Lesson 12

Women in Scripture

(Judges 4, Luke 1)
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Introduction: Although the Bible consistently refers to the wives of prominent men of the Old Testament, it does not focus on women in leadership roles. This week we will study two leading women of the Bible. Deborah of the Old Testament, and Mary, the mother of Jesus. Let's jump into our study!

  1. Deborah

    1. Read Judges 4:1-2. Why did the Israelites fall into the hands of Jabin and Sisera? (Because they did not obey God.)

      1. Is this a practical principle that applies to us today? (We learned last week from our study of John the Baptist and Stephen that the righteous sometimes suffer and die for their faith. But, I believe this principle in Judges still operates as a practical principle today. The greater number suffer (here on earth) and die for their lack of obedience to God. God's rules are for our benefit, they are not arbitrary commands.)

    2. Read Judges 4:3. Why does the Bible mention the Canaanites had "900 iron chariots?" (Chariots and iron were a new level of sophistication in military weapons. It was like the advance of guns over bows and arrows. The idea of using a horse (a large animal) to pull a fast wheeled vehicle made of iron (thus not easily pierced or burned) containing at least one soldier was frightening to foot soldiers. Can you imagine being a foot soldier and for the first time seeing horses with metal "wagons" speeding towards your position? What if you weren't acquainted with horses and thought they might be large meat-eaters? What if your weapons were only made of wood? Very scary.)

      1. Evil doing got the people into trouble. What got them back on the road to help? (Turning (crying) to God for help.)

    3. Read Judges 4:4-5. How do you explain that Deborah is looked at in a positive light, yet she is leading Israel during a time when it is doing evil?
    4. Read Judges 4:6-7. The people ask God for help and the next thing we read is that Deborah sends for Barak. What is Deborah's message from God to Barak?

      1. What do you think about the number of men Deborah specifies?

      2. What significance is there that only two of the tribes (Naphtali and Zebulun) are to be the source of these 10,000 troops? (If the enemy has about 1,000 chariots this does not seem to be a very large number of men for Barak. When you add to this the fact that they could get 10,000 men from only two of the twelve tribes, it seems logical that they could have gotten a lot more men if all of the tribes had been involved. This makes me conclude that Deborah was telling Barak to use a relatively small number of troops.)

      3. What other details of the battle does God reveal to Barak through Deborah? (God tells where the battle will take place, He tells the general strategy (I will "lure" the enemy into this low (river) area) and give you the victory.)

      4. Why does God repeat that the famous general, Sisera, will be leading the opposition troops, that he will have not only troops but his chariots as well? (God is saying that He knows the difficulty of the task. He is also testing the faith of Barak when He puts the problem in such stark terms.)

      5. Does this message answer my prior question about why we look at Deborah in a good light even though she is leading a sinning Israel? (It shows that while she was leading, the people turned to God and God gave her a plan of action to relieve their suffering.)

    5. Read Judges 4:8. Does Barak believe this is a message from God? What does this say about his trust of women?

      1. Is Barak a smart man? Or, is Barak a wimp? (The argument for him being smart is that he tests the honesty of the prophet by essentially saying that if we go to battle and the Lord is not with us, you are going to be killed too. The argument for him being a wimp is that he thought they needed the presence of the woman prophet to keep the troops' morale and courage high. The word of God was not sufficient for him.)

    6. Read Judges 4:9-10. Is Deborah unhappy with the way Barak is obeying? (Yes. The problem is that God told Barak what to do and he refused unless his conditions were met. How much better just to obey God!)

      1. How about you? Do you obey God, but place conditions on your obedience?

      2. Is this an important matter? Or, is whether we obey - not how we obey - the only issue?

      3. What do you think God's attitude is towards our conditional obedience?

      4. Is there some sort of sexist "payback" to Deborah's warning that Sisera will fall to a woman? (Assuming that Barak was worried about trusting Deborah, a woman, this might be some sort of payback in kind.)

      5. What do you think Barak believes will happen when Deborah says "the Lord will hand Sisera over to a woman?" (It would be logical to think Deborah will get the credit for the win.)

        1. Is this bad - to say that Barak will not get the credit? I thought God wanted the honor and not us? Is Deborah promoting vanity?

        2. Read Judges 7:2. What is God saying to Gideon about the credit for this upcoming battle with the Midianites? (I think there are some strong similarities to these two battles. God seems to limit the number of His warriors in each case. In Gideon's battle God clearly says He wants the people to understand that He gave them the victory.)

    7. Read Judges 4:11-13. What causes Sisera to bring his chariots to the Mount Tabor region? (Elwell's "Evangelical Commentary on the Bible" explains that the Canaanites were intermingled with the Israelites in their normal living. The Canaanites generally controlled the valleys and the Israelites the hills. When Sisera heard that 10,000 Israelites had assembled in an area that was accessible to chariots, Elwell suggests this was the "lure" that brought him forward with his chariots.)

      1. Why do you think the Israelites controlled the hills? (Chariots were not very good on hills!)

    8. Read Judges 4:14-16. From where does Barak attack? (Verse 14 tells us that he "went down" Mount Tabor. The Israelites, as usual, were in the hills. The chariots were (as expected) were in the valley.)

      1. Why would Sisera's men abandon their chariots and horses and run away on foot? (This text does not give any details. However, Judges 5 is the song of victory of Deborah and Barak. Judges 5:4&20-21 suggests that it rained, the Kishon river overflowed its banks, and this defeated the iron chariots.)

      2. How complete was the victory? ( Judges 4:16 says that "not a man was left" of the enemy.)

    9. Read Judges 4:17-22. "'Come into my house,' said the spider to the fly." What do you think about the morality of what Jael did to Sisera?

    10. Read Judges 5:24-27. In the song of Deborah and Barak they call Jael "most blessed of women." Is that how you look at this? (It looks like dishonesty and betrayal to me. However, Sisera was a man of war who intended to kill Barak and his soldiers. If Barak had just obeyed he might have killed Sisera on the field of battle ( Judges 4:9). In the end I guess it did not matter to Sisera how he died.)

    11. Read Judges 5:31. What is the result of the righteous leadership of Deborah? (The land had peace for 40 years. The cries of the people to God had been answered.)

    12. What do you conclude from this story?

  2. Mary

    1. Read Luke 1:8,11-13. Did the angel give Zechariah good news or bad news? Did he want a son or not? (Verse 13 says, "your prayer has been heard." He had been praying for a son!)

    1. Read Luke 1:14, 17-19. Put Zechariah's words into today's language. ("How do I know you are not lying to me?")

      1. Was Gabriel insulted? (It sure sounds like it in verse 19. Gabriel seems to say, "Do you know who you are talking to? And, where I got this message?"

      2. Why would Zechariah doubt the answer to his prayers?

        1. Do we do that sometimes?

      3. Was this an understandable reaction for a priest? (No. He had been praying for this. He is a priest, someone who is supposed to have a closer relationship with God. And, he had the example of Abraham and Sarah who had a son late in life. Yet Zechariah doubted.)

    2. Just a few months later Gabriel has a similar mission. Read Luke 1:26-29. When verse 26 says "the sixth month," what is it talking about? (The sixth month of the pregnancy of Zechariah's wife, Elizabeth.)

      1. Mary was troubled by Gabriel's words. Why? (It would be unusual for an ordinary person, especially a woman in those days, to expect to be called "highly favored.")

        1. Would this greeting make Mary more or less likely to believe the rest of Gabriel's message?

    3. Read Luke 1:30-33. Is this a credible message? How did it compare in credibility with the message Gabriel gave to Zechariah a few months before? (It had never happened in the history of the world!)

    4. Read Luke 1:34. Did Mary doubt the words of Gabriel? (No. She simply asked "how will this work?" That seems like a reasonable question given the nature of the message.)

    5. Read Luke 1:35-38. What is Mary's response to this incredible message? (Go ahead, God.)

      1. What was the downside to having God do as Gabriel said He would? (Joseph might refuse to marry her. Her reputation would be ruined. There was even the danger of stoning (see John 8:4-5).)

      2. How would you compare Mary's response to that of the priest Zachariah?

        1. Who is the one who reasonably could have said to Gabriel, "How do I know you aren't lying to me?" (Zachariah was given a completely plausible message that fit into his life (he was married) and was in answer to his prayer. Mary was given a completely implausible (up to then) story, that could have serious negative consequences for her life, and she said, "OK, Lord.")

        2. Does this give us an insight into why God chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus?

    6. Friend, are you willing to be like Mary? To be willing to work with God's program no matter how much it costs or is contrary to your expectations? Are you, like Deborah, willing to trust God and go into battle? These two women show the courage that should come from our faith!

  1. Next Week: Tiny Sins, Huge Results

    1. Read text (end of 5) on peace for 40 years.

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