Do You Know These Women – Part IV

In past blogs I have written about women who have been neglected in our history books.  Women who played important roles in World War II, in the NASA program and in our political system.  Sadly it seems writers of history books have told of the brave and intelligent men of our country, but seem to have overlooked so many women who have also contributed to our nation’s success.

Reading with my husband through the Bible this year I realize this is also true in our churches.  Anyone who has attended Sunday School or Bible classes in the past or read a Bible storybook for children know about the great men of the Bible.

  • Abraham, Isaac, Jacob
  • Moses and Joshua
  • Samson, Gideon
  • Samuel, Saul and David
  • Peter, John and the disciples
  • Paul

But how many know of

  • Deborah
  • Jael
  • Shiphrah
  • Puah
  • Huldah

We meet Deborah in the book of Judges.  She was a judge and a phophetess in Israel.  Interesting for a woman to be a judge in that time frame where women were often considered not much more than a man’s property.  The Lord gave Deborah instructions to call for a man named Barak and tell him he was to take 10,000 men and go to battle against the Canaanite army that was oppressing Israel.  Barak was afraid to go to battle against this powerful king and told Deborah he would not go unless she went with him.

Deborah agreed to go but told Barak:

Certainly I will go with you, But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.”

You can read the entire story in Judges 4 but a woman named Jael had the honor of killing the Canaanite king, Sisera.

In Sunday School we all heard the great story of Moses and how he was saved from death during the time Pharaoh had ordered all male babies to be killed.  The emphasis  in the story is usually how God moved miraculously to save this future leader.  However,  the fact that all those involved in his deliverance were women is usually not even mentioned.  First there were the midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, who refused to kill the male babies as Pharaoh had instructed them.  Next was Moses’ mother who by faith made a little boat coated with tar and placed Moses in the river trusting God to spare his life.  God even used Pharaoh’s daughter who had compassion when she saw Moses and adopted him.  His sister, Miriam, was wise and brave enough to quickly come out of hiding where she was watching to see what would happen to Moses.  She boldly suggested to Pharaoh’s daughter that she select a woman from the Israelites to nurse this little baby.  Without these women there might have been no Moses, no great deliver of Israel.  You can check this story out in Exodus 2

Hundreds of years later as Israel became a nation they turned from following the law of Moses and began worshiping idol gods.  Then a young king named Josiah came to the throne and began tearing down the idols built throughout the land and started repair to the temple.  In the process the high priest found the Law of Moses that had long been lost.  The priest and a scribe brought the book to Josiah

When the king read the book he tore his clothes as a sign of repentance and moaning.  He instructed these men to inquire of the Lord what they should do because it was clear that they were not following the Law.

You would think that these two men would have gone and began seeking God’s guidance.  After all, who would be closer to God than they were?  Who would better understand what God required?

The priest was the high priest – no one higher in the religious circle than he.  The scribe mentioned probably was at the head of the scribes as he came with the high priest to show Josiah the book they had found.

But these men were clearly aware that there was someone who had a better understanding of the will of God than they had.  And who was that?

A woman – Huldah.  She gave a message from God to the king regarding how the nation should respond to this crisis of faith.

That is all we hear of Huldah.  But without her message from God the revival Josiah had began might never have reached the entire nation and brought a return to God’s law.  You can check out Huldah’s story in 2 Chronicles 34.

Interesting that in the history of the church many refused to recognize that God could/did call women to minister His word.  There are still churches today that deny women the right to share the call of God on their lives.

Thankfully Israel did not reject the guidance of Deborah and Huldah and deny God’s call on their lives.

There are many other women in the Bible that played such an important part in the story of God.

Eve, Tamar, Rahab, Sarah, Miriam, Ruth, Naomi, Jehosheba, Esther, Mary, Anna,  Mary Magdalene. Lydia, Priscilla and Phoebe.

What really is interesting to me that when Jesus died, it was the women who stood at the cross.  It was the women who went to the tomb to properly prepare his body.  When Jesus arose from the dead the first person He called to share the good news was a woman.

Next time you read the Bible, play a little more attention to the women.  They are an important part of the story.

 

 

I’m Special – So Are You

In today’s reading for Lent I read the creation story and Adam and Eve’s failure to obey God’s commands.

Although I have read this story countless times I was struck today by the difference the story gives us of how God created man and woman in comparison to the rest of His creation.

The stars, moon, sun, plants, fish, birds and all the other animals we are told came about when God spoke.

“Then God said…..”      –      “and that is what happened.”

But when we come to the creation of man we find that God formed man from the dust of the ground.  To me this indicates He did more than just speak man into existence.  He took time to mold, to make a man.  Like a potter creating a clay pot or an artist painting a masterpiece, God took time to make man.

I know I’m taking liberty here with the scripture but in my imagination I can visualize God carefully beginning to design man, perhaps taking a moment to step back and look at what he was creating and making some adjustments.

My husband is a painter and I watch as he paints a scene, then steps back and often  makes some changes until it is exactly what he has seen in his own mind.

After creating Adam, again God did not just speak woman into existence.  He took a rib from Adam and fashioned a woman.

We are God’s masterpiece, His own special design.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”  Psalm 139:14

“Your hands made me and formed me.”  Psalm 119:73

We are not some accidental life form.  We were designed by God.  In His eyes, I am special – and so are you.

 

 

How Should Christians Resist Evil

I just finished reading (for the second time) the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Bonhoeffer was a German pastor during the time of Hitler and World War II.  As the Nazis came to power and took control of the church, he faced a real dilemma.  He could not continue to stand with the church hierarchy who supported Hitler’s regime yet he found it hard to speak out against the church.  Along with several other pastors and theologians he founded what was called the Confessing Church.

A group called the German Christians (Deutsche Christen) created a pro-Nazi Reich Church.  They wanted the church to conform to Nazi ideology.   In opposition to this, many Christians formed the Confessing Church taking a clear stand against Hitler and his agenda.

However, in time Bonhoeffer became discouraged by the Confessing Church because although they opposed the Nazi regime they said nothing about the persecution of the Jewish people.

As the evil of Nazism became clearer Bonhoeffer faced a difficult decision.

Should he just look the other way as many German Christians were doing?

He had already spoken out against Hitler and his government.  Should he do more?

He knew many of those who were conspiring to kill Hitler and free Germany from the nightmare that was afflicting the nation.  Should he join them in their effort?

What does a Christian do when faced with such evil?

Bonhoeffer, after much soul-searching, joined the effort to get rid of the monster in charge of their country.  For that decision he paid with his life.

He was originally charged with conspiring to rescue Jews and using his foreign travels as a pastor to share the situation in Germany with other countries hoping for help in staging a coup.  His connection to the broader resistance movement was uncovered after a failed July 20, 1944 coup.

He was taken to the Gestapo prison in Berlin and later moved to the Flossenburg concentration camp where he was hanged April 9, 1945 just weeks before the Germans surrendered to Allied forces.

As I look at the divisions in our country – liberal vs conservative, Democrats vs Republicans, pro gun control vs anti-gun control and the list goes on and on, I wonder what a Christian should do.

Please understand I am NOT suggesting that anyone is like Hitler (don’t you go there) or that our country is like Germany in World War II.

But I do wonder how much Christians should get involved in the political debate.  I remember that famous quote which has been attributed to Edmund Burke (although there is debate on who really said it first):

The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

Do we remain silent when we see bad laws enacted and evil triumphing?

Yet I look at Jesus and his disciples.  They lived under a dictatorship that was evil.  Their fellow Jews were taxed heavily by their oppressor.  Even their worship was controlled in many ways by the Romans.  The Roman ruler, Pilate, kept the garments the High Priest needed to wear on the Day of Atonement.  Each year they had to wait for him to surrender them to the priests so they could perform that sacred sacrifice.

Not one time did Jesus or his followers address that issue.  They were focused on sharing the good news that Jesus had died and rose again for their eternal salvation.

The Apostle Paul even wrote that we should obey those in authority and that God had placed them there.

On the other hand we see throughout the Bible when people disobeyed the laws that were in conflict with God’s commandments.

  • Rahab hid the Jewish spies that came to her in Jericho.
  • Daniel continued to pray to God when the king ruled no prayers were to be said to anyone but him.
  • The three Hebrew children refused to bow down to the statute and were thrown into the fiery furnace
  • When told by the Jewish rulers not to speak about Jesus, the disciples said:

Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than God.  For we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.

In my own time I think of Martin Luther King Jr who lead the non-violent civil rights protests that led to the end of Jim Crow rules that had been in place since the Civil War.

As I see and hear all the debates in our country today on so many issues:  the wall, gun control, abortion I cannot help but think of that over used phrase from a few years ago:

What would Jesus do?

Wish I had the answer but I also wish that Christians would really think.

  • What issues are worth fighting for because they are evil and against God’s Word?
  • What issues are worth fighting for because we personally believe in them?  Because we believe we have a “right” to certain things?
  • What is our basis for our beliefs – the Bible or the Constitution?
  • Are any “rights” worth fighting for to the point that they become our battle cry instead of the cry for people to know Jesus?
  • Are we Christians first ready to die for the cause of Christ – or Americans first ready to die for our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?
  • Where in the Bible did Jesus said he came so that we could have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

I still struggle with these issues.  My prayer is that the church will take a stand against real evil, but also be willing to let their time and energy (and Facebook comments) promote the cause of Jesus Christ over their desire for their rights.  I have angered friends – and some have even unfriended me on Facebook – but I will continue to say we must not become so obsessed with our “rights” that we forget our mission is to love the world and share the message of Jesus Christ.

 

Faith vs Reason

Throughout my life I have read arguments for and against having faith in the Christian God – or any god for that matter.

Some say to question our belief is wrong.  To express any doubt will definitely displease God.

Others say to believe without positive proof of a god is simply showing a lack of intellect.

I have always found myself in the middle.

I do not believe God gave us a mind and then did not expect us to use it.  I do not believe that God cannot handle our questions, our doubts.

At the same time, to assume that anyone who believes in God without being able to “prove” His existence lacks knowledge is so unfair.

In this back and forth argument I read this week from the book “Deliver Us From Evil” by Ravi Zacharias and found this quote expresses so completely how I personally feel about faith vs reason.

One of the most startling things about life is that it does not start with reason and end with faith.  It starts in childhood with faith and is sustained either by reasoning through that faith or blindly leaving the reason for faith unaddressed.  The child’s mind has a very limited capacity to inform it of the reason for its trust.  But whether she nestles on her mother’s shoulder, nurses at her mother’s breast, or runs into her father’s arms, she does so because of an implicit trust that these shoulders will bear her, that her food will sustain her, and that these arms will hold her.  If over time that trust is tested, it will be the character of the parent that will prove that trust wise or foolish.  Faith is not benefit of reason.

That pretty much describes my faith journey.  Born into a home where I was taken to church every week and taught about God from my parents, I believed in the Christian God and committed my life to Him at a very young age.  No questions asked.  Simply the faith of a child running into her father’s arms.

As a young adult I experienced some difficult times.  At the same time as these problems arose I was also attending college at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville.  In one of my classes the professor was advocating strongly that creation by God was not true.

I reached the point where I began to question if all I had believed all these years was really true.  Was God real?  Sitting on my front porch one night I looked up into the sky and said, “God if you are truly real, if what I have believed all these years are true, I need you to reveal yourself.  I need you to help me out of these difficulties.”

There was no lightning or thunder or a great voice of God.  But slowly over the next few weeks I began to see drastic changes in my circumstances that reason alone could not explain.

I also began to research my Bible, read books on archaeology, evolution and Christian apologists.  Slowly, but surely, my belief in God was increased by what I learned.  It was during the next couple of years as I studied, prayed and learned that my faith was made stronger by my questioning.

As the years have gone by and I have seen both good times and bad, I have also found myself running into my heavenly father’s arms and the character of God has proven my trust to be a wise one.

If you have doubts about God, do not deny them.  Do not be afraid to express them.  But do more than that.  Read, pray, research.

But also don’t be afraid to be that little child and run into His arms.

He said “You will seek me and find me when you seek for me with all your heart.”

I have found that true.