Current lesson: Chapter 20: Esther- HOW TO PLEASE A MAN
The Women Speak is a chronological study of thirty-one women in the Bible, who play an important part in God’s plan.
Whether good actors, or bad, their impact should not be overlooked. May God bless you as you hear the message God sends through them. The study will be posted one lesson at a time, and will appear in reverse order as the site always opens to the current post.
Scroll down to find suggestions on how to use this study.
Chapter 20: Esther- How to Please a man
All cultures see beauty in the face and form of a woman, even though each culture and each generation sees beauty in different things. Perhaps the art of making a woman beautiful is actually the oldest profession. Women take their cues about pleasing men from their cultural traditions. But wise women want to be beautiful in God’s eyes, and they place the highest importance on pleasing Him. Esther seemed to be able please the earthly king, Xerxes, and the King of Kings. Surprisingly, some of the same things please both God and man. All women should imitate these things, although this advice will not appear in the beauty magazines.
- Esther pleases Xerxes. Esther 2:5-18
The plight of Queen Vashti, Esther’s predecessor, is recorded in the first chapter of Esther. Xerxes made a completely selfish and disrespectful request of the Queen, but her reaction was not wise. Furthermore, it did nothing to help her situation; it only made matters worse. When Esther entered the harem, she captivated her handlers and the king with her beauty, but that could not have been the only thing that fascinated them. When you answer these questions, consider the normal reaction of a young girl, taken from her home with no choice in the matter, and discover what made Esther different.
- What was Esther’s background? (2:7)
- Who was Hegai? (2:8-9)
- What kind of attitudes and actions on Esther’s part would bring about Hegai’s opinions?
- What shows Esther’s wisdom when it was her turn to visit the king? (2:9)
- What did it mean that Hegai found favor with Esther? (2:9b)
- What was the King’s reaction to Esther? (2:17-18)
- Fill in the blanks and analyze the following events:
The king was _________________________ to Esther more than any of the other women, and
she__________ ___________ ________________ and ____________________ more than any of the other virgins. 2:17
First the king was ________________________.
Then Esther gained ______________________________________________________________.
People notice beauty, and they are almost always attracted to physical beauty. But beauty in itself does not guarantee a good impression on others. It takes more than just beauty for people to find favor. This implies that Esther had a manner, or qualities of character and actions, that were as pleasing as her physical attributes.
II. Esther reveals a beautiful strength. Esther 2:10, 11; 3—8
The saying goes: “Beauty is skin deep.” The pursuit of physical beauty is shallow and meaningless when it comes to real life struggles. Strength of character is what counts. When Mordecai reveals an impossible problem to Esther, her actions give evidence of the character that drew King Xerxes and his court to her.
- What personal information did Mordecai insist that Esther keep to herself? (2:10)
- What did Mordecai do that proved his concern for his adopted daughter? (2:11)
- What was the crisis that caused Mordecai and Esther to be distraught? (3:8-10)
- How did Esther react to this news? (4:1-11)
- Mordecai’s response was a challenge. What was it? (4:12-14)
Esther decided to accept Mordecai’s challenge and she quickly took action. Her decision led her to appeal to two kings. Wisely, she chose to seek the King of Kings before she sought out Xerxes.
- Esther sought God and called upon certain people for support. (4:15-16)
What did Esther want her people to do?
What actions did she and her maids take?
What kind of determination did Esther show?
- Esther approached King Xerxes three times, at great risk. What was that risk? (4:10-11)
- Attitude is shown by words and actions. Fill in the chart to analyze how Esther approached the king and note the words she used each time. (5:1-8; 7:3-6; 8:3-7)
|Esther’s attitude.||Esther’s words and actions.||Esther’s request.|
- What was the outcome for Esther, and for the Jews? (8:8; 9:1)
Esther was a treasure among the Jews. Their people celebrated the bravery of Esther and Mordecai. But more than that, God used Esther to protect the greatest treasure. Jesus’ ancestors were among the those who were saved from Haman. Esther’s actions were her most beautiful attribute.
III. What makes a woman beautiful.
Surveys and studies about what attracts men generally reveal the obvious. Men are attracted to physical beauty. But what keeps a man attracted to that woman is hardly ever mentioned. When a man ‘finds favor’ with a women, he will be interested in a relationship. A relationship built on personality, character and intelligence as well as physical attraction, will last. Men like women who are fun—who make them feel good. Most men want a relationship with someone they can trust. Some aspects of “finding favor” are necessary whether we are talking about getting along with a husband, a male employer, or a male co-worker, in fact, with women as well.
- Several people in the Bible were favorable in God’s eyes. What do you think caused God to find favor with each one?
Moses- Exodus 33:13-17
Samuel- I Samuel 2:26, 35
Mary- Luke 1:30, 46-55
- What might be the thing that most pleases a man? What makes him “putty in a woman’s hands”?
(Consider Proverbs 17:1; 1 Corinthians 7:3-5)
- In a crisis, why would it be advisable to pull grace, beauty and charm out of our “make-up case” instead of anger, words and drama?
Key question: What attitude do you need to develop or what action do you need to take that would please a man in your life and that would please God?
For additional reflection: Compare the attitudes and actions of Esther with those of Delilah in the following aspects. Esther 2—4; Judges 16:1-50
Chapter 19: Gomer- Redeemed and Reconciled
Hosea 1—3; Colossians 1:15-23; 2:9-15
The story of God’s people is like a soap opera. It takes a turn for the better in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah when we read how God reconciled with his adulterous people. They rebuild the temple after 70 years in captivity when God inspired two Persian kings, Cyrus and Darius, to support the project. It took 150 years more to complete this new temple and the people of Judah reacted to the temple dedication with weeping and shouts of joy. Overcome with emotion, they celebrated how God had brought them home (Ezra 6). Years earlier He had given His people a sneak preview of this scene when he sent Hosea to show them His version of reality TV. This story of redemption is our story too.
I. Hosea takes a wife. Hosea 1—2:1
God had tried to head his people away from their destructive path through the judges, the various prophets and even their own history. Apparently, God knew that sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. He attempted to grab their attention through the bizarre. The prophet Hosea and his wife Gomer, publicly lived out a steamy love story, filled with all the betrayal and bad behavior that had typified the relationship between the Israelites and their God.
- Whom did God tell Hosea to marry? (Hosea 1:2-3)
- God named each of Hosea and Gomer’s children. Note the meaning of the name from each passage, and tell why you think he chose each name.
- How do we know that Jezreel was probably Hosea’s son? (1:3)
- What indicated that Hosea did not father other two children? (1:6, 7; 2:4)
- What promise anticipates God’s reconciliation with His people? (1:10-11)
- How do we know that God had always loved his people? (2:1)
II. Gomer’s downward spiral. Hosea 2:2-8
In this passage, the words Hosea wrote were from his own heart as well as God’s. Simply put, “A worthy woman is her husband’s crown; but she who acts disgracefully is like rottenness in his bones” (Proverbs 12:4). Study the various emotions expressed by the betrayed husband. Remember—mankind has been created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). “So this was how God felt about his own people—bitterly betrayed, cut to the heart, disgusted, outraged. His tender love, his every gift meant nothing to a people enamored with Canaanite gods” (Spangler & Syswerda 277). God was revealing his heart through the things a man would feel. Answer the following questions with Hosea and God in mind.
- Why did he want to rebuke his wife? (2:2)
- How did he feel about the children and why? (2:4-5a)
- What were Gomer’s (Israel’s) desires? (2:5b)
- Hosea said he wanted to “block Gomer’s path with thorn bushes”, and to “wall her in”. Were these desires kind or unkind? Explain your answer. (2:6-7, consider 2:22)
- Who actually had showered her with gifts? (2:8)
III. Redemption and reconciliation for Israel. Hosea 3:1-5
Again, Hosea’s story and God’s story are intertwined in the account of Hosea’s rescue of his adulterous wife. Although the account is succinct, the brevity of the words somehow underscores the sentiment. Review the following scenes:
- What was her situation at this point? Describe the Israelite’s situation when they completely rejected God. (3:2)
- What did God order Hosea to do? How does this compare to God’s relationship with His people? (3:1)
- Who invited the reconciliation between Hosea and his wife? Who invited the reconciliation between God and his people?
- How would the Israelites come back to God? How would a broken and victimized woman react to a second chance at life and love? (3:5)
- Redemption and reconciliation for you and me. Colossians 1:15-23; 2:9-15
This reality show was not just for the Israelites. The running theme throughout God’s word is the redemption and reconciliation that is available to us because of His love. God’s plan was that all people would make Him the center of their lives and that He would love and care for them as a husband loves and cares for his wife (cf. Revelation 21:3-4).
- According to Colossians 1:15-18, who is the Lord Jesus Christ?
- What is our status before we accept Christ, and what caused that status? (Colossians 1:21)
- Exactly what did God do to make us alive with Christ? (Colossians 1:22; 2:13-15)
- When do we “put off the old nature”? (Colossians 2:11-12)
- Even though we may come to the Lord fearfully, but how are we to live after we have received Christ’s redemption and reconciliation? (Colossians 1:23)
Key question: What is your next step on the path to redemption and reconciliation? Will you take it?
For additional reflection:
Study the following passages that discuss our redemption and reconciliation:
1 Corinthians 1:28-31
2 Corinthians 5:11-21
Chapter 18: The Woman in Labor- ANGUISH
Jeremiah 1:4-8; 4:31; 29:1-14; 30:6
Having children is a blessing according to God. Childbirth, from conception to delivery, is used as a metaphor in Scripture, and childbearing is a major theme throughout the Bible. The prophet Jeremiah, who warned of God’s judgement and compared the anguish that Israel would suffer to labor pains. In the book of Matthew, Jesus expressed his concern for women who would be pregnant or nursing during the destruction of the temple, which occurred in 70AD. Paul compared his great desire for the Galatians to grow in Christ with the “travail of childbirth”. The anguish associated with childbirth is powerful whether we are speaking in real terms or metaphorically.
I. The anguish of labor. Jeremiah 4:22-31
The scriptural references and comparisons to childbearing are interesting, but they are also important for our understanding God’s will and God’s ways.
- From the following passages note what the comparison or the teaching is:
1 Thessalonians 5:1-3
- God’s word also uses the natural to explain the course of sin in our lives through graphic detail. We have seen this bitter truth clearly through the history of God’s people, Israel. We should learn from their experiences. Note the process and result of sin from the following passages.
II. Labor and delivery.
Jesus demonstrated that he cared for women and children during his earthly ministry. He saw children and childbirth is a good thing despite the difficulties of labor and delivery. A natural, healthy pregnancy brings the birth of a new baby. This is a joy and a blessing. This natural process of life is also used to help us understand the results of faithful living.
- From the following passages what is the joy and blessing.
- What do the following passages show about Jesus’s understanding of women?
III. God coaches his people in their anguish. Jeremiah 1:4-8; 29:1-14; Daniel 1:3-20
Through Jeremiah, God gave warnings to Judah about their coming destruction as a nation. He promised that, they would experience agony that could only be compared to the pain of childbirth. But he also gave interesting instructions about how they should carry on their lives during this time of suffering and exile in Babylon. Although He would punish them, He would not abandon them.
- When did God choose Jeremiah to be a prophet? (Jeremiah 1:4-8)
- How did God tell them to live while in exile? (Jeremiah 29:5)
- What was God’s instruction about marriage and children? (Jeremiah 29:6)
- How did God say they would be able to prosper even though they were in exile? (Jeremiah 29:7)
- What does God promise about his plans for them? (Jeremiah 29:11)
- How will they be able to find God? (Jeremiah 29:12-14)
IV. Living above the anguish.
We still go through suffering from the consequences of sin that controls our lives. The passages above offer valuable insight to us as well as to the ancient Israelites. We do not have to be overcome by the pain and suffering of sin, even though we may experience it. The advice God gave to His people through Jeremiah is still good advice. Each of these concepts is also a strong teaching in the New Testament.
- How do we know that God has plans for us? (Acts 17:26)
- How should we live our lives? (Acts 17:28; Titus 3:1-2)
- What is God’s instruction about marriage and children? (Titus 2:3-5)
- How does God say we will be able to prosper? (Titus 3:4-8)
5. What does God promise about his plans for us? (Titus 2:11-14)
- Why will we be able to find God? (Acts 17:27)
- How do we know that there will someday be an end to all distress and anguish? (Isaiah 9:1, 6-7)
Key question: What steps do you need to take to have victory over the sins that bring anguish into your life and that bring anguish to God’s heart?
For additional reflection: Read Romans 1:18—2:16.
Consider the parallels in this passage to the things you have learned from the history of the Israelites—from their crossing the Red Sea until their destruction. What sins still bring anguish to God’s heart?
What will be the result for those who choose to rebel against God as the Israelites did?
Chapter 17: Huldah- CLEAN HOUSE, DIRTY HEARTS
2 Kings 22:14-23; 2 Chronicles 34:22-33; Jeremiah 30:4-7
The last one-hundred years of the Kingdom of Judah was a dismal period. During that time only one king pleased God consistently. Josiah followed two of the most destructive and bloodthirsty reigns imaginable and he became king at eight years of age! Jeremiah was his contemporary. Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah probably prophesied at various times during his reign. Yet when he began to restore the temple in Jerusalem, Huldah, wife of Shallum, advised him about an important discovery.
I. Josiah’s surprising discovery. 2 Kings 22:1-13; 2 Chronicles 34:1-22
- What kind of king was Josiah? 2 Kings 22:2; 2 Chronicles 34:1-3
- How old was he when he decided to repair the temple? 2 Kings 22:3
- How do we know Josiah had been preparing to do this work for some time? 2 Chronicles 34:3-7, 9
- What did the priest, Hilkiah, find? 2 Kings 22:8; 2 Chronicles 34:24
- What did the king’s secretary, Shaphan, do in King Josiah’s presence? 2 Kings 22:10, 2 Chronicles 34:18
- What was the King’s response? 2 Kings 22:11, 2 Chronicles 34:19
- What did he assume about God at this point? 2 Kings 22:13; 2 Chronicles 34:20
- Josiah not only feared for himself, who else occupied his concerns? 2 Kings 22:13
II. Huldah’s observations. 2 Kings 22:14-20; 2 Chronicles 34:22-28a
The reconstruction of the temple revealed that Josiah already had a heart for the things of God. His ability to hear, discern, and act on the Word of God shows a maturity beyond his years. Josiah asked his advisers to ‘inquire of God’ and they went to a woman.
- Who was Huldah? 2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chronicles 34:22
- From where or whom does Huldah get the information she shares with Josiah’s men? 2 Kings 22:15; 2 Chronicles 34:23
- What does Huldah reveal about the future of Judah? 2 Kings 22:16-17; 2 Chronicles 34:23-25
- What does Huldah reveal about Josiah’s future? 2 Kings 22:19-20; 2 Chronicles 34: 26-28
- What words show that this is a personal revelation from God to Josiah?
- Point out Josiah’s attitudes and actions in the following passage. Circle the words that indicate his heart attitude, underline the words that indicate his action.
“Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people, that they would become accursed, and laid waste, and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the Lord.” 2 Kings 22:19
III. Josiah cleans house. 2 Kings 23:1-30; 2 Chronicles 34:29—35:19
Huldah’s words would have brought both fear and comfort to the young King. His fears for his people were grounded in reality. The personal assurances from God validated Josiah’s desire to reclaim Judah’s religious heritage. He went about the work with such a passion that they celebrated a Passover, the likes of which that had not been seen since the days of Samuel.
- What did Josiah do in front of all the people? 2 Kings 23:1-2; 2 Chronicles 34:29-30
- Fill in the blanks from 2 Chronicles 34:32:
“Then _________ _____________ everyone in Jerusalem and Benjamin _____________
_________________ to it: the people of Jerusalem did this in accordance with the covenant of God, the God of their fathers.”
Did this pledge cause the people of Judah to change their hearts?
- What did Josiah do about the idol worship and the pagan priests? 2 Kings 23:4-5
- What did he do to Jeroboam’s altar? 2 Kings 23:15
- What did he do about mediums, and household gods and idols? 2 Kings 23:24
- How is Josiah described after all this? 2 Kings 23:25
- What was God’s verdict for the people of Judah after all this? 2 Kings 23:26-27
IV. Wise women impart God’s Word.
As friends and daughters, wives and mothers, we have unique opportunities to share God’s word. Not only that, we have a responsibility to share the story. While we can’t see into hearts, priorities and allegiances are revealed by lifestyle. Like Huldah we must share the truth from God, even if the truth is convicting.
- Note our responsibilities regarding others from the following passages:
1 Thessalonians 5:14-
2 Thessalonians 3:13-15-
Many godly women are burdened with concern for loved ones and friends. Yet, when the Holy Spirit convicts our hearts through His word, we are afraid to warn, confront, or admonish. We know that some may take offense, we may be repudiated or misunderstood. Honestly, sometimes it is simple pride that stops us from acting on the Lord’s promptings. Huldah knew what the Lord’s verdict for her own people was. She was obliged to tell the truth. So are we.
Key Question: How will you speak God’s word into the heart of another when He asks you to?
For additional reflection.
There is a fine line between speaking God’s word into someone’s heart and meddling in someone’s life.
Consider the following passages from scripture to mark the boundaries of appropriate involvement in someone else’s life:
2 Thessalonians 3:11-
We often underestimate the spiritual understanding of young men and women. While they may not have the experience of their elders, they do have the ability to read, discern, and act in a godly manner. Like Josiah, many young people come to obedience.
Chapter 16: Proud Women-BEHIND THE MASK
2 Kings 17—19; Isaiah 3—4:6
God had had his fill of defiant disobedient Israel, so much so that he advised “Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?” (Isaiah 2:22). Their judgement was on the doorstep. The Israelite women could not escape the judgment either. God described their masquerade, from head to toe, in fearful detail; what He saw behind the mask was even more chilling. The evil that controlled the hearts of individual men and women ultimately brought about their destruction as a nation.
I. Israel’s weakness. 2 Kings 17—19
For approximately 200 years God’s people had existed as two kingdoms: the northern kingdom of Israel, which included most of the tribes; and the southern kingdom of Judah, which consisted of the tribe of Judah, the Levites, and those who had originally wanted to observe God’s laws and worship in Jerusalem. By the time Isaiah came on the scene Ahaz, King of Judah, and Hoshea, King of Israel, were weakened to the point that they had to placate a formidable enemy- Assyria. Both were headed for destruction but Israel went down first.
- What kind of king was Hoshea? (17:2)
- What was his fate? (17:3-4)
- What happened to the people of Israel? (17:5-6, 23)
- From II Kings 17, note some specific reasons why this happened.
- What was the status of The Kingdom of Judah at this point? (18b-19)
II. What Isaiah saw in Judah. Isaiah 3—4:1
- What was the Lord about to do to Judah? (3:1)
- Why was Judah falling? (3:8-9)
- What was the thing that brought God to the point of judging Judah? (3:14-15)
- What was God’s ‘vineyard’? (3:14-15)
- Isaiah put a moving picture into our minds by way of four verbs that describe the haughty women of Zion. List them from verse 16.
- What is the startling decree of verse 17?
- From 3:18-23, list the items that you have in your jewelry chest or closet at this moment.
- Note the predictions from verse 24:
Fragrance to_______________________. Sash to _________________________.
Well-dressed hair to_________________. Fine clothing to_________________.
Beauty to_______________________ .
- What would the prospects be for unmarried women from Isaiah 4:1?
- What do you find troubling about this picture of the degraded women for us?
III. Behind the masquerade.
Isaiah’s condemnation of the women of Zion has two aspects. The description of the women serves as a metaphor for Judah—their pride, injustice toward the poor, and self-indulgence. Eventually “she” will be struck down to the ground (v.26). But the piece that must penetrate our hearts as women is a real-life depiction of what God may see in women today. Isaiah could be describing the women who walk the streets of our towns, and many who walk the corridors of our church buildings. Isaiah laments that “there is no end to their treasures” (Isaiah 2:7). We, as well, are rich beyond imagination, but too often we lack things that delight The Lord.
- What deadly beliefs hide beneath our hair-dos? What belief leads to life? (John 12:44-50)
- If our eyes recorded our thoughts, what would the world see? What would Jesus like to see? (Philippians 4:8-9)
- What makes our hands dirty in God’s eyes? What work of our hands would be a beautiful adornment in God’s eyes? (1 Corinthians 6:4—7)
- What steps lead us away from God? When would our feet be beautiful to God? (Romans 10:15; Isaiah 52:7)
IV. A Beautiful Day. Isaiah 4:2-6
- What will appear in “that day”? (4:2)
- What is the branch metaphor used to describe? (4:2b-3) (cf. Isaiah 11:11; Jeremiah 23:5; Zechariah 3:8)
- What will God do in that day? (4:4)
- Fill in the blanks from verse 6. The branch will be a _________________,
a____________________ and a ___________________ ______________.
The church of Jesus Christ is what God planned from the beginning. The beautiful picture of the church from Isaiah 4:6 is just the opposite of what the Israelites turned out to be because they had not given their hearts to God. In The Emotionally Destructive Relationship, Leslie Vernick explains that we cannot overcome pride, and a myriad of other destructive attitudes, until we change the “internal heart themes of entitlement and self-centeredness” (86). But when His indwelling spirit controls our hearts, we can be Jesus’ eyes of love, hands of service, and feet that carry the good news to all people.
Key Question: What are you doing to change the feelings of entitlement and self-centeredness that threaten to control your heart?
For additional reflection:
God has clearly told in what He is pleased to see in His followers.
From Galatians 3:25-27, how are we to be clothed?
From Galatians 5:16, what are we supposed to live by?
From Galatians 5:23-26, note the results of living like this?
How is this polar opposite of the description of the proud women in Isaiah 3?
Chapter 15: The Shunammite Woman-THE COST OF HOSPITALITY
2 Kings 4:11—37; 8:1-6
Elijah and Elisha, were “God’s Messengers” during the time of the Kings of the divided Kingdom. They struggled to warn the kings, and to herd the people back toward God. Elisha performed many miracles and acts of kindness as he walked among the people. Whatever hospitality he received must have blessed and refreshed him. Hospitality has always been an attribute of God’s followers. Before going to Shunen, where he met the gracious Shunammite woman, Elisha had experienced some stressful events.
I. A Woman’s Hospitality blessed Elisha. 2 Kings 2:23; 3— 4:1-10
- What kind of treatment did he receive as he went up to Bethel? (2:23-25)
- Who did he have to contend with next? (3:9-13)
- How did he help the widow of one of the prophets? (4:1-7)
Elisha was a servant of God who dealt with disrespectful young men, powerful kings, and suffering individuals. But the Shunammite woman was not asking for anything, she was offering something.
- How is the Shunammite woman described? (4:8a)
- Why did Elisha stop there when he was traveling through the area? (4:8b)
- What did she offer Elisha? (4:9-10)
- What would have been the cost of this hospitality to the Shunammite woman?
- What did her attitude seem to be toward any burden her hospitality might have been?
II. Hospitality in the Bible.
The Old Testament examples of hospitality are plentiful; the New Testament includes examples as well as commands to be hospitable. From the following passages, what kind of care and cost was required to extend hospitality? What kinds of blessings resulted from godly hospitality?
Genesis 18:2—8, 16.
III. The Shunammite woman experiences blessing. 2 Kings 4:11-37; 8:1-6
Of course hospitality can sometimes be burdensome. Imagine, however, what it would have cost the Shunammite woman if she hadn’t offered hospitality to the prophet Elisha.
- What caused Elisha to offer a blessing to the woman? (4:11-13a)
- With what kind of attitude did the woman respond? (4:13)
- What surprising gift did Elisha give her? ((4:14-17)
- What was the ultimate gift that followed? (4:18-37)
- What warning and help did Elisha later give to the Shunammite and her family? (8:1-6)
IV. Hospitality as a picture of God.
Significant blessings come to the one who offers hospitality and to the one who receives hospitality. Hospitality is about relationship. Christians receive the gracious hospitality of God as he invites us into relationship with him. In turn, we bless God when our lives are to others who have not yet experienced God as their Father.
- Jesus said “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). How is this a picture of hospitality?
- Explain the following teaching about hospitality, or the lack thereof. What were the results?
1 Peter 4:9.
3 John 5—8
The Shunammite woman went out of her way to show hospitality to Elisha when he needed it. Because of the friendship that developed between them, Elisha went out of his way to bless her when she needed it. This kind of godly hospitality is almost a lost art, but those who conform to the biblical model of hospitality experience much of the same kind of blessing.
- What has happened to the custom of hospitality in our culture?
- What are the hindrances to practicing this act of grace?
- Share how receiving or giving hospitality has been a blessing to you or to others.
- Whom should we consider as our guest each time we open our homes to others? (Matthew 25:45)
Key Question: How could you bless a servant of God who needs Christian hospitality?
For additional reflection:
Meditate on the following passages about the kinds of hospitality Jesus and the Apostles received. What can we learn from each of these occasions?
Acts 10: 23, 24-48
Chapter 14: Jereboam’s Wife-A Message of Doom
I Kings 11:26-40; 12:14-33; 13; 14:1-20; Isaiah 55
Solomon was the last king of the undivided nation of Israel. His successors walked in his footsteps and took the nation down the path of destruction. Jeroboam, who was not one of Solomon’s sons, came into power and took all but one tribe as his kingdom. Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, led the tribe of Judah. God’s people would be divided, known as Israel and Judah from then on. Jeroboam’s actions were despicable; his own family, and all Israel were doomed to suffer the consequences.
I. Jeroboam sinned in word and deed. I Kings 12:19-33.
- What did Jeroboam want to prevent the people of Israel from doing? (12:26-27)
- What did he say to the Israelite people? (12:28-29)
- Outline the five changes that he made how Israel worshiped?
12:29- He moved the location of worship from __________________ to Dan and Bethel.
12:28- He added the symbols of golden calves to worship and claimed they brought them out of ____________.
12:31a-He changed from worship of God in the temple to symbolic worship in ______________________________.
12:31b-He appointed new ____________________ who were not Levites.
12:32 He established a new _______________________ of his own choosing.
Jeroboam set out to unify the Israelites by disguising his sinful plan as change for the better. However, when man tries to do God’s things according to his own ways, the plan is doomed.
II. God used word and deed to give Jeroboam a chance to repent. 1 Kings 13
A man, sent from Judah by God, confronted Jeroboam in Bethel as he was ready to make an offering.
- What did God say through the man? (13:2-3)
- When Jeroboam tried to attack the man, what did God do to him? (13:4,5)
- Fill in the blanks from 13:5: “Also, the altar was split apart and its ashes poured out according to the ___________given by the man of God by the ______________ of the _____________.
- Why would Jeroboam have already known God’s will against changes that he had made in worship?
The word and deed of God that the man delivered should have been enough. But God further proved his point in 13:7-31. Disobeying the direct instruction not to tarry for any reason in that place, the man of God chose to stop for food and drink—to his own peril.
- What was God’s response to this man’s disobedience? (13:20-24)
- How did Jeroboam react to these two extraordinary occurrences? (13:33)
III. Jeroboam’s wife receives a message of doom. I Kings 14:1-19
When Jeroboam’s son became ill Jeroboam sent his wife to speak with Ahijah, the prophet. He should have faced Ahijah himself, but after the preceding events, he had reason to avoid the prophet. This was the one who had told him he would be king. This was a prophet of the same God whose ways he had rejected.
- Why did Jeroboam suggest his wife use a disguise?
- What did Ahijah’s greeting to the woman show? (14:6)
- What was the key point of Ahijah’s message to Jeroboam? Whose doom was predicted? (14:9-10)
- What information would be a staggering blow to Jeroboam’s wife? (14:12,13)
- What happened as Jeroboam’s wife stepped over her threshold? (14:17)
- How did the child’s death show God’s grace? (14:13b)
Jeroboam’s evil choices caused his family to suffer, caused his child to die, and brought doom to Israel. The effects of sin cause the innocent to suffer alongside the guilty. This fact has caused men and women to doubt God as nothing else has. Yet, as mankind looks up to God with human understanding, God looks down with perfect understanding and sovereign ways.
IV. God’s message of hope. Isaiah 55
The prophet Isaiah taught God’s people approximately 100 years after Jeroboam. Israel was well on its way down the path of destruction that Jeroboam had started on. Isaiah warned them of their doom, just as Ahijah had done. Some principles about God’s ways are revealed in Isaiah 55.
- According to 55:1-2, who is invited to come?
- What is the general condition of those who are invited to come to the Lord?
- What will it cost them?
- How can this be explained? (55:6-9)
While water, wine and milk represent basic physical needs, they also represent basic spiritual needs. Water is figurative for salvation (John 4:7-26). Wine is figurative for joy and celebration (Isaiah 26:6-9). Milk is figurative for nourishment (Hebrews 5:12). Only the help and hope that the Lord offers will meet the needs of those who have suffered great loss.
- What is the power of God’s word, as described in verses 10-11?
- What is the result when we allow God’s word to accomplish what He desires? (55:12-13)
- How would these words comfort a mother who had lost her son?
“It was not astonishing to the Jews that Jehovah would be gracious to them. What was astonishing to many was that He would grant them mercy without their having earned it. Isaiah has extended an invitation for participation in redemption through covenant relationship. Now the bond and bounds of that covenant relationship is declared to be in the word of Jehovah which is faithful and powerful” (Butler, 53-54) The message Christians have been commanded to share is one of “good tidings and joy”, a message of hope instead of doom.
Key Question: With whom will you share this message of salvation?
For additional reflection.
Hope for the nations. Isaiah 55:3-5, John 6:25-40
God understood the anguish Jeroboam’s wife experienced at the loss of her son. Another son would be given for Israel, and for all people: His own son.
- What hope does God offer his people? (Isaiah 55:3)
- Who does He extend this promise to? (Isaiah 55:5)
- What claim of Jesus reminds us of Isaiah’s promise? (John 6:35)
Another son, who pleases God, would come. Another son would die, but that son would live again.
While women of all time have mourned the death of children, there is one real hope. That is the hope that God offers through his son. That son will come again, and if we follow him, we will see our innocent ones again.
Chapter 13: Two Prostitutes-Heart Trouble
1 Kings 3; Galatians 5:14; Romans 12:1–3
The Wisdom of Solomon reminds us of the classic story. Two mothers needed wisdom to solve a grim problem. The dilemma and the decision give us insights into real-life issues. Beside marriage, the most basic human relationship is between mother and child. Women influence the world from little up. What is it that can make or break a society? Solomon knew what it was.
I. Solomon’s Wisdom. 1 Kings 3:1-15
- Why were the people worshiping at the high places? (3:2)
- How did Solomon show his love for God? (3:3)
- What did God offer to Solomon in a dream? (3:5)
- Why was God pleased at Solomon’s choice? (3:10-11)
5. How did God bless Solomon? (3:11-14)
II. God’s Wisdom. I Kings 3:15-28; 1 Samuel 16:7
The Israelites witnessed the establishment of Solomon’s kingdom by the military victory over Shimei (1 Kings 2:13-46). Now Solomon’s reign would be characterized by wisdom, as the Israelites marveled at his handling of a difficult situation. But his reign would only be characterized by wisdom from God, as long as he obeyed God’s commands.
- What dilemma did the two mothers put before him?
- Solomon had no evidence with which to decide the case, but he did have God-given insight into human nature. How does God judge a person? (1 Samuel 16:7)
- What actions gave Solomon a clue about the character of the woman whose child had died? (I Kings 3:9-20)
- What kind of heart did those actions reveal?
- What did Solomon know about the heart of the true mother?
- How did he reveal which woman had a mother’s heart?
III. Heart Trouble that only God can heal. Matthew 15:1-20
God’s standard of judgment is different than man’s standard because only God can see the heart. However, Solomon knew that the heart would be revealed by forcing the women to see what they were doing to the child. A mother who truly loved her child would never harm him. The one who was completely controlled by selfish desires would demand her rights. Selfishness is the most dangerous kind of heart trouble.
- The Pharisees judged Jesus by his actions without knowing his heart. What did Jesus say about their hearts? (15:8)
- According to Jesus, what reveals a man’s (or a woman’s) heart? (15:18)
- When selfishness reigns in the heart, what actions result? (15:19)
Solomon used the bizarre to reveal the guilty woman. He brought out a sword and offered to split the child in two. The thought offends our sensibilities, especially as women. The quality of a society or culture is also revealed by the actions of its members. Similar deeds, that have become common in our culture, surely must cut God’s heart to pieces. Sadly, we can see broken lives that result from exactly the same self-centeredness that Solomon exposed are all around us.
- What selfish behavior disturbs you as you consider the direction our own culture is headed?
- What are some things that parallel the dilemma of the two prostitutes and put children at risk in our culture?
- What kind of heart trouble is causing this heartbreak?
Consider the following observation:
“The timeless story of Solomon from the First Book of Kings continues to send powerful messages for divorced parents and children. The basic plot is reenacted hundreds and thousands of times in every city: it is the story of two adults disputing their right to a child; the dilemma of the judge attempting to determine which adult is truly more worthy to take the child; and the baby who is being destroyed in the process. Another motif is the woman—presumably the true mother—who was trying to balance her own right to the baby with the baby’s right to stay in one piece and survive the custody dispute” (Bernet and Ash, 6).
- Think about the pressure our culture puts on women (and men) to achieve personal goals. What often makes this effort an ungodly, self-seeking pursuit? (See Philippians 2:3-4; 2 Corinthians 7:3-5)
- How can we balance whole-hearted surrender to God’s calling with the demands of family?
- Jesus mentioned a sword in Matthew 10:32-39 to explain that self-denial can be painful. Explain how we can follow this teaching and still put our children’s needs first.
- Hebrews 4:12 explains that the Word of God is like a sword, ”able to judge the thoughts and desires of the heart”. What kinds of thoughts and desires on the part of parents will bless our children?
Key Question: What personal desires and pursuits might put your children at risk?
For additional reflection:
The natural characteristics of mothering are nurturing and compassionate. The Bible emphasizes that God also has this ‘mothering’ nature. Study the following passages where God reveals his nurturing and compassionate nature.
While the idea of splitting a child into two pieces to settle the dispute is repulsive, the manner in which children are sometimes treated as a result of the divorce of their parents sometimes rivals this barbarity. Parents must do everything in their power to ensure that the children aren’t ‘split up’ even if they do.
William Bernet and Don R. Ash, authors of Children of Divorce, suggest that to help children remain intact emotionally, parents must help the child carry on with his own life in a way that is predictable, consistent, and minimally disrupted by the needs of the parents” (6).
They suggest the following:
Both parents must put aside animosity concerning children in order to participate and communicate.
Stick to a parenting schedule that is least stressful for the child, and keep it predictable.
The non-primary residential parent should take the child ‘in sickness and in health’ unless it is critical or an emergency, to assure the children that both parents are involved in their lives as much as possible.
To avoid suspicions about abuse, talk directly with the other parent about any illnesses or accidents while in your care: explain Dr. appointments and diagnosis.
If the child is to be shuffled between two homes, do whatever it takes to make the transition seamless for the child. Have two sets of clothing, sports equipment, materials needed to do homework etc. so the child doesn’t have to constantly live out of suitcases or carry these items back and forth.
Chapter 12: Bathsheba-Truly Beautiful
2 Samuel 11:1—12:25; I Kings 1—2; Psalm 51
David’s actions with Bathsheba set the course of the rest of his reign as king of Israel. David saw Bathsheba, and he wanted her because she was truly beautiful. In Bathsheba’s case, physical beauty was not a blessing. But as David and Bathsheba allowed God to reclaim their lives, he turned a bad mistake into something truly beautiful. What God did 3000 years ago in David and Bathsheba’s lives brings us this assurance today: God can turn a bad start into something beautiful.
I. A Bad Mistake Times Two. 2 Samuel 11:1—12:25
- In the spring time what usually occupied the kings? (11:1)
- In the space before the arrow briefly note the events that are related in 2 Samuel 11:2—5. After the arrow with each of the, note what choice Bathsheba had in the matter.
- In your opinion, was Bathsheba a victim or a party to the sin that was committed?
One of the tallest buildings, David’s palace would have been constructed with a railing or battlement around a flat roof with openings to view the area and for protection. In fact the Israelites were to build a wall around their roofs to avoid liability for a fall (Deuteronomy 22:8).
Uriah’s home was located in close proximity to the palace for David to be able to see Bathsheba, bathing on her roof. Women were commanded by God’s law to cleanse themselves after a period. It was common practice for a woman to bath after the day’s work, at night, in the privacy of the roof top.
- What additional atrocity did David commit after learning of Bathsheba’s pregnancy? (11:14)
- What happened to Bathsheba next? (11:26-27)
- What displeased God? (11:27b)
II. Truth and Consequences. 2 Samuel 12:1—23.
- What did Nathan use to convict David of the truth of his sin? (12:1—10)
- What is the meaning behind the heartfelt words from God that Nathan related? (12:7—9)
- What consequences did the Lord declare? (12:11—18)
- How did David react to God’s truth and consequences? (12:13)
- The Lord struck the child with an illness and, in spite of David’s pleading and fasting, the baby died seven days later. What losses did Bathsheba endure because of her encounter with David?
- Describe David’s anguish and his reaction to the death of the son. (12:18—22)
III. A new life for Bathsheba. (2 Samuel 12:24-25; 1 Kings 1; 2:1—25)
Bathsheba’s attributes go beyond beauty. David’s remaining years were plagued by family turmoil and war, as God promised. But the rest of Bathsheba’s story reveals a woman with strength and character. She was honored by David and Solomon. She was respected by Nathan the prophet, as well as others in the kingdom. God gave a new life to Bathsheba, and she helped bring his treasure to the world.
- How did God Bless Bathsheba. (2 Samuel 12:24)
- Who did God love? What does this mean to you? (2 Samuel 12:25)
- Why did Nathan consult with Bathsheba about Adonija? (1 Kings 1:9—13)
- What shows David and Bathsheba’s relationship at this point? (1 Kings 1:16—21, 31)
Despite David’s proclamation, Adonija was determined that as the oldest living heir of David, he should have the throne. Knowing the Queen Mother’s influence on Solomon, Adonija involved her in a plot which could actually have resulted in their deaths.
- Describe what actions of Solomon show respect toward his mother. (1 Kings 2:19—20)
- Was Bathsheba naïve or wise in her approach to Solomon with the request from Adonija? Explain your answer. (1 Kings 1:21—27)
One has to wonder how David, described as someone God loves (cf. Acts 13:22) could stray so far off the path of godliness. He let his desires take over, hurting innocent people in his wake. Yet we know that God loves all of us as well. This is still the same struggle for followers of God today. Praise God, the perpetrator and the victim alike can find help and healing.
III. A New Life for You and Me (Psalm 51)
- Read Psalm 51:1-2. David confessed and asked God to deal with three kinds of sin. Note them:
Blot out my____________________________.
Wash away my _________________________.
Cleanse me from my_____________________.
- David pled with God: “ …create a new heart within me “(Psalm 51:10). How does this happen for you and me? (1 John 4:16; Acts 2:38, Ro. 6:1—14)
- Why then, do Christians struggle with sin? (Romans 7:21—24)
- In Romans 7:7—8:37 we read how Christians who love God and follow Christ can be victorious over sin. How does the writer describe those who remain faithful, despite the difficulties? (Romans 8:37-39)
- Share how God has helped you make something truly beautiful of your life, even after a bad start.
Key Question: What do you need to let God do in your life to make it more beautiful to Him?
For additional reflection: A chiastic outline is a way of analyzing Old Testament writings, especially Psalms. The name comes from the shape Greek letter X, chi, and refers to lines that go from left to right, then right to left.
Consider this interesting outline chiastic outline of 2 Samuel 11:1—12:31 that includes this interlude in David’s life. We have seen how God used Bathsheba as his instrument in history. David was God’s instrument before and after his affair, despite this grievous sin.
A. David sends Joab to besiege Rabbah (11:1).
B. David sleeps with Bathsheba, who becomes pregnant (11:2—5).
C. David has Uriah killed (11:6—17).
D. Joab sends David a message (11:18—27a).
E. The Lord is displeased with David (11:27b).
D’. The Lord sends David a messenger (12:1—14).
C’. The Lord strikes David’s infant son, who dies (12:15—23).
B’. David sleeps with Bathsheba, who becomes pregnant (12:24—25).
A. Joab sends for David to besiege and capture Rabbah (12:26—31).
(From The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 3, by F. E. Gaebelein .Ed.)
(Note how David gets off track at point A and returns to God’s work at point A’. We should beware when we are drawn away from our calling.)
Meditate on Romans 7:7—8:37 and explain the process of living out our lives in Christ, even though we still battle with our sinful nature. Read and meditate on this teaching. Make note of the various aspects God’s work on our behalf from chapter 8.
Chapter 11: Michal: Disappointed Love
I Samuel 18—19, 2 Samuel 3:12-16, 6:12-23; I Chronicles 15-16
Samuel, a righteous man of God, anointed and mentored two kings of Israel, Saul and David. During his lifetime he saw both of them disappoint their families, their people and their God. We read about Saul, Michal, and David; all sought the wrong things through intrigue, passion and selfishness. A father should have loved his daughter; a husband should have loved his wife. As His representatives, the two kings should have loved God and each other. Instead, they were at war. Perhaps Michal was the biggest loser; she was their pawn, the cast-off and the trophy. But broken hearts don’t have to stay broken.
To understand Michal’s situation we must look at the relationships that impacted her life.
I. Saul and David.
- What can we understand about Saul’s mind and spirit from the following verses?
- 1 Samuel 15:10-11, 26
- 1 Samuel 16:14
- 1 Samuel 16:23
- 1 Samuel 18:7-9
- 1 Samuel 18:10-11
- Describe David from the following passages:
- 1 Samuel 16:12
- 1 Samuel 16:13
- 1 Samuel 16:18
- 1 Samuel 17:34-37
- 1 Samuel 18:12
The more Saul’s jealousy consumed him, the more the Lord led David through one victory after another. From 1 Samuel 18:16 we know the people of Israel were captivated by David—none more than Michal, Saul’s youngest daughter.
II. Michal in the Middle.
- From the following passages in 1 Samuel note how the actions of each man affected Michal.
- Analyze the details above to discover what kind of disappointments Michal experienced.
David would have been anointed by Samuel around the age of 15-20. He was probably 18-20 when he slew Goliath. The war between the house of Saul and the house of David lasted a long time (1 Samuel 3:1). David and Michal were probably apart for around 8 years. When David gained more power his rule as king of all Israel was imminent; he sent for Michal.
- Read 2 Samuel 3:12-15.
- Why did David demand that Michal return to be his wife?
- What does Paltiel’s reaction imply?
- What other relationships did David have? (2 Samuel 5:13-16)
III. Broken Hearts. 2 Samuel 6.
Although David was powerful, there were still more battles to be fought before he actually became king of all Israel. Saul’s death and David’s lament open the book of 2 Samuel. We learn that he was 30 years old (cf. 2 Samuel 5:4). When he finally defeats the Philistines as king of Israel his great desire is to return the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. Although God has brought David to victory, He teaches him an important heart lesson.
- Read 2 Samuel 6:1-11; I Chronicles 15:1-2.
- Why was David celebrating?
- What cut the celebration short?
- How was David’s heart broken through Uzzah’s death?
- Read 2 Samuel 6:12-19; I Chronicles 15-16
- Why was David celebrating?
- Verses 5 and verse 12 of I Samuel 6 describe the two times David celebrated the ark. What had David learned since the ark was at the home of Odem-Edom?
- Read 2 Samuel 6:20-23; I Chronicles 15:28-29
- What was Michal’s response to David’s unrestrained worship?
- What is the condition of her heart?
- How did David react?
During David’s years in exile he experienced many hardships at the hands of his enemies. David was a warrior, and he was a flawed man. He wrote many of the Psalms during these years. Michal was mistreated and disappointed; she was also a flawed person. We have no record of Michal making peace with David or with God. The last record of her life does not indicate that she and David ever shared the same view of God. But we know something of David’s relationship with God. Note what the following passages reveal.
IV. Love makes the difference.
- From Psalm 63 note David’s attitudes and actions that would be wise for us to imitate.
- What can mend a broken heart?
1 John 3:1-2a
1 John 3:16-19
- Sorrow and brokenness come through many different circumstances. Sickness, death, and financial ruin are hard to face. Abuse and betrayal from people who should protect and support us are hard to face for different reasons. Which do you feel is worse and why?
- Is there any brokenness that God cannot heal?
Key Question: Who do you need to forgive with God’s help? Will you lay the injury at the feet of Jesus and allow Him to help you live your life free of the burden of bitterness?
For additional reflection:
Note the betrayal and abuse that occurs in the following verses:
How much does Jesus really understand about betrayal and disappointment in the love of another person?
Chapter 10: Hannah: Delight in the Lord
I Samuel 1—2:11
Hannah’s story is one of the most well-known and beloved accounts in the Bible. Most are familiar with a young boy named Samuel, who heard God’s voice. But long before he became a great prophet, his mother did a equally great and godly work—she learned to delight in the Lord.
I. Hannah’s Plight. 1 Samuel 1:1-8.
From our study of the women of the Bible we already know how important it was to bear children. It was a woman’s desire, as well as her duty, to provide her husband with children, preferably sons. An Israelite woman also dreamed of birthing the Messiah. Hannah’s plight prevented her from any of these pleasures.
- Describe Hannah’s family life.(v. 2-7)
- How did Elkanah demonstrate his faithfulness to God? (v. 3)
- How did Elkanah demonstrate his love for Hannah? (v. 5,8)
- Why had Hannah remained childless? (v. 5)
- How did it this affect her? (v. 7)
The emotional pain of barrenness, combined with the provocation of Peninnah had become unbearable for Hannah. One year, during the annual feast in Shiloh, Hannah took advantage of her proximity to the Lord’s temple. Her choice was to take her plight to the Lord. This choice alone makes Hannah a worthy example for anyone who carries a burden of pain. Our pain should point us to the One who will provide perfect healing, if we will let Him.
II. Hannah’s Petition. 1 Samuel 1:9-18.
- At what point in the festivities did Hannah decide to take her sorrow to the Lord? (v. 9)
- What was Hannah’s emotional state as she prayed? (v. 10)
- Besides prayer, what else did she do before God? (v. 11)
- As Hannah prayed, what did Eli observe and what did he think she was doing? (12, 13)
- Fill in the blanks and note three things about Hannah’s prayer:
Hannah was praying in her ___________________ and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. 1:13
….I was __________________________________________to the Lord. 1:15b
…I have been praying here out of my great_________________and ____________. 1:16b
- What was Eli’s answer to Hannah? (v. 17)
- How was Hannah changed after the time of prayer? (v. 18)
Eli saw Hannah’s lips; God saw her heart. The result of this outpouring in prayer was a change of her very being. Before Eli pronounced his blessing upon her, God had already worked in Hannah’s heart. When she took her pain and anguish to the Lord, He helped her realize what her true need was. She needed to be content with God Himself. Her vow to God revealed that she was no longer seeking her own selfish desire; instead she was offering an unselfish sacrifice. The son, whether a desire in her heart, or a flesh and blood reality, would belong to God.
“A woman was not so unimportant in Israel as to be considered incapable of communicating with God. Significantly, Yahweh was also portrayed as a deity who listened to a woman and answered her prayer” (Bergen).
III. Hannah’s Praise. 1 Samuel 1:19—2:11.
Soon Hannah gave birth to a son they named Samuel. Elkanah and Hannah, with great delight, fulfilled the vow Hannah had made. The generous offering and the joyous prayer of praise gives testimony to the condition of Hannah’s heart. Before she gave Samuel to the Lord, she had given her heart to the Lord.
Hannah’s prayer expressed her complete delight in the Lord. The prayer is one of the longest in the Old Testament and lifts up God’s name, Yahweh, 18 times. Although Hannah was not an ancestor of Jesus, the prayer, or praise song, contains the first reference to the Messiah:
He will give strength to his King and exalt the horn of his anointed.
1 Samuel 2:10b
In The Remarkable Women of the Bible, Elizabeth George outlines the content of Hannah’s praise song.
- From 1 Samuel 2:1-10, note the attributes of God that Hannah extols:
2:1 I rejoice in Your ____________________________.
2:2 No one is __________________ like the Lord.
2:2 There (is no) _______________________ like our God.
2:3 The Lord is the God of ______________________________.
2:4 Only the Lord has the ____________________ to make the mighty weak….and the humble exalted.
2:9-10 The adversaries of the Lord shall be _________________________ in pieces.
- How old was Samuel when Hannah took him to Eli? (1:24)
Hannah had gone “before the Lord” with her request. Samuel was presented to the Lord (1:24) and he remained “before the Lord” always (2:11,18,21).
- What shows Hannah’s steadfast love and care for her son, even from a distance? (2:18-19)
- How did God further bless Elkanah and Hannah? (2:21)
Everything about Hannah’s life provides inspiration and example for women today. The fact that she had deep, unmet longings was not wrong. Her story has shown us a way to handle our deepest unmet desires.
IV. Our Path from Petition to Praise.
- Read Psalm 17:1-3.
What do you think are the deeper longings of mankind that only God can see?
Think about your own deepest longings. Have you asked God about them?
- Read James 4:2b-3 and Matthew 6:18-21.
Why doesn’t God give us what we ask for sometimes?
- Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:25-34 not to worry about earthly things because the Father knows what we need to sustain earthly life. Is it wrong to ask God about earthly things? Why or why not? (cf. Matthew 6:11)
- Read Matthew 7:7-11.
What kind of gifts does God give? Are the things we ask good for us?
In this scripture Jesus says to “ask”. What requests would God be delighted to answer?
God answered Hannah’s heartfelt prayer by providing for her deepest need, the need to delight in the Lord. If God were to personally ask you to trade in your deepest longings for a deeper relationship with Him, would you accept?
- Hannah’s story ends with a song of praise. Create your own expression of praise, or write down words from a praise song that are meaningful to you.
Key Question: What area of worry and want in your life will you exchange for delight in the Lord?
For additional reflection.
Read the first four beatitudes from Matthew 5:7-6. Compare them to Hannah’s praise song in
I Samuel 2:1-11. What are the common truths?
Chapter 9: Naomi, Blinded by Bitterness
Naomi lived during the period of the Judges, probably in the time of Gideon. Her story appears in the Book of Ruth. Here in the middle of the history of God’s chosen people, we find a narrative that spotlights the real life struggles of a family in the tribe of Judah. By God tempered the bitter trials Naomi and Ruth endured with his kindness. But Naomi had to get past the bitterness to see it.
I. Naomi’s hard life. Ruth 1
- Make two columns below. On the left side, list the trials and sorrows that Naomi experienced from Ruth 1. On the right side, list any blessings that she might have overlooked during the ordeal.
2.What overwhelming emotion does Naomi express from v. 13 and v. 20-21?
3. Naomi and her family lived in Moab “about 10 years”. From what you know of the living conditions during the time of the judges, how would the losses that Naomi experienced compare to the losses her peers might well have been suffering?
4. How would the fact that Naomi still had Orpha and Ruth in her life make up for her losses?
Any woman who has lost her husband and children knows that nothing can remove such a loss. However, a wise woman will allow God to minister to her during the time of intense grief and mourning. We aren’t given an exact time frame to know the duration of Naomi’s mourning. But going home to the land of Judah soon changed her circumstances.
II. Naomi heads for home. Ruth 1:6-19
The Moabite gods were Chemosh, to whom they offered human sacrifices; and Baal-Peor, for whom they practiced sexual rites of worship. In her despondence, Naomi was willing to send Orpha and Ruth back to their own people to find husbands, even though those people worshiped idols.
1.What reveals the kind of relationship that Naomi had with Orpha and Ruth? (1:8-9)
2. What words made Naomi realize that Ruth determined to accompany her? (1:16-18)
3. Why would Ruth prefer to stay with Naomi rather than return to her own people?
III. Naomi discovers a new life. Ruth 1:19—4.
Wearing bitterness on her sleeve, Naomi arrived at Bethlehem and with Ruth, started to find a way to live. She must have had a dwelling she could return to, or she was given shelter. Here at least, she was among family, and God soon brought new blessings to the women. Ruth, determined to help her mother-in-law, went to glean in the fields of Boaz. Boaz was impressed with Ruth and in a just a few days life dramatically changed for the two women.
1. What was Naomi’s response when Ruth reported Boaz’s kindness ?(2:17-20; 3:1-4)
Naomi used the word hesed, translated as kindness in the NIV. Hesed is much more than kindness. It is a rich and full term describing “God’s love, mercy, grace, kindness, goodness, benevolence, loyalty and covenant faithfulness” (Block).
2. What did Boaz do to accept his responsibility for Naomi? (4:9-13)
3. According to the women, how was Naomi blessed? (4:14-16)
Naomi’s old life, with her husband and sons, was gone. But she discovered that God simply made her a new life—complete with family, rich in love. Her daughter-in-law, Ruth, was proclaimed to be better than seven sons—not better than her own two beloved sons—but better than seven more sons. God had provided for Naomi through Ruth better than she could have imagined, at such a time and place in her life.
IV. Nuggets of gold from Naomi’s experiences.
- A kind and loving Father, understands human expressions of grief and sorrow.We have looked at Naomi’s complaints to her daughters-in-law and to her friends in Bethlehem. Job and the Psalmist said it this way:
I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul. Job 10:1
Listen, O God, to my prayer! Do not ignore my appeal for mercy! Pay attention to me and answer me! I am so upset and distressed, I am beside myself,… Psalm 55:1,2 (NET Bible)
Naomi came to some false conclusions during her time of mourning.
1. What was Naomi’s false conclusion about God, 1:13, 21?
2. What was her false conclusion about herself, 1:20?
There are times when God was reviled by the complaints of his followers.
Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. Numbers 11:1
3. What is the difference between an acceptable complaint and one that angers God?
- Treasures from God are often hidden in the depths of sorrow. In His time, God will reveal a new life and unimagined kindness.
- Ruth was a treasure that Naomi didn’t recognize. What treasure have you discovered through suffering?
- Noemi had no knowledge of it, but what was the treasure from Noemi’s life that blessed all mankind? (Ruth 4:22; Luke 3)
- What treasure do we carry that can bless others, even while we are in the midst of our own suffering?
Grieving helps the healing process. It is natural, but bitterness is not. Larry Crabb writes: “The demand to walk a path with a predictable outcome is an urge of the flesh. It needs to die.” A root of bitterness threatened to take over Naomi’s life. But God changed her circumstances in a most unpredictable way. In our grief we need to turn to God not bitterness.
Key Question: How will you walk toward blessing instead of bitterness when great tragedy or sorrow comes into your life?
For additional reflection:
Read and meditate on these passages that refer to our redemption in Jesus Christ:
Chapter 8: Deborah, A Mother in Israel
Commentators describe the period of the Judges as “a time of free, unfettered development, in which the nation was to take root in the land presented to it by God” (Keil & Delitzsch,239). The fickle Israelites repeated cycles of “doing evil in the sight of the Lord”; bearing the consequences of that evil as God allowed surrounding nations to pummel them; and finally, penitence, with a humble return to faithfulness. Each time God provided a judge to rein them in; Deborah was one of the most courageous. Yet, she describes herself as “a mother in Israel” Judges 5:7.
I. Deborah as a wise judge: Judges 4:1-5; 5:6-7.
Deborah, the fourth Judge, lived approximately 140 years after Joshua’s death. She was probably middle-aged at the time of the events described in the Book of Judges. Yet she had seen and heard enough to be a wise and respected woman whom God used in an extraordinary way.
Describe Deborah’s life as a judge:
- Israel fell into evil after Ehud’s death. From Judges 2:19, what was particularly odious to God?
- God punished them through Jabin, a Canaanite. Why was Jabin’s army, under the command of Sisera, a lethal threat, Judges 4:2-3?
- Describe the severity of this oppression.
How long had it lasted?
- From Deborah’s song, Judges 5:6, describe what life was like for the Israelites.
- To whom did they finally turn for help?
- Fill in the words to describe Deborah from Judges 4:4.
“Deborah a _________________________, the _____________ of Lappidoth, was _______________
Israel at that time.”
How did Deborah serve the Israelites? Judges 4:5
II. Deborah as a strong military leader: Judges 4-5.
- What message did God give Deborah for Barak?
- Who would actually win the battle for the Israelites (4:7, 14)?
- In your opinion, what did Barak’s response to Deborah’s message reveal?
- The expressions translated “Go” (4:9), and “Go!”(4:14) in the NIV can carry the meaning of “Get up and go”, and “Stand up and go!” or “Take your stand”. Knowing that Barak refused to lead his army without Deborah, what is the implication of her use of these words?
- Should Deborah’s prediction, that a woman would have the honor for the victory, shame Barak? Why or why not?
- In Deborah’s song we have a poetic description of the battle. What does it reveal about the 10,000 man army (5:2)?
- From Judges 4:15 and 5:4-5, why was Sisera on foot and how did God hinder his army?
- Who was the woman who received the honor for Sisera’s defeat, and how was she able to accomplish it (4:18-21; 5:24-27)?
The Kennite women had responsibility for the tents. Due to the harsh winds and the hard, sunbaked land, “she would had to have been swift and accurate in her use of the tent peg” (Robinson).
The literal translation of Deborah’s prediction about Jael is “Into the hand of a woman the Lord will sell Sisera” (Fleenor,Ziese 86). Any reader of Deborah’s story will notice how gender roles play against each other in the account. Even simple words are implicit. We understand “the hand that rocks the cradle…” and the gracefulness of a woman’s hands. A woman’s hands driving a tent peg into a man’s temple just don’t fit the picture. However the stereotypes about women are very different from the reality about women. My grandmother’s hands were strong and rough from hard work on the farm. Yet childhood memories of my hand in hers are sweet. Her cracked, callused hands were beautiful to me.
III. Deborah as a strong mother.
Besides a judge and leader, Deborah was a homemaker. There is no record that Deborah bore children other than her own words: “…I, Deborah a mother in Israel, arose, arose a mother in Israel” Judges 5:7. This seems to be the simple answer, yet commentators debate about whether Deborah actually had children. It’s possible she was referring to herself figuratively as a mother of Israel because she was a great leader. This is not the usual description of a mother. We might come to a different conclusion as we read this story through a different lens- as women.
Let’s observe Deborah the homemaker: the wife of Lappidoth , a mother in Israel from Judges 4-5.
Fill in the chart with characteristics that we can observe about Deborah in her various roles to see if any are different from those needed to be a homemaker and mother. Feel free to add details to the list or add the characteristics you see. Check the boxes where the characteristic would correspond to each role Deborah fulfilled.
|4:4||Prophetess (inspired by God, poetess)|
|4:4||Leader of Israel|
|4:6||Messenger, used by God|
|5:1-3||Worshiper of God|
IV. Deborah as an example:
Consider your own life and the challenges you face in light of Deborah’s example.
- Deborah is described in Judges 4 and 5 as: a women, one who spoke for God, a wife, a leader, a judge, and a mother. Circle the descriptions that fit you as well.
- What would it mean to any woman to realize that life in your village, or town, “had ceased”?
- Do we face an enemy as formidable as Jabin and his army?
- Consider 1 Peter 5:8-11 and 1 Thessalonians 5:16-21
- What are the forces against us today, and what kind of equipment are they outfitted with?
- What kind of strategies must we use, as women, to protect ourselves and our homes?
Key Question: What is happening in your community, your church, or your family that demand your courageous leadership? Will you step up to the challenge?
For additional reflection:
We, or our loved ones, may face a lethal threat. It may come through an accident, an illness, or even an attack by an enemy. But the same God who supported Deborah as a homemaker and a leader in Israel is the God who delivers us through any peril.
Note the comfort or advice found in these passages from God’s word:
- In the beginning remember: Jeremiah 10:23-
- When you face evil remember: Psalm 23:4-
- In the midst of the battle, remember: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18-
- As you endure to the end remember: James 1:12-
Chapter 7: Rahab, Helping the Enemy
Joshua 2; 6:17-25; Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25
Paul includes Rahab in his faithful “Hall of Fame”. He introduced the faithful ones with this thought: “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved” (Hebrews 10:30). Rahab did not ‘shrink back’, even though it meant helping the enemy army. But God knew she was a treasure; she is one of Jesus’ ancestors!
Rahab’s Vantage Point- Joshua 2
For the second time, God was ready to hand over the land of the Canaanites to the Israelites. Joshua was leading a whole new generation, who had not lived through the miraculous deliverance that their fathers had experienced. But the stories from their history, and their own experiences of the power of the One True God, had given courage to the Israelite soldiers. It had also “melted the hearts” of all the cultures around them. Rahab could see the coming doom. She knew that the God of the Israelites was the “God of Heaven above and on the earth below”. She had realized that before the Israelite spies appeared on her doorstep.
Discover Rahab’s vantage point from Joshua 2.
- Why did Rahab have so much information about the Israelites and the attitude of the Canaanites?
- What two events particularly persuaded Rahab to believe in God?
- Describe the morale of the Caananites.
- What actions put Rahab on the side of the Israelite invaders? (v. 4-6)
|Rahab’s lie: While it is not God’s ideal that we lie “our sin in Adam has created an ethical mess from which we sometimes can’t (don’t) extricate ourselves” (Howard).|
- What was the promise that the spies had made to Rahab from Joshua 2: 12-21.
- What was their promise to her? (v. 14)
- What was Rahab’s situation now? Did she have anything to lose by making an agreement with the spies?
- Who would ultimately have to guarantee this promise? (v. 12)
II. Joshua’s Vantage Point- Joshua 1; 3—6
The spies and Joshua were relying on the information of a Canaanite prostitute. Her help was invaluable, not only because she protected them but because of her description of the poor morale among the Canaanites in Jericho. She risked her life and the lives of her family on her beliefs. But Rahab was not the only one who made a courageous decision. Joshua was following orders and he was under no obligation to honor the spies’ verbal contract with a prostitute who belonged to ‘the enemy’!
- Read God’s instructions in Deuteronomy 7:1-2 and 20:16-19.
- What had God specifically commanded Joshua to do to the people they would conquer?
- Were they allowed to make any agreements or contracts with the people of Canaan?
- Review the mission that God had given Joshua from Joshua 1.
- What state of mind did God want Joshua and the Israelites to have?
- What was God’s repeated promise to Joshua?
- Joshua led the Israelites into battle. Joshua 3—6
- How did the Israelites cross the Jordan river? (3:16)
- How many soldiers approached Jericho? (4:13)
- What was necessary before the Israelites could enter the land? Why? (5:5-8)
- Discover how Joshua viewed Rahab. Joshua 6:17-19.
- What were Joshua’s instructions about Rahab and her household?
- Why was Joshua’s order to rescue Rahab and her family a courageous decision?
- What do you think Joshua meant when he said “But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them” Joshua 6:18.
When Rahab confessed “for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Joshua 2:11), she effectively identified herself with the Israelites. She demonstrated through her actions that she no was no longer a Canaanite at heart. We have no knowledge of how Joshua came to the conclusion that Rahab should be rescued and saved from destruction. We do know however, that God promised to be with Joshua. God knew Rahab’s heart. He accepted her as one of the “treasures” that were devoted to Him. In fact, Rahab carried the most precious treasure of all; she is one of Jesus’ ancestors! God wanted Rahab to be saved.
III. Our vantage point.
- What is your unique vantage point in life?
- Discuss how these insights that have helped you see the wisdom of following Christ.
- What does the salvation of her family tell us about God’s kindness to Rahab?
- For women, family is usually what we treasure most. Do you think God cares about your family as much as you do? Why?
- How can we devote ourselves and our family to God?
Key Question: How do you need to “change sides” in your life to join forces with others in the work of God’s Kingdom?
For Additional Reflection:
Read the full account of the Fall of Jericho and the events that followed from Joshua, chapters 3—7. Note the various times and ways that Joshua and the Israelites worshiped God:
Was God intimately involved with them, or withdrawn?
Chapter 6: Miriam, Who Leads?
Exodus 2: 1-10; 15:20-21; Numbers 12
Miriam was a qualified leader whom God provided, along with Moses and Aaron, to deliver His people from bondage. But God showed Miriam that he was deadly serious when he taught her a most important lesson about his leaders. Their relationship with Him is what matters.
I. Miriam as a leader.
- What do these events from Miriam’s life reveal about the kind of person she was?
Exodus 2:4- She watched her baby brother in his basket in the Nile.
Exodus 2:7- She offered their own mother to Pharaoh’s daughter as a nurse.
Exodus 15:20- Miriam was called a prophetess.
Exodus 15:20, 21- All the women followed her with tambourines, dancing, and singing.
Numbers 12:1- Miriam led in speaking out against Moses.
Numbers 12:15-16- The Israelites waited for 7 days when Miriam was confined outside of camp.
Numbers 20:1- Her death is recorded.
Micah 6:4- Miriam is named with Moses and Aaron as leaders that God sent to the Israelites.
2. Word Study:
Exodus 2:4- The term “stood at a distance” implies taking a stand, or positioning oneself. What would that imply about how the young girl, Miriam, watched her brother.
Exodus 15:20- The word prophetess in ancient literature refers to a woman. It can mean a poetess, or an inspired woman. How do we know that both things apply to Miriam?
Numbers 8- Levite refers to the descendants of Levi. This tribe was assigned by God with the task of caring for all the duties of the Tabernacle. As a descendant of Levi, what duties did Miriam perform that might correspond to the Tabernacle worship?
3 Miriam and Aaron criticize Moses. Numbers 12
The opposition of Miriam and Aaron to Moses came at a difficult time in the life of the Israelite nation. From Numbers 11 we learn that just before the challenge to Moses’s authority, constant complaints had angered God so much that he sent fire from heaven and consumed some who were positioned at the edges of the camp. Only Moses’s prayer on their behalf saved the rest of them. Next they drove Moses to distraction because they were hungry for meat. God sent such a quantity of quail that measured three feet deep around them, and then he served a plague for dessert! The truth is they had replaced the respect and honor that they’d had for God during the building of the tabernacle with disrespect and scorn. Even with these images fresh in mind, Miriam and Aaron added to Moses’s burdens with their personal criticism.
What did Miriam and Aaron challenge? (v. 1)
What was the real reason for the opposition? (v. 2)
How did Moses react? (v. 3)
What did God do next? (v. 4-5)
What was the consequence for Miriam? (v. 9-13)
What was the consequence for the Israelites? (v. 13-16)
The friendship between Moses and God was foreign to Miriam and Aaron. They were uncomfortable with it. Describe this relationship from the following passages.
Exodus 33:11; Numbers 12:6-9
III. The Leadership Dance
Experienced and qualified women hold responsible positions in the public work place. We’re gaining ground in compensation and advancement, yet we receive mixed messages when it comes to our role in the church. However, if we make leadership roles something to be grasped we’re dancing around the real issue. Our spiritual qualifications will be revealed through our relationship with God. We need to keep in step with the lover of our soul.
Miriam and Aaron started their opposition with an excuse. But the complaint reveals the real problem.
The Complaint: Consider Miriam’s grievance in Numbers 12:2:
“‘Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?’ they asked. ‘Hasn’t he also spoken through us?’”
- What do these words imply about how Miriam and Aaron had been used by God?
- What do these words reflect about Miriam and Aaron’s attitude toward God?
- What would it mean to you if you knew that God had spoken through you?
- To what extent do we have the right to evaluate how God chooses to work with those who serve him as Lord and Master?
Both Miriam and Aaron had demonstrated great leadership. They had also shown terrible lapses of judgment. Moses too, had led well and he had made grave mistakes. Each one had an important role in God’s plan. To our knowledge, God had not distinguished Miriam’s nor Aaron’s contribution as less meaningful than Moses’s. But there was a difference.
IV. Our Leadership Dance
As women we will have experiences with men who are godly, yet seemingly clumsy leaders who make what are, in our judgment, wrong moves. Although the reality is that someone will have the last word in various areas, and some will submit in various ways; all should be keeping in step with God who directs our moves. From a worldly perspective this is preposterous. Rank has certain connotations of power and worth. The one on top is ‘fair game’ and the rest are seeking to ‘work up’. Often, like Miriam and Aaron we raise criticism and opposition inappropriately and for the wrong reasons.
- When do we use excuses to justify our opposition of another leader?
- Miriam and Aaron revealed their own character flaws in their attack against Moses. From the following passages, note the things that God Word warns against?
Proverbs 14:1 Proverbs 14:30
Matthew 7:1-5 Romans 12:16
Philippians 2:3 Hebrews 13:7
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 James 1:19
Key Question: In what areas are you prideful in your position rather than pleased to contribute in God’s Kingdom.
For additional reflection during the week:
Read Paul’s defense of his ministry 2 Corinthians 10.
What are the worldly weapons?
What are the weapons of divine power?
From what are his opponents drawing their conclusions?
The Skillful Women Speak
Chapter 5- “Wise of heart”
Exodus 19:1-8, 35—36; Ephesians 2:19-22
- God will make a nation.
From Exodus 19 we learn that “In the third month after the Israelites left Egypt—on the very day—they came to the Desert of Sinai….and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain”. There in front of the mountain God revealed his heart to the people.
“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.” Exodus 19:4-5
He chose them above all other nations, and he set them apart for his own. He would work with them and through them, but even then, God desired partnership with people. Because of His wisdom, He could maintain that delicate balance of His divine direction and their individual will and abilities, in order to carry out his part of the covenant. The Israelites agreed, saying, “We will do everything the Lord has said”.
- From the following passages, briefly mention what the Israelites should have known about God:
- Exodus 14:13-14, 26-31
- Exodus 15:23-27
- Exodus 16:11-16
- Exodus 17:6
- Exodus 17:8-15
- Exodus 19:3-8, 16-19; 20:20
- Exodus 32:25-35
- Exodus 35:30-35
- Read Psalm 139. What does this passage tell us about God?
- Skillful Women help construct the Tabernacle. Exodus 35:5-22, 25
There in the shadow of Mt. Sinai God instructed Moses to build a Tabernacle. He told Moses:
…receive offerings. Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you. (Exodus 25:8-9).
Among the workers who volunteered for this project were “wise of heart women”, who brought beautiful hand work for the Tabernacle.
This is the first time women are mentioned specifically as participants in both preparing materials to give and giving their dowry jewels. Their skill was a ‘wisdom of heart’ that made them willing to give of themselves and to give up their nest egg with abandon. And God added to the skill of each wise volunteer so that they would know how to construct the sanctuary. He would add to their abilities, but he would dwell in the Tabernacle.
Word Study from Exodus 35. What do each of these expressions mean?
35:21-“heart stirred him to action”
35:21-“heart was willing”
35:22-“men and women alike”
- What is worth noting about the offerings the people brought for the Tabernacle?
- Exodus 25:2
- Exodus 36:6-7
- Write the Bible description of those who helped construct the Tabernacle. Could this description be applied to the members of our congregation today?
- Exodus 35:5
- Exodus 35:10
- Exodus 35:21
- Exodus 35:22
- Exodus 35:25-26
- Exodus 35:35
- What replaced the tabernacle as God’s Old Covenant dwelling place?
- 1 Chronicles 22:9-10
- 1 Chronicles 23:25-26
III. Skillful servants are God’s dwelling place.
God told the Israelites that he would walk among them and be their God. But he has promised us so much more! Paul explained in Acts 17 that God does not live in temples built with hands. When we accept Jesus as our Savior we receive his indwelling presence (Acts 2:38). He doesn’t just walk with us, he lives in us! Now, women with wise and willing hearts experience a partnership with God in the construction of his Eternal Kingdom, rather than an earthly building. Through his divine work in us we become a part of the Kingdom and we become Kingdom builders as well.
- In Hebrews 8—12, Paul explains the transition from an earthly Tabernacle to faith in Christ.
- Hebrews 8:5- What does Paul call the tabernacle?
- Hebrews 8:10- What are the terms of the new covenant?
- Hebrews 9:22-27- What forgives the sin that separates us from God?
- Ephesians 2:19-22 describes the new holy temple of the Lord.
- Ephesians 2:20- What is the foundation of this temple?
- Ephesians 2:21- How is it held together?
- Ephesians 2:22- Of what “material” is this dwelling constructed?
- Ephesians 2:22- How does God live there?
- Since Jesus dwells in us by means of the Holy Spirit, what should we who are Christians realize about our earthly bodies? I. Cor. 6:19
- Fill in the blanks:
Philippians 1:6-“… he who ____________________________________ in you will carry it on to completion.”
Philippians 2:13- “…for it is God who _____________________________________ to will and to act according to his good purpose.
God’s plan since the creation has been to have a friendship with man. Could there be any greater treasure than having Him live in our hearts through The Spirit?
Key Question: How will you be ‘wise of heart’ with a skill that the Lord has given you?
For additional reflection:
Study Ecclesiastes 1:3-8. Glance through the whole book and then read the end—Ecclesiastes 12:9-14
Compare the attitudes toward life in the Book of Ecclesiastes with the life in Christ that is described in the passages from Philippians 1:6 and 2:13 from the previous question?
Chapter 4- Did what she had to do.
Exodus 2:15-25; Exodus 3—4; Genesis 17:1-14; Exodus 18:1-24
To understand the story of Zipporah, Moses’s wife, we must understand the command of circumcision that God gave to Abraham. Obviously Moses had been circumcised, but he had neglected his obligation to circumcise his sons. This is even more abominable because of the nature of God’s command. God intends for his people to lead their children into the covenant relationship with Him. If Moses couldn’t do that with his own family, how would he succeed as a leader of the nation? God sees Moses’ disobedience as a deal breaker. Zipporah finds herself in a life and death situation, and somehow she knows that she has to act. The heart of God has not changed. We too must be ready to do what we must to make sure every generation carries the message of salvation to the next.
- Moses Meet’s Zipporah. Exodus 2:15-22
Moses had led a charmed life in Egypt, protected by God and raised as a prince by the Pharaoh’s daughter. But he made a blunder when he took justice into his own hands to avenge the death of a fellow Hebrew. He ran for his life to the land of Midian where his thirst took him to a well and in what seems like the romantic meeting place for the patriarchs, Moses met Zipporah. (Both Isaac and Jacob had each met their brides at a well.) Moses showed his sense of justice again; this time he rescued seven sisters from rowdy shepherds.
- Who was Zipporah’s father? (Genesis 25:1-5, Exodus 2:19)
- When was Abraham circumcised? (Genesis 17:26)
- From Genesis 17:1-14, we see what it meant to be a descendant of Abraham. Answer the following questions.
17:1a- How did God describe himself to Abraham?
17:1b- What were God’s first two demands?
17:2- What would God establish between himself and Abraham?
17:4-6- What does God promise to do for Abraham?
17:9-13- What is the covenantal requirement of Abraham?
17:14- What will happen to those who do not participate in this requirement?
Circle the word covenant in these 14 verses. Underline “descend”, “descendants” and “generations”? Draw a box around the words “everlasting”.
1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty[; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. 2 Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”
3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8 The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”
9 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.” Genesis 17:1-14 (NET Bible)
- What Zipporah had to do. Exodus 2:25; 4:18-26; 18:2-4.
The literal translation of Exodus 2:25 is “God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob, then God saw the Israelites and God knew” (Bailey 77). This key passage makes the call of Moses clear. God would use this man to carry out his part of the covenant with Abraham and his descendants. He had promised to be with them and he would rescue them. God also looked upon Moses and his family, and he intended for them to be a part of that covenant relationship as well. After God’s call, Moses gathered his family and headed back to Egypt. The covenant between God and Abraham is the reason Moses was disciplined by God on the way back to Egypt (Exodus 4:18-26). Moses considered himself an Israelite; he acknowledged the God of Abraham. Yet he himself had not complied with the very essence of his part of the covenant. He had not circumcised at least one of his sons. He had not maintained the covenant from generation to generation. At this point Zipporah had to take action.
“Now on the way, at a place where they stopped for the night, the Lord met Moses and sought to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off the foreskin of her son and touched it to Moses’ feet, and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me.” So the Lord let him alone. (At that time she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” referring to the circumcision. ”) Exodus 4:24-26.
- What happened to Moses when they stopped for the night?
- What action did Zipporah take?
- Whose responsibility was it to make sure a son was circumcised?
- Which son did Zipporah circumcise? (Exodus 18:2-4)
God is faithful. He intended for his people to reflect that faithfulness, but there was a purpose in it. Out of those “descendants” would come the Messiah. Moses would not only lead the Israelites out of Egypt, he would protect the treasure that was in them. It was not gold or silver. It was the Savior of the world. If he could not be trusted with his own sons, how could he be trusted with God’s treasure?
III. What we have to do. Philippians 2:12-18
Desperate times call for desperate action. Zipporah intervened to save her husband’s life and in doing so, she played a key role in God’s plan. We can look back at her life and see God’s providential preparation for Jesus (Bailey 78). We can also look forward with anticipation to Jesus’ return. Until then we are called to be “shining stars” in this world. There are people all around us who need to be rescued from sin. Christians are still in a covenant relationship with God through faith and the Holy Spirit. He still calls for action to save lives and souls. We may rationalize that it is someone else’s responsibility, but like Zipporah, there may be some things we know we have to do.
- Who will lead your children to the Lord? Your grandchildren?
- Who will direct and serve in benevolence and rescue ministries?
- What crucial needs are you aware of?
- In your home?
- In your neighborhood?
- In your church?
- In your country?
- In the world?
Culture, as well as personal experiences and beliefs, bring men and women to various opinions about the role of women. However, an honest look at God’s word will reveal that, yes, women are different, but God has not created them “less than”. He has created and equipped women, as well as men, to fit into His total plan. No part of God’s work is less important than any other. All are called to serve; all are called to pray as Jesus instructed in the Lord’s Prayer, “thy Kingdom come, they will be done.”
Key Question: Is there something that God is calling you to do, even though you may have to do it by yourself? What is the first step that you must take?
For additional reflection:
Study these verses and compare them with the God of the Old Covenant:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” Matthew 28:19-20.
- Compare Jesus’ claim in Matthew 28 with God’s claim Genesis 17:1a.
- Compare Jesus’ command in Matthew 28 with God’s command in Exodus 3:10 and 4:12.
- Compare Jesus’ promise in Matthew 28 with God’s promise Exodus 3:12.
Potiphar’s Wife Speaks
Chapter 3: Abuse of Power. Genesis 39; Proverbs 7-9; Genesis 50:19-20
God used Abraham’s great grandson, Joseph to guide and protect his people. God’s promised people carried the treasure. They would eventually produce the Promised One who brings salvation to all. Joseph experienced life’s ups and downs…literally. In Canaan, his jealous brothers threw him into a cistern to die, only to pull him out again and sell him to merchants who were passing through. He was eventually sold in Egypt to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard. Joseph rose to new heights as God blessed him and all those around him. Potiphar so trusted Joseph that he only worried about what he ate! In Genesis 39 we find the story of Joseph’s fall from Potiphar’s highly trusted aide to despised prisoner because Potiphar’s wife abused her power. Whether the attacks come from jealous brothers or zealous women, “God sees to it that Joseph ends up in situations in which he will be elevated to a position of leadership” (Kissling 453).
I. Human power abused. Genesis 39:6b-20; I John 2:16; I Peter 5:8
- What power did Potiphar’s wife have?
- List the sins that Potiphar’s wife committed throughout the ordeal in Genesis 39.
- Read James 1:14-15.
The pattern of temptation from desire to participation in a sinful act can be seen in James’ description. From Genesis 39:6-20, describe how you see Potiphar’s wife following the steps of the path of temptation as outlined in James.
In contrast, what did Joseph do when he faced temptation?
Potiphar’s wife squandered her power as she roamed about seeking to devour Joseph. The woman’s behavior is typical of the woman who calls out to her prey as described in Proverbs. Sadly, this still happens, and the misuse of the life he has given is an affront to God. There is another call described in Proverbs that is just as clear and just as compelling. We need a new “women’s movement” that is characterized by women who are empowered, not by selfish desires, but moved by the Holy Spirit to seek and serve God. When men and women place their human power in God’s hands, they are wise.
II. Human power energized.
- Examine the following Proverbs and note some of the characteristics of wisdom.
- Fill in the blanks.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of __________ and the knowledge of the Holy One is _________________ . Proverbs 9:10 (NIV)
(See: Ephesians 1:15-23; 2 Timothy 3:15; Proverbs 16:16; Proverbs 2:1-12; Isaiah 11:2.)
- Mention the powers or abilities that each of these Bible women misused:
Job’s wife: Job 2:9-10
Sapphira: Acts 5:1-10.
Euodia and Syntyche: Philippians 4:2-3.
(Do you think there is any meaning to the fact that Paul added the thoughts in v. 5-8 here?)
4. Describe the power we have according to the following passages:
The Proverbs 31
- Read Genesis 50:19-20. Explain how this statement has played out in your life.
Key Question: What abuse or misuse of your power do you need to discard, redirect, and place under God’s wisdom?
We have seen how the Enemy of God has tempted men and women to use their power for evil. But no matter how vicious the battle would become, God’s power was always at work to protect the treasure that His people carried in their bloodline. Today, we have the promise and the power living in us, if we’ve make Him the Lord and Master of our lives.
For additional reflection.
- Study 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 and 7:23.
What does it mean to you that we no longer belong to ourselves?
- Study 2 Peter 2:1-3.
Describe the power that the false teaching that we are bombarded with in our culture has.
What is the power that overcomes false teaching?
|Chapter 2. Sarah: Creating Chaos, Genesis 11-25; 49:31; Hebrews 11:11|
I. Sarah’s Life of Faithfulness
Her name meant “princess”. We know that Abraham and Sarah lived in the important city of Ur. They would have been educated and they were wealthy. We know Sarah as the one who laughed at God’s promise and who took matters into her own hands to bring it about. God is the creator of all good things, but when we take things into our own hands, we usually create chaos. Sarah learned this lesson the hard way. Yet, God spoke to Sarah face to face and she is one of only two women mentioned in Hebrews 11:11 for her faithfulness. Sarah had faith.
|F.F. Bruce suggest a better translation for the difficult Hebrews text: “By faith Abraham, together with Sarah, received power to beget a child when he was past age”…This commends the faith of both Abraham and Sarah (Lea, T.D. 210).|
Note the important events from Sarah’s life from Genesis.
12:1-9. Sarah _______________ her home and followed Abraham.
12:10-17; 20. She _______________ God and __________________ Abraham.
13-14. Sarah endured difficulties with Abram’s nephew, ____________.
15: 4-6. God promised that Abraham would be the ______________ of many nations.
16:3-4. Sarah gives ________________ to Abraham so he can have an heir.
17:15-21. God promised that Sarah would _________ a child, and she would be the mother of nations.
- What was the hope that helped Sarah remain faithful despite difficulties? (I Peter 3:6)
Note some things that show Sarah’s faith was human
II. Our Faithfulness
The struggle with faithfulness in the face of our human circumstances is as grueling for us as it was for Sarah. How kind and gentle was the Lord in his encounter with Sarah as recorded in Genesis 18:9-15. Sarah’s laugh has been characterized as a sign of disbelief—lack of faith, or even impertinent. Note that she laughed and kept her thoughts to herself. But the Lord heard those private ponderings and he recognized her feelings. He knew that to her knowledge it was a fact that she was no longer physically able to have a child, nor was her husband able to impregnate her.
She wanted to believe the promise, but now the passing of time, and her own body, denied the possibility. In fact, that was exactly what the Lord seemed to have been waiting for! He wanted her to realize it was impossible! He did not rebuke her, nor ridicule her. He simply reiterated his promise to Abraham, and then, for the first time, He spoke directly to her. The Lord addressed Sarah in a way that revealed an intimate understanding of her heart…”Yes, you did laugh.”
God knows that our knowledge is limited. Our doubts and fears do not prohibit God from working. It is through those very fears and doubts that God works with his followers to show his infinite mercy and power. Faith is when despite what we are able to understand from a human perspective—we say, “I’m still standing with you God because You are in control.”
- Note some things that show your faith was human.
- Share a time when, in the face of impossible obstacles, you simply put your hope in God and did the best you could.
III. God’s Faithfulness
God handled Sarah’s fragile faith with gentleness. He knows our weaknesses, and he knows our faith is human faith. We are confused when we think it is our faith that matters. It is God that matters…we don’t need to have faith in our faith. Believers can go through times of weariness and fear, recognizing this life as a battle ground, without rejecting God. We must have faith in God’s faithfulness because God’s sovereignty and God’s fulfilled promises prove that He is faithful.
- What does God’s faithfulness mean to you?
- How does God’s authority help us to remain faithful? (Psalm 73:28).
We have evidence that God is faithful because He has always kept his promises. We saw last week that God made a promise to Eve, and to all mankind. We have seen that he lovingly worked in Sarah’s life and gave her heart’s desire. As God works through individual lives, He weaves through that life, faithfulness to keep His promises, and blessing to that individual. Sarah’s seed would bless the nations. Sarah carried the treasure.
Key Question: In what issue or need will you trust God’s faithfulness?
For Additional Reflection.
- On God’s fulfilled promises, write “evidence”.
- On the promises yet to be fulfilled, write “God is faithful.”
Isaiah 7:14-Jesus will be born of a virgin.
Mic. 5:2- His birth will be in Bethlehem.
Ps. 72:10- Great persons will come to worship him.
Jer. 31:15- The children of Bethlehem would be killed.
Isa. 40:3; Mal. 3:1- John the Baptist would precede him.
Isa. 53:2- Jesus would have no earthly riches.
Isa. 35:5, 6- Jesus would work miracles.
Ps. 41:9; 55:12-14-He would be betrayed by a friend.
Zec. 22:12-He would be sold for 30 pieces of silver.
Ps. 22:18- His garments would be divided and gambled for.
Ex 12:46; Ps. 34:20- None of his bones would be broken.
Lk. 24:7- Jesus would be delivered to sinful men, crucified and raise on the 3rd. day.
Ps. 16:10; Isa. 26:19-His resurrection
Ps. 68:18-His ascension.
Isa. 11:10; 42:1-Gentiles would be his converted to him.
Is. 9:7; Da. 7:14- His kingdom will last for eternity.
Jn. 8:12- Jesus’ followers will have the light of life.
Jn. 13:3- Jesus would go back to God.
Jn. 16:33- Jesus would conquer the world.
Acts 2:35-38- We will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit at baptism.
Isa. 26:3; Phil. 4:6-7- The peace of God will guard our hearts.
1 Cor. 15:51-52; 1 Thes. 4: 15-18- The dead will raise and we will be changed.
Jn. 14:2-3- He will come again and take his followers back with him to a place he has prepared.
Matt.24:30- Jesus will come again in power and glory.
Ro. 14:11- Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall praise.
Rev. 21:4- He will wipe away all the tears from our eyes.
|Chapter 1: Eve: Rejecting Reality, Genesis 1—3; 1 Peter 5:8|
- Eve had life at her fingertips.
She knew God face to face. She had walked with God. She never knew fear, or worry, or stress. She was innocent of the things that we think of as worldly. All she knew of the world was perfection—she knew God.
- Discuss what you think it would be like to know God face to face.
- What would Eve’s ‘worldly’ experience have been before she sinned?
- From the following scriptures, describe some of the benefits of ‘knowing God’ that Eve had.
1 John 4:8
- Temptation: Genesis 3:1-6; I Peter 5:8.
We don’t know how long it took Satan to seduce Eve. Remember that the tempter deceived Eve, and we are warned of Satan’s cunning. It seems that Eve was familiar with the serpent and had no cause to fear him. Much like a child, she was unaware of the harm that could come to her.
However, Eve was an adult, and she had the ability to reason. It’s clear from the scripture that she knew God and she knew God’s instructions. She also knew that the serpent was asking her to disobey them. In fact the crafty deceiver forced her to admit that what God’s will was. The fruit represented more than just a tasty snack. It offered Adam and Eve a way to show loyalty to God. The serpent led Eve to admit that God was the authority and then proceeded to repudiate that authority. Eve’s choice was to stand with God or agree with the serpent.
- Read Genesis 2:16-17, note what the actual command from God was.
Was there any doubt or vagueness about God’s instructions?
To whom was this command given originally?
- From Genesis 3:1-6, note what Eve knew was the will of God.
- Follow the reasoning that Eve used to choose disobedience over obedience: Using 1 John 3:16, list the process as Eve fell into sin, described in Genesis 3:6.
- How is the enemy tempting you to reject Gods authority in your life? Discuss what you know in your heart about the choices that are before you.
III. Disappointment: Genesis 3: 7-13; 2 Cor. 11:3.
At Christmas time a billboard in New York boasted that the story of Jesus is a myth and urged a celebration of “reason”. Satan had been able to plant a false hope in Eve’s heart. When she finally succumbed to human reasoning, she expected something better than she had. A lie is always about a false hope…that reality will be changed into something else. Much of what is wrong about the world is the results from hopes and dreams built on an age-old lie: You can have something better if you turn away from God. But rejecting God never makes life better.
- What was false about the hope that the serpent used to attract Eve?
- Why did Eve think it was reasonable to reject God?
- What was the reality that Eve should have considered?
- Is there any reason that Eve could not have sought God’s help in her search for knowledge?
- Was there any good thing that came to Eve as a result of her sin?
- Read descriptions of God’s punishment in Job 24:4-5 and 2 Corinthians 11:3. These are the things that Adam and Eve did not know. In the garden, before the fall, did they have any need to know these things?
2 Corinthians 11:3
IV. Hope: Genesis 3:8-24.
The new reality that Adam and Eve faced was shame, fear, and suffering. It was something they had never seen. They hid from God, something that had never occurred to them before. Yet, He understood their despair because it mirrored his own despair. The intimacy between them had been destroyed. There would be no more leisurely walks in the garden; no more open conversations, face to face—the Creator and His creation in complete harmony. No longer would there be harmony in relationships. The earth would now know death.
Adam and Eve had no idea how to solve the problem. Their only recourse was to hide. God had compassion on Adam and Eve despite the fact that they had rejected him. He understood their embarrassment and provided clothing for them. But God offered more than a wardrobe. He offered a solution. They would be punished; Satan would be cursed. But the relationship between God and man would be restored…at a cost.
- What word describes the tempter’s punishment? (v. 14)
- What part would the woman play in the tempter’s ultimate demise? (v. 15)
- What word describes what would happen to the woman’s seed?
- What is the hope that God promised to Adam and Eve? (Colossians 1:25-27)
Key Question: What is at least one thing that you already know about God that should be enough to help you resist Satan’s temptations?
Because of God’s infinite love and mercy, Eve carried the treasure in her physical body. We will become acquainted with 31 women of the Bible. We’ll track how God guards the treasure until the time is right to reveal Him. But he will come—through a woman.
For additional Reflection.
Read John 8:34-35 and James 1:12-18.
How does what God offers compare with what Satan offers?
Read I Cor. 10:11-13.
What do we have in common with Adam and Eve?
What information do we have that Eve did not have? (v.11)
What is the protection that God offers?
HOW CAN I USE THE WOMEN SPEAK?
This study guide is designed to explore the lives of significant women who have played a part in history, and to examine themes that are relevant to women. These lessons are suitable for a devotional study for individuals, for small groups, or for a Sunday School class.
HOW DO THE LESSONS FIT WITH THE BIBLE?
Each chapter covers a specific span of history. There are women who play a part in each period of history and the lessons, particularly relate to women. The women or themes are chosen to help our understanding of God’s story.
HOW ARE THE LESSONS STRUCTURED?
Each lesson includes:
- Study questions to examine passages of scripture that tell each story.
- Application questions to provide a bridge from the culture and context of the Bible story to our own personal culture and context.
- A ‘key question’ to challenge us to act upon the lessons learned from each story.
- Suggestions for additional reflection provide an option for deeper study of the theme of the lesson.
HOW DO I LEAD A STUDY USING THE WOMEN SPEAK?
Provide each participant with a handout at least a week in advance to allow time to answer the questions and prepare for discussion. The lessons can be handed out one a time, or provided as a lesson book that includes as many lessons as desired. In my experience, a guide for the Old Testament and another for the New Testament provides the students with two study guides that are easy to use.
Answers for the questions in the study come from God’s Word, and scripture references are provided for most questions. Application questions will ask the student to analyze and draw conclusions from the study as well as from biblical teaching about faithful Christian living. Since these questions are personal, usually there are no correct or incorrect answers.
A Leader’s Guide is available that does provide answers for the study questions as well as background and resources for leaders who want to do more study in preparation for leading a group.