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WOMEN OF FAITH STUDY BIBLE VIOLET BONDEDExperience the Liberating Grace of God
By Jean Syswerda
ZondervanCopyright © 2001 Zondervan
All right reserved.
The book of beginnings.
Genesis tells of the beginning of time and of the creation of the human race, but, more important, it tells of the beginning of God's love relationship with men and women. From Adam to Joseph, the men who begin the line of the Hebrew race have alongside them women who, though imperfect, are strong and godly.
We grieve with Eve when the sibling rivalry between her two sons escalates into murder (Ge 4:8-12). We empathize with Noah's wife as she endures the confinement of the ark (Ge 7:13-8:14). We identify with Sarah's longing for a child and with her rapture when her dream is fulfilled (Ge 21:1-7). We share Rebekah's joy in the love of her husband and her fulfillment in her ability to comfort him in his grief (Ge 24:66-68). And we feel Rachel's pain when she must obey her father and see her older sister married to the man she loves (Ge 29:22-27).
Through the matriarchs of the book of Genesis, God reveals again and again his power to work out his plan in spite of us. The story of the women of Genesis is our story. From infertility to the pain of childbirth, from jealousy to the security of knowing one is loved, from manipulation to surrender-the lives of these women unveil in one amazing sequence after another God's redeeming love for them ... and for us.
The Moabite Ruth was as welcome in Bethlehem as a roach raiding the pantry. Her ancestor Moab had been born out of an act of incest between Lot and his elder daughter (Ge 19:30-38). Moab's descendants had hired Balaam to curse Israel while Israel camped in Moab during the journey from Egypt to the promised land (Nu 22-24). Though Balaam could only bless and not curse, the Israelites were seduced into worshiping the gods of the Moabites, and 24,000 Israelites died in the plague that was their judgment (Nu 25:1-9). And after the Israelites settled in Canaan, Moab attacked and oppressed them. So Israelite hatred for Moabites ran deep.
Naomi, Ruth's mother-in-law, had tried to dissuade Ruth from following her, convinced that Ruth had a more promising future in Moab. But Ruth could never turn away from the love she'd found. She was not going to let go of Naomi or of Naomi's God.
Ruth was not naïve. She likely had faced the indignation of her own people when she married Mahlon, an Israelite. She was aware of the initial resentment against her in Bethlehem. But she refused to accept rejection. Instead, she placed herself in the Lord's hands as she went out to glean in the fields of any "in whose eyes I find favor" (Ru 2:2). By "chance" she chose the fields of Boaz, a relative of Naomi's late husband, by Israelite law a kinsman-redeemer and one Israelite with a heart big enough to overlook her Moabite heritage.
When Ruth decided to give her life to the God of Israel, she also decided to trust his people. And God blessed her. He placed her with trustworthy people, like Naomi and Boaz, who had her best interests at heart-and who feared God.
Ruth might have lived out her life as a victim of harsh circumstances. Instead, she focused on providing for herself and for Naomi-winning her neighbors' good opinions in the process. Even when she went to lie at Boaz's feet, as a request for marriage, she showed her willingness to follow the divine law rather than her own preferences, for Naomi's sake (Ru 3:10). Her care for Naomi culminated in her final recorded act: She counted her first son, Obed, as Naomi's, to perpetuate the family name of Elimelech, Mahlon and Kilion.
What can we find in Ruth's character to emulate? Everything. We too can refuse to accept the rejection that the world uses to keep us from following hard after God. We have a Kinsman-Redeemer far greater than Boaz. The Lord Jesus Christ will advise, protect and provide for us for the rest of our lives. Count on it.
But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God" (Ruth 1:16).
You exalted me above my foes; from violent men you rescued me. 49 Therefore I will praise you among the nations, O Lord; I will sing praises to your name. 50 He gives his king great victories; he shows unfailing kindness to his anointed, to David and his descendants forever.
For the director of music. A psalm of David.
1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. 3 There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. 4 Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, 5 which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. 6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. 9 The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous. 10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. 11 By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. 12 Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. 13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.
Of David. A psalm.
1 The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; 2 for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters. 3 Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. 5 He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his Savior. 6 Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob. Selah
7 Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 8 Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. 9 Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 10 Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty- he is the King of glory. Selah
1 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; 2 in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. 3 No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse.
4 Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths;
5 guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. 6 Remember, O Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. 7 Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me,
1 CORINTHIANS 12-14
And now I will show you the most excellent way.
13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Gifts of Prophecy and Tongues
14 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. 2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. 3 But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. 4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.
6 Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? 7 Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes?
Jesus Is Faithful and True
Betrayal. It is ugly and has devastation as its constant companion. It produces shock, then questioning, anger, numbness and, finally, deep and excruciating pain. Betrayal causes such pain because it is the act of someone trusted and loved. Usually the relationship between the betrayer and the betrayed is forever damaged because betrayal results in the loss of faith and trust.
Have you been betrayed? If so, you need to know that there is, indeed, someone who is faithful, someone you can always count on. Meet Jesus, who is also called "Faithful and True" (Rev 19:11).
* God himself is faithful (1Co 1:9). In what ways is God faithful (Ps 25:10; 145:13; 1Th 5:23-24)? How does this give you confidence?
* How great is God's faithfulness (Ps 108:4; Isa 25:1)? How long will it last (Ps 146:6)?
* How does God deal with his children's unfaithfulness (Ps 89:30-33)? How does this give you peace?
* What is the companion of faithfulness (Ps 85:10; 89:14)? How does this give you a greater understanding of the Father's heart?
* How can God's faithfulness benefit you in times of trouble (Ps 61:7; 91:4)? How does this give you hope (Heb 10:23)?
* How should you respond to God's faithfulness (Ps 89:5; 138:2)?
God's love for you is so great and his faithfulness so unswerving that you never need to fear. "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is [his] faithfulness" (La 3:22-23).
Enjoying God THROUGH the Word
Read John 13:21-30 (page 1771). Jesus, deeply saddened by the knowledge that Judas will betray him (Jn 6:64), shares his hurt with his friends.
What kind of pain do you think Jesus feels? If you have been betrayed, you may feel that no one truly understands your pain. But Jesus does. He is betrayed by one of his closest friends. Judas's betrayal is no minor event in the gospel story. A final tearing of the tenuous relationship between Judas and Jesus occurs that night. Although Judas has never believed (Jn 6:64-65) and is, therefore, not in spiritual fellowship with Jesus, their earthly relationship is one of companionship.
If you are in that dark place of betrayal, know that Jesus understands. You can share your pain, confusion and doubts with him. His arms are open wide, waiting to embrace you and ease your pain.
Enjoying God THROUGH Experience
Betrayal is painful, and your memory of it may always be with you (though time does lessen the pain). There is no easy formula for healing-especially if your betrayer has not changed or sought your forgiveness. Although Jesus cannot change the past or wipe out your memory, he can take your pain, bring truth to the situation and provide healing to your heart.
Sit with Jesus awhile, conscious that he's with you. You are safe with him. Share your pain with him. He understands it, and though you may feel unable to trust even him, he will reveal himself to you as Faithful and True. "A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out" (Isa 42:3).
Excerpted from WOMEN OF FAITH STUDY BIB VIOLET BND by Jean Syswerda Copyright © 2001 by Zondervan. Excerpted by permission.
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