Ruth is the 3rd woman listed in the genealogy of Christ.
She exemplifies an important truth for the greatest adventure.
She took hold of that for which Christ
had taken hold of her.
I think of the LORD as “the LORD of the dance,”
who wants each of His children
to take His hand and let Him lead each day,
the dance He had planned for each of us from the beginning of time.
Watch this clip from Miss Potter and
imagine the Lord singing these words to you.
It is a mystery, but we are told that God
has taken hold of each of us for a purpose.
How do you know what that is for your life and for each day?
We ask Him, are alert, and so often, are amazed.
God’s ways truly are mysterious, but if we are prayerful and attentive, I believe He will show us, as we will see this week how He led Ruth to take an enormous risk, and leave her family to follow Naomi all the way to Bethlehem, then to go out into the fields, then to boldly approach Boaz.
The lovely paintings below should be seen from right to left for the story in sequence: Ruth leaving Moab, clinging to Naomi; Ruth meeting Boaz, Ruth and Naomi with baby Obed.
You have studied this story before (in fact, I’m counting on it — but if you haven’t — be sure you read the 4 chapters in Ruth) — so this week we will look just at the prayers in the book of Ruth. I believe God puts prayers in our heart, but when we actually pray them, we begin to take hold of that for which He has taken hold of us. We are going to look at those prayers and I believe they will encourage you to pray, be alert, and experience the dance!
Let me tell you a story. Below is a picture of Pam, a young mom who spoke at our evangelistic Christmas Tea this year. Two years earlier, Pam was struggling with postpartum depression and weeping in the locker room of the YMCA. When she came out of the shower, there was an anonymous note pinned to her backpack. A woman was praying for her, that she would find her place in God’s plan. That was the beginning for Pam, a devout Catholic, and she put her hand in God’s, and asked Him to lead. First He led her to get therapy, and she began to heal. Then, last Christmas, at what might seem like a “chance meeting,” God led her in the next step. Pam’s husband took their little boys to a park one evening and one of their pre-school sons (Elijah) met another pre-school boy, also named Elijah, when running through this Christmas tunnel of lights in Sister Bay, Wisconsin.
Gretta was the mother of the other little boy named Elijah, and Gretta goes to my Bible study. Prayerfully, Gretta took hold of what Christ Jesus had taken hold of her, by befriending Pam and inviting her to Bible study.
Pam did not want to go — she was scared. But her husband, also a devout Catholic, prayed for her and encouraged her to go. She did, taking hold of what Christ Jesus had taken hold of her. And her life was changed. And indeed, it all started when an anonymous woman dared to pray the prayer God put in her heart — and pinned it to a backpack.
We often help each other in the body of Christ to hear the music and take God’s hand. Truly, God often works with praying women, telling us two are better than one.
Debbie, who orchestrates the Christmas Tea, and Twila and I, who help, were all praying about who should give their testimony this year — a key decision. We often find new Christians are the best for they don’t speak Christian lingo and they are so excited and fresh. Our vision for this annual Christmas tea is to woo unbelievers to try Bible study. We ask the women who are already in Bible study to host a table and invite their unbelieving friends. And they do. Each makes a beautiful table and prayerfully invites friends.
Many hands and hearts make this tea beautiful, and as they bake, decorate, make favors, and invite — they pray. They pray for the women to come whom God wants to come, and they pray for the steering committee to know whom to invite to give a testimony. And they pray for the day to glorify God and accomplish His purposes. They want to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus has taken hold of them.
When we prayed, “Pam” kept coming to mind. I had already thought of her when Debbie said, “How about Pam?”
I asked Twila. She said: “Pam would be perfect.”
When I e-mailed Pam to ask her I didn’t hear back — she was so scared. So I invited her to get together with me. And as we sat with coffee before the fire, I said: “You don’t have to do this, Pam. We want you to hear from God.”
“I am going to do it.”
“You are?” (Jumping up and down inside.)
“Yes — I am very scared but my husband feels God is calling me to do it.”
Pam took hold of that for which Christ took hold of her. She was WONDERFUL. Honest, vulnerable — telling the women she DID NOT want to come to Bible study but God simply surrounded her — and at the very first meeting she knew it was what she needed — and it changed her life.
We definitely saw that God led us all in this dance, as breath-taking a dance as the tango! Gretta shared beautifully as well (she is to the left of Pam at the table below) Aslan was on the move and many signed up for study. What an adventurous life we are permitted to have if we just take His hand in the dance. We pray, are alert, and are amazed. Taking hold of what Christ has taken hold for us.
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
2. What do you think it means “to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus has taken hold of you?”
3. How have you experienced this? Share a specific story.
Monday: Naomi’s Prayer
Though the sky fell on Naomi, and she lost her home, her husband, her sons, and her position, still, there must have been something beautiful in her that her daughters-in-law would want to permanently leave their own families and travel with her to Bethlehem. You get a glimpse of the love that drew them in her prayer for them:
We pray as best we can, considering our doubting hearts, but God often takes those flawed prayers, sifts them, and gives us not what we asked for but what we need. Just our act of endeavoring to pray persistently is a way of taking hold of God. Naomi envisioned the girls returning to Moab and finding Moabite husbands, assuming no true Israelite would marry a Moabite. And indeed, that is probably what happened to Orpah. But not Ruth.
How often I have experienced the same. A year ago I accepted an invitation to a church in Georgia. I took it because, generally speaking, their denomination has lost its grip on the gospel, and I thought I would go and bring them the good news. Then, when I got there, I found one of the most grounded groups of women I have ever spoken to. What’s going on, Lord? Now this same church is working with me in February to film a curriculum for The Jesus Who Surprises. We move forward as best we can, praying our feeble prayers, and then God shows up, doing what He planned to do all along, and it might be quite different than we imagined.
4. What kind of sacrifice and love do you see in Naomi’s prayer for her daughters-in-law?
5. How do you think she expected God to answer her prayers — and how did He surprise her?
Tuesday: Ruth’s Prayer
Ruth’s prayer has immortalized her. Though often spoken, aptly, as a wedding vow, it was spoken from a daughter-in-law to her mother-in-law. She saw a difference between the gods of Moab and Naomi’s God, and here she pledges herself to Him with a frightening vow.
6. Read Ruth 1:8-18
A. How many times does Naomi tell Ruth to go back to Moab — and why, do you
B. What promises does Ruth make to Naomi and to Naomi’s God — and
how does she convince Naomi that she is not to be dissuaded?
C. Why do you think Ruth does not do what Naomi asks?
D. How did Ruth take hold of that which Christ Jesus took hold of her?
Wednesday: The Harvesters’ Prayer and Boaz’ Prayer
Ruth, still taking God’s hand in the dance, asks permission of Naomi to go out and glean in the fields. “As it happens” she finds herself in the field of Boaz. And again, “just then,” Boaz comes to check on the harvesters. He was a good man and they loved him, and their greeting to him is a prayer.
7. The above is such a simple prayer — but consider — how did God answer this?
8. Next, Boaz encounters Ruth. He goes beyond the law of the reaper, where God told the Israelites to let the aliens and widows glean on the edges of the field. See if you can see it in Ruth 2:8-9 and Ruth 2:15-16.
9. Read Ruth 2:10-12
A. How does Boaz answer Ruth’s question?
B. What does he pray for her?
he was surprised at this answer?
Thursday: The Prayer of the Women of Bethlehem
Oh my. Their prayer os SO BOLD, I have to believe it was inspired by His Spirit.
10. Read Ruth 4:11-15
A. Ruth had been barren in Moab. What do they pray in verses 11-12?
B. How does the listing of Leah and Tamar indicate the Spirit is guiding their
C. How is their prayer for being famous in Bethlehem answered?
D. What do they say about Ruth. (Israelites considered 7 sons a perfect family.)
11. How do you see the people in the book of Ruth taking hold of that for which God took hold of them?
Friday: Optional Keller Sermon
This one is not free, so it’s optional. Here’s the link. If you buy it, share your notes and comments.
12. Notes and comments
13. What is your take-a-way and why?