The participant workbook includes five days of lessons for each week, combining study of Scripture with personal reflection, application, and prayer.
Other components for the Bible study, available separately, include a Leader Guide, DVD with six 20-25 minute sessions, and boxed Leader Kit (an all-inclusive box containing one copy of each of the Bible study’s components).
About the Author
She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Bible Theology and enjoys teaching God’s Word to diverse groups and churches within the body of Christ. She is a contributor to Girlfriends in God online devotional as well as Proverbs 31 ministries First Five app. She is the author of seven Bible studies (The Names of God, Romans, Elijah, Numbers, First Corinthians, Joseph, and Jeremiah) and four books (Total Family Makeover, Total Christmas Makeover, 30 Days of Prayer for Spiritual Stamina, and Dare to Hope). Melissa makes her home in Pickerington, Ohio, with her pastor husband and four kids.
Read an Excerpt
Jeremiah - Women's Bible Study
Daring to Hope in an Unstable World
By Melissa Spoelstra
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2014 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
RAISING THE WHITE FLAG
"When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God of Heaven's Armies." Jeremiah 15:16
Day 1: No Excuses
Jeremiah is the longest of the sixty-six books of the Bible.
As we meet Jeremiah in this study, we'll find out why he is called the most "psychological of the prophets and at the same time the most interesting as a man." He was a lot like you and me. He got depressed, made excuses, and even did some whining occasionally. However, what sets him apart from most of us is his unrelenting commitment to communicate God's message.
Although Jeremiah's words resound from over 2,600 years ago, they echo into our day with uncanny relevance. As I noted in the introduction, Francis Schaeffer agreed. Recognizing in the 1960s that our world was entering a "post-Christian" era, he made an observation that bears repeating:
What, then should be our message in such a world—to the world, to the church, and to ourselves?
We do not have to guess what God would say about this because there was a period of history, biblical history, which greatly parallels our day. That is the day of Jeremiah. The book of Jeremiah and the book of Lamentations show how God looks at a culture which knew Him and deliberately turned away.
Since the time that Schaeffer wrote those words, how much further do you think we have come as a nation from living in close fellowship with our Creator? What are some indicators in our society that reveal a divergence from God's ways?
When did Jeremiah's ministry take place? Who were his contemporaries? Which kings ruled during his forty years of prophesying? To get a grasp of where his account fits in God's larger story of hope, go to AbingdonWomen.com/ Jeremiah and read Digging Deeper Week 1: "Where Does Jeremiah Fit in the Biblical Timeline?"
The changing of a culture starts with the individuals who are living within it. If we long to see a turning back to God in our land, then we need to recognize that it starts with you and me. Not only does Jeremiah's prophecy matter today; God Himself gives us some direct instructions regarding it.
Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts.
Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet's own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God
2 Peter 1:19-21
Read 2 Peter 1:19-21 in the margin. What must we do to the writings of the prophets?
Jesus also "weighed in" on the study of prophecy. Read Matthew 5:17-19. What did Jesus say that He came to do in regard to the messages of Jeremiah?
As we embark on a journey into the longest and what most consider to be one of the most disorganized books (chronologically speaking) in Scripture, we will be tempted to make excuses about our biblical illiteracy. We are not alone. The Book of Jeremiah begins with a glimpse into his own tendency to excuse his ability to obey God's call. Jeremiah was the son of a priest living in the small town of Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, the least significant of the twelve tribes of Israel. He emerged during a time of great political upheaval. Babylon, Egypt, and Assyria rivaled for world domination, and the land of Judah was shuffled back and forth between them as vassals paying tribute to keep from being destroyed. God called Jeremiah to deliver His messages during the thirteenth year of King Josiah's reign in the land of Judah.
As we look at God's calling on Jeremiah's life in Chapter 1, what encouragement did God give him in verses 4-5?
God assured Jeremiah that He knew him even in the womb. Psalm 139 gives a similar picture from David's pen.
Read Psalm 139:13-14 in the margin. What does David say to the Lord?
If Jeremiah and King David were known and called even in utero, what does that tell us about how early and intimately God has known you?
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
Now, Jeremiah did not hear God's precious words and say, "Yes, sign me up." He had some reservations about speaking God's messages to the people of Judah. Remember the small town and the least tribe that he came from? He had even more concerns about his ability to be used by God, set apart from the womb or not.
What excuses did Jeremiah make in verse 6 of Chapter 1?
We, too, make our fair share of excuses when it comes to obeying God. I know I have come up with some good ones: I'm both too old and too young, I don't have time, and I am not qualified. These are just a few of the excuses I made to the Lord when I felt Him calling me to write this study. At other times I've felt nudges to do something big for God and then talked myself out of it. In Christian circles, ambition to do something big can be labeled as pride or self-promotion. Somehow we convince ourselves that humility means staying under the radar and not attempting anything great for God. Like Jeremiah, we want an "out" to disobey.
What are some excuses you've made when God has called you?
You may be thinking, I'm not sure God has ever called me to do anything; but God has a calling on each of our lives. Let's look at what He asked of Jeremiah.
God's mission for us as followers of Jesus is very similar to Jeremiah's call. God wants us to go when and where He sends, speak His words, and prepare for action without fear.
What instructions did God give Jeremiah in verses 7-10 and 17 of Chapter 1?
God asked Jeremiah to speak His messages. God's mission for us as followers of Jesus is very similar to Jeremiah's call. God wants us to go when and where He sends, speak His words, and prepare for action without fear. How many people do you know who live like this? Often we are prone to give up with the least amount of resistance. Insecurity and fear of failure can keep us from trying new things. We wonder if others will think we are prideful. We question if we really heard God correctly. God knows following Him can be scary for us in our humanness. He told Jeremiah twice, in verses 8 and 17, "Do not be afraid." He wants us to face our fears and trust Him.
Dr. Jennifer Degler, co-author of the book No More Christian Nice Girl, says, "Many times we find that women get a pass on not being courageous.... We want to call that 'having a gentle and kind spirit,' but really it can be timidity or fear that's holding us back." We also fail to encourage others to step out in faith with bold moves. The success of another—or even the potential that another might be greatly used of God—threatens our own worth, so we talk each other down. Instead we should be encouraging each other to listen to God and then step out in obedience.
God knows His callings can be scary. He doesn't give us marching orders and a slap on the back and then fling us out to figure things out on our own.
What did God do and say to encourage Jeremiah in verses 9 and 17-19 of Chapter 1?
Wow! God makes us strong. He will be with us and take care of us. Even when the task seems too big for us, God assures us that He will not leave us without His help.
As we close today, take some time to reflect and ask God what He is calling you to do in this season of your life (family, career, ministry, evangelism, using your gifts and talents). Make some notes below:
Think also about your big dreams or aspirations that surface in your thoughts from time to time. List some of them below:
Read Through Jeremiah:
Read Jeremiah 1.
Talk with God
God has a purpose for each of our lives. He has big plans for us. Sadly we often miss it because of our own fear, insecurity, and excuses. Craig Groeschel says in The Christian Atheist that "before you can tap into God's life-changing power, you have to eliminate the excuses." Take some time before our Lord. Lay your excuses at His feet and ask Him to make the next steps of obedience to His calling in your life clear right now. Make some brief notes in the margin if you like to share with the group about what you hear from God.
Day 2: Surrender and Popularity
"Jeremiah's name, not uncommon in Israel, is of disputed meaning. It has been rendered 'Yahweh [The Lord] hurls' (cf. Exod. 15:1), 'the Lord founds,' 'the Lord establishes,' or 'the Lord exalts.'"
When I was in junior high, my mom told me not to worry about popularity because once you leave high school, no one cares about that stuff anymore. She was wrong. I see it in the neighborhood. I see it at PTO meetings. I see it in the church. Women size each other up all the time. A blend of confidence, money, career success (your own or your husband's), appearance, education, and experience (even in ministry) all contribute to your "status" in whatever social circles you run. If anything, it gets more complicated as you grow older. We are still trying to find the right "lunch table" at every stage of life.
As we continue in our study of Jeremiah, we quickly discover that God is not as concerned about our popularity as He is with our faithfulness to His message. In Numbers, the people of Israel were told to go in and take the Promised Land, but they chose to wander instead. In Jeremiah, we see that God gave a very different message: admit defeat without a fight. Jeremiah's words fail to win him popularity. We can understand why.
Imagine the day the twin towers of the World Trade Center fell. Now pretend the people responsible for such brutality launched a full-scale attack upon our land. Suppose one of the great Christian leaders of our day began preaching that we should admit defeat without a fight.
What would your initial response be to such a person and message?
Now, remember that Jeremiah was the young, unknown son of a priest from a small town and tribe. No wonder he didn't jump up and down at the task set before Him. His message foretold the destruction of their communities. Yet Jeremiah faithfully proclaimed God's words over and over, and he began to get a reputation as a prophet of doom and gloom. This didn't go over well with the government officials.
Read Jeremiah 38:2-3 in the margin and fill in the statements below:
Everyone who stayed in the city to defend their land would _____________________.
Everyone who surrendered to the enemy would _______________.
Babylon was nipping at Judah's heels, demanding tribute, taking their best people (like Daniel), and threatening total destruction. Jeremiah's suggestion to fully give in didn't sit well with a government that was trying to rally its fighting men and boost morale.
"This is what the Lord says: 'Everyone who stays in Jerusalem will die from war, famine, or disease, but those who surrender to the Babylonians will live. Their reward will be life. They will live!'
The Lord also says: 'The city of Jerusalem will certainly be handed over to the army of the king of Babylon, who will capture it.'"
In our lives as well, the message of surrender is not as popular as the message of victory. We want God to fix our circumstances and tell us everything is going to work out fine. We want our money problems solved, our physical illnesses healed, our relationships simplified. While sometimes God chooses to intervene in those ways, other times He calls us to surrender. Ultimately He gives us victory through that surrender. He teaches us things, develops our character, and draws us close to Him through our struggles.
These prophecies in Jeremiah give us much more than just a history of how Judah rebelled against God and faced punishment. While their story warns us to live righteous lives in obedience to God, it is so much more. Its great significance is clearly stated in the last pages of the canonical Word.
Read Revelation 19:10 in the margin. What does this verse tell us is the essence of all prophecy?
Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said, "No, don't worship me. I am a servant of God, just like you and your brothers and sisters who testify about their faith in Jesus. Worship only God. For the essence of prophecy is to give a clear witness for Jesus."
We cannot miss this truth: God's intent in prophecy is to give us a clear picture of our Messiah. Jesus is all over the pages of Jeremiah from start to finish. Although it may come in whispers, hints, foreshadowing, and messianic prophecies, we now have the fullness of God's Word and the hindsight to connect the spiritual dots. How I praise God for allowing me to live at a time in history with access to so much of His truth at my fingertips.
The New Testament sheds further light on how the gospel carries a message of surrender.
Read Luke 9:23 in the margin. What does Christ say that we must do? How often must we do it?
This message of surrender is not a "one-time" salvation experience. It is a daily message for believers.
Just last week I was asking God to lead me in whether to help a single mom on welfare by taking her to lunch and giving her a gift card. My close friend who had a connection with her before I did felt that we should demonstrate tough love and not enable her because of some particular choices she had made recently. I struggled. I prayed. I read Scripture to look for guidance. I asked God to confirm His leading. As a consummate people-pleaser, it was hard to surrender to God's call to help the woman even when I knew my friend might not be happy with my decision. She truly wanted to help the woman as well but felt that God was calling her to keep her distance. (My friend ended up being totally fine with my decision; the battle was more in my insecurity than in reality.)
Then he said to the crowd, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me."
Just as God called John the Baptist to fast and Jesus to feast, He sometimes has us follow different directions for His purposes. We need to stay close to Him so that we can hear. While God led His people to go in and conquer the land with Joshua, through Jeremiah His message was "surrender."
In what area(s) of your life is God calling you to surrender? Check all that apply:
____ making amends with anyone you are at odds with
____ tithing to your church
____ getting up earlier so you can pray / setting aside another time to pray
____ obeying Christ in an area that you know won't be popular
____ becoming involved in or stepping down from a ministry because God says to
Delivering and obeying God's message of surrender takes faith and obedience. And once we've taken that step, it is often tested by fire.
Turn to Jeremiah 38:4-6 to see what happened to Jeremiah as a result of his faithfulness to the message. Where did he end up?
Sometimes even when we obey completely, we end up in a pit.
Sometimes even when we obey completely, we end up in a pit. The pit, or cistern, was literal for Jeremiah. One source explains, "A cistern was a large pit cut into rock and covered with plaster. It was used to gather rainwater in the winter for use during the dry summer (cf. 2:13). This cistern was so deep that they had to lower Jeremiah into it by ropes. Possibly because of the prolonged drought (cf. 14:1-4) the cistern had no water in it. All it contained was the mud that collected in the bottom of the pit from the dirt carried there by the rain." He could starve or freeze waiting for death in this solitary place.
When you have followed God, have your trials ever seemed to increase? Try to think of a specific incident to share with the group, and make notes below:
Read Through Jeremiah:
Read Jeremiah 2.
Even when we commit to God's message, life still happens. Friends betray us. Husbands leave. Jobs are lost. Health declines instead of improves. These are the times when we must trust God's greater plan even though our circumstances are screaming foul. Obedience should be rewarded, right? Jeremiah honestly dialogued with God over questions such as this, as we will see in the next few days. However, he ultimately surrendered to God's way even when it made no human sense. Thankfully, Jeremiah's story doesn't end in the bottom of a cistern.
Excerpted from Jeremiah - Women's Bible Study by Melissa Spoelstra. Copyright © 2014 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Week 1: Raising the White Flag Surrender,
Week 2: Recognizing Counterfeits and the Real Deal Idolatry,
Week 3: Opening Our Ears Listening,
Week 4: Staying Spiritually Sensitive Heart Issues,
Week 5: Quitting the Blame Game Personal Responsibility,
Week 6: Finding the Source of Our Hope The Promised Messiah,