Read an Excerpt
The Women's Devotional Guide to the Bible
A One-Year Plan for Studying, Praying, and Responding to God's Word
By Jean E. Syswerda
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2006 Jean E. Syswerda
All rights reserved.
An Incredible Beginning
Reading the Word
With miraculous and spectacular action, God created, separating light and darkness, land and sea, earth and sky. No one watched. No one applauded. Only God knew what He had done and what was to come. With simple words and a creative energy that could only come from Almighty God, planets, sun, moon, animals, plants, birds, and fish appeared. Then on the sixth day, God's final creative plan unfolded as He formed a man, Adam, and then later a woman, Eve. Each day as God surveyed His work, He nodded His head in approval and said, It is good. For six days God worked, then on the seventh day He took a rest.
Soft breezes blew over rich soil and lush meadow. Luxuriant trees and plants grew with abandon as the sun shown down by day and the moon by night. In their private garden, Adam and Eve lived a life of perfection and intimacy with God, a life filled with pleasure and satisfaction.
Then, in the midst of that beauty and goodness, came an interloper — a liar who shattered peace and harmony by tempting Eve and then Adam to disobey God. And all was lost — or was it?
This all-powerful God, who created your earthly home, is also all-loving. He recognized the sin of Adam and Eve, but He responded with loving action and careful punishment rather than heavy-handed vengeance.
THE MAIN POINT
Genesis 1–3 is the beginning, the story of firsts. The first chapters of the Bible record the first days of Creation, the first human beings, the first relationship between God and humans, the first husband-wife team, the first encounter with Satan and ensuing sin, and the first punishment for sin.
Genesis 1 — For centuries, scholars have debated whether God created the world in seven literal, twenty-four-hour days. Or are the days figurative for longer periods of time? The debate rages, with both sides making good points. Whatever your position on the issue may be, you can praise God today for making the miraculous, creative, and beautiful world in which you live.
Genesis 3:7 — Have you ever given any thought to the sad words of Genesis 3:7? "They knew that they were naked" (NKJV). With the entrance of sin into the world came also the entrance of shame. Before they sinned, Adam and Eve were sweetly and totally unaware of themselves and their bodies as objects of embarrassment or indignity.
Reflecting on the Word
You were created in the image of God. You were created to "look" like God. What good news that is! You weren't created to be the imperfect, bumbling, fumbling sinner that you know as yourself.
You are the only creature that bears God's image, the only one with spiritual as well as physical features. You are the only creature with a conscience, with a fully developed personality and will, the only one designed to live forever. Even more significant, you are the only creature God made to be in communion with Him. No other creature has a longing for God within, a vacuum that only God can fill.
Though you may feel like a poor imitation of God rather than a creature that fully bears His image, you are the only creature who can demonstrate godlike characteristics: God is just and calls you to be the same (Isaiah 30:18); He is holy and wants you to be holy (Leviticus 11:44–45); He is a righteous God (Psalm 111:3) and calls you to righteousness (Psalm 5:12).
The business of living the Christian life and growing in maturity as a believer is all about becoming more like God, more like Him than you were last year, last week, yesterday. Paul described in Colossians 3:1–17 what this looks like, what your part in this process is. And the apostle John wrote about that one characteristic of God that most fully describes Him and can be your highest goal in 1 John 4:16–17 NKJV: "We have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world." That is, you were made, and live this day, in His image.
Studying the Word
Reread Genesis 3, the story that describes the pathos of the human condition: the fall into sin and the need for a Redeemer. Alone or with several friends, answer these questions.
1. Satan, that sneaky snake, approached Eve with sort of a Groucho Marx shifty eyebrow aside and asked her something she quickly identified as a lie (Genesis 3:1–2). Why do you think he began this way?
2. Has the devil changed any since Eve's day? What sorts of tricks does he use to tempt people today?
3. Satan told Eve that if she ate the fruit she would "be like God" (Genesis 3:5 NKJV), a worthy desire. But how was he deceiving Eve this time? Who should she have spent time with if she actually wished to become more like God?
4. A big oops in verse 6. What did Eve turn toward instead of away from? Why was this a fatal mistake?
5. OK, Adam and Eve have both eaten what God had forbidden. What was the result (Genesis 3:7)? What did they see about themselves that they had not seen before?
6. In Genesis 3:14 –15, Satan is now cursed. How does God reveal, even in this cursing, that all is not lost?
7. Compare husband/wife relationships before sin (Genesis 2:23–24) and after (Genesis 3:16). What has changed and how has it affected husband/wife relationships throughout history?
Responding to the Word
Many women — whether married or unmarried — read Genesis 2:18 with a shudder, finding difficulty with the word helper. Did God really mean helper the way most people think of the word, that women are somehow subservient and not quite up to par with men?
The Hebrew word here, ezerl, is used twenty-two times in the Bible. It is usually translated as help or helper. However, it is used to speak of God's power in Psalm 89:9, and three times the word is used to refer to God as a helper (Exodus 18:4; Deuteronomy 33:29; Hosea 13:9), all of which provide a clue to the fact that God does not intend a woman's position to be degrading or weak.
The woman who is a helper to her husband is not just at his side, she is on his side. She has her own distinct personality and gifts, her own abilities, her own interests. But above all, in the servant role so beautifully modeled by Christ, she is her husband's greatest advocate. Being his helper doesn't mean she follows behind him, picking up his dirty clothes and serving his every whim. It means she stands next to him as his equal, and they lovingly serve each other, with the full knowledge that at times serving might take the form of picking up those dirty clothes.
Reread Genesis 2:21–24, then take a little time to honestly assess yourself as a woman and, if you're married, as a wife. Are there aspects about being a woman that you find difficult? You can talk to God about it. He'll help you in those areas where you need to grow and change. If you're married, ask God to help you know what it means to be your husband's helper: his advocate, his lover, his friend, his servant, his most intimate companion. Whether you're married or unmarried, God can lovingly guide you in those areas where you relate to the men in your life — to your husband, to family members, to friends, to coworkers. Ask Him to help you to become the best you can be, a beautiful model of God's handiwork in a woman's life.
Praying the Word
If possible, spend your prayer time outside today in order to enjoy the beauty of the world God created. Looking around you, praise God for specific parts of His creation: the trees, grass, water, flowers, mountains, and so forth.
Although you have inherited Adam and Eve's sinful nature, God has provided a way for you to become right with Him through His Son, Jesus. Bring to His loving attention any unconfessed sin.
Thank Him for the ways He has created you in His image as a unique female, with your own strengths, dreams, abilities, and potential.
Close your time of prayer by praying Genesis 1:27 back to God.
Creator God, You made me to be like You! How wonderful that is! And how much I fall short of Your image. Work in me day by day, Lord, to make me more like You so that I reflect the beauty of Your image to those around me.CHAPTER 2
Destruction and Salvation
Reading the Word
Noah's wife plodded along the deck of the huge boat. She and her family had been saved from the flood in this rocking house on water. She knew they were fortunate, that God had seen her husband Noah's righteousness and had saved them from the destruction. But she had lost count of the days and weeks and months of rain and water and animals and their filth. Would it ever end? Or had they been saved from the flood waters only to die on this floating zoo?
As she turned a corner, she came upon her husband. He had a huge, almost silly grin on his face. She couldn't help but smile back. Noah held in his hand a dove. But what was unusual was what the dove had in its mouth. A green leaf ! The dove had flown around, found dry ground where plants had begun to grow again, and brought back the evidence. Her mouth stretching now in a genuine smile, laughter bubbled up from deep within her. God had been true to His promise to save them. Life was beginning again.
No matter how bad things get, no matter how deep you're dipping into sin, God provides a way out for those who seek Him. What a cause for celebration! When everyone was doing evil all the time (Genesis 6:5), God found one righteous man, Noah, and used him and his family to preserve life.
THE MAIN POINT
In these chapters, where humanity's lowest of the low is recorded for all to see, God also appeared. It may not be the place you'd expect to see the high and holy God. But He's there, waiting for you, like Noah, to see Him and allow Him to pull you out of your sin and into His grace.
Genesis 6:4 — Giants. Huge men. Strong men. Men of influence. Princes and kings. Genesis calls these extraordinary people Nephilim. The spies sent to explore Canaan before the Israelites went in to conquer it also saw these giants and called them by the same name (Numbers 13:32–33). It's hard to say just how tall these giants might have been, but since the Israelites felt like "grasshoppers" (NKJV) next to them, they must have been of much larger than normal stature and strength.
Genesis 6:8 — "But Noah ..." (NKJV) Genesis ends its description of the horrors of sin that had permeated that culture with these two simple, but striking, words. God saw the bad, but He didn't overlook the good. And the good was Noah. Because of his faith and his life of righteousness in a world gone wrong, he found favor in God's eyes. And through him God saved a remnant of the human race to begin again.
Reflecting on the Word
A misconception has been going the rounds for many years. It's propagated in the words of songs and rhymes about the flood. "Two by two." Or "The animals, the animals, they came in by twosies, twosies." From childhood on up, you're taught that the animals entered the ark by twos, one male and one female of each. There's a grain of truth here, but one that leads to a common misconception. Yes, at least two of each kind of animal entered the ark. But more than two of some kinds of animals entered the ark. So when you picture the animals prancing up the ramp — two elephants, two cows, two pigs, two zebras, two turkeys, two koala bears, two chickens — you'd be right only part of the time.
God told Noah to save two of each unclean animal and seven of each clean animal (Genesis 7:2). Does that come as a total surprise to you? Do you feel like you've heard and read the story of the flood a hundred times and missed this fact altogether? Well, join the crowd!
The command actually makes perfect sense. After the flood, Noah sacrificed some of the clean animals and birds as a thank offering to God. If only two had been preserved on the ark, then that animal would have been instantly extinct. Not God's plan at all.
What's just as interesting is that the distinction between clean and unclean animals isn't recorded in Scripture until much later, in Leviticus 11. Perhaps Noah and his culture had an early understanding of clean and unclean. Or perhaps God revealed the distinction to him as the animals were gathered and brought to the ark.
The beauty is in the details. So often a close reading of Scripture reveals something about God that you didn't recognize before. God's perfect plan to preserve the humans and the birds and the animals of His creation required close attention to detail, all of which He had worked out before He ever revealed anything to Noah.
Studying the Word
Read through this story of the retreating flood, looking for those points of human interest with which you can connect as a person of faith.
1. "God remembered Noah" (Genesis 8:1 NKJV). Did God suddenly hit His head with the heel of His hand and say, "Oh, wow, Noah's out there in the flood! I better check in on him"? Do you think God actually forgot about Noah, then remembered him? If not, what other meaning could this have?
2. Put yourself in the place of Noah's wife. Replace your jeans and sweater for a robe and sandals. You've been cooped up on this boat for almost a year now. The only thing in sight, besides animals and the messes they leave behind, is water, water, and more water. Now try to imagine how you might have felt when the dove returned to the ark the first time (Genesis 8:8–9). How would your faith be tested in that moment? What would you say to Noah? To God?
3. Now describe how you might have felt when the dove returned with a fresh olive twig in its beak (Genesis 8:10–11). How would you act? What would you say to Noah? To God?
4. What seasons or incidents of testing have you experienced recently? What did that testing do to your faith? During that time, what did you say to God? To the others in your life?
5. Read Genesis 8:18–19 and think about the smiles that must have been on everyone's faces that day. More than anything, what did that open door and solid ground prove about God?
6. What has God proven to you about Himself during your difficult times of testing?
Responding to the Word
If Noah had a marker on his grave, perhaps Mrs. Noah would have had this verse engraved on it: He did everything just as God commanded him.
Did Noah realize that thousands of generations would read his epitaph in millions of copies of the Bible? Not likely. He just went about his daily life, living righteously in front of his less than righteous neighbors, measuring boards, gathering animals and food, and getting his hands black with pitch.
Not that Noah's daily life proceeded with ease. Obedience came at a price. The first price was looking foolish. Nobody but a nutcase would build a huge boat in the middle of a field, probably miles from any water. But Noah concerned himself more with God's opinion of him than with the opinions of those around him. So, he started pounding nails.
The second price Noah paid was walking into the unknown. His obedience required enormous faith on his part. Could he see what was coming? Not at all. But when God told Noah to build an ark because of an impending flood, he didn't ask, "What's a flood?" He simply obeyed.
People have all kinds of words and sayings etched on their tombstones. Sometimes those sayings reveal something of the person buried there. Perhaps it's a little ahead of the game to decide what you want engraved on your headstone. But it's never too early to think about what sort of legacy you're leaving your family and friends and neighbors. Would any of them say, "She did everything God told her to do"? Nothing would be greater!
Excerpted from The Women's Devotional Guide to the Bible by Jean E. Syswerda. Copyright © 2006 Jean E. Syswerda. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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