, and count to ten," and I was hidden as far as he was concerned! There are times as an adult when I've made a similar mistaken assumption about my heavenly Father. If I don't "see" God, perhaps He can't see me or my inappropriate behavior. What about you? Have you ever thought that since God is invisible, maybe your actions were too?

The reality is that God in His providence sees everything, even before it happens. You can run, but you can never hide from His view. The word providence comes from two Latin words: pro meaning "before" and video translated "I see." Scripture says, "The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth" (2 Chronicles 16:9). Have no doubt—though you may not see Him in your darkest night, He can always see you!

Throughout the book of Ruth we see God's providential care. It was a dark time for the nation of Israel, and tough circumstances had obscured the people's view of God. In the midst of foreign oppression and famine one family asked, "Where is God?" Instead of opening their spiritual eyes to see Him, they went their own way and ran to the land of Moab.

DAY 1: The Grass Is Always Greener?

DAY 2: Down and Out

DAY 3: Fork in the Road

DAY 4: The Road Less Traveled

DAY 5: There's No Place like Home

DAY 1

THE GRASS IS
ALWAYS GREENER?

Topics: SIN CYCLE, TRADING PLACES, PRODIGAL FAMILY, DIVINE DISCIPLINE, KING, CONTROL

Preparation

Father, thank You that there's nowhere I can escape from Your presence. When I walk through the valleys of this life, it's comforting to know You are right beside me. Help me to take Your hand as You guide me through. Amen.

PRESENCE

I can never escape from your spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. Psalm 139:7, 9-10, NLT

Exploration

In today's lesson we meet the characters in the book of Ruth and gain an understanding of life during the time of the judges. We discover the choice one family made to seek greener pastures outside of the Promised Land and God's will.

Read Ruth 1; then focus on verses 1-2.

Now it came to pass, in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem, Judah, went to dwell in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. Ruth 1:1

1. In what days did the story of Ruth take place?

2. Fill in the following chart to discover the spiritual condition of the nation of Israel during the time of the judges.

SCRIPTURE SPIRITUAL CONDITION

Judg. 2:10

Judg. 2:11-12

Judg. 17:6

3. According to Ruth 1:1, what natural disaster was Israel experiencing?

4. Read Leviticus 26:18-20. How do these verses lead you to believe God was chastening His people?

5. How did this man of Bethlehem respond to the famine?

The name of the man was Elimelech, the name of his wife was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion—Ephrathites of Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to the country of Moab and remained there. Ruth 1:2

6. What were the names of the man and his wife?

7. What were the names of their sons? How are they described?

8. How long did they stay in Moab?

Transformation

9. Today we discovered the four stages of Israel's sin cycle. Think about your life. Are you at times caught in the same cycle?

Journal about a time when you have gone through these phases.

Disobedience (Example: I didn't trust God to provide financially so I went into debt.)

Discipline (Example: I was turned over to collection agencies.)

Despair (Example: "God, if You rescue me, I'll never do it again.")

Deliverance (Example: A godly adviser showed me how to pay off my debt.)

10. In the days of the judges there was no king in Israel, and "everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6). Check the boxes that indicate how you have sometimes made yourself the ruler, the queen of your world.

__ I make the decisions.

__ My time is my own.

__ I don't listen to advice.

__ I don't admit failure.

__ I trust my intuition.

__ I'm smarter than that.

__ I boss others around.

__ My way's the best way.

__ I want things my way.

11. Take time to think about the areas you want to control in your life. Then offer these up to God.

Journal the following verses into a personal prayer, submitting your "domain" to the lordship of Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords. "At the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:10-11, NLT).

"When the going gets tough, the tough get going." That's how Elimelech chose to live his life. People often imagine that somewhere else the grass will be greener and mistakenly think that they can run away from their problems. The reality is, their problems usually follow them because they are the problem. A change of scenery doesn't change the heart but turning to God can. Moses had taught the children of Israel that famine was a form of divine discipline, but repentance of their sin would restore God's blessing. Turning a famine into a feast was just a prayer away.

I've discovered that when the going gets tough, the tough should stay put. When I was a little girl and misbehaved, my dad would spank my bottom with a wooden spoon. Wiggling away from the spoon seemed like the smart thing to do. Then one day I figured out that the closer you were to Dad the less the spanking hurt because there was less momentum. And if I crawled onto his lap and apologized for my behavior, the spanking never happened. Running away from your problems or from your heavenly Father will only make things worse. Instead of running, try my philosophy: When the going gets tough, the tough get closer to God, because forgiveness is just a prayer away.

Contemplation

Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than in trying to solve them.

Henry Ford

DAY 2

DOWN
AND OUT

Topics: BAD EXAMPLE, CHILDLESS, GLIMMER OF HOPE, WIDOWS, FOOTSTEPS

Fidel Castro's oppressive dictatorship has forced thousands of Cubans to seek asylum in the United States. Castro has crushed his people's rights to free speech, freedom of the press, and the pursuit of economic prosperity, leaving them helpless, hopeless, and hungry. Impoverished Cuban refugees risk their lives sailing aboard unsafe boats over treacherous waters to reach the shores of America. The Cuban residents are down, and they want out.

Elian Gonzalez, a five-year-old Cuban boy, was found on November 25, 1999, clinging to an inner tube off the coast of Florida. He and several other Cuban refugees had boarded an overloaded powerboat that sank on its way to the U.S. His mother and ten others died on the tragic journey. After his rescue, the boy became the subject of a custody battle between his father in Cuba and relatives in Miami, which ended with a dramatic predawn raid during which the boy was taken at gunpoint. For Elian's mother, getting out of Cuba resulted in death. For Elian, getting out resulted in a tug-of-war between families and nations.

It would have taken the wisdom of Solomon to determine the best for this little boy. It takes God's wisdom to know what is best for you when you are in difficult circumstances. When you feel down and think you want out, stop and ask yourself two questions: What am I running from? and Where am I running to? Running to human solutions will leave you down and out. Running to God's answers will take you up and away.

Preparation

God, when life gets me down, help me to get back up, with Your strength, and get going in the direction You desire. Be my companion in trouble, my ever-present help in time of need. Amen.

STAYING POWER

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don't give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, NLT

Exploration

Yesterday we learned that during the time of the judges Israel entered a vicious sin cycle and experienced famine as a result of God's discipline. Elimelech chose to take his family out of the Promised Land. Now we see what happened to his family in Moab.

Review Ruth 1; then focus on verses 3-7.

Then Elimelech, Naomi's husband, died; and she was left, and her two sons. Now they took wives of the women of Moab: the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth. And they dwelt there about ten years. Ruth 1:3-4

1. How did Naomi's life suddenly change?

2. What were the names and nationality of her sons' brides?

Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died; so the woman survived her two sons and her husband. Ruth 1:5

3. How did Mahlon and Chilion's fate match that of their father?

Then she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the Lord had visited His people by giving them bread. Ruth 1:6

4. What did Naomi decide to do after the death of her husband and sons?

5. What information helped motivate her to go home?

Therefore she went out from the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. Ruth 1:7

6. Who accompanied Naomi when she set out to leave Moab? Where was she headed?

Transformation

7. Naomi and her daughters-in-law had become widows. Fill in the following chart to discover how God provides for the widow.

SCRIPTURE PROVISION FOR WIDOWS

Deut. 10:17-18

Ps. 68:5

1 Tim. 5:3-4, 16

James 1:27

Think of a widow you know. Journal a prayer for her, asking God to provide for all her needs. Next write about a way you can be God's hands and heart in reaching out to her.

8. Elimelech's sons made the mistake of following their father's bad example. Name two ways you have followed in your father's footsteps, whether good or bad. (Examples: I joined the family business. / Sometimes I talk like a sailor.)

9. Think about the ways you have emulated your father.

Journal a prayer of thanks for those things. If your father's influence has led you to a dark place, journal a prayer asking God to shine His light on your life in new ways.

On a foggy night, William Cowper ordered his coachman to take him to the London Bridge. Suffering from deep depression, he planned on jumping into the Thames River. However, his driver got lost and drove aimlessly for hours. Cowper left his carriage to walk to the London Bridge himself. After a short distance, he found himself back home! The coachman had driven in circles. Cowper realized that God's providential hand was guiding his way. He discovered that the way out of despair was to look to God, not jump into the river. In gratitude, he cast his cares on the Savior and experienced great peace. With renewed hope he wrote these words to the famous hymn, "God moves in a mysterious way / His wonders to perform; / He plants His footsteps in the sea, / And rides upon the storm. / Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; / The clouds ye so much dread / Are big with mercy, and shall break / With blessing on your head."

Hard times and bad choices brought Elimelech's family so far down that it put out the light of God's truth in their hearts. However, God's faithfulness broke through the shadow of death with the promise of new life if Naomi would return home. Scripture promises us that God's faithfulness will always outshine the darkness of our doubts too. "If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself" (2 Timothy 2:13, NLT). If you are on the dark road of depression or doubt or death, God will faithfully lead you home.

Contemplation

God is with us in darkness just as surely as he is with us in the light.

Croft Pentz

—Women's Bible Journal