Friday, April 12, 2013

What Can a Woman Do?

Today is the final day of week fourteen, reading the Bible through together in a year.  Our scriptures today are Judges 4-6; Luke 21.

Often, I like to look at what the OT and NT passages have in common, as I'm deciding what to write about each day.  Today a common theme unites the two passages, along with a common question:  "What can a woman do?"  Unfortunately, many churches limit the opportunities that women have to serve God.  I consider myself neither ultra-conservative, nor ultra-liberal.  I try to have a balanced approach to reading and teaching the Bible.  But I do get discouraged when I see people who try to limit women's service to God, as if they are second-class citizens.  What can a woman do?  Empowered by God's Spirit, she can do a lot!

Painting of Deborah by Charles Landelle - 1901
First, in the fourth chapter of Judges we find Deborah sitting beneath the palm tree.  She is the wife of Lappidoth, yet we never see or hear anything from her husband.  Clearly, Deborah's closeness to God far outstrips her husband's spirituality, and her influence in the Kingdom of God outpaces that of her husband.  Here is a woman who was not "properly submitted," and her audacity saves her people.  She is a prophetess, which means she hears the voice of God and proclaims God's message to the people.  Strong's Cocordance says that the name Deborah comes from the root word dabar, which means "spoke."  The NAS Exhaustive Concordance says that it's often translated as "commanded, counseled, declared, preached, or proclaimed."  She is also a governmental leader, exercising authority over men and women as a divinely appointed judge.  She stops short of being a military leader, leaving that duty to her general Barak.  Yet, he is afraid to go to battle unless she accompanies him.  There's no indication that Deborah actually fought--only that she went with Barak to the battle.  Sounds like a pretty smart woman to me--one who can lead, but who leaves the gory details to soldiers who are suited to the task.  What can a woman do?  We'll let Deborah answer that question.

Jael and Sisera
Next, we find Jael welcoming Sisera into her tent.  She isn't an Israelite herself, but the wife of Heber the Kenite.  Interestingly, just as we never meet Lappidoth, we also never encounter Heber in the story of his wife's heroics.  As beaten and exhausted as he was from the battle, Sisera might not have been too much for her husband to take in a fight.  Yet Heber remains absent from the story, perhaps hiding from the general despite the man's fatigue.  Instead, it's Heber's wife who takes action.  Feigning hospitality, she invites Sisera into her tent.  When he asks for water, she goes above and beyond his request, providing milk (that will contribute to his sleepiness).  She tucks him in sweetly and says that she'll keep watch while he takes a nap.  Then she drives a tent peg through his skull.  What can a woman do?  We'll let Jael answer that question.

Then, in the 21st chapter of Luke, we find a poor widow whose name is never even given.  All around her the wealthy are throwing their coins into trumpet-shaped offering receptacles.  While the clattering noise of many coins from wealthy worshippers resounds like a gong all around her, she quietly reaches into her purse and produces all she has.  The tink, tink of her tiny treasure goes  unheralded and unheard by everyone around her...except the One who matters most.  From across a crowded room, Jesus' ears tune in to this offering that comes from the bottom of her heart.  Financial fanfares don't catch the Lord's attention, but this gift given in humble sacrifice is enough to make Jesus stop and point it out to His disciples.  “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them.  For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”  What can a woman do?  We'll let this poor widow answer that question.

The Widow's Mite
What can a woman do?  Empowered by God's Spirit, she can do a lot!  Can a woman lead?  Can a woman speak God's word before crowds of people?  Can she exercise governing authority?  Can she become a hero?  Can she set an example?  God's perfect Word says that she can.  

Many people cite the Bible to try to prove that women are ill-equipped to serve, or that they are disqualified as leaders.  They say that people who allow women to have an important role in church aren't taking the Bible seriously, or that they aren't believing it in its entirety.  But it's because I take the Bible seriously and believe it in its entirety that I support women who want to lead and women who want to serve.  What can a woman do?  Empowered by God's Spirit, she can do a lot!  She can boldly say, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4;13)!"

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