Tag Archives: Women

God’s People, part 182: The Other Women

Read Luke 8:1-3

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened.”  (Luke 24:10, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

bible-films-christ-followers-women-1128908-wallpaperPart 182: The Other Women. One of the truly remarkable aspects of the Gospels is Jesus’ interaction with women. His willingness to teach and engage, let alone permit, women followers distinguishes Jesus from all the rest of the sagely rabbis and philosophers of his day and age. Not only that, but he is honestly distinguishable from all of the teachers and philosophers of years gone by leading up to his age. It was truly unique to Jesus.

Even more remarkable is that the Gospel writers themselves were not scandalized by it; rather, they included that detail in their accounts. I love when people bring up the “inconsistencies” between the Gospel accounts as “proof” that the texts are not reliable historically. Of course, we don’t hold the same standard with differing biographies on JFK or Abraham Lincoln, all of which have discrepancies in them too; however, with the Gospels, modernists like to hold the Gospels to a “higher” standard.

Yet, what makes the Gospel accounts credible to me is that they include things that would be scandalous and even embarrassing for the people they are seeking to account for. For instance, Jesus hanging out with prostitutes and tax collectors would have been a shame on him and an embarrassment to his family, yet that is included in the accounts. What’s more, Jesus having female followers would have been scandalous. Women knew their place in that society and their place was in the home, not learning and debating with sagely teachers. Only men were permitted to do that.

Yet, the Gospel writers include the fact that Jesus had faithful women followers and, even more importantly, that some of them were prominently supporting his ministry financially. On top of that, the Resurrected Christ is first seen and witnessed to by the women and, in a twist of epic proportions, those women become the apostles to the apostles. If the Gospel writers were making up fanciful stories to promote some sort of agenda (as cynical modernists like to imagine), why include those “embarrassing” moments? That makes absolutely no sense at all.

What’s more likely is that women were absolutely VITAL to the spreading of the Jesus movement following his death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven. Jesus had built a culture of inclusion among his disciples that carried on long after he’d gone to heaven, and the earliest Christian writers accounted for that. Some of those women I have already written about, others I will write about in future devotions; however, each of the women (named or unnamed) were vital parts of the Jesus movement. Jesus would have had it no other way.

Unfortunately, we live in a man’s world, and the church fell prey to ideologies that reflected the world’s view of women as opposed to Christ’s view of them. As such, things crept into the Christian tradition and even into the Bible that countered Christ’s acceptance and inclusion of women’s role in ministry. Even to this day there are “complimentarians” in Christianity who are staunchly opposed to the kind of radical inclusion of women in ministry that Jesus first initiated.

As a pastor, in every church I have served at I have had at least some people come up and tell me how happy they are that they now have a man serving as pastor. That always makes me feel uncomfortable and, honestly, offended. What about my anatomy and physiology makes me any better of a pastor than a woman? When one stops and thinks about it, the science is not there to back up any sort of superiority, nor is reason or logic! What’s more, Jesus is not there to back that up as Jesus valued women in ministry and he sent a woman, Mary Magdalene, to  preach the Good News to the Apostles who were hiding in fear of their lives.

The challenge for us is to begin to see things as Christ saw them. The challenge for us is to begin to become more and more inclusive of others. Men and women are equally called to serve Christ and who are we to stand in their way as their adversary? Let us begin to bring the church back to the place where it first started, a place of radical inclusivity and hospitality. In doing so, we will draw even closer to Christ than we already are.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“No doubt [women of faith in the past] were reproached for His name’s sake, and accounted mad women; but they had a faith which enabled them at that time to overcome the world, and by which they climbed up to heaven.” – Rev. George Whitefield

PRAYER
Lord, I thank you for the women of faith in my life and for the women who boldly preach your Gospel so that others might turn and be saved. For such women in the past, now and in the future, I give you thanks. Amen.

God’s People, part 41: Hannah

Read 1 Samuel 1

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then Hannah prayed: ‘My heart rejoices in the LORD! The LORD has made me strong. Now I have an answer for my enemies; I rejoice because You rescued me.’” (1 Samuel 2:1 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

HannahPart 41: Hannah. Here is yet another “barren woman” story in the Bible. There are no doubt countless ways to go with this account, and certainly plenty of women’s studies classes could be taught on all of the women in the Bible that are degraded and dehumanized in the Bible. No doubt, the way women are represented in the Bible does reflect their status in the societies and cultures that produced the Bible; however, I think to over read 21st century women’s issues into the Biblical accounts, as fascinating as that may be, would be to miss the ultimate point they are making.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that our much more egalitarian view of the sexes today shouldn’t inform our interpretation; however, I think if we get too caught up in the details we will miss the underlying beauty of what is going on. Suffice it to say that the role of the woman in ancient Israel was to bear children and raise them up to be contributing members of the household. Part of that duty included passing the Hebrew faith on to the children.

Hannah was the first of the two wives of Elkanah and she happened to be barren. Since having children was a must for survival and for the continuation of one’s lineage in that patrilineal society, Hannah’s barrenness would not be viewed positively by her husband. It is probable that Elkanah married a second wife, Peninnah, in order to have children.

Hence Hannah’s despair. Peninnah was able to bear children for Elkanah, whereas Hannah could not. She could not perform the most basic and important role for a woman in that time period. One can only imagine the shame and disgrace she was feeling. No doubt, others probably judged her barrenness to be a “punishment of God” for either her sins or the sins of her parents. Perhaps even Hannah questioned that as well.

Still, that did not stop her in petitioning God to be blessed with her own child. She didn’t just petition in a one-sided way, rather, she promised that if she bore a child, she would dedicate that child to the Lord. God, according to the Bible, indeed granted her request after she was blessed by Eli, who we will look at in our next devotion. Indeed, once she bore and gave birth to a child, she named him Samuel (literally meaning, “heard by God”), raised him until he no longer needed to be weened, and then put in him the care of Samuel at the tabernacle so that he could  live out his days serving God.

The point of this is that God does not abandon those who society has abandoned. In fact, while Peninnah may have been the first to bear children, her children fade into obscurity. All the while, rejected and shunned Hannah has a child who becomes the final judge of Israel and the right prophet for the task of finding Israel a suitable king. What’s more, he serves as prophet and advisor to the king, acting as the accountability mouth piece off God. On top of being blessed by God, she not only rose up to be the mother of Samuel, but she was a prophetess in her own right (see 1 Samuel 2:1-10).

The challenge for us is to have the faith and the persistance of Hannah. She did not allow herself to be defined by her circumstances and she had faith that God not only could, but would, aid her in overcoming the obstacles in her way. Her faith led to faithfulness, and her faithfulness led to the raising of a great judge who would forever shape the history of Israel and establish the Davidic line that would eventually lead us to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. She didn’t know it would work out that way, but she had faith that God would not abandon her in her circumstances. If we model ourselves off of the faith of Hannah, there is not limit to what God can do in and through our lives.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“No one is holy like the LORD! There is no one besides You; there is no Rock like our God.” – Hannah, mother of Samuel, prophetess of God (1 Samuel 2:2 NLT)

PRAYER
Lord, give me the unwavering and persistent faith of Hannah, that I may see you working in all situations. Amen.