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TAMAR

The courage to risk it all

 In a powerless situation she went to the core of her being to regain her identity, her self worth and her life

Scripture reference: Genesis 38

Synopsis:

1. In Tamar’s patriarchal culture, women were property. Their only identity came from producing male heirs.

2. Tamar was a widow with no sons. She was trapped and powerless. Her first husband died. Her father-in-law, Judah, the king of Jericho gave her to her brother-in-law to conceive, which was the law of the land. Her brother-in-law hated her so he humiliated and demeaned her and the Lord struck him down and killed him. She now legally deserved to marry the third son to help her conceive but when he was of age Judah would not give him to her. He feared this son would die too, thus blaming Tamar for the other deaths.

3. In the meantime Tamar was living in her father-in-law’s home perhaps in a slave-like situation. Her only hope for her identity, in her culture, was in her legal right to the third son of Judah and time was running out.

4. As a last resort she dug deep, went to the core of who she was and put everything on the line. She deliberately attracted her father-in-law by dressing beautifully, covering her face, and standing by the side of the road where he was herding cattle. He invited her into his tent and used her as a prostitute saying he would give her a gift in return for her favors. She asked for a pledge from him and he gave her his ring and staff. She got pregnant by him and when the household found out they threatened her with death by burning–because they found out she had acted as a prostitute. When they took her to her father-in-law who was the magistrate, to accuse her, she showed him his ring and staff.

5. Judah was dumbstruck. He realized at once what she had done to secure her legal heir in his family. He praised her for her courage and told her he should have given her his third son. He said, “She has been more righteous than I.” She had gained back her identity and self worth and even taught Judah an ethical lesson.

6. They forgave each other–perhaps because she had shown him her power within her powerlessness. She became the mother of twins and she and Judah became the great, great, great, great grandparents of Boaz who was Ruth’s husband. Ruth and Boaz were the grandparents of King David.

Quiet time reflecting on the story with the following questions.

How would you imagine Tamar using her shawl in her story?

When have you felt trapped in a scary situation in which you feared you had no options? How did it feel to you?

When have you taken a risk for yourself that you felt was overwhelming but you knew you had to do it? How did you manage your emotions?

Has anyone ever apologized or acted in an apologetic way to you after finding out you took a stand for the right reasons? What was it like for you to receive this from another?

How has God turned your life story around and helped you through a dark time into more light?

What did Tamar do, in summary, to keep the genealogy of Jesus going?

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RUTH

 The Woman who Followed her Heart

She and Naomi journeyed together, starting over in a new land

Scripture reference: The book of Ruth in the Hebrew Scriptures (OT). Only 3 other women have books named for them, Esther (OT), Judith, Susanna (Apocrypha)

Synopsis:

1. Ruth was happily married, living with her husband and in-laws. Her husband, brother-in-law and father-in-law died. She was a widow and childless. In her culture women’s identity came primarily through producing male heirs. She had none; no identity.

2. Naomi, her mother-in-law, who she loved and trusted, decided to go back to her home country. Ruth’s people were an enemy of Naomi’s people. So Ruth’s decision to leave her own people to follow Naomi was difficult.

3. Courage was necessary to take this journey to a foreign land, a land of her people’s enemies. The famous wedding verse comes from her words to Naomi, “Wherever you go I will go. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”

4. Ruth had deep faith in God and listened to God. Against the odds she followed her heart, trusted Naomi, and went to Israel with her.

5. Risk and danger accompanied her. It was risky getting food, risky gleaning in the fields because she could be attacked. She had to faithfully follow Naomi’s advice and God’s guiding to know where to hunt for food, in which field. She gleaned in the field of Boaz, Naomi’s kinsman (Ruth 2:8-10, 2:22).

6. Big risk! Ruth’s kindness and faithfulness to Naomi helped soften Boaz’s heart towards her. But she still had to take a big risk. She had to become assertive with Boaz, the owner of the field in which she gathered grain. She had to get his attention. Naomi instructed her to sleep near him and to remind him of how he could help them, for he was a relative (Ruth 2:11, 3:2-4, 3:7-10).

7. Ruth eventually married Boaz and brought Naomi a new grandson, Obed, who became the father of King David, the greatest king in Israel. Ruth’s identity was restored and she became part of the genealogy of Jesus.

Quiet time reflecting on the story with the following questions

How would Ruth have used a shawl in her story?

Have you ever lost people you love and felt really alone? What was the hardest thing about those losses for you?

Have you ever left your home and moved to an unfamiliar place? What was the most frightening thing about it?

Did anyone befriend you or journey with you? What did they do? How did it feel?

When you make good, but risky transitions, how has God been available to you?

RAHAB

(If you only receive part of this essay, click on the title)

The Woman Behind the Wall who got Free

 She took down her own “prison” walls and found freedom

 Scripture reference: Joshua 2-6 (especially chapters 2 and 6)

Synopsis:

1. Rahab lived in Jericho, which was heavily fortified with big walls. Hers is a tough story, dangerous, and personally degrading. She ran an inn, probably a brothel and was a prostitute. In a patriarchal culture this may have been her lot because she was childless and tossed away with a divorce that was easily attainable. She would have been powerless and this may have been her only way to survive. She was demeaned by the culture yet crucial to God’s plan for all of history.

2. Rahab received spies from Israel at her inn. Israel was a mighty culture about to take over Jericho. She hid the spies from the authorities and protected them, thus risking her life for the spies’ safety. God could have chosen someone else for this important task but Rahab was selected.

3. She lowered the famous scarlet cord (shawl??) to let the spies out of the city wall where she lived. Thus she risked the lives of her family too, to let the spies stay with her.

4. Rahab made a deal with the spies that when Israel invaded Jericho she and her family would be saved. The plan was to lower the scarlet cord from her window so the army would know which house was hers.

5. When Joshua circled 7 times around the city and blew the trumpets (Joshua fit the battle of Jericho!) the walls fell and fire destroyed the city. Rahab and her family were taken out of the city before it was destroyed because of her faithfulness in housing the spies.

6. Rahab married one of the spies, Salman, and had a son named Boaz who later married Ruth, who was the great grandmother of David. Rahab befriended God’s people and became part of the great plan of the history of God’s people. She took big risks to listen to God’s leading and thus freed herself from her own walls and the culture’s “prison” walls.

Quiet time reflecting on the story with the following questions

How would you imagine Rahab using her shawl in her story?

When have you felt demeaned by the culture or other people because of who you are or the work you do? What is that like for you?

When have you taken a risk to save or protect another person who you believed in? What was it like for you?

When have you had to count on someone else to keep his/her word in a threatening situation? How did it work out?

How does God work through trials and risky situations in your life to bring about miraculous results or to bring down your walls?

What did Rahab do, in summary, to keep the genealogy of Jesus going?

MARY, MOTHER OF JESUS

Becoming a sacrament for Jesus

Sacrament; an outward visible sign of God’s invisible grace

Scripture reference: the four Gospels, Acts

Synopsis: Mary’s story told from a mother’s perspective

1. Mary was an unmarried woman whose fiance had to have an angel instruct him not to abandon her. She experienced enormous suffering and lived through a time of political unrest in which a ruler tried to kill her son, but they escaped with him to another country. Her son got himself murdered in the biggest scandal of the century and everything she believed in was gone. Then thankfully it all came together in the end.

2. Mary had an unusual conception and birth with angels, shepherds, wise men and cattle attending her, in an inn, in a town she was not familiar with. She and her husband fled when Jesus was a baby to avoid his murder. She now knew there was something unusual about this baby. She knew her role was to understand and support him. She became a visible means of invisible grace.

3. At age 12 her son was lost from the family on their trip home from Jerusalem. She was frantic with worry and finally found him in the temple where he rebuffed her. She then saw his greater role in the world and she watched him grow in wisdom and knowledge. (But she probably kept a closer eye on him as well!)

4. At a wedding in Cana, the wine had run out and she, knowing what he was capable of, told him the wine was gone. He rebuffed her but she knew she could stand firm and support him here. She gave him that look! Then she told the staff to do exactly what he said. The result: his first miracle. Turning water into wine. “Thanks Mom,” he may have said!

5. At a public gathering she asked to see him and he said no. She realized this was a time of separation for them and that he had greater teaching to do now. It was a difficult time but she did pull back since she truly understood his work. She was invisible grace; a sacrament.

6. At the cross Mary was there at Jesus’ feet when most had abandoned him. She was in agony with grief. Her son was killed in a horrible death. She stood with John, the beloved disciple. Jesus recognized her and told John to take care of her. She was still his mother. She was still there for him.

7. After the resurrection she was there to see him again in the upper room with the disciples. She was present for the founding of the church. She stood by her son through birth, growing, learning, separation, death, and resurrection. She was a sacrament for him; a visible sign of invisible grace.

Quiet time reflecting on the story with the following questions

How would you imagine Mary using her shawl in her story?

When have you felt like you’ve played a humble but important role in someone else’s life? What was your role?

What experiences do you hold in your heart, knowing you do not understand them but that they hold a deeper meaning for you to ponder?

Who has been a sacrament in your life, a visible sign of invisible grace? Jesus with skin on!

How has God called you to be a sacrament for others?

What did Mary do, in summary, to insure the genealogy of Jesus?

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