“But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried.’”
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Have you ever spent an extended amount of time in a country or culture other than your own? If so, then you probably are familiar with cultural stress. Cultural stress is caused when we are forced to learn the common ways of a new culture: counting money, driving on the correct side of the road, adjusting to the climate, purchasing and preparing food, figuring out the transportation system, understanding the language, learning about personal space, finding a public restroom. It is easy to manage these issues for a short period, but eventually the process of making these life adjustments can cause a great deal of anxiety.
Changing jobs, changing schools, attending a different church, moving to another area of the country, traveling or living abroad and even marriage can cause cultural stress. Cultural stress can lead to depression, home sickness, loneliness, anxiety and fear.
1. Have you ever experienced cultural stress?
2. What adjustments did you have to make?
3. What advice would you give to someone who is about to become part of a new culture?
4. Read the key verse (Ruth 1:16-17). This verse is often quoted in weddings. But it is actually a commitment made by a woman to her own mother-in-law. What were the implications of this kind of devotion?
Study the Word:
The book of Ruth is also a very romantic story about a Moabite woman who left her own country to live with her mother-in-law in a little town called Bethlehem. There she met a man named Boaz whom she eventually married. Indeed! This was a match made in heaven. As you read the story of Ruth, take note of the ways Ruth dealt with issues of cultural adaptation.
· Ruth 1:16-18
· Ruth 2:6-7
· Ruth 2:10-12
· Ruth 2:22-23, 3:1-5
· Ruth 3:10-11
· Ruth 3:14-17
The story of Ruth takes place during some of history’s darkest days. The book of Judges begins with the words, “And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord…and they abandoned the God of their fathers…” (Judges 2:11-12). While there were periods of decency under the leadership of a few righteous judges, the people invariably reverted back into a lifestyle of idolatry, hedonism, and even violence. By the end of the story society had only gotten worse. “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). The character we see in the lives of Ruth and Boaz serves to remind us that, even in a pagan and secular world, there are those who do live with integrity and godliness. Read the following verses and discuss the character of Ruth and Boaz. Where do you see the following character traits: Faithfulness, kindness, integrity, and blessing?
· Ruth 2:7
· Ruth 2:9
· Ruth 2:10
· Ruth 2:14-16, 3:16
· Ruth 2:13-14, 4:3-5
· Ruth 4:9-11
As we read the rest of the Old and New Testaments we see that the union between Ruth and Boaz was very significant. Boaz traces his roots to Jericho, a city that was destroyed by the Israelites. In fact, he was from the lineage of Rahab, the prostitute who rescued two spies just before the city was destroyed. Ruth was a Moabite. Moab was known for its oppression of Israel (Numbers 22:1-6), and the people were discouraged from building relations with them (Deut. 23:3-6). Yet Ruth and Boaz became the grandparents of King David the direct descendent of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
Hannibal—from the old television series “The A Team”—finished each episode with the statement, “I love it when a good plan comes together.” The story of Ruth is just one small part of God’s much bigger plan which took thousands of years to complete. We don’t really get the whole picture until we read Luke 2:11: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”— the glorious pinnacle of salvation history. I love it when a good plan comes together--especially when it is God’s plan.
· Have you ever wondered if you are part of God’s bigger plan? Could it be that your current life circumstances are meant for a greater purpose?
· If this is true, how does the example of Ruth and Boaz inspire you?
· No one ever told Ruth and Boaz that they were going to be remembered for the rest of history, or that they would become central characters of the Bible. Yet they chose to be faithful. Are you willing to be faithful to God even though you may never learn of His purpose for your life?
· What is most difficult about not knowing God’s plan?