Lenten Bible Study

Lenten Bible Study

Concord UMC                                                          by Pastor Sungho Lee

 

1. Introduction

Lent is a season to prepare the Easter. It starts on the Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter. It has 40 days. We do not count 6 Sundays because each Sunday is “little Easter.” During these 40 days, we examine our hearts, life-styles, and actions to see if we can call ourselves “true” disciples of Jesus.

 

It is meaningful, therefore, for us to start this 40 days journey on the Ash Wednesday. Ash is used in the Bible to symbolize “repentance.” For example, “When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes” (Jonah 3:6). When the prophet Jonah proclaimed that after 40 days Nineveh should be over thrown the king repented his sins and the sins of the city kingdom!

 

So, we heard the Good News! After 40 days, our old self and community (Nineveh) should be destroyed. However, God’s new Kingdom and abundant life should be starting! So, as the king of Nineveh did, we would rise from our thrones where ourselves were kings of our lives, we would remove our robes that symbolize our status in our community, we would cover ourselves with sackcloth to show that we are sinners saved by the blood of Jesus, and we would sit in ashes humbly studying the words of God and waiting God’s Grace!

 

Because a pagan king shows us a model for our repentance, it would be also appropriate for us to find our role model from a pagan woman, “Ruth,” who would be later an ancestor of the king David and our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5 and 16).

 

However, it is not just one individual that we can find in the book of Ruth. Actually it is a “community of love” among Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz like the Trinity. God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit dance together (“perichoresis” from Greek word which means “dancing around,” or “ envelopment”) and live in unity as three persons.

 

So, during this Lent season, we will first form a community, a small group, where we can find ourselves and other wonderful members of our community through the interaction with others.  Then we will find ways to serve bigger community than our church. It can be a city of Concord or state of California, or U.S. A., or the world!

 

To make this growing into bigger communities a comfortable journey, I would use our Social Principle of the United Methodist Church (2009-2012) as a guide for questions. So, combined with the book of Ruth, this little pamphlet will be our resource for the Lenten study! Now, are you ready? Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride!

(This Bible Study  has 7 lessons for 7 weeks but you can combine 2 lessons for one week if you want to make it a 4 weeks program!)

1. 1st Week-Preparing the Soil: Repentance

Please, read the text first and answer the questions in your small group and have discussions:

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelech, his wife’s name Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there. Now Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.

1.       When did this story happen? In the days when_____ ___________________________________________

2.       What are the characteristics of the days when the judges ruled? Please, read Judges 21:25 and write the answer here: _____________________________________________

3.       When people ignored the king (the LORD) and did what was right in their own eyes, what happened?  Please, summarize the things happened in the times when the Judges ruled.

 

Judges 17:1-6 (individual sins)

 

 

 

Judges 18:1 ff (sin of a tribe)

 

 

 

 

 

Judges 19:1ff (An example of corruption of religion and society)

 

 

 

 

 

Judges 21:1-24 (Evidence of the lawlessness of the whole nation).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judges 21:25 (Summary of the times in a nutshell)

 

When humans sin, the created nature also experience hardships as we see in the Bible after the Fall of humanity. What does Genesis 3:17 say about the relationship between human sins and the environment?

 

4. Our Social Principle says in its Preamble, “We acknowledge our complete dependence upon God in birth, in life, in death, and in life eternal.” If we use the words of the Judges, how would you complete the following sentence? In those days, there was only one King in the Methodist Church; all the people did what was right in _________________________________.

5.        Our Social Principle says in the article 160 (The Natural World), “All Creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it.” When we abuse it, we will experience the consequences. The book of Ruth says that “there was a famine in the land.”

 

Do you have other examples of “natural” disasters as the consequences of our abuse of God’s Creation?

 

6.       Not only a famine, the family also experienced “forced immigration” to a country where they did not want to live in. Deuteronomy 23:3 says, “No Ammonite or Moabite or any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, even down to the tenth generation.” In the biblical times, Moab was considered a country of enemies. Still they had to move into the country because they were desperate.

 

What were your experiences of “forces move” in your life?

 

What were difficulties that you had in that “forced move” situation?

 

Our Social Principle, article 162 (H) says, “We urge the Church and society to recognize the gifts, contributions, and struggles of those who are immigrants and to advocate for justice for all.” What are the ways to fulfill this role?

 

7.       The biblical text says that Elimelech, the father, and his two sons, Mahlon and Kilion, died. Only Naomi and the two widows left.

 

It shows us that when we do not accept God’s rule, we experience financial crisis (famine), housing market crisis (forced move), and the breakdown of families.

 

Our Social Principle, article 161, (A), says, “We believe the family to be the basic human community through which persons are nurtured and sustained in mutual love, responsibility, respect, and fidelity. We affirm the importance of loving parents for all children.”

 

  • The meaning of the name Elimelech is from the combination of Eli (My God) and Melech (King). When the faith, “My God is King,” died, the society become Mahlon (weak) and Kilion (sick). Even the wick and sick society could not survive at the end.

 

  • What should we repent concerning the devaluation, destruction, and disappearances of families in USA?

 

  • When and how do you have family devotion time?

 

 

 

 

2. 2nd Week-Seed of Hope: Creating a community

Please, read the text first and answer the questions in your small group and have discussions:

When she heard in Moab that the LORD had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, Naomi and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. With 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. Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the LORD show kindness to you, as you have shown to your dead and to me! May the LORD grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.” Then she kissed them and they wept aloud and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.” But 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? Return 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-would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is bitterer for me than for you, because the LORD’s hand has gone out against me!” At this they wept again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-by, but Ruth clung to her. “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”  But 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. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.

 

  1. The biblical text says that even though they lost everything they still have each other: a new community.

Our Social Principle also says in article 161 that “We believe we have a responsibility to innovate, sponsor, and evaluate new forms of community that will encourage development of the fullest potential in individuals.”

When the traditional form of family is broken down, people still need a community to belong to. What are the alternative forms of communities that our church can provide to those people?

How can we make our small groups to be a new community for the people who need family?

  1. To make the new community, what did Ruth gave up and what did Naomi accept?
  2. For the new community that you envision, what would you give up?
  3. Even though Orpah, the other daughter-in-law, left Naomi and Ruth the Bible does not pass any judgment on her.

Orpah would form a different community for herself. The Bible and we celebrate diverse communities.

What other communities do you find in our church that you do not belong to but meaningful to others?

This is what Ruth said to Naomi: “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. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” This is a covenant of the community. What would be the content of your group covenant? Please, write that down here:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. 3rd Week-Sprout of the Kingdom of God: Small Act of Kindness

Please, read the text first and answer the questions in your small group and have discussions:

So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” “Don’t call me Naomi!” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabites, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning. Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, from the clan of Elimelech, a man of standing, whose name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabites said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.” Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.” So she went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters.

1.      The biblical text shows that to a person like Naomi who lost all the hopes and dreams, small act of kindness can sustain the life of the person.

What are the small acts of kindness that you or your small group can do for the lost and the least? Here are some samples that you can adopt for your group services:

1.       Totally Free car wash “No Donation Accepted!” sign.

2.       Oil Changes for Single parents.

3.       Car Drying at Self-Serve Car Washes

4.       Windshield Washer fluid fill.

5.       Windshield Ice Scraping.

6.       Bike fix-up Clinics at bike trails and grocery stores. “Free Bike Repair” sign.

7.       Restroom Cleaning “Hi, we would like to clean your toilet for free!”

8.       Umbrellas Escort

9.       Business window washing.

10.   Polaroid Photos on Easter, Christmas, or Mother’s Day

11.   Shoe-shines in urban areas.

12.   Helium balloons and balloon animals.

13.   Dog washing. Hoses, Dog Shampoo, towels, Tank, and Flea Collars.

14.   Doggie dirt clean up “Doggie Dirt Patrol” sign.

15.   Dorm move in help.

16.   Coffee, Tea, and Lattes during late-night study sessions.

17.   Soft Drinks, Gatorade, and lemonade at class sign up.

18.   Pizza on move-in day at dorms.

19.   Christmas gift wrapping.

20.   Meal purchasing at restaurants. Say to the manager, “We would like to pay for the next several customers’ meals until the money runs out. Tell them this is from the people from ________ church to show God’s love in a practical way. We are sitting right over there if they would like to talk to us.”

21.   Door-to-door Sunday morning paper and coffee.

22.   Filter change for air-conditioning and heaters.

23.   Garage cleaning

24.   Leaf raking

25.   Lawn mowing

26.   Roof gutter cleaning

27.   Address number painting on curbs

28.   Garbage can return from street

29.   Tulip bulbs and potted plants “Tulips planted by __________ church—Small things done with great love will change the world.”

30.   Window washing.

31.   Light bulb replacement

32.   Fireplace ash removal

33.   Smoke detector battery replacement (summer time change season).

2.      Ruth went out to pick up leftover grains from the fields. It was possible because of the biblical law for the economic justice for the people of God.

Deuteronomy 24:19-22 says, “When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this.”

Our Social Principle also says in article 163 (E) “In order to provide basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, education, health care, and other necessities, ways must be found to share more equitably the resources of the world.”

What are the “ways to share more equitably the resources of the world” that our church or small groups can creatively do to lighten the weight of poverty of our community?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. 4th Week-Growing the Caring Community: Meeting the unique needs of the members.

Please, read the text first and answer the questions in your small group and have discussions:

Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The LORD be with you!” “The LORD bless you!” they called back. Boaz asked the foreman of his harvesters, “Whose young woman is that?” The foreman replied, “She is the Moabites who came back from Moab with Naomi. She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.’ She went into the field and has worked steadily from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.” So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with my servant girls. Watch the field here the men are harvesting, and follow along after the girls. I have told the men not to touch you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.” At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?” Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband–how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the LORD repay you for what you have done! May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” “May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord,” she said. “You have given me comfort and have spoken kindly to your servant–though I do not have the standing of one of your servant girls.” At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar.” When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over. As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, “Even if she gathers among the sheaves, don’t embarrass her. Rather, pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.” So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah. She carried it back to town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered. Ruth also brought out and gave her what she had left over after she had eaten enough. Her mother-in-law asked her, “Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!” Then Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one at whose place she had been working. “The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz,” she said. “The LORD bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers.” Then Ruth the Moabites said, “He even said to me, ‘Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain.'” Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with his girls, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed.” So Ruth stayed close to the servant girls of Boaz to glean until the barley and wheat harvests were finished. And she lived with her mother-in-law.

  1. In this text, what were the specific needs of each persons, Ruth, Boaz, and Naomi? How did they care for each other?

FYI: Leviticus 25:25 says, “If one of your countrymen becomes poor and sells some of his property, ‘his nearest relative’ (in Hebrew go’el) is to come and redeem what his countryman has sold.”

What are the unique needs of each member of your small group? Who would be the “closest friend” to pay attention to the need?

Boaz provided special protection for Ruth. Our Social Principle also says in article 163 (F), “Workers from other countries are in many societies an important resources to fill the society’s need of workers. But foreign workers too often meet exploitation, absence of protecting laws, and unreasonable wages and working conditions. We call upon governments and all employers to ensure for foreign workers the same economic, educational, and social benefits enjoyed by other citizens. Foreign workers also need a religious fellowship, and we call for the churches to include these in their care and fellowship and to support them in their efforts for better conditions.”

What are the ways that our church or our small groups can answer the Call of God expressed in the Social Principle?

 

 

 

5. 5th Week-Price to Pay: Sacrifice

Please, read the text first and answer the questions in your small group and have discussions:

One day Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not try to find a home for you, where you will be well provided for? Is not Boaz, with whose servant girls you have been, a kinsman of ours? Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. Wash and perfume yourself, and put on your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.” “I will do whatever you say,” Ruth answered. So she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do. When Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile. Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down. In the middle of the night something startled the man, and he turned and discovered a woman lying at his feet. “Who are you?” he asked. “I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.” “The LORD bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character. Although it is true that I am near of kin, there is a kinsman-redeemer nearer than I. Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to redeem, good; let him redeem. But if he is not willing, as surely as the LORD lives I will do it. Lie here until morning.” So she lay at his feet until morning, but got up before anyone could be recognized; and he said, “Don’t let it be known that a woman came to the threshing floor.” He also said, “Bring me the shawl you are wearing and hold it out.” When she did so, he poured into it six measures of barley and put it on her. Then he went back to town. When Ruth came to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “How did it go, my daughter?” Then she told her everything Boaz had done for her and added, “He gave me these six measures of barley, saying, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.'” Then Naomi said, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today.”

  1. To build a community of love, we have to make contributions or sometimes sacrifices for it. What were the sacrifices that Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz made?

 

  1. Our Social Principle says in article 161, “Primary for us is the gospel understanding that all persons are important-because they are human beings created by God and loved through and by Jesus Christ and not because they have merited significance.”

In what way, did Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz practice such principle?

 

  1. What kind of community of love is in the process of being formed in your life? What are the contributions or sacrifices that you are willing to make for that to happen?

6. 6th Week-Weeds Out: Due Process

Please, read the text first and answer the questions in your small group and have discussions:

Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate and sat there. When the kinsman-redeemer he had mentioned came along, Boaz said, “Come over here, my friend, and sit down.” So he went over and sat down. Boaz took ten of the elders of the town and said, “Sit here,” and they did so. Then he said to the kinsman-redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our brother Elimelech. I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if you will not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line.” “I will redeem it,” he said. Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi and from Ruth the Moabites, you acquire the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.” At this, the kinsman-redeemer said, “Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.” (Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalizing transactions in Israel.) So the kinsman-redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it yourself.” And he removed his sandal. Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from the town records. Today you are witnesses!”  Then the elders and all those at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the LORD gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.” So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Then he went to her, and the LORD enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son.

  1. Sometimes, we say that the goal justifies the means. However, Boaz took time to take the due process according to the laws of his times. What were the steps that he took to redeem the woman as well as the property?

 

  1. The kinsman-redeemer, who had originally the right to buy the property, changed his mind. Why?

 

  1. When Boaz used the expression, “acquire” the woman, what does that mean? What is the difference to buy a property and to acquire a woman?

 

  1. Our Social Principle also says in article 161 (E), “We affirm with Scripture the common humanity of male and female, both having equal worth in the eyes of God.”

Do you feel that Boaz and other elders treated women equally as men? Why or why not?

  1. Sometimes we have temptations to skip the due process to achieve our goals to make a community of love. What have been the temptations that you experience?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. 7Th Week-Fruit: The community of love

 

Please, read the text first and answer the questions in your small group and have discussions:

The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.” Then Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son.” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. This, then, is the family line of Perez: Perez was the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, Boaz the father of Obed, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David.

  1. What were the blessings of the women of the town for Naomi?

 

  1. When Naomi was blessed, what did happen to Ruth and Boaz?

 

  1. In what sense, Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz were not three persons but one unity?

 

  1. Our Social Principle says in article 165, “We commit ourselves as a Church to the achievement of a world community that is a fellowship of persons who honestly love one another.”

 

This world community starts, in the case of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz, with three loving people. Then it grew into a community of blessings in one town. Then it grew even bigger in the history and became a seed for the family of the king David’s family, from which our Savior Jesus came down to us.

What are the communities that you belong to? What do you do through the community to make it greater than itself?

 

About biblepreacher

United Methodist Church Pastor. My wife, Hysung Hong Lee, is also a UMC pastor and my children are all grown and have their independent life. We have now empty nest. I and my wife are collecting some mission eggs now in that nest!
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