Everyday Women, Ever Faithful God

“The Walk From Fear To Faith”

FEAR is an ever-present emotion with us—real fears and imagined ones. Fear is a normal human emotion designed by God to alert us to danger so that we will take action against it. Yet, fear can take root in us and cause us to give way to panic and hysteria. God knows this about us. When we are afraid, God wants us to trust Him and not give way to fear. Learning to do so is our walk from fear to FAITH.

Journey alongside some special women in the Old Testament on their walk from fear to deeper faith in our amazing God. They were EVERYDAY WOMEN like we are who experienced fear like we do. From their life stories, we can see an EVER FAITHFUL GOD in action. Be challenged and encouraged as you discover and apply wonderful, timeless truths of God’s character to our modern, hectic lives.

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Using This Study Guide

This study guide consists of nine weekly lessons arranged chronologically according to Old Testament history. For those who are not familiar with the history of Israel found in the Old Testament, each lesson begins with a brief history of a particular time period and then covers the lives of 1-2 women who lived during that time.

The lessons are divided into 4 daily sections that should take about 30 minutes per day to complete. The first 3 sections study the passages thoroughly. The fourth section asks you to reflect on what you’ve learned. The goal is to help you establish a regular time of study in the Word for 5 days each week, considering your small group session to be one of those days.

The Basic Study

This study guide consists of 9 lessons arranged chronologically in Old Testament history. If you cannot do the entire lesson one week, please read the Bible passage being covered.

Process of Bible Study: Each lesson includes core questions covering the narrative associated with each woman’s life. These core questions will take you through the process of inductive Bible study—observation, interpretation, and application. The process is more easily understood in the context of answering these questions:

What does the passage say? (Observation: what’s actually there)

What does it mean? (Interpretation: the author’s intended meaning) Many of the questions are interpretation questions.

How does this apply to me today? (Application: making it personal) Your Life’s Journey questions are the application questions in this study. These lead you to introspection and application of a specific truth to your life.

Study Enhancements

Deeper Discoveries (optional): Embedded within the sections are optional questions for further research of subjects we don't have time to cover adequately in the lessons or contain information that significantly enhance the basic study. If you are meeting with a small group, your leader may give you the opportunity to share your "discoveries.”

Study Aids: To aid in proper interpretation and application of the study, additional study aids are located where appropriate in the lesson:

Historical Insights

Scriptural Insights

From the Hebrew (definitions of Hebrew words)

Focus on the Meaning

Think About It (thoughtful reflection)

Tell Your Story

This study is about the faith walk of women, both those who lived in years past and those who live in the present, each of whom have a story to tell about her trust in God’s faithfulness and goodness. The scripture passages tell each Old Testament woman’s “Story.” In order to learn how to tell your own story, you’ll be encouraged in each lesson to write parts of your story that relate to what’s learned in the lesson (Tell Your Story). At the end of the course, you’ll have enough information to put together a “My Story” of your own faith walk with God.

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Old Testament Insights

Many women today have very little knowledge of the Old Testament. What’s written in it happened so long ago. How can this apply to me today? What do those women have in common with someone like me who lives more than 2000 years later?

Maybe these women lived 2,000 – 4,000 years ago, but they were still women just like us. They cooked meals, did laundry, and raised children. They had responsibilities inside and outside of their homes. They experienced hormone fluctuations, PMS, and menopause. They laughed with their kids, differed with their husbands, and cried when a loved one died. At one time, they were all 20­somethings, then 40-somethings, then 60-somethings and more. Their hair needed to be combed and fixed, and it turned grey as they aged. No doubt, some of them, if not all, had something on their bodies that sagged.

They also experienced fear at various times in their lives just like we do. Real fears and imagined fears with invading enemies, sick husbands and children, and empty pantries. They faced creditors and surprise houseguests. They even had “bad” days when things didn’t go right, sometimes due to their own choices. These were EVERYDAY WOMEN, just like us.

As we study their lives, we’ll see an EVER FAITHFUL GOD in action. He’s our faithful God whose character never changes. He’s as faithful now in our everyday circumstances of life as He was years ago to them. We can feel confidence in His presence and active involvement, even when we can’t see it. And, knowing this, we can trust in Him whenever we are afraid. That’s our faith walk—going from fear to faith.

The God Of The Old Testament

Yhwh (thought to be pronounced “yahweh”) is the Hebrew personal and covenant name of God in the Old Testament. In our English translations, it is usually written as LORD (capital letters). In Exodus 3: 14-15 when Moses asked God for His name, God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM (Yhwh) has sent me to you.’” This was the name by which God wished to be known and worshipped in Israel. The name expressed His character as the dependable and faithful God who desires the full trust of His people as Israel’s redeemer and covenant Lord.

In John 8:58-59 (and other places), Jesus applied God’s name “I AM” to Himself, thus declaring Himself to be God and expressing the eternity of His being and His oneness with God the Father. So, the EVER FAITHFUL, promise-keeping God of the Old Testament is embodied in the Lord Jesus Christ of the New Testament and forever.

Old Testament Timeline

Historical Period

Years B.C.

Woman Studied

Divided Kingdom

900 – 722

Prophet’s Widow

Woman of Shunem

Zarephath Widow

United Kingdom 

1000 – 900

Abigail & Bathsheba

Time of the Judges

1400 – 1000

Hannah

Mrs. Manoah

Naomi & Ruth

Deborah & Jael

Exodus through Conquest of the Land

1450 - 1400

Rahab

Miriam

Israel in Egypt

1800 - 1450

Jochebed

The Patriarchs

2100 - 1800

Sarah

The Walk From Fear to Faith

Jill Briscoe once said, “Women are a fear-driven, performance-oriented species.” She’s right.

Fear is an ever-present emotion with us. Real fears and imagined fears. Is it realistic to think we can live without fear? Fear is a normal human emotion designed by God to alert us to danger so that we will take action against it. Yet, fear can take root in us and cause us to give way to panic and hysteria. God knows this about us. The psalmist says in Psalm 56:3-4, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” Notice he doesn’t say, “If I am afraid.” He says, “When I am afraid.” When we are afraid, God wants us to trust Him and not give way to fear. Learning to do so is our walk from fear to faith.

As we join these Old Testament “everyday” women on their walk from fear to faith, we will see consistent truths that we can apply to our lives today in our faith walk. In every case, we know that God loved her. He knew what was going on in her life. He was able to do something about it. During her faith walk, a loving God said “no” to some things. Yet, she chose to trust Him rather than submit to fear. And, God rewarded her faith with an outpouring of His blessing in other ways. Likewise, God may not choose to rescue you from everything that is threatening you. But, in any and all situations, you can count on these truths…

·         God loves me.

·         God knows what is going on in my life.

·         God can do something about it.

·         I can trust His goodness in whatever He chooses to do!

Your walk from fear to faith begins as you count on these truths and live each day believing they are true.

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Applying Faith To Fear

The information below is a great tool to use whenever you are afraid. It will lead you to apply faith to your fear.

1.      Confront it. What fears do you have right now? Think about them. The worst ones, the real ones, and the imaginary ones.

2.      Ask about each one: What is my worst-case scenario? Consider just one of those fears. What is the worst that could happen? Think realistically.

3.      Consider: If the worst I can imagine happens, could I handle it through the presence and power of Jesus Christ? Believers have the power of the One who created the Universe living inside of us. Can He help me get through anything? Remember Romans 8:26—the Spirit Himself is praying for us in our weakness when we don’t even know what to ask for.

4.      Remember these four truths:

§         God loves me. John 3:16; Romans 5:5

§         God knows what is going on in my life. Matthew 6:31-32

§         God can do something about it. Luke 1:37; Mark 10:27

§         I can trust His goodness in whatever He chooses to do. Proverbs 3:5

5.      Pray: Prayer is simply talking to God about anything and everything.

§         Thank the Lord for His presence and His goodness.

§         Ask Him for the courage and peace to ride out the storm. Where the Bible is clear, you can claim God’s promises by faith.

§         Anytime, you can ask for deliverance and protection—but you cannot hold God to promises He hasn’t made. He hasn’t promised immunity from natural calamities, illness, and troubles.

6.      Live life securely in Him:

§         Take common sense precautions. Be wise in the world.

§         Trust God to show you what to do and give you strength when you are weak.

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Introduction: The Walk From Fear To Faith

Many women today have very little knowledge of the Old Testament. You might not have much. I look at that half of my Bible, and I can easily think, “What’s written in it happened sooo long ago—anywhere from 2-4 thousand years ago. What do those women have in common with me? They didn’t live in my world.” Do you tend to think that way, as though they are just names on a page?

Maybe you like to read biographies. Doesn’t reading someone’s biography make that person come alive for you? Or, you may have done genealogy work on your family tree? It can be great to find something to brag about. But, you can also find out some of your ancestors’ dark secrets and hardships. I don’t know about you, but I feel a connection to that great-great grandmother when I learn a little bit about her life.

Connecting With Old Testament Everyday Women

This study covers the lives of some Old Testament women and the time periods in which they lived. Some you may have heard about—Sarah, Hannah, Abigail and Bathsheba. Everyone of Jewish birth can consider Sarah to be a great-grandmother. Others are strangers to you—Jael, Mrs. Manoah, the Shunammite woman.

Maybe these Old Testament women lived years ago, but they were still women just like us. They cooked meals, did laundry, and raised children. They had responsibilities inside and outside of their homes. Some even had home businesses. A couple of them could put together a banquet in a short time. They experienced hormone fluctuations, PMS, and menopause. They laughed with their friends, differed with their mates, and cried when a loved one died. They wrote songs and played musical instruments. I bet they all found ways to use their 20,000 words per day!

At one time, they were 20-somethings, then 40-somethings, then 60-somethings and more. They wore beads, earrings, and anklet bracelets. Their hair needed to be combed and fixed, and it turned grey as they aged. No doubt, some of them, if not all, had something on their bodies that sagged!

These women also experienced fear at various times in their lives just like we do. They faced invading enemies, sick family members, and empty pantries. They faced creditors and surprise houseguests. They even had “bad” days when things didn’t go right, sometimes due to their own choices. These were EVERYDAY WOMEN, just like us. Their stories—snippets of their biographies—are preserved for us to get to know them, and to know their God who is also our God.

Trusting In Our Ever Faithful God

As we study their lives, we’ll see an EVER FAITHFUL GOD in action. They knew Him by the personal name Yhwh. In our English translations, it is usually written as LORD in capital letters. In the Old Testament, you’ll find the phrase “the LORD your God” or “the LORD our God” at least 500 times. Every time, that phrase is emphasizing, “We have a personal God. His name is Yhwh.” It’s the name by which God wished to be known and worshiped in Israel and by Israel. Yhwh means, “I am.” This name expressed His character as constant, dependable and faithful.

Jesus applied God’s name “I am” to Himself, when He says in John 8:59, “before Abraham came into existence, I am.” Those listening knew He was declaring Himself to be God. So, the EVER FAITHFUL, promise-keeping God of the Old Testament is embodied in the Lord Jesus Christ of the New Testament and forever. We still have a personal God.

He’s our faithful God whose character never changes. He’s as faithful now in our everyday circumstances of life as He was years ago to those women, and as He was years ago to my great-grandmother. We can feel confidence in His presence and active involvement, even when we can’t see it. And, knowing this, we can trust in Him whenever we are afraid.

Fear is an ever-present emotion with us. Real fears and imagined fears. Is it realistic to think we can live without fear? I don’t think so.

Psalm 56:3-4 says, “When I am afraid, I trust in you. In God – I boast in his promise – in God I trust, I am not afraid. What can mere men do to me?”

Notice the psalmist doesn’t say, “If I am afraid.” He says, “When I am afraid.” Fear is a normal human emotion designed by God to alert us to danger so that we will take action against it. Yet, sudden fear can cause us to be terrified. That can lead to panic and hysteria. God knows this. When we are afraid, God wants us to trust Him and not give way to fear. Learning to do so is our walk from fear to faith.

As we join these Old Testament “everyday” women on their walk from fear to faith, we will see consistent truths that we can apply to our lives today in our faith walk.

1: God Loves Me

John 3:16 says, “For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

I am part of that world that God loves. So are you. So was my great-grandmother. So was every one of those women whose biographies are preserved in the Old Testament Scriptures. God loved her. That love applies to every human being who ever lived or does live today, whether or not she believes in Jesus Christ who is our God. But, those who do believe in Jesus have extra assurance…

Romans 5:5 says, “And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

We can count on Truth #1 — God loves me.

2: God Knows What Is Going On In My Life

God is everywhere and knows everything. That’s part of His character.

Matthew 6:31-32 — “So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”

God knows what is going on in my life. If He doesn’t, then He isn’t really God. God knew what was going on in Miriam’s life, in Rahab’s life, and in Ruth’s life whether or not those women could tell. He knew their needs and how best to meet those needs. It’s a given.

We can count on Truth #2 — God knows what is going on in my life.

3: God Can Do Something About It

The angel of the Lord declares to Sarah in Genesis 18:14, “Is anything impossible for the LORD?” The answer is, NO! Remember the part of the Christmas story where the angel Gabriel tells Mary in Luke 1:37, “For nothing will be impossible with God.” Since the angel lives in heaven with God, he should know. Did you notice that both of these often-quoted statements are made to women! Jesus Himself said in Mark 10:27, “All things are possible for God.”

Our God is all-powerful. He is capable of doing anything He chooses to do that is in agreement with His character and His will. He cannot lie, though; and, He cannot go back on His promises.

We can count on Truth #3 — God can do something about it. Whatever it is.

4: I Can Trust His Goodness In Whatever He Chooses To Do

This is the sticky part, isn’t it? Is God good? Do I believe that He is good all the time?

Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding.”

The day before my dear friend died of breast cancer, she softly spoke to me these words, “God is good.” I finished her sentence with “all the time” because I had heard her say that repeatedly. She replied, “I don’t understand all of this.” And, most of the time, we just don’t understand. But, we’ve got to bank on God’s goodness.

As you study each of these women, you’ll see that during her faith walk, a loving God said “no” to some things. Yet, she chose to trust Him rather than submit to fear. And, God rewarded her faith with an outpouring of His blessing in other ways. God may not choose to rescue you from everything that is threatening you. But, in any and all situations, you can count on these truths… God loves me, God knows what is going on in my life, God can do something about it, and

Truth #4 — I can trust His goodness in whatever He chooses to do!

Your Faith Walk Is Your Story

This is your faith walk. Your faith walk is your story, your biography of God’s faithfulness to you and your response back to Him. Each one of these women had a story, and that story has been shared over and over and over to millions of eager listeners. You might be surprised how many times the scriptures refer to them actually telling their story in one form or another. You’re going to get to know it as you get to know them. It’s a connection with real women, everyday women.

And, each one of you has a story. There will be opportunity throughout the study for you to recall parts of your story, write about it, and share it with others. If you are in a group doing this study together, you will have a greater connection with each other in 3 months than exists today. And, you’ll have more reason to praise our ever faithful God as you see and hear how He has been faithful to each of you through the years. And, what about that woman who will one day call us “great-grandmother”? She’ll know more about you, just an EveryDay Woman, and she’ll know more about the Ever Faithful God you love and serve. She’ll know that you chose to trust God on your walk from fear to faith.

It’s going to be a great journey. And, I’m so glad to be walking beside you!

Melanie Newton

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1. Sarah: A Woman Like Us

Time Period: the Patriarchs ~2100-1800 B.C.

“Let your beauty not be external – the braiding of hair and wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes – but the inner person of the heart, the lasting beauty of a gentle and tranquil spirit, which is precious in God’s sight. For in the same way the holy women who hoped in God long ago adorned themselves by being subject to their husbands, like Sarah who obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. You become her children when you do what is good and have no fear in doing so.” 1 PETER 3:3-6

Background

The term patriarch denotes the father or male leader of a family or tribe. In the Bible, “patriarchs” usually refers to the three main characters in Genesis 12-50—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Great civilizations dotted the Ancient Near East. Ur was a thriving city with efficient government and impressive buildings. Under God’s direction, Abraham abandoned Ur, with its culture and conveniences, for the land of Canaan (today’s Israel). Patriarchal life was semi-nomadic as they wandered from place to place, searching for grazing land and water for their animals. They measured their wealth in livestock and movable goods such as silver, gold, and tents.

Archeology has given rich insights into patriarchal times. In the early 1900’s, Sir Leonard Woolley excavated Ur. He discovered the glory of the city, but he also recognized the sin. Idol worship characterized the city. It is little wonder that God called Abraham away.

The patriarchal era is important to us. Through Abraham and his descendants, God began to develop a people of His own. The Abrahamic Covenant (God’s unconditional pledge to Abraham) contains many precious promises: Abraham would have numerous offspring; his descendants would possess the land of Canaan, and the Messiah would come forth one day from his line. These promises passed on to Isaac and Jacob. Jacob’s sons formed the nucleus of the twelve tribes of Israel. Through one son’s kindness (Joseph), the infant “Israel” (72 people) entered Egypt and grew into a great nation.

Day One Study

Sarah is mentioned more times in Scripture than any other woman, even Mary the mother of Jesus. She is the first woman mentioned in Hebrews 11, what is often called “The Faith Hall of Fame”, and God uses her as an example for us to follow in 1 Peter 3:3-6. We should, therefore, want to find out what Sarah was like. Was she perfect? Did she ever make a poor decision? How was she like us? How can we be like her?

1. Read 1 Peter 3:3-6. What words or phrases jump out at you?

Although the focus of this passage is a marriage relationship, the principles relate to any woman’s character (“inner self”), especially the qualities of a gentle and quiet spirit that are precious in God’s sight. These enable a woman to “do what is right and not give way to fear.” But, you may be thinking, “What does that mean?” Let’s find out.

2. Read the definitions for “gentle” and “quiet” in the “Focus on the Meaning” section below. Why would these qualities in a woman be precious to God?

Focus on the Meaning: “GENTLE” does not mean passive, weak, or someone who cannot help herself. Rather, it means “controlled strength.” Picture a mother cradling a newborn. She has the physical strength to harm that child but doesn’t because her strength is under control. A gentle woman has a humble heart that bows itself before God, recognizes God’s dealings with her as good, and chooses not to be contentious or resistant against Him. “QUIET” does not mean whisper, silent, or bland. Rather, it means “tranquility arising from within” and includes the idea of causing no disturbance to others. It is an inner peace and calmness in the midst of any circumstances. Gentleness and peace are fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5: 22-23) in a believer’s life and, thus, available to every Christian woman who desires them.

3. Read Psalm 56:3-4. Notice the psalmist says “when I am afraid” not “if I am afraid.” “GIVE WAY TO FEAR” does not mean never get afraid. It means, “not being terrified by any terror.” Fear is a normal human emotion designed by God to alert us to danger so that we will take action against it. Yet, sudden fear can cause us to be terrified. Women are vulnerable to panic and hysteria. God knows this. What does the psalmist say we should do when we are afraid?

4. Back to 1 Peter 3:3-6, the phrase “the holy women of old” includes women we’ll be studying this semester. From this passage, how did they keep from “giving way to fear”?

Moving from home (at 65 years old)…

5. Read Genesis 11:27-12:9. Describe Sarah and her circumstances in life at this time. [NOTE: Although they are called Abram and Sarai in the early passages, for consistency’s sake, we’ll use “Abraham” and “Sarah” (names later given to them by God) throughout this lesson.]

6. Deeper Discoveries (optional): Research the city of Ur to find out what Sarah willingly left.

7. Barrenness for a woman in Sarah’s time was very painful, not unlike for a woman in our time. Sons, in particular, were needed to carry on the family name and livelihood. How do you think Sarah’s barrenness would have affected her feelings of security (particularly with Abraham) and significance (her status in society)?

8. Read Genesis 12:10-13:2. Why do you think Sarah went along with Abraham’s “Tell them you’re my sister” plan?

Historical Insight: Why did Abram use the “Tell them you’re my sister” plan? One historian said that if a married man of Abram’s day found himself in enemy territory, he could be killed for his wife. But, if Abram were known as her brother, someone wanting her would have to make marriage arrangements with Abram because in that society, a woman’s brother gave his sister in marriage. So Abram would have been the negotiator thus giving him the chance to act in his own interest.

9. What might have been Sarah’s emotions during this time? Would you have done the same to save the life of someone you love? Explain.

10. God honored Sarah for not giving way to fear (1 Peter 3:5-6). When Abraham failed to protect Sarah in this incident, what did God do for her?

11. Your Life’s Journey:

·         Abraham was able to share his personal fears with Sarah. Is your husband or closest friend able to share personal fears with you? Why or why not?

·         Abraham had not given over the safety of his own life to the Lord yet because his faith did not extend to this area. Like Abraham, what area of your life have you never really given over to the Lord, and how does this affect those around you?

·         Sarah was ~65 when she left Haran, moving to who-knows-where. Sarah was willing to cooperate with God’s plan for Abraham even when it was tough for her. How are you at encouraging your husband or your closest friend to follow God’s leading? Ask someone in your small group to pray with you this next week.

Day Two Study

10 years later (Sarah is now ~75)…

12. Read Genesis 15:1-6. What was Abraham’s concern? What was still God’s plan? How many times had He told Abraham this already?

Historical Insight: In ancient times, a man who had no son could adopt a favored servant as heir to his possessions. Or, a man who had no son could take a second wife to produce an heir. Some marriage contracts even spelled out this provision. A wife was obligated to have children. If she could not, she was required to find her husband another wife who could.

13. Read Genesis 16. This is Sarah’s “Plan B” to fix Abraham’s need for an heir. Discuss her idea and the emotions she might have experienced. Notice that Abraham had not already sought a second wife.

14. Sarah’s “Plan B” becomes a nightmare! Our example was no perfect woman. She was just like we are. Look at her behavior!! How did Sarah react?

15. What was threatened in Sarah’s life, and what confirmation did she need from her husband?

Scriptural Insight: Sin now drives a wedge between Hagar and Sarah. Hostility and mutual recrimination loom large, resulting in Hagar’s fleeing her mistress’s home precipitously, and pregnant at that. But in fleeing Sarah, several things happen to Hagar. She is the first person in the Bible to whom “the angel of the Lord” appears (16:11a). She is the first woman in the Bible to whom God directly makes a promise (16:11b-12). She is the only person in the Old Testament to give God a new name (16:13). And lastly, her meeting with the angel “is the only encounter between God and a woman that results in a commemorative place name (16:14)” (Adapted from Handbook on the Pentateuch, page 91)

13 years later (Sarah is now ~89)…

16. Read Genesis 17:1-6, 15-22. God once again told Abraham His plan to provide descendants for Abraham and a faithful people for Himself. How did Abraham respond this time? What additional information is given in Romans 4:18-21?

17. Read Genesis 18:1-15. Why do you think the visitors came by Abraham’s tent? What did the Lord give Sarah for the first time?

18. What was Sarah’s initial response? Why? [NOTE: The Hebrew word translated “pleasure” in verse 12 is “eden” which is synonymous with sensual pleasure.]

19. Read Genesis 20. This happened shortly after the “tent” visit. Abraham nearly jeopardized the whole situation by again placing Sarah in another man’s harem. He fails in the same area of faith in which he failed 25 years earlier (see Day One Study). At 89 years of age she was taken into a harem of the reigning king. (This gives further information regarding Sarah’s beauty. God must have turned on her hormones again in a big way—super estrogen!!) Did Sarah try to protect herself this time or argue with Abraham? What does this tell you about her trust in both her husband and her God?

20. Your Life’s Journey: Sarah loved Abraham for many years. She followed him in some very tough situations. Their life was definitely not static or boring. Just like ours. If you have been married for several years, in what areas have you learned greater love and trust of your husband? If you aren’t married, can you think of a married couple who have exhibited growth in their love and trust for one another?

21. Tell Your Story: In what areas of your life have you learned greater trust of your God? Describe one area more fully in the space below. Please consider sharing this with your small group.

22. Think About It (optional): Someone once said, “God’s plan is completely different from what you could ever imagine and much more glorious than you would ever expect.” Have you noticed this in your life? Is anything really too hard for the Lord?

Day Three Study

23. Read Genesis 21:1-7. Describe Sarah’s experience and the story she had to tell (vs. 6).

24. The name Isaac means “he laughs.” In what ways is Isaac an appropriate name for this baby?

25. Through this whole experience, how do we know that God loved Sarah as much as Abraham?

3 years later (Sarah is now ~92)…

26. Read Genesis 21:8-13. What situation existed between Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, and Ishmael?

27. Contrast the response of Sarah with that of Abraham to the situation.

28. From our study, write down at least 7 descriptive characteristics of Sarah, positive or negative, that will help you to remember her.

Day Four Study — The Walk From Fear To Faith

God loved Sarah. He knew what was going on in her life. He was able to do something about it. But, God did not give Sarah a child early in her marriage nor did He prevent her from making a bad decision or spending time in a king’s harem. During her walk, a loving God said “no” to some things. Yet, she chose to trust Him rather than submit to fear. And, God rewarded her faith with an outpouring of His blessing in other ways. Likewise, God may not choose to rescue you from poor decisions made by you or someone close to you. But, in any and all situations, you can count on these truths…

§         God loves me.

§         God knows what is going on in my life.

§         God can do something about it.

§         I can trust His goodness in whatever He chooses to do!

29. List all the situations in Sarah’s life that could have “terrified” her.

30. Considering those “opportunities” for being terrified, in which ones did Sarah, by faith, do what was right and not give way to fear?

31. Your Life’s Journey:

·         Is there a problem right now in your life where you must make a choice to do right, but the possible consequences fill you with fear?

·         From our study of 1 Peter 3:3-6 (see Day One Study), what heart attitude will best help you face this problem with courage rather than terror?

·         Are you willing to trust God and live by faith in this area? Ask someone in your small group to pray for you.

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2. Jochebed and Miriam: Influential Women

Time: the Exodus ~1450 B.C.

“For by the grace given to me I say to every one of you not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think, but to think with sober discernment, as God has distributed to each of you a measure of faith. For just as in one body we have many members, and not all the members serve the same function, so we who are many are one body in Christ, and individually we are members who belong to one another.” ROMANS 12:3-5

Background

For 430 years, Israelites lived in Egypt, at first in comfort because the “vice president” of the country was their relative Joseph. But after Joseph died, there arose a Pharaoh who did not know Joseph, and Israel’s welcome grew cold. Fearing Israel’s might, Egypt sought to cripple the growing nation. But Egypt’s efforts were in vain; God was with His people, and He was preparing to bring Israel out of the land.

Conservative scholars date the “Exodus,” a landmark in Israel’s history, at 1446 B.C. Born shortly after the decree to throw Hebrew newborn boys in the Nile, Moses escaped death through adoption by pharaoh’s daughter. About 1486, the reigning Pharaoh tried to kill Moses when he sought identity with his people Israel, but Moses escaped to Midian. Forty years later, the Lord appeared to Moses in a burning bush, and Moses returned to Egypt to stand before the Pharaoh of the exodus with his brother Aaron at his side.

Through Moses, God poured out His wrath upon Pharaoh and brought Egypt to her knees. Israel marched forth a free people, living proof of God’s gracious salvation. Yet freedom did not guarantee success. Israel lacked organization. At Mount Sinai, God molded His people into a nation. The Mosaic Covenant governed every part of Israel’s society: the civil, the ceremonial, and the moral. The covenant contained special promises, but it demanded obedience. Rebellion would bring severe judgment. Israel chose to rebel against her God. Sin brought judgment, and an entire generation died. Yet, God heard the prayers of Moses and preserved His people through the wilderness.

Day One Study

Miriam’s childhood and her mentors…

1. Read Exodus 1:1-2:10; Hebrews

2. From Exodus 6:20 and Numbers 26:59, we get additional information about Miriam’s family. Her parents are named Amram and Jochebed. The children are Miriam, Aaron, and Moses. Read Hebrews 11:24-28. What influence, if any, did the few years spent with his parents have on Moses?

3. Based on the information in the text (Exodus 2:1-10), how would you describe Miriam’s mom Jochebed to someone? In other words, what character qualities do you “see” in her?

4. What choices did Miriam’s parents (Jochebed and Amram) make because of their faith? How did God reward that faith?

5. Miriam had the same home and parents as Moses. From the Exodus 2:1-10 passage (she’s the sister mentioned), use adjectives to describe Miriam who was about 7-12 years of age at this time.

From the Hebrew: Miriam’s name in Hebrew means “bitterness.” The Greek version of her name is Mary. In Israel’s history after this time, Mary, Mara, and Miriam were popular girl’s names.

6. As a young girl, then, what fearful situations did Miriam face, and how did she respond?

7. Your Life’s Journey: Moses, Aaron and Miriam came from a home where parents were walking by faith in their God. In what kind of home did you grow up? How has this affected your ability to courageously trust God and not give way to fear?

Day Two Study

80 years later…

8. Read Exodus 14:1-31. Miriam is now in her upper mid-life, ~87-92 years old. What did she experience of God’s faithfulness along with the rest of Israel? [NOTE: According to tradition, Miriam was married to Hur, an honorable man who along with Aaron, held up Moses’ arms during a major battle in Exodus 17:10-13. He was appointed magistrate while Moses was on the mountain (Ex. 24:14).]

9. Read Exodus 15:1-21. What was Miriam’s response to God’s faithfulness?

10. Read Micah 6:3-4. What does God say about Miriam’s role for Israel? In what ways is she pleasing God and fulfilling His purpose for her?

11. Why do you think Miriam’s support would have been important to Moses?

12. Looking more closely at Exodus 15:20. What is Miriam called? Read Numbers 12:2. What does Miriam say about herself?

13. A prophetess was a female prophet—one to whom and through whom God speaks, revealing Himself and His will especially in the absence of the written word of God. God used a number of women to speak forth (prophesy) His Word at critical times in history. One was Deborah whom we’ll be studying in an upcoming lesson. Another such woman was Huldah. Read 2 Kings 22:1-20. This occurred about 700 years after Miriam’s time. What was going on, and how did Huldah serve God and the leader of Israel?

14. Prophesying also could involve an enthusiastic praising of God inspired by the Holy Spirit. Read 1 Samuel 10:5-10 and 1 Chronicles 25:1. What activities were associated with prophesying? In what ways does Exodus 15:20-21 fit this description of prophesying?

Scriptural Insight: The song in Exodus 15 is the first recorded song in the Bible—a song of redemption. Such celebration was common after victory in battle. Since the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit residing in believers continues to inspire enthusiastic praising of God. We don’t call it prophesying any longer, but it still fits the biblical definition. The Holy Spirit inspires and gifts believers today to compose songs, poems, prayers and testimonies that glorify God.

15. Your Life’s Journey: The Holy Spirit still inspires us to break out in enthusiastic praise to God through song, poem, or other creative means. Can you recall a time in your life when you were inspired to praise God through one of these means? What creative means has God given you that you use to praise Him? Maybe you have written a song, a poem, created a work of art, or simply sang praise songs to Him. What led to this? Share about a time when you felt like breaking out into spontaneous praise to God in one of these ways or another way.

16. Tell Your Story: Jesus had a testimony to share. He said in John 8:14, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going.” What He said about Himself was His STORY. Miriam testified about God’s faithfulness through her use of poetry, song, and dance. Even if you’ve never testified like Miriam did, your STORY of God’s faithfulness in your life is your testimony about Him. Write a short paragraph telling of an area in your life where you have recognized God’s faithfulness to you. This is a part of your STORY of God’s faithfulness.

Day Three Study

~2 years later…

17. Read Numbers 12:1-16. Why did Miriam and Aaron begin to talk against Moses?

18. What do you think was the real reason for their complaining? [NOTE: One of the torments of jealousy is that it can never turn away its eyes from the thing that pains it.]

19. Discuss the Lord’s response to their behavior (vs. 2-9).

20. What is implied by the fact that the Lord punished only Miriam? See also James 3:5-6. [NOTE: Spitting in one’s face expressed contempt (Deut. 25:9). The Lord expressed His contempt for Miriam’s presumption by the skin affliction.]

21. Why was a skin disease such as leprosy so awful? See Numbers 5:1-4.

Think About It: Miriam bucked her authority, claiming equal prominence with Moses. Because of her attitude and resulting action, God disciplined her through banishment, opposite of what she really wanted!

22. How did Miriam’s brothers respond to the discipline of their sister?

23. Read Deuteronomy 24:8-9. What do you think was the effect of Miriam’s banishment from the camp for 7 days…

·         on her?

·         on the people?

Historical Insight: Sometimes Miriam was a good example; sometimes a bad example. Just like we are, she was not perfect everyday. Yet, she had been given a sphere of influence by God. She lived through 38 years of wandering and died just before Aaron in the 40th year out of Egypt at ~130 years old (Numbers 20:1).

24. Read Romans 13:1-2 and Hebrews 13:7,17. How does this incident in Numbers 12 illustrate these passages?

25. Your Life’s Journey:

·         There are serious consequences of our attitudes towards authority. Though all of us are not leaders, all of us are under some kind of authority in the Church. Is there someone in leadership now of whom you are jealous, resentful, or disapproving? Do you try to undermine their leadership by gossip or slander? Read Proverbs 10:19. Discuss how to apply this scripture to your life.

·         Read Mark 10:42-45, Galatians 5:26, Philippians 2:3-4, Romans 12:3-5, and 1 Peter 5:1-5. These verses, teaching how we should all relate to each other in God’s family, apply as well to leaders. What attitudes should we have if we are in leadership positions in the Body of Christ?

Day Four Study — The Walk From Fear To Faith

God loved Miriam’s family. He knew what was going on in their lives. He was able to do something about it. But, God did not give Jochebed her son back permanently to raise nor did He prevent them from having to go through the agony of hiding baby Moses. Miriam was given great responsibility and privilege, yet she also had to live with the consequences of her sin. During her walk, a loving God said “no” to some things. Yet, Miriam and her family chose to trust Him rather than submit to fear. And, God rewarded their faith with an outpouring of His blessing in other ways. Likewise, God may not choose to rescue you from your “Egypt.” But, in any and all situations, you can count on these truths…

§         God loves me.

§         God knows what is going on in my life.

§         God can do something about it.

§         I can trust His goodness in whatever He chooses to do!

26. What situations could have caused fear for Jochebed? How did she respond to God by faith?

27. Thinking back through Miriam’s life, what situations did she face that could have terrified her? How did she respond to God by faith in those situations?

28. Your Life’s Journey: What fears have confronted you this week? How have you dealt with them?

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3. Rahab: A Past and a Future

Time: Into the Land ~1400 B.C.

“By faith Rahab the prostitute escaped the destruction of the disobedient, because she welcomed the spies in peace.” HEBREWS 11:31

Background

After 40 years of struggle, Israel stood poised to enter the Promised Land. But she would enter without Moses for he was dead. Much work remained. This beautiful new land was dangerous. Numerous city-states dotted the landscape, each a well-fortified, walled fortress with a battle-tested army. Conquest would be a difficult, time-consuming task.

But, God remained faithful to His people. He equipped a new leader, Joshua, who had been trained under Moses’ leadership for 40 years for this job. Joshua knew that the 2.5 million Israelites plus their flocks and herds needed to cross a flooded river and begin their conquest of the land. So, he sent 2 spies to secretly scout the area of imminent war, particularly Jericho—the strategic point to reach the three passes through the wilderness to the rest of Canaan. God took care of the river crossing for the Israelites, miraculously providing dry ground for them to move through and onto Jericho—a walled city on ~9.5 acres—once around would have taken ~1/2 hour!!

Day One Study

1. Read Deuteronomy 4:32-40. Why did God bring the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, especially accompanied by so many miraculous events?

Getting To Know Rahab…

2. Read Deuteronomy 2:24-25; Joshua 2:1-24; and Joshua 9:9-11,24. What did Rahab, the people of Jericho, and the surrounding nations know about Israel and her history?

3. As a result, what was the state of morale in Jericho?

Historical Insight: The citizens of Jericho were well prepared for a siege since a spring lay inside the city walls and the harvest had just been gathered (Joshua 3:15), providing an abundant supply of food, seen in the large jars of grain found in the houses. So, the inhabitants of Jericho could have held out for perhaps several years. The full grain jars show that the siege was short since the people inside the walls consumed very little of the grain, another historical verification of biblical accuracy.

4. Use adjectives to describe Rahab in your own words.

5. What conclusion did Rahab make about the God of Israel? Could anyone else in Jericho have come to the same conclusion? Explain.

6. Deeper Discoveries (Optional): Research the ancient city of Jericho. What was it like for Rahab to live there?

7. Rahab was given an opportunity to make a conscious choice for God based upon the facts she knew about Him, and she responded with FAITH! Faith resulted in action.

·         What did she do that day?

·         What risk was she taking?

8. Discuss how you would reconcile Rahab’s disobeying and lying to her king when compared to the principle studied in the last lesson from Romans 13:1-5. See also Exodus 1:15-20; Acts 4:19, 5:29.

Day Two Study

9. Read Joshua 2:12-21. The spies made a covenant with Rahab.

·         What part of the oath was Rahab’s responsibility?

·         What part of the oath was the responsibility of the spies?

10. After the spies’ return, God parted the Jordan River for the people to cross. All of those men who had been born in the wilderness were circumcised. The Passover was celebrated. And, the people ate produce from the land. The manna stopped the next day. Read Joshua 6:1-25. What was God’s plan for defeating Jericho?

11. How did Joshua and the people respond?

Historical Insight: Surrounding Jericho was a great earthen rampart, or embankment, with a stone retaining wall at its base 12–15 feet high. Above that stood a mud brick wall 6 feet thick, 20 feet high. At the crest of the embankment was a similar 20-foot high mud brick wall reaching to ~46 feet above the ground level below. This loomed high above the Israelites as they marched around the city each day for seven days. Humanly speaking, it was impossible for them to penetrate the impregnable fortress of Jericho. Archeological evidence reveals that the mud brick city wall collapsed at the time the city met its end (~1400 B.C.) except for a short stretch of the north city wall that did not fall as everywhere else. Also, there were houses built against the wall as in Joshua 2:15. Excavations showed that the bricks from the collapsed walls formed a ramp against the retaining wall so that the Israelites could climb up over the top as is described in Joshua 6:20. The city was thoroughly burned. (Taken from “The Walls of Jericho” by Bryant Wood, Creation magazine, March 1999, pages 36-40)

12. Rahab had to wait those seven days also. Based on her responsibility in the oath, who else was waiting with her?

13. What might have been Rahab’s emotions during this time of waiting? (See also Joshua 5:1 for the emotions of those around her.)

14. Someone once said, “Responsibility is my response to His (God’s) ability.” Rahab responded to God’s ability. What did God do for her and her family? Be specific. [NOTE: The early church viewed the blood-colored cord as a symbol of Christ’s atonement like the blood of the Passover lamb.]

15. Deeper Discoveries (Optional): Research others in scripture who experienced a time of waiting for God to act upon a promise (for example, David, Paul). What did they do while waiting?

16. Your Life’s Journey: Rahab had to wait patiently for God to act. Remember that she did not know the “marching” orders. We also must wait for God’s “always perfect” timing in answer to our prayers. Is this a problem for you? Have you become discouraged (or been discouraged in the past) from having to wait? Read Psalm 27:14. How does this scripture and the story of Rahab encourage you?

17. Think About It (Optional): Read the words to the song below. Have you considered that God was in the waiting, too?

“You are in the waiting in that moment of my life, when my faith and hope collide. My heart’s anticipating just how and when You’ll move. Oh, that’s when You prove You are in the waiting too” (“In the Waiting” by Shannon Wexelberg)

Day Three Study

18. Read Matthew 1:5, Hebrews 11:30-31, and James 2:25. This is Rahab’s report card. What does it say? [NOTE: Rahab and Salmon had a son, Boaz. Boaz was the father of Obed; Obed, the father of Jesse; Jesse, the father of King David. And from the line of King David of the tribe of Judah came the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.]

19. “Disobedient”—the word used to describe the rest of the people of Jericho in Hebrews 11:31—means, “to refuse to be persuaded.” See your answers to the questions in Day One Study. Did God give them an opportunity to be “persuaded”? Explain.

20. What does the mention of Rahab three times in the New Testament tell us about the grace of God?

21. Rahab was likely a prostitute just as it is written. In what ways did God forgive her past and give her a new future?

Scriptural Insight: For centuries, Christians have tried to soften Rahab’s reputation by arguing that she was only an innkeeper, but the New Testament references to her indicate that she was an immoral woman. The Greek word used to describe Rahab is “porne” the word from which we get “pornography.” “Porne” is only used for immorality. This in no way mars the righteousness of God who used such a person in the fulfillment of His purposes. Instead this incident serves to bring His mercy and grace into bold relief. (Taken from The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament, page 330)

22. Your Life’s Journey: Do you feel that some sins in your past or present are so terrible that they can’t be forgiven or that you are unworthy to serve God? What have you learned from Rahab’s story that confirms to you God can forgive your past and give you a new future?

Day Four Study — The Walk From Fear To Faith

God loved Rahab. He knew what was going on in her life. He was able to do something about it. But, God did not keep Rahab from losing the security of her home nor did He prevent her from having to go through the agony of watching the Israelites march around the city for 7 days. Remember, she didn’t know that plan. When she stepped out in faith, He met her there. She trusted Him to rescue her, and He did. God judged her by her heart—the inward woman, not by her lifestyle—the outward appearance. He not only saved her life, but He forgave her past and gave her a new future. She chose to trust Him rather than submit to fear. Likewise, God forgives your past and gives you a new future. And, in any and all situations, you can count on these truths…

§         God loves me.

§         God knows what is going on in my life.

§         God can do something about it.

§         I can trust His goodness in whatever He chooses to do!

23. List all the opportunities for fear in Rahab’s life.

24. How did she demonstrate faith at those times?

25. Tell Your Story: We will probably never be faced with the dramatic circumstances of Rahab, but we do have our own distressing situations in life. Read Psalm 40:1-3 and 46:1-3. What problems are you facing now, and what choices are available to you? How will you respond? Journal this. This is part of your story.

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4. Deborah And Jael: Resourceful Women

Time: the Judges ~1400-1000 B.C.

“For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.” EPHESIANS 2:10

Background

As Israel entered the Promised Land, God worked great miracles: the waters of the Jordan parted, the walls of Jericho fell, and the sun stood still over Gibeon. No task was too great for Israel’s God. At last, after more than six years of fighting, the initial conquest came to a close. Joshua sent the tribes forth to occupy their lands. As the tribes moved in, they were commanded to exterminate the inhabitants of Canaan but they failed to complete the mission. The children of Israel had crippled the Canaanite peoples, but they had not destroyed them. The remaining Canaanites, a corrupt people, eventually turned Israel from God.

For almost four hundred years, Israel followed a monotonous cycle:

·         Sin (particularly idolatry and immorality) — Not long after getting settled in her land, Israel adopted the religion and the lifestyle of the pagan Canaanites by worshipping idols and practicing immorality, theft, and murder. Her society fell apart. Tyranny and force became the norm; inept leaders were unable to check the excessive violence. Selfish desires for tribal glory and supremacy, as well as unwillingness to accept reproof, led to tragic civil wars.

·         Suffering (having enemies rule over them or terrorize them) — Because of their idolatry and hard hearts, God brought severe judgment on the land, allowing the Mesopotamians, Moabites, Canaanites, Midianites, Ammonites, and Philistines to oppress and dominate His people for a time.

·         Supplication (calling out to God, earnest prayer) — The enemies’ oppression of the people drove them back to their God and calling out to Him for help.

·         Salvation (in this context meaning deliverance, aid, victory, or prosperity)—God would send human leaders called “Judges” to defeat the oppressing nations and bring periods of rest. These Judges—8 in all—were civil and military leaders who led the nation against its enemies. Their civil job was to urge repentance (turning back to God alone, in faith) and to give counsel. Then, the land would experience peace for 20-40 years during the lifetime of their “deliverer.” Not long after that person died, the people went back to their wicked ways, beginning the cycle again.

One such judge was Deborah, who came along ~100 years after Joshua died…

Day One Study

1. Read Deuteronomy 28:1-25; 29:16-18. What were God’s general instructions to Israel concerning life in the land?

2. Read Judges 2:6-23. In verses 10-19, the repeating pattern of the book of Judges is described here. Why did the Israelites forget God and sin so readily after Joshua died?

3. Deeper Discoveries (Optional): Research to find out more about the Canaanite oppression during this time in Israel’s history. How did it affect their daily lives?

4. Read Genesis 18:19; Deuteronomy 4:5-9, 29:24-27. Discuss cause and effect in these passages.

5. How is God’s faithfulness demonstrated in the way He dealt with His people?

Day Two Study

Getting To Know Deborah…

6. Read Judges 4:1-16. Israel was in what part of the cycle during Deborah’s lifetime (verses 1-3)?

7. Based on what you glean from the text, describe Deborah using as many adjectives as possible.

8. From our study of Miriam, what was the role of a prophetess? (See Lesson 2, Day 2.)

9. Referring to specific verses, how did Deborah act as a prophetess in this narrative?

10. Compare Deborah and Barak regarding the response of each to God’s word and the courage to carry it out.

11. God commends Barak for his faith in Hebrews 11:32-34. How did Barak demonstrate it?

12. Considering Sisera’s primary military weapons (vs. 3), why did God want the Israelites to encamp on a mountain 1300 feet high?

Historical insight: Palestine is covered with wadis, or dry creek beds. During a sudden, violent rainstorm, these wadis fill with rushing water, which can destroy anything in its path. God routed the enemy by throwing them into a panic like the Egyptians at the Red Sea (Ex. 14:24). A similar army-defeating rainstorm happened when Napoleon defeated the Turks in the same place (Megiddo) in AD 1799.

13. Your Life’s Journey:

God can use any of our skills and talents to His glory when we focus on what we have, not what we don’t have, and give it to Him. In fact, Ephesians 2:10 says that “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” And, He gives us the ability to do the works He has created us to do. How are you serving God using your gifts as Deborah served Him using hers? What, if anything, is holding you back?

Getting To Know Jael…

14. Read Judges 4:9 again. Was Jael doing God’s will? Explain.

15. What do you think the far-reaching effects of her actions might be? What risks did she take…

·         In her relationship with her husband?

·         In relation to their tribe?

16. How did she “do what was right and not give way to fear”?

17. Read Judges 5:1-31. What is revealed about the following:

·         Courage and trust in God (2-5, 9-11) —

·         Fear (6-8) —

·         Deborah and her role (7, 12-15) —

·         Who helped and who didn’t (14-18, 23) —

·         The defeat of Sisera (19-21) —

·         Jael and her role (24-27) —

18. What does this narrative (Judges 4 and 5) tell us about God’s use of women in leadership in a society?

19. From the relationship between Deborah and Barak, what can we learn about men and women working together to accomplish God’s purpose?

20. Tell Your Story: How do Deborah and Jael encourage you as a woman? Think about how God used them as they functioned in their various roles as women with the resources available to them every day. Consider how your everyday womanly skills and resources have benefited others. Write about one specific time and share with your group.

Day Four Study — The Walk From Fear To Faith

God loved Deborah and Jael. He knew what was going on in their lives: the burden of responsibility, the risks they faced, and their fears. He was able to do something about it. He didn’t give them easy choices to make, ones that would’ve made their lives much more comfortable. Deborah chose to use the gifts God gave her to glorify Him and to bolster Barak’s courage and reputation. Jael took great risks and most likely sealed her people’s allegiance to the tribe of Israel by her actions. And they both chose to trust God rather than submit to fear. God rewarded their faith with victory. You may face what seem like insurmountable circumstances in your own life. But just like Deborah and Jael, you can count on these truths…

§         God loves me.

§         God knows what is going on in my life.

§         God can do something about it.

§         I can trust His goodness in whatever He chooses to do!

21. What opportunities for fear did Deborah have? How did she respond to God in faith?

22. What could have terrified Jael? How did she respond instead?

23. Your Life’s Journey: A courageous attitude begins long before you are ever called upon to use it.

·         When was the last time you showed courage in living for Christ—such as testifying publicly about your faith, challenging others to do right, forgetting the opinion of the crowd, expressing love and appreciation for those in authority, etc.?

·         Is there anything holding you back from total commitment to God? How can you show courage this week?

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5. Naomi And Ruth: Mothers and Daughters

Time: the Judges~1400-1000 B.C.

“When the fig tree does not bud, and there are no grapes on the vines; when the olive trees do not produce, and the fields yield no crops; when the sheep disappear from the pen, and there are no cattle in the stalls, I will rejoice because of the Lord; I will be happy because of the God who delivers me!” HABAKKUK 3:17-18

Background

One of the ways that God disciplined Israel for her sin was by bringing famine into the land, usually through drought but also by pests such as locusts. During one of these episodes of famine, Elimelech, a man from Bethlehem, took his wife Naomi and his two sons to the neighboring country of Moab. During the ten years the family lived in the land of Moab, Elimelech died leaving Naomi a widow. However, her two sons grew up and married Moabite women. Then, the sons died. Naomi was left with only her daughters-in-law.

Day One Study

Getting To Know Naomi And Ruth…

1. Read Judges 21:25. This is considered the key verse of the book of Judges. What does it reveal?

2. Read Ruth 1:1-22. Describe each of the women.

·         Naomi

·         Ruth

3. Deeper Discoveries (Optional): Research Moab and the Moabite religion to get a better feel for how Ruth was raised, what Naomi experienced living in that land, raising her own children, watching them marry Moabite women, and other details that bring this story alive to you.

4. What does Ruth’s statement in 1:16-17 especially tell you about her and what she had already learned from Naomi?

5. What relationship(s) is she giving up to pursue her new faith?

6. Your Life’s Journey: Has your faith caused a separation between you and your natural family or someone formerly very close to you? Explain.

7. Tell Your Story: Naomi makes an emotional statement in 1:20-21. She was experiencing grief—a normal human emotion that often causes an aching heart and extended sadness. Write about a time in your life when you grieved over something or someone lost. What was it like? How long did it last? Did you, like Naomi, feel that God “dealt very bitterly with you” (1:20)? What got you through that to the other side where you didn’t bawl every time you thought about it? If you’re able, share with the group about your own struggles in that experience.

8. A good guess of ages would be that Naomi was in her late 40’s and Ruth was in her 20’s. As in-laws, how would you describe their relationship?

9. At this point, in what ways did they help each other?

Day Two Study

10. Read Ruth 2:1-23. How does Naomi counsel and encourage Ruth?

11. How did Ruth take care of Naomi—actions and attitude?

12. What emotions might each have been experiencing at this time?

·         Naomi —

·         Ruth —

13. What does Ruth 2:11-12 reveal? How did Naomi revealing her “story,” particularly in regards to Ruth, benefit both of them, especially the outsider Ruth?

14. Men generally owned property, not women. With no men left in the family, the women lacked a means of support. Read Deuteronomy 24:19-22; Leviticus 19:9-10; 23:22. Unlike the cultures around them that made no societal provisions, what special provision does God make for the future care of women in Israel in this situation? How would this foster compassion in the community?

15. Read Ruth 3:1-4:12. In

16. The law of “Kinsman-Redeemer” is introduced to the Israelites in Leviticus 25:23­-55. Read those verses. What was God’s purpose in providing this option?

Scriptural insight: “This law [Kinsman-Redeemer] helped to protect the poor from being exploited and the rich from taking property from one tribe to another. The redeemer had to be a near kinsman who was able to redeem and willing to redeem. He was not obligated to do so, but it was expected of him. To refuse was to hurt the family and tribe as well as his own reputation. By being born at Bethlehem, Jesus Christ became our near kinsman. He was able to save and willing to save; He saves all who will put their trust in Him.” (W.W. Wiersbe, With the Word, pg. 157)

17. Read the following references. Briefly tell what is redeemed in each case. [NOTE: “avenger” and “kinsman-redeemer” are translations of the same Hebrew word goel.]

·         Leviticus 25:25-28 —

·         Leviticus 25:47-49 —

·         Numbers 35:19-21 —

·         Deut. 25:5-10 —

18. Ruth is introduced to the concept of “Kinsman-Redeemer.” Read Ruth 1:11-13; 2:20; 3:9-13 and 4:1-10. What other information do we see about how this law was carried out?

19. What did Ruth learn about God’s faithfulness to her through the law of the “kinsman-redeemer”? [NOTE: Boaz’s mother was Rahab (Lesson 3)—an outsider who also experienced the kindness of the Lord and His people.]

Day Three Study

20. Read 4:13-22. What did God do for both Ruth and Naomi?

21. How did God bless us through this new marriage? See Ruth 4:22; Matthew 1:3-6; and Luke 3:32.

22. Ruth and Naomi both characterized loyalty.

·         Use a dictionary to define “Loyalty.”

·         To whom and to what should we be loyal? Explain your answer.

·         Read Titus 2:3-5.

·         In what ways is the older woman to counsel and encourage the younger woman?

·         What mindset must the younger woman have?

·         What are the potential benefits for both?

24. Your Life’s Journey: God knows we need each other. He hasn’t left us alone. In the Body of Christ, we are all sisters. Christian women should be counseling and encouraging each other, especially in our society where women are so often uprooted and transplanted to places miles away from their families. Some things only another woman can understand.

·         Younger women—Is there someone in your small group or life whom you would trust for advice and encouragement? Go to her and let her know of your need and willingness.

·         Older women—Is there someone in your small group or life whom you could befriend and encourage? Go to her and let her know of your need and willingness.

25. Your Life’s Journey: If you are married or one of your children is married, evaluate your own mother-in-law / daughter-in-law relationship. How can you apply this lesson to your relationship? Ask someone in your small group to pray for you specifically as needed and hold you accountable for your commitment.

Day Four Study — The Walk From Fear To Faith

God loved Ruth and Naomi. He knew what was going on in their lives. Naomi voiced her grief over the death of her husband and sons but never stopped trusting Him to do something about her situation. Ruth’s relationship with God started the same way most relationships with Him do. She came to know and value someone who knew Him well. That someone was Naomi. These women were not only God’s provision to each other but also a way for Him to make Himself known through their lives. You may face grief and seemingly overwhelming challenges in your own life. But just like Naomi and Ruth, you can count on these truths…

§         God loves me.

§         God knows what is going on in my life.

§         God can do something about it.

§         I can trust His goodness in whatever He chooses to do!

26. List all the circumstances that could have terrified Naomi. Instead, how did she respond to God by faith?

27. List all the circumstances that could have terrified Ruth. Instead, how did she respond to God by faith?

28. Your Life’s Journey: Read Habakkuk 3:17-18, Daniel 3:16-18, and the song lyrics below. What decision should we make when things are tough? Do you trust God enough to make that decision? If so, give an example from your life when you have done so.

I can count a million times people asking me how I can praise You with all that I’ve gone through. The question just amazes me. Can circumstances possibly change who I forever am in You. Maybe since my life was changed long before these rainy days. It’s never really ever crossed my mind to turn my back on you, oh Lord, my only shelter from the storm. But instead I draw closer through these times. So I pray…

Bring me joy, bring me peace, bring the chance to be free. Bring me anything that brings You glory. And I know there’ll be days when this life brings me pain. But if that’s what it takes to praise You, Jesus, bring the rain (“Bring The Rain” by MercyMe)

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6. Hannah and Mrs.Manoah: Mothering Challenges

Time: the Judges ~1400-1000 B.C.

“She said, ‘Just as surely as you are alive, my lord, I am the woman who previously stood here with you in order to pray to the Lord. I prayed for this boy, and the Lord has given me the request that I asked of him. Now I dedicate him to the Lord. From this time on he is dedicated to the Lord.’ Then they worshiped the Lord there.” 1 SAMUEL 1:26-28

Background

The faithful who lived in Israel during this time endured repeated cycles of enemy oppression followed by deliverance and a time of peace before Israel rebelled against God again. The women in this lesson lived in the last part of the time of the Judges. Mrs. Manoah’s son, Samson, was the “judge” (deliverer) during the time period when Hannah’s son, Samuel, was born so the two were contemporaries. Samuel was the last judge because during his life, Israel demanded a king. God gave them a king.

Day One Study

Getting To Know Mrs. Manoah…

1. We don’t know her name, but we know of her famous son Samson. Let’s find out what his mom was like. Read Judges 13:1-24. Use adjectives to describe Mrs. Manoah.

2. What needs did the Lord notice and prepare to meet—personal and national?

3. How did He communicate to her His plan? [NOTE: When the angel says that his name is “beyond understanding” (Judges 13:18), the Hebrew for this phrase is translated in Isaiah 9:6 as “Wonderful,” applying to One who would come as “Mighty God.”]

4. Deeper Discoveries (Optional): Do a study on the “angel of the Lord” appearing in the Old Testament. Who was this? To whom did he appear and on what occasions?

5. The name “Samson” is derived from a Hebrew word meaning sun or brightness. Notice God’s purpose for Samson. Nazirite is from a Hebrew word meaning “separated” or “dedicated.” Read Numbers 6:1-8. What 3 things did a Nazirite vow to do that distinguished him as being set apart to God?

6. What was Mrs. Manoah’s responsibility while pregnant? How does this scripture support the value of the life of an unborn child before birth?

7. What was Manoah’s response? What does he ask the Lord?

8. How does God respond to Manoah’s request? Notice the declaration of Manoah’s faith in Judges 13:12.

9. Discuss what happens in verses 15-21.

10. Before this, Manoah and his wife thought a “man of God” or prophet had appeared to her. When they realized an angel of the Lord had appeared to them (to her twice!), what were their individual responses to these appearances (verses 22-23)? What does this reveal about their faith?

11. Read 13:24-14:9. From the previous verses, we discovered that Manoah and his wife were a faithful, God-honoring couple. Their son had a life purpose to follow from birth. What kind of a son did Samson turn out to be? Do you think they were disappointed?

Scriptural Insight: “This was from the Lord” (verse 4) is evidence that the Lord uses even the sinful weaknesses of men to accomplish His purposes and bring praise to His name. Other instances are in Joshua 11:20 and 1 Kings 12:15.

12. Deeper Discoveries (Optional): Read the rest of Samson’s story in Judges 14:9-16:31. How many Nazirite vows did Samson break? By the way, Mrs. Manoah had several more children after Samson. There is no indication that she had to follow the same dietary restraints for them.

13. Your Life’s Journey: God gave Samson godly parents and special abilities to do the work that God had prepared for him to do. Yet, Samson made the choice to follow his own instincts rather than adhere to his family’s faith and humility before God.

·         If you are a parent or relative of a “prodigal” son or daughter, how do you feel about it?

·         If you are a parent of a young child, are you afraid he will become a prodigal? Are you afraid that you will do something wrong?

·         Although no parent is perfect, we must remember that every person makes his own decision whether or not to act on the knowledge of God he has received. Faith is an act of the will. Share with your group any fears or feelings of guilt and disappointment. Commit that loved one to the Lord, praying for the “prodigal” to return to his or her God.

Day Two Study

Getting To Know Hannah…

14. Read Deuteronomy 28:9-11; Psalm 127:3-5. In ancient Israel, children specifically were an indication of what?

15. Read 1 Samuel 1:1-19. How would you describe Hannah if you were there watching her?

16. Discuss everything that was causing Hannah distress.

17. Discuss Elkanah’s response to his wife’s distress.

18. Your Life’s Journey: Elkanah’s response does not seem to acknowledge Hannah’s emotional needs. Does your husband or closest friend ever misunderstand your feelings? How do you react?

19. How did Hannah grow spiritually because of her barrenness? What did she learn about God?

Scriptural Insight: Vows are voluntary promises regarding personal commitment and piety. They were common in Old Testament times, were regulated by the Mosaic Law (Nu 30), were expected to be carefully thought out (Pr 20:25; Eccl 5:4-6), and were expected to be fulfilled accompanied by thanksgiving offerings. Vows other than marriage vows are not generally taught or modeled in the New Testament (Paul’s vow in Acts 18:18 being a holdover from his Jewish upbringing). We are not to make deals with God or try to find some leverage like that with Him. The basis of our relationship with Him is through faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross making us totally acceptable in God’s sight. He, as our Father, gives because He wants to give. We, as His children, ask and receive based on His goodness.

20. God uses prayer to get us into partnership with Him, and then we recognize His blessing. Hannah had a fallible High Priest interceding for her. We have far more available to us as believers. Read the following verses and discuss who is helping us in our prayer and how? [NOTE: To remember in the Bible is not merely to recall to mind. It is to express concern for someone, to act with loving care on their behalf.]

·         Hebrews 4:14-16 —

·         Hebrews 7:24-25 —

·         Romans 8:26-28; 31-34 —

21. Your Life’s Journey: Hannah had to endure her barrenness for some time because Peninah had at least 4 children. Sarah endured hers for at least 30 years! Do you consider yourself barren? Like Hannah, is it making you very sad? What should you do about your feelings/ attitude? Is there some opportunity available today where you can use your time to minister to someone else with your built-in mothering instincts? Ask someone to pray with you about this.

22. Deeper Discoveries (Optional): A number of women are identified in Scripture without any reference to children at all. Try to find several and share with the group how they spent their time. Example: Priscilla, in Acts 18, discipled new believers, entertained guests, and taught the Scriptures.

Day Three Study

23. Read 1 Samuel 1:20-2:11. God gave Hannah a son. What did she do then?

24. Hannah’s prayer is her psalm of praise and thanksgiving. What emotions does she express, and what truths does she affirm about her God?

·         Emotions —

·         Truths —

From the Hebrew: Hannah’s prayer song is prophetic, anticipating the establishment of kingship in Israel. Her son Samuel crowns the first king, Saul, as well as the second king, David. It also contains the first reference in the Bible to the Lord’s anointed (1 Samuel 2:10). ”Anointed” is the Hebrew word “mashiyach” from which “Messiah” is derived. The Greek translation of this Hebrew term is “Christos,” from which comes the English word “Christ.”

25. Read 1 Samuel 2:12-26. How did God continue to answer Hannah’s prayer even after she completed her vow?

26. In what kind of “home” did Hannah leave her boy?

27. Why didn’t that terrify her? Refer back to 1:22-28. Whom could she trust? Why?

28. Read 1 Samuel 3:1-4:1. Hannah’s trust in the Lord was rewarded through His faithfulness to her son. List all the verses in 3:1-4:1. Hannah’s trust in the Lord was rewarded through His faithfulness to her son. List all the verses in 2:12-4:1 that reveal God’s faithfulness to Samuel as he grew up as well as Samuel’s response. Discuss how much God was involved in raising this boy.

29. How did Hannah continue to mother her boy?

30. Your Life’s Journey: Are you in a situation where you have to be a mother from a distance? How does it make you feel? Have you talked to the Lord about it? Are you able to trust Him? Scripture says that Samuel grew up to be the most respected Judge that Israel had.

Day Four Study — The Walk From Fear To Faith

God loved both Hannah and Mrs. Manoah. He knew what was going on in their lives. He was able to do something about it. But, God did not give Mrs. Manoah a peaceful land without invading enemies or a perfectly obedient son who sought to use his gifts for God’s glory. Nor did God tell Hannah not to fulfill her vow and leave her son with Eli at the Tabernacle. Both endured years of barrenness before having children. Both were separated in some way from their firstborn sons. During their walk, a loving God said “no” to some things. Yet, Hannah and Mrs. Manoah chose to trust Him rather than submit to fear. And, God rewarded their faith with an outpouring of His blessing in other ways. Likewise, God may not choose to answer your prayers quickly. But, in any and all situations, you can count on these truths…

§         God loves me.

§         God knows what is going on in my life.

§         God can do something about it.

§         I can trust His goodness in whatever He chooses to do!

31. Considering the little we know about Mrs. Manoah, how did she demonstrate her faith?

32. List everything that could have terrified Hannah. How did she respond to God by faith instead?

33. Tell Your Story: Read Psalm 107:1-43. Notice the different kinds of people who call out to God and how He responds to them. Verse 43 says, "Whoever is wise, let him take note of these things! Let them consider the Lord’s acts of loyal love!” Both of these women, Mrs. Manoah and Hannah, experienced God’s love as He took care of them in specific situations. Jot down your thoughts about the great love of the Lord for you and how He took care of you in 1 or 2 specific situations.

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7. Abigail and Bathsheba: Two Wives

Time: United Kingdom ~1000-900 B.C.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 CORINTHIANS 12:9-10

Background

The establishment of the monarchy was a momentous event in Israel’s history. As we study this era, we must not conclude that the monarchy itself was wrong. Centuries before, God had predicted that a king would rule over Israel. But in requesting the monarchy, Israel’s motives and timing were wrong (1 Sam 8). She blamed her problems on the absence of a king, not on her sin. She cast her eyes on her pagan neighbors rather than on God. If Israel had simply been patient, the monarchy would have come. Within a few years, David, the Judean shepherd boy, came onto the scene. Had Israel waited a bit longer, God would have placed the son of Jesse on the throne. But Israel’s impatience brought Saul to the throne. Physically impressive, Saul was the picture of a king. For many years, he strengthened his nation, until pride welled up in his heart. His subsequent sin led to judgment, and Saul died a tragic death on the mountains of Gibeon.

David’s reign ushered in the golden age of Israel. He unified the nation, established a strong government, and built the most powerful empire of his day. He conquered Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Syria. Philistia submitted to his authority. As the “sweet Psalmist of Israel,” David received God’s special blessing. He would be the ancestor of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. His leadership was decisive and effective. He captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites and made it his royal city and residence. Shortly afterward, he brought the ark of the Lord to Jerusalem, publicly acknowledging the Lord’s kingship and rule over himself and the nation. The nation prospered, defeated its enemies, and extended its borders from Egypt to the Euphrates. The Lord announced that He would establish the Davidic dynasty forever.

About 10 years after David established himself in the city of Jerusalem, David’s weaknesses and failures began to be revealed. Even though David remained a man after God’s own heart, he nevertheless fell short of the ideal king. His sin with Bathsheba and his leniency both with the wickedness of his sons and with the insubordination of one of his advisors led to intrigue, violence, and bloodshed within his own family and the nation.

Day One Study

David As King…

1. Read Genesis 49:10; Deuteronomy 17:14-20. What does God say about Israel’s future king?

2. Read 1 Samuel 8:1-22; 9:15-16; 10:9-25. Relate these verses to the prophecies mentioned above.

3. Read 1 Samuel 13:13-14; 16:1-13, 18. What information is given about God’s choice of David and anointing him as king?

4. Deeper Discoveries (Optional): For more insight into the character of David, read the rest of 1 Samuel 16 through chapter 24. This section sets the stage for our lesson on Abigail.

Getting To Know Abigail…

King Saul, jealous of God’s choice of David, spent the latter part of his life chasing and trying to kill David. The story of Abigail is sandwiched between two incidents where David used self-restraint to spare Saul’s life because he was the Lord’s anointed.

5. Read I Samuel 25:1-13. Describe Nabal and Abigail.

·         Nabal —

·         Abigail —

6. Discuss the kind of marriage and home life Abigail and Nabal might have had based on what is mentioned about them so far.

7. Compare David’s request to Nabal’s response. [NOTE: Nabal’s pastureland was about a mile away from his home.]

Day Two Study

8. Read 1 Samuel 25:14-35. From information in these verses, add to your description of Abigail’s qualities.

9. Tell Your Story: Abigail didn’t panic. Perhaps she was accustomed to such calamities given her husband’s character!! (See her opinion of Nabal in verse 25.) Would you have panicked? Have you ever been in such a dangerous (or perceived dangerous) situation? How did you get through it? Write a short description of this in the space below.

10. Why didn’t Abigail tell her husband what she was going to do?

11. Abigail provides us with a successful pattern for dealing with confrontation. Discuss her strategy in appeasing David and her conversation with him.

12. Read I Samuel 25:36-44. Once the danger was thwarted, how did Abigail deal with her husband, and what was Nabal’s response?

13. How did she do what was right on behalf of both her husband and David and “not give way to fear”?

14. How did the Lord deal with Nabal?

15. What signs do you see of spiritual growth in Abigail’s life in spite of living in such a difficult situation?

16. Read 2 Corinthians 12:1-10. How does God use difficulties to shape us?

17. Abigail probably lived in danger of violence and the constant stress of unresolved conflict. How might that have affected her attitudes and feelings?

Within two weeks, Abigail’s life was totally changed. David married Abigail and traveled with her (and his first wife Ahinoam) for two years. Abigail had one son as David’s wife—Chileab. Nothing more is known of Abigail beyond this.

18. Your Life’s Journey: Someone in your small group, perhaps yourself, may live in this kind of relationship. Fear and wrong attitudes can be as harmful as the abuse itself. When we react wrongly to people who mistreat us, we really let them control us.

·         How should you counsel a woman in such a situation? See 1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 Peter 5:6-10; 2 Timothy 1:7

·         If it is yourself in such a situation, reach out to someone in your small group and let her pray for the situation as well as for your attitudes and responses.

Day Three Study

19. Deeper Discoveries (Optional): Jerusalem is one of the most important cities in history. Canaanites settled there soon after the dispersion from Babel in the third millennium B.C. It held an especially strategic location, controlling the primary north-south trade routes through Canaan as well as providing a military stronghold. Jerusalem became Israel’s capital during the time of David. Read the following scriptures to glean more information about Jerusalem: Gen. 14: 17-20; 22:1-19; Joshua 10: 1-28; Judges 1:1, 8, 21; 2 Sam. 5:6-12; 24:15-25; 1 Chronicles 22:1 and 2 Chronicles 3:1.

Getting To Know Bathsheba…

20. Read 2 Samuel 11:1-5. What information about Bathsheba can be gleaned from these verses?

21. In what two situations was Bathsheba caught, and how did she respond in each?

22. According to Deuteronomy 22:22, what was the penalty for adultery?

23. Read 2 Samuel 11:6-25. Contrast Bathsheba’s husband Uriah to Abigail’s husband Nabal.

24. What did David’s actions cost Bathsheba?

25. Read 1 Corinthians 10:13. Remembering how Abigail prevented an angry David from doing evil, could Bathsheba have likewise appealed to David?

27. Based on 2 Samuel 12:10-14, what did the prophet Nathan say would be the consequences of this sin, both immediate and long-term? Was David the only one who would suffer? Explain.

28. Think About It (Optional): Read Psalm 51 for David’s heartfelt repentance (agreement with God about his sin and decision to change his behavior).

29. Deeper Discoveries (Optional): Read the rest of 2 Samuel to see how Nathan’s prophecy came true.

In spite of their sin together, God still loved Bathsheba. That’s His unconditional love. Of all David’s wives, He chose Bathsheba to bear David’s successor, Solomon. She joined two other women with marred reputations, Tamar and Rahab, in the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1: 6-17).

30. Your Life’s Journey:

·         Perhaps you, like Bathsheba, had an immoral relationship with your husband (or other person) before marriage or caused a first marriage to be broken up by your relationship to each other, and you are feeling guilty or fearful of the consequences. Agree with God that you have sinned. Accept the forgiveness He provided through His Son Jesus for all your sins—past, present, and future—then forgive yourself and forgive your husband. Ask the other person to forgive your part in the past.

·         Read Psalm 103:10-14. God has already removed your sins from you as far as the east is from the west. You will still have to deal with the consequences of your actions, but thanks be to Christ, not the guilt! Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Are you able to trust God to help you even through the consequences of sin? If not, ask someone you trust in your small group to pray for you regarding this.

Day Four Study — The Walk From Fear To Faith

God loved Abigail and Bathsheba. He knew what was going on in their lives. Marriage difficulties, the temptations they faced, the losses they suffered—He was there for all of it. He was able to do something about it. Abigail’s life was spared by using the strengths God gave her. Bathsheba, though she suffered the consequences of sin, was blessed with the birth of Solomon, heir to the throne. During their walk, a loving God said “no” to some things. Yet, Abigail and Bathsheba chose to trust Him rather than submit to fear. Likewise, God may not choose to relieve you from a miserable marriage or prevent you from experiencing the consequences of sin. But, in any and all situations, you can count on these truths…

§         God loves me.

§         God knows what is going on in my life.

§         God can do something about it.

§         I can trust His goodness in whatever He chooses to do!

31. List the situations that could have terrified Abigail. How did she respond to God in faith?

32. What opportunities did Bathsheba have to fear? How did she respond to God in faith?

33. Your Life’s Journey: Scripture describes both Abigail and Bathsheba as being beautiful women. In his commentary, Matthew Henry wrote, “The fear of God reigning in the heart is the beauty of the soul.” What does the Bible say of the role that physical beauty should have in a person’s character? See Proverbs 31:10, 30; 1 Peter 3:1-6, and any other verses you can find to support your answer.

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8. Two Widows: Single with Children

Time: Divided Kingdom-Israel ~900-722 B.C.

“So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.’” MATTHEW 6:31-34

Background

David reigned on the throne of Israel for 40 years. Solomon, who was God’s choice to inherit his father’s throne, strengthened Israel’s defenses, conducted trade throughout the known world, and engaged in numerous building operations including a magnificent temple for God and a massive palace for himself. Famed for his wisdom, which he requested and received from God, Solomon wrote the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. But tempted by his foreign wives, Solomon unwisely turned his heart away from God. As a result God promised judgment upon Solomon’s death—the kingdom would be divided.

Here’s how it happened: For centuries friction had existed between the northern and southern tribes. This friction was evident throughout David’s reign. From 1010 to 1003 B.C., David ruled over the southern tribes (Judah), while the northern ten tribes (Israel) supported Saul’s son Ishbosheth. Following Ishbosheth’s death, Israel accepted David as king (2 Samuel 5) but then rebelled briefly toward the end of his life (2 Samuel 20).

As Solomon inherited David’s kingdom, the seeds of discontent became apparent. The Israelites chafed under heavy taxation and forced labor. Upon Solomon’s death, they sought relief, which finally came but only through permanent division. The prophet Ahijah appeared to one of Solomon’s officials, Jeroboam (1 Kings 11), and prophesied the divided kingdom, ordaining Jeroboam king over Israel. Solomon’s son Rehoboam proved himself foolish and unworthy to rule, and the northern tribes rallied around Jeroboam (1 Kings 12). When the dust cleared, the united kingdom was no more. Jeroboam, however, refused to obey God’s Word. He founded a renegade religious system and led his nation on the pathway to ruin. Israel’s history featured religious apostasy and unstable leadership. Godless kings turned the people away from their God. Sin always brings judgment, and in 722 B.C. the Assyrians destroyed Samaria, Israel’s capital, bringing the Northern Kingdom to an end.

Day One Study

1. Read 1 Kings 16:25-33. Ahab ruled Israel in the middle 800’s B.C. He was the 6th king after Jeroboam. His name may already be familiar to you. What does the Scripture say about Ahab’s kingship?

2. An idol is any human-created God substitute. Idolatry is giving glory to something else that belongs only to God. Read Exodus 20:2-6 and Deuteronomy 11:13-17. What did God demand of His people? What did He promise to Israel if they set up idol worship?

3. Generally, what human-created God substitutes do we have in our culture today?

4. Your Life’s Journey: Personally, what tends to take God’s place in your life— possessions, family members, position, power, fitness, appearance? What behavior suggests that something has become an idol to us? Ask Jesus to reveal to you what you love more than Him. Through the Holy Spirit’s power within you, ask Him to release you from that idol’s power in your life. Write out your prayer here.

5. The prophet Elijah lived during this time. Elijah’s name (meaning “The LORD is my God”) was the essence of his message. Since a prophet spoke the very Word of God, it was necessary that Israel distinguish between true and false prophets. Read Deuteronomy 13:1-5 and 18:14-22. What characteristics distinguish God’s true prophets?

Historical Insight: The Hebrew Prophet — Besides godless kings, Israel’s history also featured religious apostasy characterized by an ineffective or nonexistent priesthood. God called men to become His mouthpiece, that is, receiving a message directly from God and proclaiming it to God’s people. Unlike the priest or the king, the prophet did not inherit his office. He received his calling directly from God. Some examples are Jeremiah before birth (Jer. 1:5), Samuel as a young boy (I Sam. 3), and Amos as a farmer (Amos 1: 1). The prophet’s life was usually difficult, sometimes involving grave physical abuse. Jeremiah was held captive in a muddy pit, and according to tradition Isaiah was sawn in half.

6. The spiritual condition of God’s people under the rule of Omri and then Ahab was one of idolatry, especially worship of a god called Baal, one of the leading Canaanite gods. Baal, whose name meant simply “lord,” was considered the god of storms and thus of fertility, for the rain he supposedly sent watered the crops and provided a bountiful harvest. Read James 5:17 and 1 Kings 17:1. Elijah prayed according to God’s promise (Deut. 11:16-17), and then he told Ahab about it.

·         What do you think was God’s point by Elijah’s message in 1 Kings 17:1?

·         According to James 5:17, how did God answer Elijah’s prayers?

·         Why would this challenge the people’s idolatry?

7. Imagine that kind of drought. What effects did God’s answer to Elijah’s prayer have on the land and people in Israel and surrounding nations as well as on himself? See also 1 Kings 18:4.

8. Think About It (Optional): Sometimes when we pray for the Lord to draw unbelievers to Him, the believers have to suffer the consequences as well. Is it worth it?

9. Read 1 Kings 17:1-6. What did Elijah learn about God’s creative provision in a tough time?

10. Read 2 Corinthians 8:13-15 and Philippians 4:10-20. What do you learn about God’s provision from these verses?

11. Tell Your Story: Was there a time in your life when God creatively provided for you as things looked hopeless—whether it was physical, emotional, or spiritual provision? Write a short paragraph describing what it was like to trust Him for that. Share with your group.

Day Two Study

Getting To Know The Widow Of Zarephath…

Look on a map of the Ancient Middle East in the back of your Bible or online to find the area of Tyre and Sidon. Zarephath was located between those two cities. This was Gentile territory and, specifically, the home of Ahab’s queen Jezebel and Baal worship.

12. Read 1 Kings 17:7-16. Based on the information given, what words would you use to describe the Widow of Zarephath if you were there watching her?

Spiritual Insight: The meaning of commanded is “chosen, planned”. It was God’s decree. God was not bound by His covenant with the Jews to bless this Gentile woman. But, He did. God’s grace and mercy is always available to individuals.

13. What was her problem, and how was she trying to deal with it?

14. What might have been her emotions at this time?

15. Read Psalm 146:5-10. How does this apply to our story?

16. What was the widow’s responsibility? Refer to Psalm 56:3,4.

17. List the many ways that her faith and obedience were rewarded. [NOTE: Only a true God can provide flour and oil in a drought!]

18. Your Life’s Journey: Elijah stayed with the widow and her son, eating flour and oil cakes twice a day for almost 3 years. Imagine that. A modern day equivalent could be peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. How long could you stay grateful while eating those twice a day for 3 years?

19. Your Life’s Journey: Reflect on the words of the song below. How grateful are you for what the Lord has already done in your life? Do you thank Him for the times He says, “No”? See Colossians 1:11-12; 2:7; 3: 15-17. If an attitude change is necessary, ask someone in your small group to pray for you to be more thankful. Share with her the results of “joyously giving thanks” to Him.

Had a lot of dreams that never came true. Things I could have done, but never got the chance to do. When I couldn’t see the path of the storm your wisdom wouldn’t let me go that way. And it broke my heart, but now my heart can say,

Thank you for the times you said, No. Thank you for the doors that you closed. All the ways you never let me go and the things you never gave me. So many times I didn’t understand and wouldn’t let you take my hand. But now I want to fall at Your feet and thank you for the things you never gave me. (“Things You Never Gave Me” by David Meece)

20. Read 1 Kings 17:17-24. Now, what was her problem? What was her response to the problem?

21. What do you think she meant by saying, “Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”

Focus on the Meaning: This is a common reaction among people who do not know God’s ways well when personal tragedy hits their lives. It’s the pagan view of life: “When things go well, the gods are pleased with me. When things go wrong, the gods are angry with me.” Jesus declares in Matthew 5:45 that God sends sunshine and rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous equally. It was not her sin but God’s opportunity to take this woman another step along her faith walk, making it personal.

22. Your Life’s Journey: Have you ever experienced anger at or distrust of God when something bad happened? If so, how did you get over it?

23. Deeper Discoveries (Optional): I Kings 18 and 19 are interesting accounts of the further ministry of Elijah to the nation of Israel. They contain stories made familiar through children’s Sunday School lessons. Read them and gain terrific insights into both God’s and Elijah’s characters.

24. Discuss Elijah’s response and how God answered Elijah’s prayer.

25. Read Acts 2:22; Hebrews 2:3-4. Why does God perform miracles? Did it work this time?

26. Read Matthew 6:31-34. Apply this passage to today’s lesson.

27. Your Life’s Journey: Through a near tragedy, this woman came to know the living God in a personal way. Do you know of someone who turned to the Lord only after exhausting all her/his other resources? Share the results with your group. When might it be good to pray for someone to reach desperate circumstances? Discuss with your small group.

Day Three Study

Getting To Know The Prophet’s Widow…

Elijah served God as His prophet and priest in the northern kingdom for many years. He mentored Elisha, a farmer’s son, to help him and continue the ministry after Elijah was taken to heaven (2 Kings 2:1-25). Three characteristics distinguished God’s true prophet: 1) He was loyal to Jehovah alone, 2) His predictions came to pass, 3) His message agreed with previous revelations. The performance of miracles was not the primary test, because false prophets could perform miracles through the power of Satan (Deuteronomy 13:1-2).

28. Read 2 Kings 4:1-7. The widow’s husband had been a faithful prophet, part of the company of prophets. Read 1 Kings 20:35; 2 Kings 2:3,5,7,15; 4:1,38; 5:22; 6:1; 9:1. What do you learn about the company/sons of the prophets? Who were they? What did they do? Who were their leaders?

29. Think About It (Optional): The company of prophets can be considered similar to modern seminaries where men and women learn from distinguished God-gifted teachers. One community of prophets was located at Bethel, just north of Jerusalem. Bethel was originally established as a holy place to worship God, particularly during the time of the patriarchs and the judges, especially Samuel’s ministry, it later became a center of Baal worship instead. Can you think of any modern day equivalents?

30. The Mosaic Law provided for paying off debts by working. See Leviticus 25:39-41. How did God limit this practice?

31. Read Exodus 22:22, 23; Deuteronomy 14:28-29; 24:19-22. What responsibility did God place on the entire community regarding widows and orphans?

32. Read Isaiah 1:17, 23; 10:1-2. How effective and persistent was Israel at carrying out this responsibility?

33. Read Deuteronomy 10:17-18; Psalm 68:4-5. What does God promise to do then?

34. Back to 2 Kings 4, what was this woman’s crisis situation, and how did she deal with it?

35. List all the things that Elisha as God’s representative commanded her to do.

36. What was this woman’s responsibility? Did she do her part?

Historical Insight: Olive oil was expensive and time-consuming to make. It was used for cooking, lighting lamps, dressing wounds, and as a deodorant when water wasn’t available for bathing. The wealthy used it for bathing and as a skin softener. It was also used for anointing kings and the dead for burial as well as for ritual offerings. The widow had a valuable commodity.

37. When Elisha told the woman to ask her neighbors for jars, what could have been the benefits of doing so—to them and to her?

38. How do you think this incident impacted her sons? In what practical ways can you show your children what God is like?

39. Looking at the kind of help this woman had sought from God and what she actually received, how did God “defend her cause” (Deuteronomy 10:18)?

40. Your Life’s Journey: Read 1 Timothy 5:3-8,16; James 1:27; and Romans 12:9-16. As followers of Christ, what does God expect of us as women in our homes, church, and community? In today’s society, who would be considered widows? What do they need besides material provisions? Study these passages and ask God to reveal a specific area where He wants you to be obedient to Him as you reach out to meet the need of someone in your sphere of influence. Share this with your small group and ask them to pray for opportunities.

Day Four Study — The Walk From Fear To Faith

God loved the two widows and their children. He knew what was going on in their lives. He was able to do something about it. But, God did not give the widows their husbands back nor did He prevent them from having to go through the agony of watching food supplies dwindle or facing threats from a creditor. His provision was not luxurious foods or easy money. During their walk, a loving God said no to some things. Yet, they chose to trust Him rather than submit to fear. And, God rewarded their faith with an outpouring of His blessing. Likewise, God may not choose to resuscitate your dead loved ones. But, in any and all situations, you can count on these truths…

§         God loves me.

§         God knows what is going on in my life.

§         God can do something about it.

§         I can trust His goodness in whatever He chooses to do!

41. What kind of fears did the widow living in Zarephath face? How did she respond to God by faith?

42. What could have terrified the prophet’s Widow? How did she demonstrate faith?

43. Your Life’s Journey: Often, we overlook what God has already provided for us and concentrate instead on what we don’t have. What do you deduce from the fact that God used what both women already had as a resource? Read Exodus 4:1-5 and Mark 6:35-44. What principle can you derive from these verses? Reflecting upon your own life, either now or in the past, describe a specific application of this principle in the space below.

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9. Woman of Shunem: A Story to Tell

Time: Divided Kingdom-Israel ~900-722 B.C.

“Now the king was talking to Gehazi, the prophet’s servant, and said, ‘Tell me all the great things which Elisha has done.’ While Gehazi was telling the king how Elisha had brought the dead back to life, the woman whose son he had brought back to life came to ask the king for her house and field. Gehazi said, ‘My master, O king, this is the very woman and this is her son whom Elisha brought back to life!’ The king asked the woman about it, and she gave him the details.” 2 KINGS 8:4-6a

Background

God’s concern for women and their special needs is clearly seen in the scriptures we’ve studied so far. Whereas women were regarded as inferior to men in most ancient Near Eastern societies, God demonstrated His compassion for them in many different ways. (Review the historical insights and purpose of miracles in Lesson 8.)

Elisha, God’s prophet to Israel, ministered in and around Mt. Carmel on the western edge of the Plain of Jezreel—a strategic area of Israel and a fruitful farming valley. Shunem was a little town in this valley about ~20 miles away from Mt. Carmel.

Day One Study

Getting To Know The Woman Of Shunem…

1. Read 2 Kings 4:8-17. Describe this woman. List everything you can infer from the text.

2. How did she approach her husband with her idea? What does this reveal about their marriage?

3. How did Elisha respond to their generosity?

4. What, if anything, did this woman request of Elisha? What does this tell us about her view of her life?

5. What need did she withhold, and why do you think she withheld it?

6. How does Elisha find out about her unexpressed need? What does he, as God’s representative, do about it?

7. What did she learn about God?

8. Your Life’s Journey: Homemaking is a ministry. For her, it all started with a meal— extending hospitality—and thus supporting Elisha’s ministry. Home is wherever you live. Whether your career is that of “homemaker” or not, women are particularly gifted by God to establish the warmth of a home—emotional and otherwise. Read the “Scriptural Insight” below. Do you consider your “homemaking” as a ministry and your “home” as a ministry tool? Share a time when God has given you opportunity to use your home to minister to someone else.

Scriptural Insight: God says in 1 Tim. 5:14 that women are to “manage a household” meaning to have authority. In Titus 2:3, women are encouraged to “exhibit behavior fitting for those who are holy” (NIV “reverent”). The Greek describes a priestess serving in the temple of her God. The world is God’s temple, and we are God’s servants in it. That perspective removes any sacred/secular division from our lives. It is just as spiritual for you to teach a Sunday school class as it is for you to prepare nutritious meals for your family or to work with integrity for your employer. For the believer, all of life is set apart for the Lord, and every act is an act of ministry.

9. Your Life’s Journey: The Shunammite woman and her husband gladly took care of Elisha’s needs. What should be our attitude toward our pastors and teachers? Read Galatians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 5:17-18. How can you better serve those who are dedicating their lives to serving you? Write a prayer of thanks to God for specific ones.

Day Two Study

About 5 Or More Years Later…

10. Read 2 Kings 4:18-37. What crisis was this faithful woman facing? How did she respond to the crisis? [NOTE: Many farmers lived in town and went out to the country daily to work.]

11. What might be the reasons for not telling her husband or Elisha’s servant Gehazi?

12. Who, alone, was she seeking? Elisha represented God to her at this time. While there are times when family and friends can help us, God wants us to bring our deepest needs to Him alone. Read Hebrews 4:14-16 and 10:19-23. What confidence do we have?

13. Your Life’s Journey: Describe the last time when you faced a crisis that only God could handle. Were you able to trust Him with the outcome? Why or why not? Share with your small group.

14. In what ways did Elisha demonstrate his respect for this woman?

15. Where did Elisha get his ability to raise the boy from the dead? How do you know?

16. Your Life’s Journey: Though living in the midst of wicked, unfaithful Israel, this woman and her husband chose to remain faithful to God. God honored their faith by giving them opportunity to respond to His word through Elisha whenever he came to their town. We live in a culture that finds Christianity, as well as God’s standards of moral law, repulsive—choosing instead its own self-gratification as a substitute for worship of the true God. We are surrounded by idolatry and corrupt teaching. What steps do we need to take to remain faithful to God alone? How are you doing this?

17. After reading today’s selection, what other adjectives would you add in your description of this woman? Add them to the list you started in Day One Study.

Think About It: A few years earlier, the prophet Elijah thought no faithful worshiper of God was left in Israel but himself. God reassured Elijah that 7,000 people remained in Israel who had not “bowed their knees” to Baal. Those Israelites were still faithful to God alone. Perhaps the Shunammite woman and her husband came from families who were part of that 7,000.

Day Three Study

At Least 7 Years Later…

18. Read 2 Kings 8:1-6. In verse 1, how did God show His faithfulness to the Shunammite woman and her family?

19. Now, what challenge was she facing (verse 3)? How did she respond to the problem? [NOTE: It was possible for Israelites to bypass lower judicial officials and appeal directly to the king. Either someone had illegally occupied the woman’s property or it had fallen to the domain of the king by virtue of its abandonment.]

20. In what ways has God shown His faithfulness to this woman in her past, in her present and for her future? In good times and bad?

21. After reading this passage, why do you think God allowed the family in Shunem to experience the crisis in 2 Kings 4?

22. Your Life’s Journey: We don’t even know her name. But, God does. And, He included her story in His written Word for our benefit. What inspires you about this woman? Do you know any women today like this? How do they inspire you?

23. Do you believe the woman’s sudden appearance before the king was a coincidence? If not, what does it tell you about our God?

Day Four Study — The Walk From Fear To Faith

God loved this woman and her family. He knew what was going on in their lives. He was able to do something about it. But, God did not make the woman’s husband young again nor did He prevent her from having to endure the stigma of barrenness for a time. He didn’t prevent the famine from affecting their family. During her walk, a loving God said no to some things. Yet, she chose to trust Him rather than submit to fear. And, He rewarded her faith with an outpouring of His blessing on her family. Likewise, God may not choose to fix your crisis so you experience no pain. But, in any and all situations, you can count on these truths…

§         God loves me.

§         God knows what is going on in my life.

§         God can do something about it.

§         I can trust His goodness in whatever He chooses to do!

24. What situations could have brought fear into this woman’s life?

25. How did she respond to God by faith? Give specific instances and verse references.

26. Tell Your Story: God gave this woman a story of His faithfulness to her, and He gave her opportunity to share it with an ungodly king! God has given you a story to tell of His faithfulness to you. Are you telling it? Why or why not? Take time now to write some of your story using the guide below. Share with your small group next week. Why not ask God to give you other opportunities to share your STORY!

My Story To Share

Review the various parts of your STORY that you have already written in the previous lessons (see below). Choose one or two to expand into your STORY to share of your faith walk with God.

Lesson

Tell Your Story” Question

1

DAY 2, Question 21

2

DAY 2, Question 16

3

DAY 4, Question 23

4

DAY 3, Question 20

5

DAY 1, Question 7

6

DAY 4, Question 33

7

DAY 2, Question 9

8

DAY 1, Question 11

 

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Bibliography

The following resources were used in the preparation and writing of this study.

A.T. Robertson, Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament, Broadman Press, 1932.

Bryant Wood, “The Walls of Jericho,” Creation magazine, March 1999, pages 36-40

David Meece, “Things You Never Gave Me” lyrics

MercyMe, “Bring The Rain” lyrics

John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament, Victor Books, 1985.

Shannon Wexelberg, “In the Waiting” lyrics

The NIV Study Bible New International Version, Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1985.

Victor Hamilton, Handbook on the Pentateuch, page 91

W.W. Wiersbe, With the Word, pg. 157

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