Zoom Sunday School Classes – 3 December 2023 at 09:00 AM EST
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Changing Identity
(The Faith of Ruth)
Ruth 1:6-18, 22
Background: Ruth 1; 4:13-22
Devotional Reading: Acts 10:34-38

Daily Bible Readings


Monday: Faith Based Friendship – Proverbs 17:17-22
Tuesday: Peter’s Test of Faith – Matthew 26:31-35
Wednesday: Hear God’s Voice – Hebrews 3:7-19
Thursday: Faith In Action – Leviticus 19:30-37
Friday: God Honors Genuine Faith – Acts 10:34-48
Saturday: Naomi Becomes a Grandmother – Ruth 4:13-22 8
Sunday: Ruth’s Compassionate Faith – Ruth 1:6-18, 22




“But Ruth said, "Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16, NRSV)


IMITATE Ruth’s model of courage and faithfulness when facing life’s hardships.

EMPATHIZE with those in vulnerable situations; and

COMMIT to demonstrating godly loyalty to our faith members.



The climate during the time of the judges when the events of Ruth occurred can only be described as chaotic. Israel was facing moral decline, foreign attacks, and national chaos. Joshua helped the Israelites conquer major Canaanite cities and divided the land among the 12 tribes of Israel. But some Canaanites and other people remained. This caused serious problems. The Israelites were threatened with attacks from these people, who wanted the land back. Also, the Israelites married Canaanites and started worshiping their gods. Everyone was doing whatever he or she desired without concern for God's Laws. The Israelites ignored God and reaped the consequences of their sins (Judges 17:6; 21:25). One of the consequences of their spiritual depravity was famine. This famine was so severe that it forced Naomi's husband, Elimelech (whose name means "My God is King," to leave with his family and travel to Moab.  They went to a pagan nation to survive (Ruth 1:1-2).


We are introduced to a family set in time when judges presided and governed over the children of Israel in the early days of the nation.  Elimelech, the patriarch, was from Bethlehem, a province of Judah.  Elimelech left his homeland with his wife Naomi and two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, to escape famine in the land.  The family settled in the country of Moab.  The people of Moab were descendants from the incestuous relationship between Abraham’s nephew Lot and his oldest daughter (Genesis 19:37); therefore, Moabites were distant relatives of the Jewish people.  As the Children of Israel made their journey to the Promised Land, the Moabites sent Baalam to curse the Israelites (Numbers 22).  From this and other contentious interactions, the Law of Moses prohibited Moabites from the Lord’s assembly, the worshiping community made up of men, for ten generations if not forever (Deuteronomy 23:3-6).  Moab was also an idolatrous nation; one of their gods, Chemosh, was worshiped with child sacrifices.


In Ruth 1:3-5, Elimelech dies while living in Moab and his sons Mahlon and Chilion marry Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth.  Ten years after their union to these women both sons died childless.  We are not told the circumstances surrounding the death of these men, but the three women are now widows.  Naomi suffers the greatest having lost her husband and two sons.  In this culture women without men were at the mercy of extended family and community to care for them. 



A Mother’s Farewell (Ruth 1:6-11, NRSV)


6Then she started to return with her daughters-in-law from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the LORD had considered his people and given them food.
7So she set out from the place where she had been living, she and her two daughters-in-law, and they went on their way to go back to the land of Judah.
8But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, "Go back each of you to your mother's house. May the LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me.
9The LORD grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband." Then she kissed them, and they wept aloud.
10They said to her, "No, we will return with you to your people."
11But Naomi said, "Turn back, my daughters, why will you go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb that they may become your husbands?

The decision had been made.  Naomi had to return to Bethlehem.  Her decision was thoroughly thought out.  It is unknown how she heard that the famine in Israel had ended.  However, Moab was only 15 miles from Bethlehem.  Maybe other Israelites who passed by the area shared the news.  Nevertheless, Naomi knew in her heart she had to go back to the place where God was providing for His people.  After all, Bethlehem is translated to mean "house of bread."  This was her home, her people, and the place where she could worship her God.  Naomi had faith that her God would provide all she needed.

After the death of her sons, Naomi, an older woman, was left with no one to care for her.  The text does not give the span of time between the passing of her sons and the decision to move forward.  Traditionally, a Jewish burial takes place within twenty-four hours of death because the Torah says, “His body shall not remain all night…but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day” (Deuteronomy 21:23).  Further, ancient Jewish culture dictates that after the death of a husband the sons were to care for their mother.  A widow was considered blessed to have sons because they inherited the father’s possessions and his tie to land.  To have lost her husband and then years later to have no sons was a mark of shame, and it weighed heavily on Naomi.  She had no choice but to go back to Judah to reconnect with extended family members and her community.  The people would know her story upon return.  As the three women made their way toward Judah, broken and in mourning, Naomi stopped during their trek and pleaded with her daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth to return to their own mothers to start over.  Her daughters-in-law would also need to be cared for in this culture.  Naomi encouraged them to go back to the security of their own people.  However, she also spoke the blessing of the Lord over her daughters-in-law.  She prayed that the Lord would deal kindly with them as a reward for their love for her sons as well as the kindness extended to her.  After the death of their husbands, Orpah and Ruth could have immediately returned to their families and left Naomi to grieve alone.  However, they showed great honor for their husbands’ memory and their mother-in-law by caring for her and refusing to leave her side.


1.    How has someone offered hope when you found yourself in a dark place?  Have you tried to offer hope to others while in a dark place?


A Daughter’s Response (Ruth 1:12-18, 22, NRSV)


12Turn back, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I should have a husband tonight and bear sons,
13would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the LORD has turned against me."
14Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
15So she said, "See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law."
16But Ruth said, "Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.
17Where you die, I will die— there will I be buried. May the LORD do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!"
18When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.
22So Naomi returned together with Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, who came back with her from the country of Moab. They came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.


Naomi made the case to the two women that no hope existed for them if they remained with her (verses 12-13).  Naomi would be unable to have more sons for them to marry but if they returned home, they could possibly find husbands and marry again because they were young.  Naomi was reeling in the bitterness of her losses and felt forsaken by God but tried to offer hope for a future for her daughters-in-law. 

Orpah reluctantly listened to her mother-in-law’s logic and with a gut-wrenching cry said goodbye, but Ruth decided to stay with or “cling to” her mother-in-law.  Naomi again pleaded with Ruth to return to her family and her gods like Orpah, but Ruth refused.  In this moment Ruth became more than a daughter by marriage but a daughter birthed in the spirt as she literally comes into a covenant relationship.  Ruth responded emphatically that she did not want to leave Naomi’s side and that she wanted to continue the journey. 

Ruth honors her husband’s memory in declaring to remain with her mother-in-law, not wanting to dishonor her by leaving her to travel alone.  Ruth becomes one with Naomi by proclaiming that where she lives, she will live.  She would become one with her people and worship her God.  Where Naomi is buried, she would also be buried; she accepts that if she does not keep her word and stay by her side, she would leave it to God to judge her.  To seal the deal, Ruth vows that nothing but death will separate her from her mother-in-law.  When Naomi saw how resolute Ruth was about moving forward with her, she said nothing more.  When love in action is strong and committed, it requires no further argument and nothing more is to be done but to receive it.  Ruth, a Moabite woman, displays such great love and honor for a woman she highly esteems, leaving all that is familiar to start a new life.




1.    Can you see the picture of God’s love for His people and His church to not allow anything or anyone to separate them from His love?  How do we respond to such a love?

2.    How have you seen God provide in the midst of loss or hardship?

3.    How can we show care to those who have shown care for us?

4.    Have you ever been in an unfamiliar situation?  Who did you turn to for guidance?

5.    What are times when you feel God has tested your strength?  How did you react?

6.    How do we choose which communities to belong to?



Today, we live and build relationships with others in multiple communities such as families, towns, work sites, and congregations.  As we decide to identify with various groups, we should reflect on what motivates us to choose specific communities.  Each community serves different purposes in our lives and benefits us in various ways.  Our communities should be places that enable us to grow.  This is a critical factor in determining whether to stay or join a different community.

We are called to show one another deep love and commitment to God and His people.  When one of us hurts, we all hurt.  Nothing hurts more than the death of a loved one.  Many churches make a resolution to care for members when they suffer such loss. With churches all around, communities across the country have been touched by gun violence that has ripped the hearts of mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, extended family, and friends.  How can our churches be first responders to provide hope and healing?  How can we stay in touch in the days and weeks to come?


NEXT WEEK’S LESSON: 10 December 2023 at 09:00 EST


Facing Life with Confidence
(The Faith of David)
1 Samuel 17:31-37, 45, 48-50
Background: 1 Samuel 17:1-50
Devotional Reading: Acts 10:34-38



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