Significant – A Study of Women in Jesus’ Genealogy: Six Ordinary Women, One Extraordinary God (Bonfire Books, 2020) is, as the cover states, a study of six women in Jesus’ genealogy.
In the “Author’s Note”, author Rachel Risner, wife of a minister and mother of seven, stresses that her aim while writing this book was to stay true to God’s Word and, when necessary, to use only reliable commentaries. She also admits that she is a fallible human being and urges her readers to do two things: 1) hold “God’s word alone in the highest regard” and 2) know God’s Word for themselves. While it may seem that what she says here is a “given” and doesn’t need to be stated, readers of contemporary Christian nonfiction know otherwise. After studying the remainder of the book carefully, cross-referencing Risner’s study with the Bible and with credible and reliable reference materials, it is clear that the author has stayed true to her aim.
Risner focuses on six Biblical women in Jesus’ lineage who are often overlooked: Sarah, Leah, Tamar (Judah’s wife, not King David’s daughter), Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. Each woman is the subject of one chapter, and the six chapters themselves are broken into five days of reading and activities.
Relevant historical, cultural, and biographical background is provided in each chapter. This information is presented in a way that is concise and clear but at the same time interesting and engaging and makes more clear the women’s circumstances, options, and decisions. Risner goes into detail about each woman’s story, highlighting their weaknesses, strengths, and struggles. She shares how their stories are relevant in today’s culture and how they are mirrored in her own life, and she invites readers, through thought-provoking questions, to examine how they are mirrored in their own lives as well. She continually brings the focus back to God and to His Word, providing narrative and questions that lead readers to consider what God is both telling them and calling them to do.
It is important to note that throughout the study of these six women’s lives, Risner shines a spotlight on evidence that, no matter what the circumstances, God was in clear and total control of these women’s stories. At the same time, she leads readers to see how He continues to be in complete control of their circumstances
While other Bible studies attempt to do the same thing — provide information about Biblical characters, show the parallels to life today, and ask the reader to make connections to their own life — Risner brings a fresh, and sometimes challenging, voice to the narrative. For example, she is candid (but respectful) about the life of Rahab, a liar and a prostitute. She asks the very important question, “Who are the Rahabs today?” and she brings into the discussion the very people — meth addicts, for example — that are (like the six subjects of the book) often ignored.
Risner also provides other valuable resources through links to four add-ons: six (one per chapter) free video lessons with lesson notes; a free ebook on the effective use of social media by local women’s ministries; the authors blog, with encouraging posts, book giveaways, etc.; and promotional tools for use in sharing about a local Significant study group.
Significant is an outstanding Bible study for both individual and group use. While it focuses on six women, men would also find this an impactful study, and it would be a thoughtful gift for anyone on a gift list. Never preachy, always engaging and relevant, this is a study that will bless the lives of those who participate in it.
I received a free copy of this book and was not asked for anything — not even a review — in return. I have chosen to share this review only because I have found this study to be an excellent resource.