Women of the Word: the Woman Who Was Crippled

One Sabbath, Jesus the Christ was teaching in a synagogue when He spotted a woman in the listening crowd. This woman was a cripple. Luke 13:11 says “she was bent over and could not straighten up at all,” and she had been this way for eighteen long years.

If you know anything about Jesus, you know that He couldn’t let this woman remain in the state she was in any longer. When He saw her, He put His teaching on pause, called her forward, and said, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then Jesus put His hands on her, and the woman was immediately healed. Her body straightened up. Her bent disappeared. She could walk with her back upright and her head held high.

Imagine how incredible it must have been for her to have been set free in less than eight minutes after being bound for eighteen years. The woman, however, didn’t just rush to enjoy the newfound freedom she had in her limbs. When she saw that she was no longer a cripple, her first reaction was to praise God. Besides this, what other things can we learn from the woman who was crippled? Continue reading

Women of the Word: the Woman Who Lifted Up Her Voice

Jesus taught many crowds about many spiritual matters during His time on earth. During one such instance, He was teaching on prayer and then about Beelzebul. As He was speaking, Luke 11:27-28 says that a woman lifted up her voice and called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”

What was Jesus’ response?

He said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

Was the woman wrong to consider Mary, the mother of Jesus, blessed? No, not at all, for Mary was indeed blessed. In Luke 1:39-45, the mother of John the Baptist, Elizabeth, is the first to proclaim Mary’s blessedness. “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” she says. “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

In His response to the woman, Jesus was not correcting her words or denying them or rebuking them. Rather, He was improving upon them. He gave her, and all who were listening, a more accurate understanding of why one would be blessed and what it means to be blessed.

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Women of the Word: the Women Who Served at the Entrance to the Tent of Meeting

Eli served as the second-to-last high priest of Israel. He was faithful and did what was right, but his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were scoundrels who had no regard for the Lord. Even though they worked in the tabernacle with their father, they did not do so because they wanted to serve God. They only wanted to serve themselves. When people came to offer sacrifices to God, Hophni and Phinehas took the sacrifices for themselves. When women came to serve and worship God at the tabernacle, Hophni and Phinehas took them as objects on which to satisfy their sexual desires.

1 Samuel 2:22 says, “Now Eli, who was very old, heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and how they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting.”

Eli’s sons had absolutely no respect for God or for those who sought to follow Him. Because of this, God caused both of them to die on the same day. In their place, He raised up Samuel – the last priest of Israel who remained faithful to God all of his days. Under Samuel’s leadership, women could go to the tabernacle and not fear being sexually harassed or being forced to perform sexual favors. Continue reading

Women of the Word: the Women Who Ate Their Children

In 2 Kings 6:24-33, we come to another one of the Bible’s tragic stories. It is truly a sad, nauseating retelling of a horrible event that took place, but this tragic story is yet another reason why we know the Bible is true. In His Holy Word, God honestly tackles difficult subjects – rape, murder, adultery, lies, war, famine, and betrayal; and He honestly shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about His people’s lives from Adam and Eve to Peter and Paul.

In the Scripture passage we’re looking at today, the city of Samaria was under siege by the king of Aram, Ben-Hadad, and his army. The siege lasted so long that a famine fell upon the city and people began to suffer the terrible effects that often accompany war – starvation, grief, and madness. Madness is the best word I can think of to describe the horrible thing that two mothers did to their children because the famine was so terrible.

One day during the siege, the king of Israel was walking along one of the city’s walls when a woman cried out to him, “Help me, my lord the king!” She then told him her horrible story. To avoid starving, she had made an agreement with another woman to eat their children. They agreed to eat the first woman’s son first and then to eat the second woman’s son the next day. So, they killed the first woman’s son, cooked him, and ate him. But when it was time to do the same with the second woman’s son, that woman hid her son, and now the first woman is full of anger and despair and is demanding the king help her.

What is the king’s response to this horridity? He tears his clothes and wears sackcloth. And then he blames God and the prophet Elisha for causing such a disaster to come upon his city and his people. There is nothing he can do to help the woman who has sunk to such a desperate low as to eat her own child and then has the audacity to ask for help in eating another woman’s child. What is there to learn from the women who ate their children? Continue reading

Women of the Word: the Women Who Mourned for Tammuz

Ezekiel was a Hebrew prophet who lived during the fall of Jerusalem and was among those who were exiled to Babylon like Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. During his prophetic ministry, Ezekiel spent much of his time telling those in exile that Jerusalem would fall, the temple would be destroyed, and they should not expect a fast return to their homeland. He urged them instead to focus on repentance and being obedient to God while living in exile. Much of Ezekiel’s prophetic messages are recorded in his book of the Bible which ends on an optimistic note when Ezekiel has a vision of dry bones coming to life and dancing, a prophecy that Jerusalem would rise again, the temple would be restored, and the exiled people would one day return to their homeland.

In Ezekiel chapter 8, Ezekiel is lifted by the Spirit and through a vision is taken to Jerusalem where he sees how the Israelites have turned to idolatry and filled the temple with idols. Ezekiel 8:15 reads, “Then he brought me to the entrance of the north gate of the house of the Lord, and I saw women sitting there, mourning the god Tammuz.” After seeing this sight, the Spirit asks Ezekiel, “Do you see this, son of man? You will see things that are even more detestable than this.”

Ezekiel does see more detestable things. He sees men worshiping the sun instead of God. He sees the elders of Israel offering incense to idols. He sees idols and crawling things and unclean animals portrayed all over the temple. Even though the people think that God does not see their ungodly behavior, God promises to deal with them in anger and not have pity or spare them or listen to them. Continue reading

Women of the Word: Young Maidens Drawing Water

Before Saul became corrupted by power and blinded by jealousy as the first king of Israel, he was just a good-hearted guy concerned about finding his father’s lost donkeys. While searching for them, the servant who was with Saul suggested that they go to a town and find a man of God who could tell them where they could find the donkeys. This man of God – also called a seer or prophet in those days – was none other than Samuel, a man who was highly respected and whose words always came true.

As Saul and his servant were going up the hill to the town, they met some young maidens who were coming out of the town to draw water. Drawing water was a common job for women to do in Old Testament and New Testament Bible times. Saul and his servant asked the young maidens, “Is the seer here?”

The chatty young maidens wasted no time in answering. They knew exactly who the seer was and where he was and what he was doing. 1 Samuel 9:12 says that they answered, “He is. He’s ahead of you. Hurry now; he has just come to our town today, for the people have a sacrifice at the high place. As soon as you enter the town, you will find him before he goes up to the high place to eat. The people will not begin eating until he comes, because he must bless the sacrifice; afterward, those who are invited will eat. Go up now; you should find him about this time.”

Whew! For just asking a simple four-word question, Saul and his servant had a boatload of information dropped on them. But the young maidens’ answer certainly helped them find Samuel which then led to Samuel anointing Saul as king and the rest, as they say, is history. Continue reading

Women of the Word: Zeresh

Zeresh was the wife of Haman, a Jew hater who we are introduced to in the book of Esther. He was prime minister under King Ahasuerus (also called King Xerxes) and was one of Ahasuerus’ favorite officials. Ahasuerus often consulted him on matters concerning the governing of the kingdom of Persia. In Esther 3:1-2, we are told that Ahasuerus elevated Haman to a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles and commanded everyone to kneel down and pay honor to Haman.

After Ahasuerus deposed of his first beautiful wife, Vashti, he married another beautiful woman named Esther. Esther and her uncle Mordecai, who raised her, were Jewish, and this is where Haman’s real problem began. Even though Haman had been elevated to a high position in the kingdom, Mordecai refused to kneel down to him and refused to pay him any kind of honor. This made Haman furious. When he found out that Mordecai was a Jew, he was not content to only destroy Mordecai. He wanted to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews.

What did Zeresh think of her husband’s violent hatred of Mordecai? What did she think of his plot to destroy the Jews? Did she support him or did she try to stop him? The Bible gives us some answers. Continue reading

Women of the Word: the Foreign Women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab

The book of Nehemiah is largely dedicated to describing how Nehemiah, with the help of others, rebuilt the wall and the city of Jerusalem. Many interesting characters make an appearance – namely, Sanballat and Tobiah. But there are also several women, including: Artaxerxes’ queen, the prophetess Noadiah, and Shallum’s daughters. Now, we come upon another group of women in the book of Nehemiah.

During the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, Nehemiah reminds God of a number of things that he did faithfully for God’s house. In chapter 13:23-29, he talks about how he rebuked the men of Judah for marrying foreign women from Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. His rebuke included calling curses down on them, beating them, and pulling out their hair! The main reason he rebuked them is because he was worried that by marrying these strange women who did not worship the one true God, the men of Judah would be led into sin and away from God just like Solomon (you can read about Solomon’s array of wives and concubines here). Nehemiah did not want women of another religion and culture to cause God’s people to become unfaithful. Continue reading

Women of the Word: Sisera’s Mother

Sisera was the captain of the army of King Jabin of Canaan. Together, they and the powerful Canaanite army were enemies of Israel and often oppressed them and fought against them. One day, Jabin sent Sisera and the Canaanite army to fight against Barak, Deborah, and the Israelite army. To Sisera’s shock, he and the Canaanite army were defeated and Sisera fled from the battle scene on foot. He soon came to the tent of a man named Heber the Kenite. But Heber wasn’t home. Only his wife, Jael, was. Jael welcomed Sisera into the tent and gave him milk to drink. Tired from fighting, Sisera lay down and soon sank into a deep sleep. When Jael saw that he was sleeping, she took a tent peg and a mallet (which is a hammer) and used these items to kill him.

When Barak and Deborah found out how and by whom Sisera died, they sang Jael’s praises in a song which is recorded in Judges 5:24-27:

Most blessed among women is Jael,
The wife of Heber the Kenite;
Blessed is she among women in tents.
He asked for water, she gave milk;
She brought out cream in a lordly bowl.
She stretched her hand to the tent peg,
Her right hand to the workmen’s hammer;
She pounded Sisera, she pierced his head,
She split and struck through his temple.
At her feet he sank, he fell, he lay still;
At her feet he sank, he fell;
Where he sank, there he fell dead.

The stanza following this one (Judges 5:28-31) makes mention of Sisera’s mother. Barak and Deborah imagine that when Sisera’s mother did not see him returning home victorious, she peered out the window and cried: “Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why is the clatter of his chariots delayed?”

Barak and Deborah further imagine that a wise lady tried to assuage the concerns of Sisera’s mother by suggesting that he was dividing the spoils and captives of the Israelite army of which he had conquered. But this was not the case. It was not Sisera and the Canaanite army who had conquered, but Barak, Deborah, Jael, and the Israelite army.

We don’t know the exact response of Sisera’s mother to her son’s delay or how she reacted when she found out about his death. We can imagine, like Barak and Deborah, that she was initially worried and then grief-stricken when she learned of his fate. Sisera’s mother may have found it hard to believe that her son – a fearless warrior, mighty army captain, and all that jazz – was felled by a simple stay-at-home (or in those days, stay-at-tent) wife and an audacious female judge. What she probably did not realize was that it was not two women who defeated Sisera and the Canaanite army. It was the God in those two women. Continue reading