SMALL GROUP CURRICULUM (Download PDF)
Spend the week studying Ruth 2:1-23. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
Determine which discussion points and questions will work best with your group.
Pray for our pastors and this week’s message, the upcoming group time, your group members, and their receptivity to God’s Word.
Focus on the Main Point. The Book of Ruth is a love story about Ruth and Boaz, but it’s also a love story about God’s love for Naomi and ultimately for us. Marriage is a picture of Christ’s relationship with the church. By studying Ruth and Boaz’s courtship we will discover both God’s design for marriage and the character qualities necessary for a God-honoring relationship.
As your group time begins, use this section to help get the conversation going.
What qualities do you think most single people today look for in a spouse?
What qualities make for a good spouse? How is this list of qualities different from what people look for?
For those of you who are married, are the qualities you appreciate about your spouse different now than when you first met? How so?
Countless romantic movies present us with stories of people desperately searching for “The One,” that perfect person who will complete them. Such influences have skewed what we look for in a spouse. We live in a culture that often values temporal characteristics like physical beauty and “chemistry” over enduring qualities like humility and faith. As we begin the second chapter of Ruth, we will see how Ruth and Boaz were able to establish an enduring relationship because of their faith in God.
Unpack the biblical text to discover what Scripture says or means about a particular topic.
HAVE A VOLUNTEER READ RUTH 2:1-23.
What sorts of trials might Ruth and Naomi have faced as widows living in Bethlehem?
What was Ruth hoping to accomplish by gleaning “among the reapers” (v. 2)? What does this tell us about her?
When Naomi arrived at her hometown of Bethlehem, her spiritual and physical fatigue was evident. She complained that God had made her life bitter (see 1:20). Here were two impoverished women, and their immediate need was for food. Naomi may have been too tired or depressed to know what to do next.
The initiative to confront their problem came from Ruth (v. 2). We read in Leviticus 19:9-10 that landowners were required to leave the edges of their fields unharvested. Neither were they to go back and pick up excess heads of grain that had fallen to the ground or had been missed by the harvesters. This grain was to be left as food for the poor to gather. Not everyone obeyed the law, of course, and Ruth had to seek a field in which she would be allowed to glean. Yet she faced up the whatever embarrassment that entailed and found a field where she was allowed to work.
What do we learn about Boaz from verse 4?
How did Boaz respond to Ruth’s request to glean in his field (vv. 7-9, v. 14)? What does that tell us about his character?
The first words out of Boaz’s mouth to his servants were about the Lord and were words of blessing. This tells us that Boaz loved the Lord and was kind to his servants. The most fundamental attribute of a lasting relationship is that both parties love the Lord (see 2 Cor. 6:14). Furthermore, we see Boaz showed kindness to Ruth by feeding her, allowing her to freely glean in his field, and promising her protection.
What did Boaz see in Ruth that attracted him to her in verses 11-12?
What did Ruth do with the grain she had gleaned in Boaz’s field (v. 18)? What can we learn from her example?
Ruth’s unwavering commitment to supporting and caring for Naomi, her mother-in-law, attracted Boaz to her. He recognized that her selfless acts of service demonstrated her commitment to the Lord. Humility and service may not be attributes that most people look for in a partner, but they are attributes Jesus demonstrated (see Mark 10:45) and are fundamental to enduring, God-honoring relationships.
HAVE A VOLUNTEER READ EPHESIANS 5:22-33.
What does this passage teach us of marriage’s symbolism? In what ways?
How would you define submission? Why does the word tend to stir up controversy?
What does true submission look like? What does it not look like?
Submission doesn’t mean losing your sense of worth or self. It’s a voluntary and loving choice to follow in a way that displays how Christians follow Jesus. Christians don’t submit because someone forces them to do so; they submit voluntarily. Wives weren’t forced to think of themselves as their husbands’ property. They should see themselves as their husband’s partner and receive from him sacrificial love.
How is Jesus’ work on the cross an example of submission for us?
What does the love husbands are called to model look like (vv. 25-30)?
A husband is not to view his leadership as superior but as a responsibility and commitment to sacrifice everything for his wife. Paul also used the imagery of husbands loving their wives as their own bodies. Just as Christ nourishes and nurtures each of us as members of His body, a husband is to humble himself to seek his wife’s best interests, provide unselfishly for her welfare, and give priority to their relationship above all other human relationships.
How might a wife respond to a husband who loves her like Jesus? How does this type of love benefit her spiritually?
How does a relationship centered on sacrificial love and submission reflect the gospel? How can you and your spouse keep these ideas as a common part of your marriage?
Though Ephesians 5 is often quoted to remind women of their struggle of submission, one might argue that it is the husband who receives the greater challenge from God. She must submit. He must love with the love of Jesus. It is clear though that each action serves the other. The wife, in submitting, encourages her husband to Christlikeness and the husband, in loving like Jesus, makes it easier for the wife to submit. Paul summarized the relationship between the husband and wife by calling them to love and respect each other. Mutual love and respect, qualities we see clearly modeled in the relationship between Ruth and Boaz, offers the best chance for a successful home.
Help your group identify how the truths from the Scripture passage apply directly to their lives. Create some talking points for the group by looking at the practical implications of the lesson. Get group members to talk about the real-life implications of the passage. Look at what can be applied specifically to Pinelake.
In your own words, how would you explain the main goal of a Christian marriage?
What elements do you believe are vital to a godly marriage? Which of these needs the most attention in your marriage? What is something you can do to focus on it?
How can living out God’s marriage ideals be difficult? In what ways can it be rewarding?
Help your group identify how the truths from the Scripture passage impact the way you lead at Pinelake and interact with people outside of Pinelake.
How does a proper view of marriage affect our relationship with God? How does it affect the lives of those of us who are single?
What could we as a group do to encourage mutual love and respect in our individual marriages? In our relationships with others?
In what ways does a marriage committed to mutual love and respect demonstrate the gospel to others? If you are married, how might your marriage provide you opportunities to point people to Christ?
Lead your group in prayer, asking God to strengthen the relationships of Pinelake based on the truths of His Word. Pray that marriages would reflect the submissiveness and sacrificial love God desires spouses to show each other.
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following information:
Questions to consider as they continue to reflect on what they learned this week:
- Consider actions and words that would not be characteristic of a relationship built on mutual love and respect. Are any of these areas of weakness in your life? Focus on one and ask God to help you improve it in your relationships.
- What new action could you take to show that you relate to your spouse on the basis of your relationship to Christ? What about in other relationships (children, parents, church family, etc.)?
The challenge to memorize Ephesians 5:31-33.
2:1-3. The practice of gleaning allowed the poor to go through the fields after the harvesters, picking up the grain that was left behind, along with the grain that landowners were required to leave at the edges of their fields (Lev. 19:9-10). The phrase translated a worthy man could designate Boaz as possessing wealth and property, but it becomes clear as the story unfolds that Boaz is also a man of integrity. The family connection was unknown to Ruth. Humanly speaking, she just happened to end up gleaning in his field, but there are no coincidences in God’s program, and this divine appointment proved that the Lord was not against Naomi, as she thought (1:20-21).
2:4-7. Boaz’s noble character was displayed in his care for his workers. Even his greeting to them was in the name of the Lord, and he knew them well enough to recognize a stranger in their midst. His question did not seek Ruth’s name but her relationships: Whose young woman is this? The servant’s answer twice highlighted her foreignness. He also offered an unsolicited testimony to her diligent hard work in the hot sun.
2:8-10. Boaz’s noble character is again on display in his kind words to Ruth. Gleaning could be dangerous, especially for a young foreign woman, and Boaz issued instructions to ensure her safety. He also allowed her to drink the water his young men had brought, saving her the lengthy trip to the well. Ruth’s response was to prostrate herself as a mark of respect for a social superior. As a Moabitess, she could easily have been ignored by Boaz, but he had noticed her and shown kindness to her.
2:11-13. The death of a husband exhausted a daughter-in-law’s obligations, as Naomi herself had made clear (1:11). Yet Ruth had remained with Naomi, leaving her own land and people, which meant entrusting her future to the favor of the deity of the new land. Boaz asked the Lord, the God of Israel, to reward Ruth’s faithfulness to Naomi and to shelter her under His protecting wings, as a mother bird shelters her young. Ruth responded with an expression of thanks for Boaz’s kind and encouraging words to her, even though she had no claim on him, not even that of a maidservant in his employment.
2:14-16. As an impoverished gleaner, Ruth would normally have had little or nothing to eat while out in the fields. Boaz, however, invited her to eat with him and his harvesters. In contrast to Naomi’s declaration in 1:21 that she went out full and came back empty, Ruth went out empty and came back full. There is no hint of romantic interest in Boaz’s actions. He was simply demonstrating his compassion and generosity to Ruth who, even though a foreigner, was linked to him through Naomi. He went so far as to instruct his harvesters deliberately to leave some grain for her to pick up, an action that went far beyond the demands of the law of Moses.
2:17-20. The measure of Boaz’s generosity and Ruth’s hard work is demonstrated in the remarkable quantity of grain that she gathered—an ephah (about 26 quarts) of barley. This was enough grain to feed a working man for several weeks. Boaz’s generosity was evidence for Naomi that the Lord has not forsaken His kindness to the living or the dead. This represents a change in Naomi’s attitude toward the Lord from 1:21. The judgment that the family had experienced was not His final word for them.
Family redeemers (v. 20) were relatives who were obliged to buy back family members from debt-slavery or to redeem their field if they had to sell it (Lev. 25:25-30). The family redeemer would also receive restitution on behalf of a deceased family member or pursue his killer to ensure that justice was served (Num. 5:8; 35:12). He might also raise up a child for the dead relative in order to maintain the connection between the clan and its hereditary property (Deut. 25:5-10), though Boaz had no legal obligation to act in this way.
2:21-23. Naomi’s approval of Boaz’s invitation for Ruth to remain until the end of the harvest demonstrates a concern for Ruth’s safety not evident in verse 2. However, the concern may also reflect Naomi’s growing awareness of her own culpability in the fate of her own family. Her earlier journey to the fields of Moab was an attempt to glean food “in the field of another” instead of seeking refuge under the wings of the Lord as she should have done. Boaz’s generosity may have provided food, but Ruth’s need of a home with a husband of her own is still real.
5:22-24. The wife is to be subject to her husband as to the Lord. This does not mean that she submits to her husband in the same way and to the same degree as she does the Lord, since the husband might ask her to disobey God. Rather, she serves the Lord by having a submissive heart toward her husband and by obeying him as long as it does not require her to disobey the Lord. The reason she is called upon to be subject to her husband is that the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church.
As the church is to be subject to Christ, so the wife is to be subject to her husband. This subjection does not mean inferiority. It is clear that male and female are both created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27) and that in Christ, where personal worth is concerned, there is “neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). However, in the overall scheme of things, God has placed all of us in differing positions of authority and submission. The man may be in authority at home but submissive at work. The woman may be in submission at home and in authority at work. The point is, all social order depends on people’s willingness to work together and ability to determine who is the head of certain endeavors. God’s intention is that the husband be the head of the relationship with his wife.
5:25-27. After instructing wives to submit to their husbands, he instructs husbands to love their wives so completely and so righteously that the wife need never fear or suffer from her life of submission. Husbands are to love their wives just as Christ loved the church. How did Christ love the church? He gave Himself up for her. Jesus dedicated His life to the establishment and welfare of the church. He ultimately gave His life for the church. To that degree, and in that quality, the husband is to love his wife. He is to give himself up for her. He is to dedicate his life to the physical, emotional, and spiritual welfare of his wife. Following the example of Christ, he is to give his wife not only all that he has but also all that he is. When a husband loves his wife so completely, the wife need never fear submission. Paul goes on to extend the picture of Christ and the church. Christ loved the church that He might make her holy, or set her apart for Himself. He did this by the washing with water through the word. Some Bible teachers do not think Paul is referring to water (baptism) in this verse. They understand the water to be a figure of speech, referring to the cleansing that the Holy Spirit brings to the soul through repentance, after hearing the Word of God. It is as Jesus said in John 15:3, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” Applying water to the outside of the physical body can have no effect whatsoever to the spiritual cleansing that makes one holy. Through repentance, the water of the word reaches the innermost recesses of the soul, cleansing and making it holy.
However, believe that Paul is, indeed, alluding to baptism here, understanding that the early church would only have baptized someone who had truly repented. In this understanding, baptism would be an outward sign of repentance and of the spiritual cleansing resulting from the repentance, itself a result of hearing and obeying the Word. The New Testament does not suggest that baptism cleanses a person apart from repentance or that baptism apart from personal faith can save a person. We might amplify the meaning of this phrase by saying that the true church heard the Word of Christ preached and believed it. They were born again, regenerated, washed and cleansed spiritually by believing the Word. If Paul were alluding to baptism here, then the washing of the water in baptism would be symbolic of the inner cleansing that had already taken place through the Word.
The result of this work of Christ is that the church is radiant ... without spot or wrinkle ... holy and without blemish. If a husband loves his wife as Christ loved the church, his love and care will have a sanctifying influence on the wife, who will experience personal benefit and progress as a result. The wife will never be perfect, but she becomes more than she would if the husband does not love her as Christ loved the church.
5:28-32. After having presented the work of Christ for the church, Paul now comes back to the reality of husband- wife relationships. He repeats the fact that husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. Even though the husband lives in an imperfect body, he loves it, nourishes it, and cherishes it. So he is to do the same for his wife, even though she is imperfect. Paul repeats Genesis 2:24, establishing that a husband and wife are to become one flesh, and closes by restating that the relationship between the wife and a husband is like the relationship between Christ and the church.
5:33. After discussing the role of the husband, Paul comes back in a summary statement in verse 33 to add that the wife is to respect her husband. In summary, she is to be subject to her husband and to respect him. Respect literally means “fear.” It can refer, however, to the fear a person should have before God, a reverence and respect (see Luke 1:50; 18:2; Acts 10:35; 1 Pet. 2:17; Rev. 14:7; 19:5). This type of reverence should characterize the relationship of a wife and her husband.