Disclaimer: this is a long post. Feel free to skim it:)
This past Wednesday Jeremy had me in the line up to speak to the youth. Yeay & nay at the same time. I love the studying that goes into a lesson, but I am most comfortable in front of a classroom of just kids speaking about Reading and English. The very few grown up that were present were just enough to make me speak 40 miles an hour and forget a ton of what I wanted to say. Then again I spoke so far they probably didn't hear it anyway. Pretty soon we are starting small groups, which means I get to lead the girls. I love this idea! It is going to be a great way to teach myself while teaching the girls. Seriously, if you want to learn you should teach. I learn the most when I study and teach on a topic.
Now to the actual topic I talked about Wednesday. Jeremy had originally asked me to just give my testimony, but a few of the girls had already heard it and I felt like it was a bit of a cop-out. God has really been speaking to me about different women in the bible and how I should be more like them and I fought back and forth with the idea before Jeremy gave the the final shove to speak on that. Below are the notes for what I shared with our youth group::
As women, in this particular generation we are insanely lucky. We can do so many thing, and have so much available to us that our mothers and grandmothers didn't have. There are millions of bible studies, MOPS, women's conferences, tons of single women doing missions, teaching, leading, and just flat doing. The best part, we can do all of these things without anyone looking at us like we are nuts for doing it. My Mom's generation got the freedom that the hippie feminist of the 60's managed to get us, and now decades later we can do just about anything a man can, granted with some limitations, and we need to take advantage of it. We can serve, and should serve...and we have no excuses.
Recently I’ve been studying Nehemiah and a few verses in there sparked this need to encourage young women to serve in some way, shape, or form. To give you a little background on the book, Jerusalem was in ruins and its people were exiled. Nehemiah got it in him that he needed to rebuild, even though the king had previously said no…he sent Nehemiah off with people to protect him on his journey. Rebuilding wasn’t going to be easy, and it could have been way worse, but through God’s protection and providence the city was rebuilt. The people who were involved in the building is where I got really excited. I’ll share the verse that got me going on this and then I’ll explain:
Nehemiah 3 – Next to him Shallum the son of Hallohesh, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired, he and his daughters (3:12)
What is so big about that? In all of chapter 3 those were the only ladies mentioned rebuilding the wall. Why were they mentioned? Well, from what I’ve read they probably weren’t the only ones. They were just the only ones mentioned because Shallum had no sons. Due to writing customs at the time, women weren’t mentioned. That doesn’t mean they weren't doing…it just wasn’t talked about. Think for a second about what rebuilding a wall in the midst of rubble must have been like.
At some point in our lives we've all built something. I’ve built with Habitat for Humanity before…in perfectly good surroundings & I was miserable as could be, all while holding the most up to date power tools a first world country has to offer.
These girls didn’t have a nail gun. I’m not so sure what they had, but they weren’t just delivering lemonade and cookies to the men as they worked. They were rebuilding. Look back at Nehemiah at how they word it in the chapter, “next to them.” It says it over and over. The women didn’t work on one gate while they men worked elsewhere, no everyone worked shoulder to shoulder with their families and fellow exiled community members.
That definitely convicted me about skipping work days…then again it’s become more of joke that I show up at the end, so why ruin it.
Now let me briefly cruise through a few more women of the bible, otherwise I could turn this into a month long women of the bible feminist rant. (I just may turn it into a blog series lol)
But I digress…
First up ::
Miriam – a leader of women
She is the older sister of Moses, who is best known for being the one who watched over him as he was placed in a basket. She went on to become a leader of the Hebrews as they escaped Egypt.
While she was a known leader during the Exodus, there was an instance in Numbers 12 when she crossed her bounds and because she spoke about against Moses’s authority (because of the woman he married) God punished her with leprosy for 7 days. Notice that whom the Lord loves he also chastises, he cared about Miriam, and cared enough to put her back on the path that she was supposed to be on. It wasn’t for Miriam or Aaron to judge Moses, and God made that clear.
The story of Miriam is disjointed and according to some scholars (at least the ones I read) there was probably much more told of her in their oral history. However we have 4 events in her life that we can learn from:
1. Saving her brother in Exodous 2: 1-10
2. The song of Miriam in Exodous 15:20-21 which happens to be one of the oldest poetic couplets. (my English teacher self loves that)
3. Miriam’s ordeal in Numbers 12 where the story of the established law is told. Here you see Miriam and her brother Aarom both as popular Hebrew leaders, but also bound by the law represented by Moses.
4. The last time we see Miriam is he death in Numbers 20:1-2. She dies in Kadesh and shortly thereafter the group starts complaining about water again…
What can we learn from Miriam? While there are many themes in the Exodus, remember Miriam as a woman who saw the responsibility to fight injustice wherever it was encountered. She is known as the leading woman of Israel. While she was a leader, God still had to teach her just what her position as a leader was.
Deborah – a judge and warrior
Interesting enough, Deborah is the only female judge to be mentioned in the book of Judges. Now a judge at this time is not at all what a judge is in our time. In Deborah’s time a judge was an Israel tribal leader who had the authority to settle disputes and problems in times of peace, and in war time acted as a rallying point to gather the tribes and organize resistance. Being that Deborah was a woman it is apparent that the people of the time had no problem accepting her as a judge and viewed judges more as “God’s people.”
In Judges 4 Deborah is introduced as a prophetess, a prophet not being someone who told the future but who got a message from God in some way and passed it on. Now as a judge of Israel Deborah did not impose authority onto the Israelite people, but instead acted as a representative of God and transmitted his direct messages to them.
What can we learn from Deborah? She is best known for leading the poorly equipped Israelite troops and winning over the Canaanites. She was a leader who devised a battle strategy that won a war. She was a strong woman, who followed God and gave his orders.
Side note: Jael actually finished off the enemy general with a tent peg and a mallet when he fled on foot and abandoned his army. He came to her tent in hopes of hiding and she tricked him before finally killing him.
Esther – a clever Jewish woman
Esther is known as a valiant woman who saved her own people from what could have been a terrible massacre of the Jews. Her Jewish name Hadassah means ‘myrtle’ which is a tree whose leave only release their fragrance when crushed; much like Esther who only showed her heroism when her people were in danger. Her name Esther actually means ‘hidden’, just like her true identity as a Jew was hidden for years.
While the book of Esther doesn’t seem to openly mention God anywhere in it, God’s divine providence is shown throughout.
Here are a few things about the book of Esther ::
1. Vashti is banished and Esther becomes queen.
2. Esther saves her uncle Mordecai from Haman.
Mordecai actually offended a Persian official who decided not only to kill him but all of the Jews in Persia. (this is where her heroism comes into play) Esther then holds two banquets and pleads with the king, saving Mordecai from death and punishing Haman.
3. Esther saved the Jewish people of Persia.
Because of Esther, letters were sent throughout the kingdom of Persia repealing the decree of death for all Jews. Esther put her own life on the line for her people. In any of these instances the king could have easily had her killed for “disrespecting” him. During that time she had actually not had much contact with him and without being summoned by him was just about welcoming death to seek him out. Instead God protects her and her odd ball husband repeals the Jewish genocide.
Know this about Esther, she was a brave woman who had to conceal her true identity to save herself, but ultimately put that on the line to save her uncle and an entire people group. God calls us to have courage and be strong in him, he has a plan for everything and we simply have to follow his will. By following him we can do amazingly huge things (like save the Jews or hammer a peg into a general’s head).
Last but not least is Ruth. I debated on leaving her out and sticking to 3 women, but Ruth deserves the lime light as well.
Ruth – loyal to a fault
In Naomi’s grief she wanted Ruth to leave her and go back to her people, but Ruth refused and stayed with her mother-in-law. I don’t have too many friends who would refuse to go back to their own family after their husband died in order to stay with their mother-in-law, but apparently this woman was something else. In the story of Ruth we see that her unfaltering loyalty to Naomi and the good sense to listen to the woman’s advice allows the two to show great courage and overcome adversity. Ruth’s story shows how even an unlikely foreigner from the disliked Moabite nation can be used to move God’s plan even further towards completion. Because she met Boaz, worked in his fields, and followed Naomi’s instruction she became woven in the cloth that made up the blood line to Jesus and allowed her, a childless widow, to become the great grandmother to King David.
This unlikely, but God ordained encounter, that led to the marriage of Boaz and Ruth, shows that two women; one shrewd, courageous, & preserving, the other being strong, loyal, intelligent, & level headed can work for God through the toughest of circumstances. Losing both of their husbands (and Naomi a son as well) in a short amount of time, yet still following God’s plan in the worst of times.
So how can we learn from these women to become Godly (young) women?
1. Don’t be afraid to be a bold leader like Miriam. By following God’s will she saved her brother and helped lead the Israelites out of Egypt. We can’t always be leaders, but if that is where God puts you don’t second guess him like Moses did, stand up and do what he calls you to do…just don’t overstep your bounds.
2. Like Deborah, don’t be afraid to speak out for what is right and just in the eyes of God. Be brave and fight for him. God may not call you to lead a real war, but trust me as soon as you are out there spreading God’s word and sharing the gospel you will be attacked. Be a strong woman and comparable to that of a man like Jael, hold your own and be able to do what needs to be done.
3. Like all of the other women Esther was a very strong woman. When her uncle who had cared for her was in trouble (as well as her entire people group) she knew she was the only one who could change the coming events and took a step out in faith that she could indeed save the Jews. She was cleaver and wise and did what she had to do, Esther wasn’t sheepish and didn’t back away when things got dangerous, she instead made sure she was one step ahead.
4. Be loyal and faithful like Ruth. Not only is that a good quality to have towards friends, but God knows how faithful you are towards him.
Kelly Minter said, “A faithful heart is not necessarily a perfect heart.”
For instance Abraham had a few big seasons of sin that hurt his wife and put lives in danger, but something in his heart still rung faithful to the ears of God.
Our job is simply to be faithful and loyal, while his job is to be a covenant God.
5. Serve and work like the daughters in Nehemiah. If there is work to be done, you are part of the people who can do it. Working alongside others lends itself naturally to ministry. You can’t minister to people you are nowhere near. Participate in projects with that help the homeless, go to other nations and serve there, go down the street and ask an older lady if she needs you to rake her yard or do her dishes. Being in the same place as people is the only way to minister to them.
Another Kelly Minter quote, but I love her, “The people you minister to will never be the same, and no will you because the poor often give back with a faith the rest of us tend to be severely impoverished in. We give what they don’t have, and they give what we don’t have, and oftentimes we walk away with the far greater bounty.”
For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness.
2 Cor. 8:12-14
We are called to ministry and the best way to do it is to look at the examples set before us and how they did it. The women of the bible were strong women; they did what they had to do no matter what. While some things may terrify you, know that the women who came before you were probably terrified at times as well. You will be the person in ministry who you think you can be, if you have little confidence in your ability you will bare little fruit. However, if you equip yourself in the word of God and are faithful to him you will be ready for whatever circumstance is brought your way.
Is anyone still out there? Ha! I know, this was a crazy long post...