The book of Ruth is a beautiful story about Ruth and Naomi and Ruth and Boaz. Our focus will be on Ruth’s loyal love which goes far beyond the superficial contexts in which we sometimes use the word “love”. The Hebrew word hesed is the word which has been translated most often as “loyal love” in the NET Bible. In this lesson we will look at walking in hesed or loyal love, a love that speaks of faithfulness, commitment, and devotion. We will look at loyal love in the life of Ruth and at how to show loyal love in our own lives. Of course, the ultimate example of loyal love is the LORD Himself and we will discover some of what the Bible says about His loyal love.
1. In what country and at what time does the book of Ruth begin? What caused Elimilech and his family to leave their home in Bethlehem? (v.1)
2. What family members did Naomi lose in death while she was away from her own country and people? (v.2-5)
3. What did Naomi hear that caused her to decide to return to Judah? (v.6-7)
4. What advice did she give her daughters-in-law? (v.8) What reasoning did she give them in order to persuade them to return to Moab? (v.10-13).
5. What was Orpah returning to when she decided not to go with Naomi? (v.15) Ruth’s profession of faith in the Lord is seen in verses 16-17. What was Ruth giving up to follow Naomi? What did her decision say about her commitment to Naomi and to the Lord?
6. Ruth was a Moabitess who was going to Bethlehem for the first time. Why do you think the Bible describes her as “returning” to Bethlehem? (v.22)
7. Make a list of everything you learn about Ruth from chapter one. Which of these things would be possible barriers to her being accepted in Bethlehem?
8. Can you identify with Naomi and Ruth? Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem because they felt it was the right thing to do, but it was still very difficult. Have you ever had to make a difficult change or move because of circumstances beyond your control? After you made that difficult decision, were you able to see the Lord’s hand in it?
1. It has been said that coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous. Isn’t it interesting that Ruth just “happened” to come to glean in the field of one of her husband’s relatives? Do you see God’s hand in circumstances in your life? Can you think of a specific event or circumstance that might seem like a coincidence, but you know God was involved?
2. How did Ruth describe herself to Boaz? (v.10) How did Boaz describe Ruth? (v.11)
3. What word picture did Boaz use as he blessed Ruth in verse 12? (Note: In the NET Bible, the word picture is found in the footnote.)
Approximately 3 months later.
1. What plan did Naomi suggest to Ruth in order for her to let Boaz know that she was interested in marrying him?
2. In verse 9, Ruth appealed to Boaz as a close relative to “spread his covering over her.” Based on Boaz’s response in the following verses, do you think Boaz understood that she wanted to marry him? The word translated “covering” or “skirt” in this verse is the same word translated “wings” in 2:12.
4. What was Ruth’s reputation in Bethlehem? (v.11)
5. What obstacle kept Boaz from being able to commit to Ruth immediately? (v.12)
1. Boaz went to the gate of the city and talked to the close relative and to the elders of the city. What subject did he bring up first in his discussion of Naomi? (v.3-4)
2. After the close relative agreed to redeem the property that had belonged to Naomi’s husband, what other information did Boaz give him? (v.5) After receiving this added information, what did the close relative decide?
3. After this transaction, what had Boaz acquired according to verses 9 and 10?
4. How did God bless the marriage of Boaz and Ruth? (v.13) Who named this blessing? (v.17)
5. What famous person in Israel’s history is mentioned in the genealogy in v.18-22? What other genealogy lists Ruth and Boaz? (see Matthew 1:1-5) What does this tell you about God and about the people He chooses?
Think back through the book of Ruth and look at Ruth’s words, her actions, and others’ words about her. What evidence do you see that Ruth expressed loyal love?
Ruth chose to follow the LORD and to accompany Naomi back to Bethlehem. Naomi gave Ruth the reasons she should stay in Moab. Naomi knew the obstacles Ruth would face as an outsider in Bethlehem. The only things in Ruth’s favor were her loyal love to Naomi and her commitment to the God of Israel. Ruth is an example of loyal love not only in her decision to leave her family and her country to go with Naomi to Bethlehem but throughout the book as she lives out her promise to stay with Naomi and to make Naomi’s God her God.
In the book of Ruth, we have a snapshot of loyal love and what it looks like in the life of one Moabite woman who came to trust in the LORD. The ultimate picture of loyal love is the LORD Himself, the faithful, covenant keeping God of Israel. We can learn about the LORD’s loyal love by looking at other passages in which it is described. Many of the references to loyal love in the Old Testament are found in the book of Psalms so we will begin there.
1. Notice the repeated phrase concerning the LORD’s loyal love or lovingkindness in each verse. Copy it here. What does this statement reveal about the loyal love of the LORD?
2. List several ways the LORD showed his loyal love according to Psalm 136.
3. What response to this loyal love does the psalmist encourage? (v.1-3, 26)
The psalms not only encourage praise and thanks to the LORD for His loyal love, but they reveal the prayers and appeals that were made to Him based on His loyal love. Read the following verses and note the request made in each based on the LORD’s loyal love.
As I looked at passages that contain the word hesed, I was surprised to find some very familiar verses. I have marked which word in English has been translated from the Hebrew word hesed.
Surely your goodness and faithfulness (hesed) will pursue me all my days,
And I will live in the LORD’s house for the rest of my life. (Ps 23:6 NET)
The Lord’s loyal kindness (hesed) never ceases;
his compassions never end.
They are fresh every morning;
your faithfulness is abundant!
“My portion is the Lord,” I have said to myself,
so I will put my hope in him. (Lam 3:22-24 NET)
“If people want to boast, they should boast about this: They should boast that they understand and know me. They should boast that they know and understand that I, the LORD, act out of faithfulness (hesed), fairness, and justice in the earth and that I desire people to do these things,” says the LORD. (Jer 9:24 NET)
LORD, we praise you today for your steadfast, loyal love that pursues us throughout life. Your loyal kindness never ceases, your faithfulness is abundant, and your compassions are new every morning. We praise you that you act out of faithfulness, fairness, and justice in the earth. Help us to do these things, also, as you desire.
We have looked at Ruth’s loyal love and we have seen the loyal love of the LORD. In order to see how this applies to us as believers, we will look in the book of Proverbs which gives many exhortations to wise living.
Look up the following verses and write down what each says about loyal love. If you have difficulty deciding what the verse means or which word in the verse is the same as loyal love, go to nextbible.org. Type Proverbs in the “Display Bible” box and go to the appropriate chapter and verse. Then click on the verse number of the verse you want to know more about. Various translations will be given and you can look to see which word is hesed  in Hebrew.
Proverbs 16:6 (see NET Bible footnote)
Are you convicted, as I am, about your need to live out loyal love? Do you need wisdom to know what loyal love looks like in the difficult situations and strained relationships you face? Ask the Lord to show you how to walk in loyal love. Write your request here.
Can you imagine how different our world would be if we understood and applied the biblical concept of loyal love? Ruth’s words to Naomi in Ruth 1:16-17 are read at many wedding ceremonies as the pastor encourages the young couple not to ever leave or forsake each other but to remain true to their promise and commitment until death separates them. Steadfast, loyal love is the foundation of a biblical marriage and home. Children who are secure in the knowledge that their parents love each other and will remain faithful to their commitment are free to be children and not to spend their time worrying about what might happen to their home and to their parents’ marriage. Children who experience loyal love from their parents have a security and freedom that most people cannot identify with.
If you grew up in a home without loyal love, you know that the divisions in such a home and the insecurity you felt leave lifetime scars. Years later, negative and hurtful words that were said keep ringing in your ears. Broken promises may have left you wounded and unable to trust. Regardless of what your home was like when you were growing up, you can be the first in your family to demonstrate loyal love. You can express loyal love to your husband and to your children. You can assure them that nothing they do will cause you to abandon them or to forsake your commitment to them.
Our source for living out this kind of love is the Lord Himself. As His children, we have the Holy Spirit and we do not have to depend on our own human resources to show love to others.
When Ruth made the choice to return to Bethlehem with Naomi she sought protection from the God of Israel in whom she had placed her trust. Boaz recognized this and blessed Ruth by saying, "May the LORD reward your work, and your wages be full from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge" (Ruth 2:12 NASB). I have been meditating on this word picture in which God’s care of his children is compared to that of a bird taking care of her baby birds. What warmth, what security, what protection is afforded us under the wings of the LORD! The Psalmist uses this same picture as he describes how precious the lovingkindness (hesed) of God is and how the “children of men take refuge in the shadow of [His] wings” (Ps 36:7 NASB). In Psalm 17, we read “Keep me as the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings” (Ps 17:8 NASB).
The emperor penguins living in the Antarctic endure incredibly cold temperatures and biting winds in order to survive. It is interesting to learn how these penguins protect their young. Although they do not use their wings to shelter the baby penguins, they do hide the egg and then the young penguin underneath what looks like a skirt of feathers. As long as the chick remains under the feathers, he is protected from the below freezing temperatures, the snow, and the wind. On his own, he cannot survive in the inhospitable environment for even a short time. Both Boaz and the Psalmist were using a similar picture as they described God’s lovingkindness and protective care of His children.
Like Ruth, you can take refuge under God’s wings. You can feel His warmth, sense His security, and know that He is holding you very close to His side.