Chapter 1

Once Upon A Time
(Born For This Generation)

Cinderella’s father is left hidden in the shadows 
as the drama marches on, yet his influence is crucial to the story.

 Ruth 1:1-5, 13, 16-21, and 2:12.
Day 1—Origins
In a land corrupted by idol worship and the blood of child sacrifices, Ruth is born. She becomes part of God’s intricate plan which makes perfect sense from above, but from below looks tangled and confused like the wrong side of an embroiderer’s handiwork. Each day is a stitch in monotony, its repetitive pattern the months and years of what becomes known as her life.

Ruth might be obscure and mundane within the sea of humanity, but not with God. He takes notice. God looks down on the land of Moab and His heart breaks with compassion as He is drawn not only to Ruth but to all the unfortunate children awaiting their fate at the hands of priests eager for blood, seeking to satisfy their idols. But the children’s parents secretly mourn the sacrifices these idols demand and despise the trap of their own religion. Ruth, caught in the nets of her culture, remains helpless against such odds.

A longing escapes the heart of God and comes to rest within the core of Ruth’s soul. God’s gentle cry permeates her heart, soaking her childhood and seeping into her young adult life, preparing a nesting place for the seed of salvation.

Meanwhile, Israel, a neighboring nation, once mighty in faith, becomes weak, trapped within its own apathy like seeds within a gourd. God twists and pries the knife of discipline but it is pinched by Israel’s rebellion. God struggles with the stubborn pride of a nation until, at last, this seed of faith, shriveled and lame, is extracted. It is carried by famine with grudging reluctance in the arms of Elimelech and Naomi to Moab where, by sovereign design it finds its resting place in the heart of a young girl named Ruth.

Just as God prepared Ruth’s heart, He also softens the tapestry of our lives. Tears of compassion stream from His heart, aching for relationship with a distracted and disinterested people. You are here in this generation and in this place on the earth for a reason. The Designer moves His fingers across your life and weaves it into His master plan, connecting you with those who have gone before and those yet to come. You are given the privilege to carry the seed of faith beyond yourself into great fruitfulness and abundant living—if you are willing.

The seed of faith within the heart of Ruth grows to bless the lives of others but is first cultivated into the likeness of Christ through hardship. We soon learn that Ruth’s story begins with a father who makes a poor choice resulting in tragedy, similar to Cinderella’s beginnings. Yet in the tragedy, Ruth’s faith is strengthened to support others. We too may find our lives entwined with circumstances which are out of our control. God desires to work His purposes in our lives in spite of our surroundings, but we cannot remain passive victims. Right choices must be made, excuses left behind, and responsibility taken in order for our relationship with God to move forward.

                                    Day 2—Contrasting Fathers
The book of Ruth is an oasis of beauty set in the context of national decay and compromise.  Yet it begins with a father from Israel who makes an unwise choice resulting in great strife for his family. This example contrasts with that of our Heavenly Father who always makes right choices having our best in mind. (James 1:17)  We learn that God’s character is not always based on the model of our earthly father. 

Read Ruth 1:1-2
A famine throughout Israel motivates a family to move from Israel to Moab. This family plays an important role in the life of Ruth. The father’s name is ______________the husband of Naomi. He has two sons, ___________________ and ___________________. The family is from _____________________in _________________________.

Originating with Abraham, God set Israel apart to be His own, not mixing in marriage or worship with other cultures thus preserving their purity. The Israelites were a showcase of God’s provision and interaction with mankind, but during the time of the judges when Ruth lived, Israel had wandered far from its purpose. (Deut. 7) Rather than giving an accurate picture of God to the world, they disgraced His name through blatant disobedience. The Israelites thought they could enjoy God’s blessings on their own terms.

Read Judges 21:25
1) What “rule” did Israel live by?

During this time period, Israel often turned its back on God. Surrounding nations became a tool of discipline to return them to Himself. When the discipline became severe, the people cried out to God for a deliverer. God heard and raised up a godly judge to establish peace from their enemies, but they quickly forgot God, returning to bondage. Israel did what was right in their own eyes, ignoring God’s conditions. This cycle of disobedience, consequence, repentance, and deliverance spun Israel around until they were dizzy with idolatry and drunk with their own sin.

Look at Ruth 1:1 again.
2) Why did Elimelech take his family to Moab?

3) Why do you think there was a famine?

Elimelech runs away from God’s discipline. The promised land held with it God’s blessing, which was part of the covenant relationship God held with his people. Elimelech, in moving to Moab, moves away from God’s blessing. He and his family become integrated into a culture of ungodly people evidenced by his sons’ marriage to Moabite women.

Read Ruth 1:3-5
4) What happens to the men in Naomi’s life while in Moab?

God never blesses disobedience, but He can certainly use our mistakes for good. (Rom. 8:28) Here is a drastic example of how God had a plan, even in the midst of great tragedy. Naomi finds herself in a position she never imagined—completely alone, without a husband, sons, or livelihood, and in a foreign land. Her future is bleak.

As the drama of our lives unfolds, we might also find ourselves in less than perfect circumstances, reaping consequences of other’s choices, just as Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah suffered the consequences of Elimelech’s choice. Elimelech, the head of his household, took his family away from Israel, leading them in doubt rather than faith. He and his sons died leaving those in his care in an awful situation. Even his death, though it could not be helped, may be interpreted as failure. Elimelech may have thought he was doing the right thing for his family by moving to Moab, but good intentions are no excuse for disobedience and lack of faith which result in negative consequences.

Because of their loss, Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah felt abandoned and overloaded with responsibility as sorrow defined their days. An emptiness almost too heavy to bear engulfed them. But God is not like that. “...God has said, Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” Heb. 13:5 Unlike Elimelech, our Heavenly Father is infallible. (Matt. 5:48) God never lets us down because “if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” 2nd Tim. 2:13. (see also Heb. 10:23)

God remains constant, but Naomi and Ruth’s perception of Him differs in their interpretation of His involvement in their lives. Naomi’s heart wanders far from the Lord in great bitterness of soul before she begins to draw near once again.  Whereas Ruth embraces God almost immediately. Their perspective of the Heavenly Father makes all the difference.

Read Ruth 1:13, 19-21
5) What is Naomi’s attitude toward God at this time in her life? Is Naomi accurate in her view of God? Why or why not?

Read Ruth 1:16-18; 2:12
6) What is Ruth’s attitude toward God? Why do you think she has this attitude?

Ruth knows she does not deserve God. She is grateful for the privilege of being called His own. She runs toward God in times of trouble, right into His wings of strength. But Naomi holds a grudge against God, as if He owes her something, and she wrongly interprets His discipline. She resists His loving arms open to comfort her and choses, instead, to dwell in anger and self pity. Naomi nurses her assumptions about God, refusing to face the truth. Like Naomi, sometimes we misinterpret God through our lack of perspective resulting in faulty conclusions about Him. We are skilled at rushing to conclusions regarding our earthly fathers as well. They are often misunderstood because of unrealistic and unattainable expectations placed upon them. 

7) What kind of relationship do you have with your earthly father?

8) How do you feel about God as your Heavenly Father?

Lies about God sometimes originate from faulty views of God based on our perception of our natural fathers. This is why it is crucial to know God apart from your earthly father. But by contrast, fathers of integrity are designed to point us toward our Heavenly Father. Have the grace to look past the haze of your earthly father to see your Heavenly Father clearly.

God, our Heavenly Father is accomplishing His purposes on earth. We can choose to go our own way, living only for ourselves and ignore all God intends for us, or we can be part of His plan, reaping fruits of blessing. Elimelech went his own way and missed God’s best. His lack of faith affected those he loved most. Our sin always has an effect on others, but in the same way, obedience can also have long lasting effects.

What kind of legacy will we leave in our wake? Will it be grudges over the choices others have made in our life, or will we release the past, and embrace obedience to God resulting in blessing? Your earthly father may not be everything you want him to be, which largely affects you, his daughter. Don’t let that stop you from knowing God as your perfect Heavenly Father. 

In spite of their hurt, Naomi and Ruth do not remain in Moab, for it had become a place of death for them.  Even though a part of their hearts are torn and left behind, they move towards the pull of God who can heal the deepest wound.  Grudges and self-pity only leave gaping wounds open to bitter infections--indeed, Naomi's heart had already begun to fester.  Yet even without understanding, Naomi turns toward the Great Physician, the One who can give her hope.  The hurt does not keep Naomi from her God, but rather draws her closer to Him. You cannot change your father.  But God can change you as you move on to all God has in store for you in His treasury of spiritual riches. In this manner, your life will find healing and blessing beyond all you could ever ask or think.  

Taken in part from Chapter 1,
Accepted In The Beloved by Jewel Seacrest 
Copyright 2011

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