Over the course of this study, and previous studies, we have tried to introduce you to many different strategies to aid your interpretation of Scripture.
-We have considered the genre of the book we are studying. We read narrative/stories differently than we would read letters, or poetry. They have different rules that govern their structure, and thus their interpretation.
-We have learned to begin using context within the book itself to help us understand the meanings of words, and what might be happening in the story.
-We have learned to read the entirety of the book multiple times to help us get a sense of where in the book we are as we interpret what is being said. If you have been following along in the study guide for Ruth, you may have already read the entire book of Ruth at least 8 times, and in different translations!
Today we are going to talk about another tool to help us as we read and interpret Scripture. It is called the Melodic Line.
The dictionary defines melodic line as:”a succession of notes forming a distinctive portion of a song.” It may be a part of a main melody that gets repeated or varied throughout a piece of music. Hollywood is great at this! In particular, John Williams is brilliant at writing melodies that we instantly can recognize the movie from just a short sequence of music! See if you can guess these:
We often can even guess what character is about to come on the screen because of that character’s melody:
Some melodies are so recognizable, you can hear them played with a completely different style of instrument than traditionally heard, and you still know exactly what song it is. Try this one:
These melodies are all distinctive from each other. But many of them have the same notes in them. They are just arranged in a unique way. Sometimes, the same melody is varied throughout a piece of music, expanded upon, moved somewhat to the background, but you can still hear it there.
Well, books of the Bible work the same way. Each book has its own Melodic Line, an essence that informs what we understand the book to be about, and how it contributes, or itself expands upon the Melodic Line of the entire Bible: God’s plan to redeem for himself a chosen people through the sacrifice of his son, Jesus Christ.
So how do we go about finding the melodic line of an individual book? A good way to start is to read the entire book, beginning to end, in one sitting. Maybe even try printing it out without chapter and verse numbers. Do this multiple times, and you are going to get a pretty good beginning idea of what the book is about.
Next, try reading just the beginning and the end. Let’s try it with Ruth.
In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons.
Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.
Ruth’s name isn’t even mentioned! But we get a glimpse that maybe this story is bigger than a love story between Ruth and Boaz. We have a story taking place during the rule of the Judges, a time when everyone did what was right in their own eyes, and it ends with the name of the greatest king in Israel’s history! So we have a feeling the story is going to have something to do with Israel, right?
Next we will take a look for repeated words, phrases, and concepts or ideas. Some of the ones I found just in quick look through (which is really quick if you have read it 8 or more times, because you have probably already noticed some of them):
Sons, dealt, husband, return/turn, glean, rest, redeemer, fathered, Obed, Jesse, and David. During discussion as a whole group, our women also came up with kindness, daughter, prayer, the Lord, and more.
So, using the repeated words and ideas, combined with the beginning and end, we came up with a provisional sentence that we could use to answer someone if they asked us what the book of Ruth was about.
God uses a family to redeem Israel from judges to a king.
As we looked at it, we thought about what we had studied, and we refined it even further:
We thought we needed to add in kindness since hesed was such a prominent theme, and because we remembered that the whole point of reminding us of David was to get us to think even further down the historical line to see the connection to Jesus, who redeems not just Israel, but any who would believe, that we should change Israel to his chosen people. And it wasn’t really the Judges they/we need to be redeemed from, it was the rebellious hearts of the people that needed redemption. And again, it wasn’t only to point us to David, but to Christ. So we adjusted it.
God, in his kindness, uses a family to keep his covenant to redeem his chosen people from rebellion to righteousness through a king – Jesus Christ.
And still, this is just provisional. We came up with this in only about 10 minutes. The longer you look at it, study Ruth, and evaluate the sentence, you see that it is going to continue to be refined. It will probably always be a provisional sentence.
So why do this, if it is only provisional? Well, as we study and interpret Ruth, and we hold our findings up against this sentence, it could help us keep from going completely off the reservation with our interpretation! Like the scene at the threshing floor. This might help us recognize that this scene is not here as an endorsement to young women on how to find a husband! Because we know that this book is not about finding a husband.
Any time you finish a book, or even at the start of the book, looking for a melodic line is a great tool to help you stay on track with your interpretation.
We have spent 7 lessons steeped in this book, this beautiful book that points us to Jesus – our great Redeemer. I hope you have been encouraged, and will continue to look at it and revise your melodic line. I pray the Holy Spirit will cement the truths of this book in your heart, and that you are drawn closer to the Lord in your worship of him.
*Audio clips were taken from the soundtracks from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Indian Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, Start Wars Episode 4: A New Hope, and from Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas Eve and Other Stories (the song is called Christmas Eve Sarajevo).