Bible Study

Diverse Women in God's Plan
by Deaconess Sylvia Johnson

Opening

Sing "For All the Faithful Women" #880, stanzas 1, 8, 9 (Hymnal Supplement '98) or selected verses of "For All the Saints" (LW 191, TLH 463, LBW 174).

Read together Romans 9:20-21: But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, "Why did you make me like this? Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?"

When God wants to accomplish a task on earth through human vessels, He often chooses the most unlikely candidate. Why? When people behold something only God can do-like getting the job done through imperfect people-their eyes turn heavenward. God receives glory and people are restored to a right relationship with their Creator.

Prayer

Our Lord and Father, we praise and thank You for the diverse women in the lineage of Jesus. As we recognize their purpose in Your plan of redemption, may we become more mindful of the purpose of our own lives. As we study their lives, may we learn from them and follow their example of faithfulness. We celebrate the gift of diversity You have so graciously bestowed upon women of the church today. May we accept each other's differences and applaud them. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

(Note: If you don't have time for everyone to do the sections on Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba, divide into four small groups with each taking a section. Then give a brief report to the whole group before concluding the study.)

Who was Tamar?

Tamar was the first registered woman in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Her son Perez became a forefather in the lineage of Jesus. Read Genesis 38:6-11, 13-18, 24-30.

Study the story of Judah and Tamar in the light of Romans 2:1-2. What is your conclusion?

Tamar's story gains perspective when the light of Jesus Christ shines on it. Despite everything that can be said against her, Tamar became an enviable woman. What honor was extended to her? What can you learn from this?

Who was Rahab?

Rahab, a prostitute, lived in Jericho. Her house was strategically situated on the wall, and it was here that the spies, sent by Joshua, found a measure of safety. Read Joshua 2:1-15, Joshua 6:15-17 and Hebrews 11:31.

Share what you can about Rahab's background and life. How much did she know about God before the spies came?

What kind of faith did Rahab have?

When the messianic line is traced in Scripture, we find several adulteresses in the list. The Lord is telling us that salvation is not dependent on human goodness but on His free grace to sinners. What comfort does this give you?

It is hard for many to see how Rahab, with her pagan heritage and her questionable morals, belongs in the illustrious line of men and women whose faith we seek to emulate. Yet she dared to stand alone, for she knew she was secure with the Almighty. Rahab was then taken into the fellowship of the Israelites and became one of them. She married Salmon and gave birth to Boaz, who became the husband of Ruth. How do we treat "outsiders" who come into our church? Do we really take in the "Rahabs"? What did Jesus do?

Who was Ruth?

Ruth, a woman of exceptional qualities, was characterized by loyalty. She was Naomi's widowed daughter-in-law who later married Boaz. Read Ruth 1:16-17, 2:17-23, and 4:13-17. (Take time to read the entire book of Ruth on your own.)

What aspect of Ruth's life had the greatest influence?

Why do you think Ruth's life took such a favorable turn?

Ruth became known as the foreigner who had dignity, a spirit of inspiration, and concern and love toward others. She became a mother in the line of the Redeemer. List Ruth's virtues and underline the most important ones for you.

Who was Bathsheba?

Bathsheba was an unusually beautiful woman. Her father, Eliam, was one of David's heroes, and her husband, Uriah, was a dedicated officer in David's army. Read 2 Samuel 11:1-17, 26-27.

Study the story of David and Bathsheba in the light of James 1:14-15. How did their sin start?

Bathsheba knew what was right, but she did not do it. Could she have done anything to prevent David from insulting God? If so, how?

The woman who started with a negative role in history became, by God's grace, the wife of Israel's greatest king and the mother of its wisest and richest ruler, Solomon. She also appears among the ancestors of the Savior. What do you learn from Bathsheba's story?

Who was Mary?

Mary was one of us-at times anxious, troubled, tired and sad. The daughter of Heli, she was of the tribe of Judah. She was a conscientious mother, most likely quite young, who felt the presence and power of the living God, who could speak of His mercies and who had faith in His promises.

What do we learn about Mary's character during the visit with the angel? (see Luke 1:29,34,38).

Read Mary's song in Luke 1:46-55. What does it reveal about her?

Closing Thoughts

Let's celebrate diversity; God did in Christ's lineage, in the lives of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary. Remember the most unlikely people can demonstrate character, courage and faith. He wrapped His arms around each of these different women of faith and invited them to go forward with Him.

Speak together this blessing: May we move forward wrapped in the arms of our Heavenly Father. May we feel the love of Christ as did the women of old, and may our faith nurtured by the Holy Spirit make us willing vessels ready for His use. Amen.

Deaconess Sylvia Johnson, Hales Corners, WI is VP Servant Resources of the English District LWML. She is a pastor's wife, mother of three and grandmother of three. She serves as Parish Deaconess at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Oconomowoc, WI.