24 Life Experience (2)

Mary was a bit apprehensive while waiting to board her plane. She had mixed feelings of excitement and sadness. On one hand she was happy about going with her fiancé and getting married in his homeland; on the other hand, she missed her hometown a lot, the place that she was born and raised. Before boarding for the plane, she took one last look at the city out of the window and silently whispered good-bye!

Finally the plane arrived in Canada, Mary and her fiancé were greeted by their in-laws. Her mother-in-law, Irene, was a very nice and caring person. She was amiable, loving, kind-hearted, helpful and always in good spirit. Even though this was the first time meeting her, Mary already felt very comforting and relieved, and it alleviated much of her nostalgia. 

Irene walked out of her way to help Mary to adjust to the new environment and to overcome the hurdles of language and cultural differences. She took care of her in every aspect, from daily living to blending into the community, even to every details of life. Mary still remembered vividly while her first son was born, she suffered from post-partum blue. She was easily agitated and very emotional, cried and cried all the time. Irene helped around the house and looked after her health, she even took care the baby 24/7. It was not easy for the sleep-deprived and stressful days. What supported Irene was her strong faith in God!

Irene’s steadfast faith and her unceasing love for the family impacted Mary for life. Mary was raised under Marxism, in her life she had never experienced true selfless love, in her relationship with people, there were only transactions of mutual benefit, there was no ‘unconditional sacrifice’ in her motto of life. However, from her mother-in-law, Mary saw an entirely different picture, she came to realise genuine love and acceptance, giving without taking and selfless sacrifice; the most precious thing was she experienced the almighty and loving God who was backing Irene up.

Although Irene was very old now, Mary determined to take care of her mother-in-law until she met God, in order to thank her love for the past years, and she vowed to pass on Irene’s steadfast faith to the generations to come! (To be continued)

Your Initial Response

What do you think is the binding force that relates the genuine relationship between the in-laws?

Ruth 1:5–17

5both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband. 

6When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. 

7With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah. 

8Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. 

9May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.” Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud 

10and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.” 

11But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands?

12Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons—

13would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!” 

14At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her. 

15“Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.” 

16But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 

17Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:5–17 NIV) 

1) “Eye” (“i=Eye”)

iEXP Bible Study Method

1 Draw a question mark at the place where you have difficulty of understanding.

2 Circle all the words that are related with human names.

3 Put a number next to the acts of God in ascending order.

4 Fill in the blanks. 16But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, ____ will go, and where you lodge, ____ will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, ____ God. 17 “Where you die, I will die, and there ____ will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.”

5 Refer to other translations and come up with some new insights.

2) “Expound” (E)

iEXP Bible Study Method

The affection between a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law in a chaotic era was recorded in the Book of Ruth. Moreover, Ruth was a former pagan but she acknowledged her as an Israelite now. The most important thing is that, Ruth chose Yahweh as her personal God.

1 How was the era of Judges like?

2 Did the Moabites know Yahweh (The Lord)?

3 What is the meaning of “deal kindly” (Ruth 1:8)?

4 What is worthy for us to pay attention to Ruth’s statement (Ruth 1:16-17)?

The era of Judges was a time of cruelty, apostasy and civil war. In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6; 18:11; 19:1; 21:25). The story about Ruth was happened in this age of moral corruption, political decline and religious bankruptcy; however, it recorded the genuine love between human beings, the faithfulness between human beings, the faithfulness of people toward their faith, the faithfulness of God toward His people and God’s salvation for humankind.

The Israelites betrayed the true God and thus their homeland was punished as a result (cf. Lev 26:18-20; Deut 28:23-24). The meaning of Bethlehem was house of bread or granary of bread; but ironically, famines came to this place. Therefore Elimelech brought his family to Moab the foreign nation, and they sought refuge in the land of the Moabites.

Elimelech had a family of four, and his name means my God is King. His wife is Naomi, meaning pleasant. The couple had two sons; they were called Mahlon and Chilion. Mahlon means sickness and Chilion means vanishing. Owing to the fact that they were born in the regrettable dark days of Judges, they received these unusual names from their parents.

Elimelech died in a foreign land and his two sons married Moabite women respectively. Mahlon’s wife was Ruth (cf. Ruth 4:10) Ruth connotes friendship and Orpah means neck (a term of physical beauty in that culture). Thus, the widow of Elimelech and the rest of the family resided in Moab for ten years (Ruth 1:4). Due to religious difference, God forbade the Israelites to marry the pagans (Deuteronomy 7:1-3; Ezra 9:1-2; Neh. 13:23-25).

However, Ruth trusted Yahweh wholeheartedly as a pagan woman; furthermore, God’s special grace came upon Ruth that she became one of the ancestors of David (Ruth 4:210).

Ruth 1:5

According to the Jewish tradition, they regarded the death of Elimelech and his two sons as God’s punishment for their leaving Bethlehem. However, the above theory had no contextual support. God might not be pleased with them in regarding to the matter of marrying pagan women, and there were two things that might have insinuated this theory: first of all, both daughters-in-law of Elimelech were childless; bareness was a curse to the Israelites. Furthermore, as both sons of Elimelech died one after another, thus they could not produce a heir.

Ruth 1:6-7

Naomi heard in the land of Moab that the Lord was graciously granting food to His people. Viewing from the surface, Naomi brought her daughters-in-law to her country was purely for their physical needs, and there was nothing to do with religion. Naomi left for her homeland as she was seeking food.

Ruth 1:8-9

“Deal kindly” might be interpreted as faithful love or true kindness. It is a covenant term, including the positive attributes of God, such as love, covenant faithfulness, mercy, grace, kindness, loyalty. In the past days, both daughters-in-law kindly dealt with their deceased husbands and mother-in-law. By means of human loving-kindness, Naomi experienced God’s faithful love. As they were on their way to Israel, Naomi changed her mind all of a sudden and encouraged her daughters-in-law to return to their own country. The author of the Book of Ruth did not give an explanation about the reason behind it. Naomi wished God would “deal kindly” with her daughters-in-law that they could have a happy family once again. There are two points worthy to our attention: first of all, Naomi firmly believed the power of Yahweh; He could deal kindly with them even if they were in the land of Moab. Secondly, Naomi loved her daughters-in-law, hoping that they would enjoy peace, permanence and satisfaction in their life (Ruth 1:9). Naomi kissed her daughters-in-law after finished mentioning her wish. From the outburst of crying aloud, we knew that they loved one another.

Ruth 1:10

When both daughters-in-law heard the heartfelt words of their mother-in-law, the responses of both daughters-in-law were identical. They did not want to forsake their mother-in-law and they were willing to go to her homeland.

Ruth 1:11-13

When Naomi saw the responses of her daughters-in-law, she sternly stated that she had lost the ability of childbearing, and she could not give birth to two sons that they could take her daughters-in-law as wives (Ruth 1:11; cf. Deu. 25:5, 6). Furthermore, since God made her suffer, thus she would not wish her daughters-in-law to suffer with her (Ruth 1:12-13). Naomi manifested her loving-kindness toward her daughters-in-law, and she hoped that they would enjoy a happy life.

Ruth 1:14-15

After hearing the words from the depths of Naomi’s heart, both daughters-in-law cried again. However, Orpah took the advice from her mother-in-law and decided to return to her homeland. As for Ruth, she did not want to forsake her mother-in-law (Ruth 1:4). For this very reason, Naomi used Orpah’s decision to encourage Ruth to return to her homeland again (Ruth 1:50).

Ruth 1:6-17

Naomi persuaded Ruth once more but she did not change her mind. Instead, five important aspects were revealed in her conversation: first, she chose her mother-in-law’s destination; second, she chose her mother-in-law’s dwelling; third, she chose her mother-in-law’s people; fourth, she chose her mother-in-law’s God; fifth, she even chose her mother-in-law’s burial place.

Conclusion

From the speech and acts of Ruth, we can tell that she loved her mother-in-law deeply. Not only did she regard the Israelites as her own countrymen, but she also firmly acknowledged that Yahweh was the God she trusted.

3) “Exercise” (X)

iEXP Bible Study Method

1 Suffering is ongoing and no one is exempted from it.

2 Memorise Ruth 1:16-17. 

16But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:5–17 NIV) 

3 As for unmarried people, we should resolve to love our seniors and learn to build a deeper relationship with them.

4 As for married couples, we should resolve to be daughters-in-law or sons-in-law who love our seniors.

5 As for unmarried people, we should resolve to love our seniors and learn to build a deeper relationship with them.

6 As for seniors, we should resolve to be considerate to our daughters-in-law, children and grandchildren.

7 As for all of us, we should resolve to be faithful, both to God and our nation.

4) “Proclaim” (P)

By applying the biblical truths to their lives, believers would experience God. When the Bible students experience God and His truths, they should follow the example of the early Christians of testifying to non-believers and believers boldly. By means of speech, we witness to non-believing friends and to edify believers alike. The fourth step of the iEXP Bible study is “Proclaim”.

iEXP Bible Study Method

After finished studying the text, try to apply the truths to your daily living, family life and church life, and pray that you will experience the truthfulness and power of God’s Word. Grab the opportunity to share your experience with non-believers and believers, in family altar, small groups and social gatherings, as a way of witnessing the power of the gospel to non-believers and edification of believers.

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