Thursday, September 26, 2013

Prophetesses in the Bible

Today is the fourth day in our 38th week, reading the Bible through in a year.  Our scriptures* today are:  2 Kings 22-23; 2 Corinthians 5; Psalm 73.  

On the heels of last week's article, "Should Women Remain Silent in the Churches?" comes another scripture about a strong female leader who spoke for God.  In 2 Kings 22, we read the story of Huldah, a woman who was known to speak for God so strongly, that a kind and a high priest sought her out in order to hear from the Lord.  

And Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. And Shaphan the secretary came to the king, and reported to the king, “Your servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house and have delivered it into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the Lord.” 10 Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it before the king.
11 When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes.12 And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Micaiah, and Shaphan the secretary, and Asaiah the king's servant, saying, 13 “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.”
14 So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter), and they talked with her. 15 And she said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: ‘Tell the man who sent you to me, 16 Thus says the Lord, Behold, I will bring disaster upon this place and upon its inhabitants, all the words of the book that the king of Judah has read. 17 Because they have forsaken me and have made offerings to other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the work of their hands, therefore my wrath will be kindled against this place, and it will not be quenched. 18 But to the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, thus shall you say to him, Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, 19 because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord, when you heard how I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the Lord. 20 Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place.’” And they brought back word to the king.

So powerful were the words that Huldah shared with the king that he instituted a massive religious reform in the land, as a result of the things she spoke.  

Which leads me to wonder what people mean when they say that women aren't spiritually equipped to teach or lead men.  Really???  So, the prophetesses in the Bible through whom God spoke--they were really sinning, because they should have remained in quiet submission?  

If women are not to lead, not to speak for God, then what shall we do with Miriam, Huldah, Deborah, Isaiah's wife, Noadiah, Anna, and the daughters of Phillip the Evangelist?  Click here to read a great article entitled "Women Prophets in the Bible."  Should we simply ignore their witness?  Should we say, "Yes, I know that there were plenty of female prophets in the Bible, but we shouldn't allow women to be ordained or teach or preach in our churches?"  
I think not.

God has gifted women as well as men to speak for Him--to teach, to preach, and to lead.  

I don't really know why some churches are still having this conversation in the 21st century.

This past week, I attended the "Elevating Preaching" conference at Wake Forest University, School of Divinity.  There, we heard from three distinguished leaders in the field of preaching.   Among them was Dr. Anna Carter Florence, who is the Peter Marshall Associate Professor of Preaching at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia.  Dr. Florence holds degrees from Yale and Princeton.  She has written two books: Preaching as Testimony, and Inscribing the Word.  What an amazing spirit she possesses!  As she speaks, you know you're hearing from God.

And yet, some would disqualify her from ministry simply because of her gender.

Dr. Carter Florence spoke about the four girls in Wilcox County, Georgia, who stood up to a sixty-year-long tradition of racially segregated proms.  Up to this point, students in that county had a choice of attending the "White Prom" or the "Black Prom."  This year, for the first time in Wilcox history, students hosted an integrated prom.  These four young women served as prophetesses to their whole community--not speaking in religious words, but still declaring God's truth that all people are equal before their Creator.  Prophetesses continue to speak!

What would we do without strong women who are willing to speak the truth?  What would we do without the mothers who bore us on their knees and nursed us at their breasts?  Without godly mothers and grandmothers who taught us the Bible in our homes?  What would happen to the churches in our nation if our daughters refuse to speak the truth, for fear of being told that they are "out of line?"  Should we tell them that their place is in the home, but not church?  May it never be so.

Just as God calls humble men to strength and leadership, so God also takes women who are meek and submitted to Him and turns them into strong prophetesses who can speak His word to those who will listen.  I hope that you will speak for women's rights in your church, that you'll advocate for all the Huldahs, Miriams, and Deborahs in your congregation.  I hope that your attitude will be one of affirmation and empowerment to those women who hear God's voice, and are courageous enough to speak His truth--even in some churches that still suppress the female voice.

*Scriptures taken from the ESV.

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