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A Note About God’s Sovereignty:

Our story this week demonstrates God’s great sovereignty over history. The writers of the Old Testament, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit were giving us not only the details of the history of Israel but also of God’s larger plan of redemption.

God sovereignly chose the women who would be the ancestresses of His Son, including– Eve, Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba.

Several of these women would seem to be most unlikely for God to choose to bless in such a tremendous way. Rahab was a harlot. Bathsheba has been called a temptress. Ruth was a Gentile. Rachel was Jacob’s favored wife, not Leah. But God is the One in charge and He chose the women He wanted for His plan of redemption.

Tamar has been accused by historians of being a prostitute because of the means that she used to get Judah to obey the Levirate law. But we will see in our story that Tamar was not a practicing harlot. She was just a human sinner like all of us. Tamar simply trusted and obeyed God. Truly if God is going to work through people to accomplish His purposes, He only has sinful people to use. We should be encouraged that our sovereign God is merciful and wise as He works in the lives of His children.

Tamar –Ancestress of the Lord Jesus Christ

Tamar could not possibly have known that she would become an important part of history as ancestress of the Lord Jesus Christ.

This current series began with an introduction to women in the Bible (January 9, 2018). Since then we have talked about Eve, the first woman in creation (January 23, 2018), and Sarah, the mother of all of the descendants of Abraham. We saw that God promised a Savior after Adam and Eve sinned. Later, we learned that God promised Abraham that “all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). This meant, among other things, that the Lord Jesus would come through the line of Abraham.

Abraham’s son, Isaac was the next patriarch and Rebekah his wife was the next mother in the line of patriarchs. Their son Jacob and his wife Leah would be the parents of Judah who was chosen by God to carry on the ancestry of Christ. Of course, none of these people knew that they were ancestors of Christ. They just lived their lives in the land of Canaan as ordinary people.

Now let’s take a quick tour through the rest of the book of Genesis. It is very important to get the context for the story of Tamar.

We begin the story at Genesis 37:1,2 – “Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan. This is the account of Jacob’s family line.”

Most Christians are very familiar with Joseph’s story and he is regarded as a great man of God. Joseph’s story is one of courage and faith even under trying circumstances. The rest of the book of Genesis, from chapters 37 through 50 take up Joseph’s story.

Jacob, now called Israel, loved his son Joseph more than the other sons. He showed Joseph many favors. The other brothers were jealous and thought they would kill him but instead they sold him to a caravan of Ishmaelites from Gilead. Eventually the traders took Joseph to Egypt to Potiphar, Pharaoh’s officer, the captain of the bodyguard. Meanwhile the brothers took Joseph’s tunic and smeared goat’s blood on it. They had decided to tell their father Israel that a wild animal had killed Joseph.

So, at the end of Genesis 37, we have Israel at home, grieving because he thinks that Joseph is dead. The brothers are just living out their lives, happy that the hated Joseph is no longer there to annoy them with his dreams.

Meanwhile in Egypt, Joseph is working in Potiphar’s household. We know from reading ahead in chapter 39 and following that he would get falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife of trying to assault her and be thrown into prison. God helped Joseph get out of prison when he interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams. Joseph was given leadership in Egypt, wisely guiding that country through seven years of tremendous harvests and then seven years of famine.

The famine was in Canaan too. When Jacob heard that there was food in Egypt he sent his sons there to purchase some grain. The brothers visit several times. Joseph invited the whole family to come and live in Egypt so they can have food to eat. And eventually all of the Israelites would end up in Egypt.

At the end of the book of Genesis we have the account of Joseph’s death and his extraction of a promise from his family to take his bones back to Canaan when they return. Of course they don’t get to the Promised Land for four hundred years, but we will save that part of the story for when we get to Rahab.

Genesis 38 is a “time out” in the story of Joseph and Egypt and how the Israelites eventually went there during the time of the famine.

Why do we have a whole chapter, chapter 38, in the middle of the story of the Israelites in Canaan and Egypt? What is the Bible doing suddenly taking time out for the story of just two people, Judah and Tamar? Judah is not the first born, so why aren’t we talking about the person we would expect to carry on the line of the patriarchs from Abraham forward?

It is because the writers of the Old Testament, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit were giving us not only the details of the history of Israel but also of God’s larger plan of redemption. For we find out that Tamar is an ancestress of King David and then of Jesus.

So, the story in Genesis 38 gives us the background to how Judah and Tamar came to be the great, great, ever-so-great grandparents of Jesus. It is important for us to see how God was faithful to His covenant promises.

Let’s look at this amazing story. Turn to Genesis 38:1-11:

At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam named Hirah. There Judah met the daughter of a Canaanite man named Shua. He married her and made love to her; she conceived again and became pregnant and gave birth to a son, who was named Er. She conceived again and gave birth to a son and named him Onan. She gave birth to still another son and named him Shelah. It was at Kezib that she gave birth to him.

Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death.

Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also.

Judah then said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Live as a widow in your father’s household until my son Shelah grows up.” For he thought “He may die too, just like his brothers.” So Tamar went to live in her father’s household.

Tamar was married into Judah’s family. Judah was the fourth son of Jacob and Leah. Isaac was his grandfather and Abraham was his great-grandfather, so she married into the family of the Patriarchs.

First, Tamar had married Judah’s eldest son, Er. Er had displeased God in some way, so God took his life. Then Judah asked Onan to do the duty of a brother-in-law and raise up a child for his older brother. Later this practice will be codified in the Levirate Law which is found in Deuteronomy 25:5-10. A brother could try and give a child to the widowed sister-in law so that his dead brother would have an heir. In the book of Ruth, we will see that it can extend to a near kinsman.

Onan, Er’s brother, married Tamar but “wasted his seed” instead of giving Tamar a child. He was disobeying God’s law by doing this and so God took his life too. Why did he do this? Because his inheritance would be substantially less if he had to share it with Tamar’s son. In fact, since Er was the firstborn the birthright inheritance, which was usually double, would go to Tamar’s son.

Apparently Shelah was not quite old enough to marry, so Judah sent Tamar home to her father. Judah was afraid to give Tamar to his third son, Shelah, after watching the first two sons die. We’re not sure if Judah understood at this time that God took their lives or if they died of natural causes. Perhaps he even thought Tamar was some kind of a curse for them. He sent Tamar away. Tamar remained with her family wearing her widow’s garments until she had an opportune moment to talk to Judah again.

Time went by and Judah’s wife died, after which he observed a period of mourning. Then he went back to work caring for his sheep. Someone told Tamar that Judah was going to be nearby soon for the shearing of his sheep. Tamar decided on a plan. She would deceive Judah into thinking she was a prostitute and thereby get the child by him that she had been promised.

Let’s see what she did. Turn to Genesis 38:14:

She took off her widow’s clothes, covered herself with a veil to disguise herself, and then sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that, though Shelah had now grown up, she had not been given to him as his wife.

It is hard to put ourselves into Tamar’s shoes and think about why she would take such a drastic measure to get what she saw was justice for herself. Wasn’t she taking things into her own hands? Why didn’t she just trust God? What did she think would come of this? This story reminds us of Sarah, who gave her maid to Abraham, and Rebekah, who tricked Isaac into giving Jacob the blessing.

Let’s discuss the meaning of sex in the Old Testament compared to now. We have the examples of Abraham and Jacob to show that love or lust need not have been the only motive for sex. We have seen how important it is for men to get an heir. Abraham listened to Sarah and went into her maid in order to get an heir. It apparently seemed ok for Jacob to have 4 wives to get heirs. No one suggests that there was any sin involved.

So what shall we say about Tamar? Tamar chose this method to get an heir for her first husband as promised in the Levirate Law. Tamar did not think of it as incest with her father-in-law. A father-in-law may not sleep with his daughter-in-law (Lev 18:15), just as a brother-in-law may not sleep with his sister-in-law (Lev 18:16), but in-law incest rules are suspended for the purpose of the levirate law. The levir is, after all, only a surrogate for the dead husband. So here we have a surrogate husband instead of a surrogate wife like Hagar.

Back to the story. So Judah came along and saw a women that he mistook for a shrine prostitute sitting in a place on the road that signals that she is available and decided to take advantage of the situation.

Apparently Judah did not have the money to pay for her services. He offered instead to send Tamar a goat from his flock. In the meantime, he left his tribal leader’s staff and his personal seal and cord as a pledge. The seal, cord and staff had a person’s emblem carved on them, and were items of great personal worth.  Judah said he would send a payment later. Tamar was wise enough to get his seal and cord and staff as a pledge for payment. She also surmised that she would need proofs later when and if she got pregnant. She was so right.

So Judah took Tamar and slept with her. He sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite in order to get his pledge back. The Adullamite could not find her. In fact, we see now further proof that Tamar was not a harlot.

Turn to Genesis 38:21,22:

The Adullamite “asked the men who live there, “Where is the shrine prostitute who was beside the rad at Enaim?” “There hasn’t’ been any shrine prostitute here,” they said. So he went back to Judah and said, I didn’t find her. Besides, the men who lived there said, ‘There hasn’t been any shrine prostitute here.’”

Note that the men who lived there said that there were no prostitutes in their area. If Tamar had been going out and sitting in a prominent place by the side of the road, everyone would have noticed. Tamar only made this desperate move once and she managed to keep it a secret from everyone until she couldn’t any longer.

Sure enough it was discovered that Tamar was pregnant a few months later. Since Tamar was a widow and unmarried, everyone assumed she had acted immorally. When Judah heard about her his judgment was severe and to the point: “Bring her out and have her burned to death!” (38:24).

Judah was told that Tamar was pregnant by harlotry and he believed their story. After all, Tamar was an unmarried widow. But, Tamar was also his daughter-in- law and he needed to uphold the family honor, so Judah demanded that she be brought out and punished according to the law at that time – she was to be burned.

While they were bringing Tamar out, Tamar sent word to her father-in-law that she was pregnant by the man who owned the seal and cord and staff that she possessed. Judah recognized them and was humbled. He said, “She is more righteous than I since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.” (Genesis 38:26)

Judah had no more relations with Tamar. He had unwittingly fulfilled the levirate law himself and there was no need. Judah himself had produced the heir that would continue his line.

God blessed Tamar with not one but two sons. She had twins, Perez and Zerah. In fact, the name of Perez became great in Israel and was later used as an example of blessing in the book of Ruth: “And all the people who were in the gate, and the elders, said, … ‘let thy house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore unto Judah’” (Ruth 4:11-12). It was through the line of Perez that Jesus would come.

What can we learn from Tamar’s life? A woman in her place and time had very few options. We cannot just dismiss her as a terrible sinner. Judah did not. He said that she was more righteous than he was. He knew that his sin in not giving her to Shelah as he had promised led her into desperate means. If not for Tamar, Judah’s line would not continue. It was his responsibility and he neglected it.

Tamar, like Ruth was deeply loyal to the family she married into. Both women would preserve the line of ancestry for Christ by firmly obeying God’s calling on their lives.

Another lesson for us is the incredible love and mercy of God. God did not reject Tamar either. He made her an ancestress of the Savior, His Son. God works out good even from our mistakes (Romans 8:28).

But this does not mean that we can presume on God.  We must always strive to obey Him without sinning. While the method that Tamar used seems wrong, we live in a sinful world and we should not judge her too harshly. Tamar was truly one of the exceptional women in Patriarchal times. God blessed her even as He does all of us sinners!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus Christ is central to the Scriptures. The stories in the Old Testament show us how God dealt with His covenant people leading up to the coming of the promised Savior. The genealogy of Christ’s ancestry includes the patriarchs including Terah, Abram, Isaac, and Jacob.

Genesis 11: 26-32 – After Terah had lived 70 years, he became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran…. Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai … Now Sarai was childless because she as not able to conceive. … Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter –in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there.

Terah was a great and wealthy patriarch. In this passage of the Scriptures we are told that he had three sons. We do not learn that Terah had a daughter until later when Abram reveals why he lied to Abimelek about his wife, Sarah.

Terah named his daughter “Sarai” which means “princess”. Sarai truly was a princess as the daughter of the patriarch. Sarai grew up in privileged surroundings and then married her half-brother, Abram. Terah’s family grew and expanded and they traveled to the land of Canaan. But this was a time of sadness for Sarai because she was barren.

Like other women in Sarai’s day her main desire was to give her husband a male heir. We need to understand how important that was for women in patriarchal times or else we won’t understand why Sarai went to such great lengths to give Abram a son.

Let’s continue reading from Genesis 12:1, 4:

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. … So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.

Imagine living all of your life with your family and friends in one place and having to pack up everything and move when you are over sixty years old. Yes, Abram was seventy-five. That means Sarai was over sixty years old! God told Abram to leave the city and his family and move to a place that was totally unknown to him. As a woman, Sarai must have had many anxieties about this, but she left her familiar surroundings to follow her husband in obedience to God.

That may not seem so bad in our day, but sixty was considered really old in 2100 BC. God must have been blessing Sarai with very good health, because she followed her husband Abram around for most of the rest of her life as he wandered from place to place. We don’t have any record that Sarai complained every time Abram decided to move on.

Many people are surprised when they realize how old Sarai was. That is because we know the story of how Abraham lied, twice, about her relationship to him when they traveled to other places. Sarai was so beautiful that Abram was afraid that the leaders in the countries that they traveled to would kill him so that they could take Sarai for a wife. The first time was when they traveled to Egypt.

Let’s turn to Genesis 12:10-13:

Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”

Imagine at age sixty-five, Sarai was still one of the most beautiful women in the world! She would still be so beautiful at age ninety that Abraham would lie again, that time to King Abimelech. To this day, Sarai’s beauty is legendary.

But I wonder if during this incident Sarai saw her beauty as a curse instead of a blessing. After all, her husband was asking her to take the risk that Pharaoh would put her in his harem, which meant sleeping with her. Still Sarai trusted Abram, calling him lord, and obeying him in his every command. God saved Sarai by inflicting disease on the Egyptians. When Pharaoh realized the cause of the sickness of his people he called Abram to him and rebuked him for lying to him. He sent Abram and Sarai away.

Through all of these years of wandering Sarai desired one thing above everything else. She wanted to have children. She also knew about God’s promise to Abram. She knew that they would be the founders of many nations. God had promised her and her husband that they would have as many descendants as there were stars in the sky. Sarai must have been wondering when God would help them start their family.

The story of how Sarai took things into her own hands and asked Abram to give her a child by using her maid, Hagar, is well known. It is a sad and tragic story. Mostly what is sad about it is that Sarai’s faith wavered here. She concluded that God Himself was restraining her from having children and maybe He wanted her to get children another way.

Look on ahead to Genesis 16:1,2.

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”

By this time Sarai was seventy-six years old. She must have been feeling desperate. Abram listened to her and slept with Hagar. Hagar conceived a child. Immediately, Sarai’s relationship with her maid changed. Hagar now despised Sarai. Sarai began to treat Hagar harshly. Hagar even ran away for a time. An angel of the Lord met Hagar and told her to return home and submit herself to Sarai’s authority. Hagar did so and bore Abram a son. Abram called him Ishmael. Hagar and Ishmael lived with Abraham and Sarai.

For over thirteen years Sarai would see the daily reminder of her own childlessness. What agony she must have been in. The pain and humiliation of seeing her husband’s child by another woman must have been unbearable. But I think that Sarai must have also suffered much agony wondering why the Lord would seem to be forgetting her. It was painful enough to think that she had not fulfilled her husband’s desire, but how much worse is the thought that she must have been displeasing God.

But finally the day came when God would demonstrate His faithfulness to His covenant with His people in His own way.

Turn to Genesis 17:1; 15-19:

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

God changed Abram’s name to Abraham – father of many nations. Then God changed Sarai’s name to Sarah – mother of many nations.

 … God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

 At this point, Abraham responded in a way that Sarah did later; he laughed. He thought that surely he and Sarah were too old. Abraham suggested that maybe God could just bless him through Ishmael. But God told Abraham that Sarah would bear him a son and that he should call his name Isaac. Isaac would be the heir that God would establish His covenant with.

Then one day three visitors came to speak with Abraham.

We will read this interesting story in Genesis 18:1-15:

The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

Abraham invited the men to stay. He asked Sarah to help him get a meal ready for them. Abraham stood near them while they ate.

Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him.

“There in the tent,” he said.

Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”  But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

I don’t think we should be too hard on Sarah. She was way past the age of childbearing. And don’t forget, even her husband laughed when God promised them a son in their old age. It is easy for us looking back to criticize Sarah for not trusting God. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for her to go on year after year for so many years before she bore Isaac. It must have been torture for her. She knew that her long years of childlessness meant that God’s promise that she and her husband would be the father and mother of countless descendants was, humanly speaking, becoming less and less likely as she passed the childbearing age. God knows we are weak as humans. He had patience with Sarah even as He did with her husband when he laughed.

In spite of the fact that Abraham was about 100 years old and Sarah was ninety, they moved again. They traveled to Gerar where the people were pagan and Abraham feared for his life. Sarah was still a very beautiful woman and Abraham decided to lie about her again to protect himself.
Let’s continue with this story in Genesis 20:1- 18:

Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.  

Imagine at age ninety, Sarah is still such an astonishingly beautiful woman that Abimelech would take her to be in his harem!

But once again God rescued Sarah. God appeared to Abimelech in a dream and told him the truth. Abimelech remonstrated with Abraham for lying to him and asked for an explanation.

Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife.”

 Abimelek sent Abraham away as a wealthy man. He also gave Sarah’s “brother” a thousand shekels of silver. This was to cover any offense Abimelek made and to vindicate Sarah before everyone.

After this, God fulfilled His promise to Sarah.  Turn to Genesis 21:1-6

Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him.  

When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.”

Now Sarah’s laughter is the laughter of joy! She had to wait a long time, but she finally came to know that truly nothing is impossible with God!

God granted Sarah about thirty-seven more years. She was able to watch her son Isaac grow up. However, she died before seeing him get married.

Abraham wanted a special place to bury Sarah. He bought a field in Machpelah near Mamre that had a cave in it. This cave would be the special burying place for Sarah. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Leah were all buried there.

Applications:

God, in His love not only for Abraham and Sarah, but for the whole world planned the events in the way that He did. He had a purpose for calling Abram and Sarai and making a covenant with them. It was all part of His plan for the redemption of His people. Salvation in Jesus Christ would come through Isaac’s line. A tender, loving heavenly Father cared about Sarah and her anguish in waiting for the promise, but in His wisdom, He waited to give her a son until it would glorify Him as the only wise, eternal giver of life.

As sinners ourselves, we can identify with Sarah. Sometimes when we pray for something for a long time and don’t see an answer, we wonder if God is going to answer at all. Sarah’s mistake should be a lesson to us to wait for God to answer.

There really is a God and He really cares about His children. He really loved Sarah and she knew it all along, even though in her humanness she got impatient and made a big mistake. She overcame that and lived the rest of her days in joy and peace with her husband and son. She remains a great example of a courageous, faithful woman for us today. She was beautiful outwardly, but even more inwardly. Modeling ourselves after her, we too can have, “the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” (I Peter 3:4).

God always answers our prayers. Sometimes He answers “yes”. Sometimes He answers “no”. And many times He says, “Yes, but in My time.” Sarah had to wait a really long time before God granted her a child. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for her to go on year after year for probably seventy years before she bore Isaac. I don’t know if I have that much patience.

We now know why God had her wait so long. We know that God intended for Sarah and Abraham to see that nothing was too hard for Him (Genesis 18:14).  God waited until Abraham was nearly one hundred years old, and Sarah nearly ninety. God did this on purpose. They were so old that people were probably laughing, just as they did themselves, when they were told about the promise of God. God wanted everyone to see that this child was very special because it was all of His doing; there was no mistake about it. Only God could perform the miracle of a baby being born to a woman who was past the age of childbearing.

Truly with God, nothing is impossible.

 

 

 

 

Imagine a perfect world where everyone is kind to one another and you never hear any negative words. Imagine being able to pluck your dinner from a tree without having to labor for it. Imagine ladies what it would have been like to be able to have your babies in ease and comfort.

Perhaps the scenario would go something like this:

Eve: “Adam, it’s time for our child to be born. I think I’ll just go over to that nice spot we picked out and wait.”

Adam: “Ok, Eve. You go on over and get ready. I’ll go pick us some extra fruit while you deliver that baby.”

The Lord, who is walking in the garden, comes along and says, “Well, done, good and faithful servants. You are doing a fine job as My vice-regents taking care of the earth. The animals are all happy. Oh, I see that you are about to procreate. That is exciting!

You will be blessed with many children. There is enough food for everyone in this beautiful garden.”

A short time later:

Eve: “Wow! It’s a girl child. What shall we name her?”

Adam: “Honey, you are the mother of all living. You name her.”

Does this scene look too fanciful? Is it out of the bounds of possibility?

We really don’t know what life may have been like for Adam and Eve if they would not have eaten the forbidden fruit. The Scriptures do not tell us.

Many people think that this whole story is just a myth but as Christians we believe that it happened exactly as the Bible says it did. So let’s look at what the Bible says.

Genesis 1:26-31

       Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground – everything that has the breath of life in it – I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the sixth day.

 On the sixth day of creation God created mankind. God created humans equally in His image. They were to procreate and fill the earth. They were given the authority to rule over everything on earth together. God said that this was very good.

At the beginning of Genesis, chapter 2 we read that God finished His creation by the end of the sixth day and then rested on the seventh day.

Then beginning in Genesis 2:4, we circle back a bit and get more details of God’s creation of mankind.  This marvelous picture of the formation of Adam from the ground and Eve from Adam’s side actually takes place in the middle of the sixth day. It is important to remember that this story enlarges on what we were already told in chapter 1 – that God created mankind, male and female, in His image.

Genesis 2:7, 8, 15-20

      The the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there He put the man He had formed.

… The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Let’s pause for a second. In chapter 1 God said that everything was very good. Here we see that He says something is not good – it is not good for the man to be alone. Why might God say that it was not good for Adam to be alone? Well, for openers, he can’t procreate by himself can he?

Here might be a good spot for Eve’s appearance, but instead God brings the animals to Adam for their naming. The Bible does not tell us why this is the order of things. Let’s just keep reading.

Turn back to Genesis 2:19 and 20.

     Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found.

This last part of verse 20, “But for Adam no suitable helper was found” is the center of much of the controversy surrounding women’s place in God’s creation. People who believe that God created mankind with a hierarchy say that “helper” means “subordinate”. They insist that right from the beginning women were created only to serve human men. But there is nothing in the Genesis account of creation to substantiate a claim that women were not created equally with men. Eve’s boss was God, not Adam.

What would a “suitable helper” look like?

Does “helper” mean “subordinate”? Let’s examine the correct translation of the original Hebrew word for “helper” – “ezer”.

The original Hebrew words for “suitable helper” are “ezer k’negdo”.

  1. “ezer k’negdo” – A “suitable” helper. literally “in front of him”; Not a subordinate.

2. “ezer” – A strong helper. “

“Ezer” appears 21 times in the Old Testament. 16 times this word is used for God. (Exodus 18:4; Deuteronomy 33:7, 26, 29; Psalms 20:2; 33:20; 70:5: 89:19; 115:9, 10, 11; 121:1-2; 124:8; 146:5; Hosea 13:9).

Examples: 

Psalm 33:20 – “Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help (our “ezer”) and our shield.”

Psalm 121:1-2 – “I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help (my “ezer”) comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

We would never say that God is a subordinate would we? No, God is our helper because He is actually stronger than we are and able to give help. Our brothers who insist on a hierarchy in relationships miss this important point.

Not only is Eve a very strong helper, one that Adam can’t live without, but the other aspects of her creation equally demonstrate a relationship of mutuality not hierarchy.

Please turn to Genesis 2:21-25.

So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, He took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

 Here again we need to pause and note: The Bible does not say that this is when Adam gives his wife the name “Eve”. Eve doesn’t get her name until they are sent out of the garden in chapter 3, verse 20. By calling his wife “woman”, Adam was giving his wife a description – “bone of my bones” not a name. Why is this important?

God showed Adam that Eve was part of him, not the rest of creation. Now Adam can be confident in all that God intended him to be since he has his suitable helper. Adam and Eve were made to tend the garden together, enjoying all of the fruits of their labor, working as one in mind and heart, freely worshipping God Whom they have complete fellowship with.

Note several other important things. In Genesis 1, God said He created mankind. Mankind contained Adam and Eve together in some mysterious way. Then we get the picture of the woman being pulled from the man’s side in chapter 2. They are two beings, but God says that when they come together as man and wife they are one flesh. What a beautiful picture of marriage – man and wife are so close that they are one in body and heart and mind!

And there is something else very interesting. To become this “one flesh” the man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife. Is that how we do it today? Does the man leave his family? No, today women leave their families and join themselves to the man taking his name. The children she bears him will also take the name of his family.

Eve’s husband Adam joined himself to her – note the order here. God did not put Eve underneath her husband; Adam joined himself to Eve.

Back to the story. Right after her creation Eve was happily tending the garden with her husband. Eve was ruling over everything with Adam as God commanded. There were no weeds. Eve would be able to bear children with no pain. Adam and Eve were enjoying perfect fellowship with God and each other. There is no sin yet, but that is about to change.

Let’s go back to the story. Please turn to Genesis 3:1-7.

     Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

     The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

      “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

     When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Many of us are already familiar with this story. The serpent (who we really know was the devil, Revelation 12:9) came along and tempted Eve to eat from a tree that had been forbidden to her and Adam. We could all wish that she wouldn’t have done it, but she did. Adam was with her and he ate some too.

Then they were ashamed and tried to hide from God. Thankfully, the Lord came looking for them and called out to Adam. We all know what happened. Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent. God made pronouncements about what the future would be like. He cursed the serpent. In the midst of this curse, He also promised the Savior Who would come and defeat Satan.

In the meantime, we see here that the relationship between husband and wife has changed. Before the fall, Adam and Eve were equal partners. Eve could make her own decisions because they would be right and good. After all, she had God right there and she would know what to do because of her intimacy with Him. When she made the autonomous decision to eat the fruit, she was disobeying God. Adam also ate and now all human beings would be sinful creatures. Now, because of their fallen sin nature, Adam and Eve would desire to get their own way. Relationships between men and women have been terribly distorted since the Fall.

Now after the fall, Eve and Adam will not have an easy life. Adam will struggle with weeds as he tries to provide for his family. Eve will have pain in childbirth. Adam and Eve had to leave the beautiful garden with a fulfilling life and complete fellowship with God. We can only imagine how heart rending this must have been for Eve. How tragic to have known the sweet peace and fellowship with God in the garden and now have to go out and struggle in a pain-filled world.

But let’s don’t forget that God promised a Savior. Eve would have the knowledge that her sins were forgiven and fellowship was restored with God, but not like she had in the garden.

The Scriptures don’t tell us a lot more about Eve and Adam. We know that they lived over nine hundred years and had many children. I believe that Eve had repented and put her faith and trust in God. When Cain was born she said, “I have gotten a man-child with the help of the Lord” (Gen. 4:1). Clearly she was rejoicing in God’s grace, compassion, forgiveness, and promises.

It seems that Eve was a faithful mother teaching her children to honor God as best as she could in this now sinful world. There was sadness as sin showed just how ugly it could be when Eve’s firstborn son, Cain, killed his brother, Abel. But God blessed Eve with another son, Seth.

We are told that some years later, “men began to call on the name of the Lord” (Gen 4:26). Where would these descendants of Eve have gotten the knowledge of God unless it was from their mother and father? And of course, Adam and Eve would have had the best knowledge of God since it was first hand. What a shame that they lost that close fellowship and had to live in a world of sin.

How different Eve’s original experience was from ours. We are born in sin and do not know the complete joy and peace of the communion with God that we will have in glory. We will have to wait for that.

 

 

 

Dear Readers,

I am currently in the middle of the second year of pursuing a Doctor of Ministry degree. Over a year ago I posted that I would like to write a book about women in ministry using some of the over 200 stories that are on my blog. I have recently changed my mind and will be writing a curriculum on women in the Bible and history. Some day I might write a whole book but for now I believe I need to write Bible stories.

The reason: I sent a survey on women in the Bible to many churches and received very disappointing results. For one thing, very few men said that the speak about women from the pulpit. There were many reasons, but I am concerned that this is NOT encouraging to women. At the very least it makes us feel unnecessary.

More importantly, the stories are in God’s Word. God included the stories of women for our benefit. When we skip over them we lose out on what God would teach us. That includes all of the inspiring stories of women that God has used in Kingdom work.

An important reason for writing a curriculum is to show that God does indeed use women in ministry. But equally important is a list of resources for women to use. I have been blessed by each and every book or article I have read. An important part of the curriculum will be a bibliography containing a list of the many books available. Other women will be blessed too as they read these inspiring stories.

So, for the next few weeks we will be looking at the stories of women in the Bible. Most of these women will be very familiar to you, but we will examine them more closely than you may have had opportunity to in the past.

The first and foremost attention will be paid to what the Bible has to say about the women. There is a lot of misinformation out there that can be cleared up by just looking at what the Bible actually says.

For example – what would most people say the occupation of Mary of Magdala was? It might surprise you to learn that the Bible does not say that Mary was a prostitute. This idea originated with Pope Gregory the Great in the late sixth century and it has stuck to this day. Hollywood has helped to cement the idea in place by castigating Mary as a loose woman. I don’t expect anything better than that from a group that uses lurid details to sell movies whether they are accurate or not. But I would like a chance to set the record straight for Christians by telling the story from the Bible.

And so, that will be the format of all of these lessons. We will begin by reading the Scriptures. Next, I will bring in some background material from well-respected Christian historians. Why are these stories in the Bible? What can we learn from them? How do they fit in with God’s overall plan of Redemption?

The Bible is really a story with the Lord Jesus Christ as the central character. The stories of the men and the women in the Bible are interesting and important in themselves, but they all point to God’s plan of salvation. By studying the stories of these women in their context, we can see how they fit into God’s plan of redemption.

Jesus asked the Church to take the Gospel to all of the nations. That is a big job. It will take all Christians, men and women working together to fulfill the Great Commission.

Are we looking forward to Christ’s appearing? There is only one place in the Scriptures that gives us an indication of when Christ will return. “The gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) Now with technology, GPS, easy travel, more cooperation between some countries, and the many new Mission Organizations I believe that we can reach every nation. This is exciting for all of us who look for and love His appearing.

And so please study and enjoy the stories of God’s kingdom women. You are a kingdom woman! How will God use you to bless others while you serve Him?

 

 

 

The Song of Mary

The Song of Mary

Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob; forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. –Luke 1: 30-33

There is so much to praise in Mary who as an ordinary human being had great faith, courage, and piety. She proved her faith with obedience, her courage with humility, and her piety with thoughtfulness, prayer, and submission.

Her cousin Elizabeth confirms this, “and blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” (Luke 2:45)

We admire Mary for her example to us in how Christians should respond in faith. Mary exalted God alone. Mary would wish us to keep Christ on the throne.

Mary herself says as much in her beautiful song that we have called the Magnificat. (Luke 1:46-55)

Mary’s song follows the pattern of the other famous songs in the Old Testament. Here is a list for you to look up: Song of Moses (Exodus 15:1-18); Song of Miriam (Exodus 15:20, 21); Song of Deborah (Judges 5:1-31); Song of Hannah (I Samuel 2:1-10).

The songs follow a pattern of praise, adoration, ascribing magnificence to God, thankfulness for salvation, a history of how God has always saved His people, and a hope and belief in God’s promise for the future.

Filled with the Holy Spirit and rejoicing in God’s goodness Mary sang:

My soul magnifies the Lord,

Hannah – “My heart exults in the Lord.” (I Samuel 2:1)

Moses – “I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted” (Exodus 15:1).

Miriam – “Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted” (Exodus 15:21)

Deborah – “Hear, O kings; give ear, O rulers! I – to the Lord, I will sing, I will sing praise to the Lord, the God of Israel.” (Judges 5:3)

 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

“My heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation” (Psalm 9:14; 13:5; 35:9; 48:11; 68:3; 97:1; 149:2)

Isaiah – “I will rejoice greatly in the Lord; My soul will exult in my God” (Isaiah 61:10)

 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;

Hannah –

“For though the Lord is exalted, Yet He regards the Lowly” (Psalm 138:6)

“For thus says the high and exalted One… I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit.” (Isaiah 57:15)

 For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.

“How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust” (Psalm 40:4)

“How blessed are all those who long for Him.” (Isaiah 30:18)

“And she (Elizabeth) cried out with a loud voice, and said, ‘Blessed among women are you, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. … And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.’” (Luke 1:42, 45)

 Why is Mary going to be called “Blessed”? Note the word is “blessed” not “bless-ed”. She is the one who has received the blessing. Why? Read on.

 For He who is mighty has done great things for me,

“Who can speak of the mighty deeds of the Lord, or can show forth all His praise?” (Psalm 106:2)
“The Lord has done great things for us; We are glad.” (Psalm 126:2)

“Do not fear, O land, rejoice and be glad, for the Lord has done great things.” (Joel 2:21)

 And holy is His name.

“And give thanks to His holy name.” (Psalm 97:12; 105:3)

“Holy and awesome is His name.” (Psalm 111:9)

“Our Redeemer, the Lord of hosts is His name, the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 47:4)

 And His mercy is on those who fear Him

“’I will surely have mercy on him, declares the Lord.’” (Jeremiah 31:20)

 From generation to generation.

“Thou, O Lord, wilt keep them; Thou wilt preserve him from this generation forever.” (Psalm 12:7)

“The counsel of the Lord stands forever; The plans of His heart from generation to generation. …. I will cause Thy name to be remembered in all generations; Therefor the people will give Thee thanks forever and ever.” (Psalm 33:11; 45:17)

“Thou, O Lord, dost rule forever; Thy throne is from generation to generation.” (Lamentations 5:19)

He has shown strength with His arm;

“Splendor and majesty are before Him; Strength and joy are in His place.” (I Chronicles 16:27).

“I love Thee, O Lord, my strength.” (Psalm 18:1)

“With the saving strength of His right hand” (Psalm 20:6; 21:1; 28:7; 31:4; 37:39; etc…)

“For the Lord is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2).

“The mountains quaked at the presence of the Lord,” (Judges 5:5)

 He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

Hannah – “Boast no more so very proudly; Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth.” (I Samuel 2:3)

“Look on everyone who is proud, and humble him; And tread down the wicked where they stand.” (Job 40:12)

“Rise up, O Judge of the earth; Render recompense to the proud.” (Psalm 94:2)

“Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; Assuredly, he will not be unpunished.” (Proverbs 16:5)

“For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning against everyone who is proud and lofty.” (Isaiah 2:12)

 He has put down the mighty from their thrones,

“Now it came about at midnight that the Lord struck all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh who sat on his Throne to the first born of the captive who was in the dungeon…” (Exodus 12:29)

“And I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations” (Haggai 2:22).

 And exalted the lowly.

“He sets on high those who are lowly” (Job 5:11)

“Yet He regards the lowly” (Psalm 138:6)

“I dwell on a high and holy place and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit” (Isaiah 57:15)

 He has filled the hungry with good things,

Hannah – But those who were hungry cease to hunger. … He raises the poor from the dust.” (I Samuel 2:5, 8)

“For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.” (Psalm 107:9)

“Who executes justice for the oppressed; Who gives food to the hungry.” (Psalm 146:7)

And the rich He has sent away empty.

Hannah – “Those who were full hire themselves out for bread” (I Samuel 2:5)

“Do not be afraid when a man becomes rich, …. For when he dies he will carry nothing away” (Psalm 49:16, 17).

“… his eyes were not satisfied with riches” (Ecclesiastes 4:8)

“But he who makes haste to be rich will not go unpunished.” (Proverbs 28:20)

 He has helped His servant Israel,

Moses – “The Lord is a warrior; The Lord is His name. … Your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.” (Exodus 15; 3)

Miriam – “The horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea.” (Exodus 15:21)

Moses – “So Israel dwells in security, …. Blessed are you, O Israel; who is like you, a people saved by the Lord?” (Deuteronomy 33:28, 29)

 In remembrance of His mercy,

I am the Lord your God, etc……..

“The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works.” (Psalm 145:9)

Referring to Israel and God’s dealing with them:

“In His love and in His mercy, He redeemed them; and He lifted them and carried them all the days of old.” (Isaiah 63:9)

“’Therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, declares the Lord.’” (Jeremiah 31:20)

“Let those who love Him be like the rising of the sun in its might.” (Judges 5:31)

 As He spoke to our fathers,

The Ten Commandments – “Then God spoke all these words saying” – (Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5: 1-22)

“Hear now and I will speak” (Job 42:4)

“Hear, O My people, and I will speak.” (Psalm 50:7)

“God has spoken…” (Psalm 60:6; 62:11; 85:8; 99:7; 105:31; 108:7, etc…)

 To Abraham and to his seed forever.

“The Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country … to the land which I will show you; …. I will make you a great nation … I will bless you …. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.’” (Genesis 12: 1-4)

As you celebrate Advent and Christmas remember to thank and praise God for His many blessings to you!!

Merry Christmas, 2017

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41).

Glory to God in the Highest and Peace and Goodwill Towards Men*

 

At this time of the year there is much anticipation in the air. Children can’t wait to be done with school for a while and have a nice break. Of course, the main object of their anxious waiting is Christmas!

Moms and Dads are filled with anticipation of the happy Christmas morning when they can see their children’s eyes light up when they come into the family room and see the beautiful tree and all of the presents.

These are wonderful traditions. I pray that at this Christmas everyone will take time out and remember that the One that they should be anticipating is the Lord Jesus Christ. The presents under the tree are fun, but the best gift ever is from our Heavenly Father.

Our best gift is the Savior Who can give us a better life and an eternal home with Him.

In Luke’s Gospel we encounter the story of the Savior’s birth along with many details surrounding it. Luke gives us a glimpse into the lives of the people who would be special in the life of the baby Jesus. Last Christmas, we talked about His mother Mary. This Christmas it seems appropriate to talk about a relative of Mary’s family, Elizabeth.

Who was this woman and why was she so special that the evangelist Luke should commemorate her story?

We don’t have many details, but what we know is important. Both Elizabeth and her husband, Zacharias, were descended from Aaron (Moses’ brother) and therefore they were both in the priestly line. Therefore, their child, John the Baptist, would be from the priestly line from both sides of his family. John the Baptist was the great prophet who was foretold in the Old Testament who would introduce Jesus at the beginning of the Savior’s ministry. Elizabeth had the privilege to be the mother of this great person.

Elizabeth understood that God had chosen her for a special task. Like some of the other women we have studied, such as Sarah and Hannah, Elizabeth was childless for a long time. In Jewish society barrenness was both embarrassing and humiliating. It was assumed that the woman had disobeyed God somehow and was being punished with childlessness. Elizabeth responded to God’s blessing by praising Him. “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men” (Luke 1:25). Of course we know that God has His own purposes for how He deals with us. The stories of these women are a great encouragement to those who are suffering misfortunes in their lives.

We are told specifically that sinfulness was NOT the reason for Elizabeth’s condition. Luke tells us that both Zacharias and Elizabeth were “righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of he Lord” (Luke 1:6). The Father was merely waiting until the time was right to bless Elizabeth with motherhood. God’s timing is perfect; He was also about to visit Mary the future mother of Jesus. These women were relatives.

After Mary became pregnant with Jesus she went to visit Elizabeth. A wonderful thing happened. As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leaped for joy. Even her unborn child recognized the nearness of the Savior of the world. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and rejoiced saying to Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord” (Luke 1:42-45).

Note especially the last verse, “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” Elizabeth believed and was blessed.
This year as we anticipate the wonderful Christmas season, my prayer is that all will believe and be blessed. Jesus is the Son of God the Most High Who will reign forever; His kingdom will have no end.
A blessed Christmas to you and your families.

  • I posted this story on Elizabeth 5 years ago. At this time in Advent I was meditating on the how we should be looking forward in anticipation to the Second Time that Christ will come to earth. I couldn’t think of a better way to think about the Lord Jesus than to rediscover the story of the two women who play a part in Jesus’s first coming. A post on Mary will follow in two weeks. God bless you all!

In honor of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we have been studying about the wives who supported the Reformers.

In Part 1 we found that Martin Luther claimed that he would not have done so many things without his Katy. John Calvin learned more graciousness and beauty from his wife Idelette.

In Part 2 we learned about wives who carried on the work of their husbands after they became widows. Kahtarina Schutz Zell wrote books and even preached. Wibrandis Rosenblatt, widowed four times, added to the ministry of her Reformation husbands by caring for the poor and the victims of the religious wars.

This week we turn to two other pious wives of the Reformation – Anna Reinhard Zwingli and Anna Adlischweiler Bullinger.

Anna Reinhard (1484 – 1538)

Anna Reinhard Zwingli was actually the first Reformation wife. Like Idelette de Bure, Anna was a young widow when she met Huldrych Zwingli. Her first marriage to John von Knonau ended tragically when he died from poor health leaving her with two children, a son and a daughter. It was her son, Gerold, who actually brought Anna and Huldrych together.

Zwingli, as a priest, came to Zurich in late 1518. Anna and her children would go to hear Zwingli preach. Zwingli noticed that Anna was one of his most attentive listeners. He also noticed that Gerold was a bright and gifted boy and Zwingli took him under his wing. He tutored Gerold until he was around 11 years old and then sent him to Basel where he continued his education. Gerold did well and rose to prominence when he moved to Zurich.

During this time Anna and Huldrych fell in love. They wanted to marry, but priests were not allowed to marry in those days. Anna and Huldrych married in secret in 1522.  When it was discovered it caused a great sensation.

Zwingli addressed Anna as his dearest wife. She was a model minister’s wife, refusing to wear jewelry so that she could feed the poor instead.

All through the hard years when Zwingli was translating the Bible into the Swiss German tongue, Anna stayed up late caring for her husband. He would often read to her from the translation and it became one of Anna’s favorite things. She never tired of hearing the stories from the Bible in her native tongue. When the Bible was completed in 1529 (several years before Luther’s translation appeared in 1534) Zwingli gave Anna a copy. It was her favorite book.

Along with her many hours of toil caring for her husband, Anna also entertained the visitors and friends who came by. Her home was always open to them. Even the town dignitaries praised Anna and Huldrych called her “an angel wife”.

In October, 1531 the Roman Catholic army approached Zurich. Hard as it seems to us today, the people were willing to fight a war for their religious beliefs. Zwingli was ordered to go along with the Reformer’s army as the chaplain. It was a tearful parting for Anna and Huldrych. They prayed together and embraced for what would be the last time. Anna said, “We shall see each other again if the Lord will. His will be done. And what will you bring back when your come?” Zwingli replied, “Blessing after dark night.” They were his last words to her.

The Roman Catholics won the battle and many Reformers died or had to flee. Anna lost Huldrych, her son Gerold, a brother, a cousin, and a fatally wounded son-in-law. Anna could not even give her husband a decent burial because his body had been quartered and burned and its ashes desecrated. Sorrow upon sorrow was heaped on her and yet she was seen at prayer soon after turning to God for comfort.  It was because of this that Anna has been called “the weeping mother of the Reformation.”

Several good friends cared for her and her remaining children. Martin Bucer (Remember him from the last post? He married Wibrandis Rosenblatt in 1542) offered help for her and her family. But it was the Bullingers (see post below) who took Anna in and gave her a new home. Zwingli had left no money for Anna. Heinrich Bullinger provided for Anna’s family, even seeing to the education of the children.

We don’t know much about Anna’s later years. Her oldest daughter, Regula grew into a beautiful and pious woman. Regula married Rudolph Gualther who later became the successor to Zwingli and Bullinger as the head of the Zurich church.

And so like mother, like daughter. Both women are still remembered today for their piety and many Christian graces. Anna was a great example for the many Christian wives to follow.

 

Anna Adlischweiler (1504 – 1564)

Anna Adlischweiler was a nun like Katherine von Bora.  Anna’s father had been killed in battle when she was eight years old. Her mother was poor and in bad health and so she put Anna in a convent. The convent at Oedenbach was also a hospital so Anna’s mother moved in with her.

Around 1522 the council at Zurich decided to send Zwingli into all of the convents to preach the Gospel to the Roman Catholics. Many of the nuns joyfully received the Gospel. Of course they left the convents to get married or find another living. In Oedenbach all but two left, Anna and her sister. Actually Anna became a believer but would not leave so that she could care for her mother.

One day the chaplain of the convent, Leo Juda, brought a young man by the name of Heinrich Bullinger with him when he visited Anna. Heinrich fell in love with the gracious and pious Anna. Heinrich proposed to Anna in a letter. It is actually the oldest existing love letter from a Reformer. It is very long but I will quote part of it from James I. Good’s book on Famous Women of the Reformed Church.

At length in his letter, Heinrich honestly tells all to Anna – he describes his physical and his financial conditions. He then makes his proposal:

But why are many words necessary! The sum of it all is, that the greatest, surest treasure that you will find in me, is fear of God, piety, fidelity and love, which with joy I will show you, and labor, earnestness and industry, which will not be wanting in temporal things. Concerning high nobility and many thousand gulden, I can say nothing to you. But I know that what is necessary to us, will not be wanting. For Paul says, “We brought nothing into the world, and we will take nothing out. Therefore, if we have clothing and food it is enough.”

Ten days later Heinrich received Anna’s reply of acceptance. Anna was very happy, but her mother was opposed to this marriage. Anna postponed the wedding so she could care for her mother until her mother died in 1529. Then in August, 1529, Anna and Heinrich were married.

Much had happened during the years that Anna was in the convent. As mentioned above, war had started. The defeat of Zurich left many Reformers dead. Others fled to safer places. During this war Zwingli, the pastor of the church at Zurich died leaving his wife Anna a widow with children. Heinrich and Anna Bullinger took the Zwingli’s in and gave them a home.

Anna not only cared for all of these others but she and Heinrich had babies almost every year. She eventually had six sons and five daughters. She also took care of her in-laws. Like Katherine von Bora Luther, Anna entertained some of Bullinger’s students.

On top of all of this, in 1556 as a result of the religious wars, 116 refugees fled to Zurich. Anna and Heinrich cared for eighty of them. Bullinger’s salary was not large and Anna often wondered where they would find the money to care for all of the refugees. Somehow she managed; the Lord always provided.

Like Anna Zwingli, Anna Bullinger received the reputation of a ministering angel. In addition to all of the refugees, other prominent foreigners came to her home – Calvin, Farel, Bucer, and Capito.

Anna distributed food, drink, medicine, and clothing to the huts of the poor. Like other Reformed wives, Anna earned the title of “Mother”.

Ever thoughtful of others, putting their needs before her own, Anna nursed her husband during the plague. He got better, but she succumbed. When she died in 1564 all of Zurich mourned for her.

Anna Adlischweiler Bullinger joins the list of the wonderful Wives and Mothers of the Reformation –

Katherine von Bora Luther

Idelette de Bure Calvin

Katharina Schutz Zell

Wibrandis Rosenblatt Bucer

Anna Reinhard Zwingli

We thank the Lord for their graciousness, faithfulness, and godly character.