Monday, March 18, 2013

Women in Biblical Times

Good morning!  Today is the first day of our eleventh week, reading the Bible through together in a year.  Our scriptures for this week are:
  • Numbers 26-29; Luke 2
  • Num 30-33; Luke 3; Psalm 35
  • Num 34-36; Luke 4
  • Deuteronomy 1-3; Luke 5; Psalm 36
  • Deut 4-5; Luke 6
Today, I want to emphasize one thing that the Old Testament and the New Testament passages have in common: the role of women.

In Numbers 27, we read about the daughters of Zelophehad:

Then drew near the daughters of Zelophehad the son of Hepher, son of Gilead, son of Machir, son of Manasseh, from the clans of Manasseh the son of Joseph. The names of his daughters were: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. And they stood before Moses and before Eleazar the priest and before the chiefs and all the congregation, at the entrance of the tent of meeting, saying, “Our father died in the wilderness. He was not among the company of those who gathered themselves together against the Lord in the company of Korah, but died for his own sin. And he had no sons. Why should the name of our father be taken away from his clan because he had no son? Give to us a possession among our father's brothers.”
Daughters of Zelophehad Appeal to Moses
Moses brought their case before the Lord. And the Lord said to Moses, “The daughters of Zelophehad are right. You shall give them possession of an inheritance among their father's brothers and transfer the inheritance of their father to them. And you shall speak to the people of Israel, saying, ‘If a man dies and has no son, then you shall transfer his inheritance to his daughter. And if he has no daughter, then you shall give his inheritance to his brothers. 10 And if he has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his father's brothers. 11 And if his father has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to the nearest kinsman of his clan, and he shall possess it. And it shall be for the people of Israel a statute and rule, as the Lord commanded Moses.’”

Then, in Luke 2, we read about Anna:
36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Anna the Prophetess
Many people have said to me, "I'd hate to be a woman in biblical times," and, for the most part, I agree with them.  Women were often mistreated and looked down on by men.  But in these two readings we see not what the culture thought of women, but what God Himself thinks of women.  When the daughters of Zelophehad appealed to the Lord for property rights, He granted their request--and why wouldn't He?  It was only right!  When Anna sought the Lord by abiding in the temple night and day, God answered her by revealing Himself to her.  He gave her prophetic ability, and allowed her to speak on His behalf.  He permitted her to live long enough to see the Messiah as a baby, and then used her to declare His redemption to the people.

When we read the Bible and see how poorly women were treated in that culture, it's easy to get discouraged.  So I want to take today's scriptures as an opportunity to show how highly God thinks of women.  He elevates them above the lowly status that some cultures want to give them.

Galatians 3 says:  26 For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.

Some would say that, to be gender-inclusive, the ESV should have translated verse 26 as saying "children of God, through faith."   But to me, this is a very important distinction.  Since generally property and inheritance rights went only to sons, Paul says in Galatians that male and female are all "sons" of God.  We are all inheritors, and heirs according to promise.  Therefore, there is no longer a racial distinction, a gender distinction, or socioeconomic distinction between people.  In Christ, all are equal.  Equally saved, equally called, and equally gifted to do God's work.

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