Smell the roses

Asking questions to bring a story into full bloom

Do you ever feel like you have more questions than answers?  Well, when it comes to the Bible – I always have more questions than answers…  And actually, that’s what I sat down to do today.  I asked some questions about the book of Ruth.  I didn’t really ask anyone in particular but rather opened my mind to the details behind this intriguing story.

A dear mentor of mine challenged me a while back to read the word of God with questions: Why? being the main one.  I find that when I start with that simple question my mind goes very quickly to many, many more – and before I know it, I’ve got a real hunger to know more about the people in Bible times.

I think that one challenge we face in our culture is whether its ok with not having all the answers.  Is it ok to be open-minded about God’s holy word?  I have found that asking questions is an approach to life that I want to incorporate more regularly in each day – because I know I certainly don’t have all the answers.

So, without further ado – or rambling – here are the many questions I thought up whilst reading the first verse in Ruth 1.

Ruth 1:1

In the days when the judges ruled in Israel, a severe famine came upon the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah left his home and went to live in the country of Moab, taking his wife and two sons with him.

Question Time
Who were the judges and when did they rule? Who could be a judge?
Why were there judges? What areas of life did they judge?
What did the judges do? Were they like the Kings who were appointed because of the peoples’ desire for human authority?
Why do we need to know about this for this story?
What were the cultural implications: What was the structure of the judges in terms of authority over the land?  What areas of life did they judge? What would have people felt about the judges?  Was it only the Jews who were under the authority of the judges?  Would others have respect for them?  Were there those who agreed with the judges and those who didn’t?
How severe is a ‘severe famine’? What did a famine mean for a normal, middle of the road farmer? What did it mean for poor or wealthy people? What action did people often take to survive a famine? Spiritual actions or practical or both?  What is the geographical location like? What type of life were they used to in normal times with moderate weather and conditions?
How far is Bethlehem from Moab? How often did people move house, village, city or nation at this time? How far in advance did they have to make this decision? Would they stay somewhere along the way? How would the journey have affected everyone in his family? Did his wife take care to bring all the things they needed for the journey – or was that someone else’s job? How would they have been accepted in Moab? Would it be easy to find/build a new home? How would the man find work? What would be the normal load of responsibility for each member? How would they have felt being moved from their home – relief to be away from the famine, or afraid of the new/foreign territory and whether they’d assimilate well – or both – or more/different? How would the man have dealt with the feelings/fears of his family? What could have changed his mind to keep them in Bethlehem? Would he have ‘consulted’ God – committed it to God – what was the perceived view on decisions as these? Did he depend on the law, practicality, feelings, fleeces, or lots – or something else? How old were his sons? Did his sons have an understanding about how this would affect their lives? What did their parents tell them to help them accept the move?

That was just from one little, tiny verse.  And only the questions from one little, tiny person.  I am sure you or anyone else would have different questions when looking at a text like this.  I hope, however, that these questions provoke you to look for yourself about what significance the story of the Bible has.  Feel free to use mine for your own study…but I challenge you to find your own questions and let the story become alive through your own unique questions.