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Archive for the ‘Biblical Women’ Category

A Note About the Holy Spirit and Women:

In his Gospel, Luke wrote stories that especially show us how Jesus considered women as His disciples with the same privileges as men. Luke often told his stories in pairs of women and men with the women coming off looking a bit more positive. When the men in the stories come off looking rather negative, it is because Luke is deliberately trying to destroy the ungodly stereotypes that existed at the time of the New Testament. Luke is trying to even out the playing field for female followers of Christ.

An example of this is the pairing of Zacharias and Mary at the beginning of his Gospel. Both Zacharias and Mary are approached by angels. Zacharias doubts the angel when he is promised that his aging wife Elizabeth will conceive and bear their son, John the Baptist. God punished Zacharias for his lack of faith by causing Zacharias to lose his ability to speak. Should Zacharias, a priest responsible for teaching people about God, not have remembered Sarah, Rebekah, and Hannah from the Scriptures? Zacharias should have known that nothing is impossible for God.

Mary, on the other hand responded to her angel with, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” As we saw in a previous lesson, Mary’s song, the Magnificat, shows that she knew how many great things God had done for His people. Luke demonstrates that women have strong faith.

In the book of Acts, Luke makes evident that the Holy Spirit commissions women to service in His kingdom as well as men. In his history of the early church, Luke shows how men and women work together in the kingdom of God taking the Gospel message of forgiveness and peace with God to the lost. The Holy Spirit fell on all believers at Pentecost, men and women. Women were gifted equally to serve in the church. Women as well as men were persecuted for the sake of the Gospel.

We will share two stories in the coming weeks demonstrating how women were called to serve in the kingdom. First we will look at a story from Luke’s Gospel – Anna the prophetess. Our second story is from the book of Acts and is also about women with the gift of prophecy – the daughters of Philip.

 

Anna –  the first New Testament Prophet

Please turn with me to Luke 2:36-38:

 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

 Many people wonder why so few people in Israel recognized Jesus as the Messiah when He was born. They had been watching for Him. Daniel the prophet had practically set the date. The Jewish leaders had been studying the prophecies and were anticipating the arrival of the Savior. When John the Baptist began his ministry, the Scriptures tell us that the people were “in a state of expectation” and wondered whether or not John himself was the coming Messiah. (Luke 3:15). The fact is that the people were looking for their Messiah.

So, why did they not recognize Jesus as the Messiah? It is because they were looking for powerful military leader or a mighty politician who would become a conquering king. They expected Him to arrive with great fanfare amid loudly proclaiming throngs of people.

But, He was born in a stable. So, among the Israelites, only humble people like shepherds, and Mary and Joseph, and Simeon and Anna recognized Him.  Of course, the very wealthy Magi that we read of in Matthew’s Gospel recognized Him. But they were foreigners and Gentiles, and God gave them a special revelation. Otherwise, only very lowly people knew that this baby Who was born in Bethlehem was the Lord Jesus.

God had given the shepherds the witness of the angels. Mary and Joseph had also been told what was happening by angels.

The Holy Spirit caused Simeon and Anna to recognize that the baby that Mary and Joseph brought to the temple for His circumcision was indeed the One Who would bring salvation to all peoples, even Gentiles.

When he received Jesus, Simeon blessed the baby and his parents. While he was doing this, Anna came by “at that very moment” and began giving thanks to God.

We have only these three verses about Anna in the Bible, yet they tell us a lot about her.

Anna was a prophetess. In the Old Testament we see three other women who were referred to as prophetesses. What is significant here, is that Anna is standing as a prophetess during the time of the transition between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. This devout servant of God is the one to whom God trusted the revelation concerning the coming of His Son.

It is striking that Luke makes sure to record that one of the two witnesses to the birth and validation of the Messiah was a woman. Jewish law required that there be two witnesses to validate a claim. In those days, women were not allowed to be witnesses. But, God had blessed this woman and called her to be a testimony to His Son.

Another thing we know about Anna is that she must have been an unusually faithful believer. She came from the tribe of Asher. That tribe was part of the Northern Kingdom. The northern ten tribes had become apostate over the years. They even had built their own temples and changed the Old Testament to suit their new laws. They had their own priesthood and they had intermingled with the surrounding pagans and offered corrupt sacrifices. So, at some point, God must have dealt graciously with Anna and her family to move them to the Southern Kingdom where they could worship at the true temple in Jerusalem.

Truly, Anna had an amazing faith. She believed the Old Testament promises. She took the Scriptures seriously. She knew in her heart that Messiah was coming and was probably praying that it would happen soon.

We are told that Anna was a widow, and very aged. Widows had a very tough time in Israel. They were virtually guaranteed a life of poverty. So Anna must have been living just on charity or perhaps very frugally on the remnants of her family’s inheritance. Either way, she led a chaste and sober life, praying and fasting day and night.

Luke tells us that Anna “never left the temple.” (Luke 2:37) Apparently she lived right on the temple grounds. There were apartments in the outer courts, sometimes used as temporary housing for priests who were doing their annual service. Perhaps Anna was permitted to live there because of her lifetime of faithfulness and her steadfast devotion to the Lord. The people had also recognized her spiritual gifts and observed how she had been using them in the Lord’s service.

God graciously answered her prayer that the salvation of God’s people would come. When she was walking in the temple and overheard “at that very moment” Simeon blessing the child, she knew at once that the baby in Simeon’s arms was the promised Messiah. She began praising God. She did not stop there. Her message for the rest of her life would be that the Messiah has come! She thus became one of the first witnesses for Christ!

We really don’t know what became of Anna after this. She probably did not live long enough to see Jesus during His ministry. But we can be sure that this elderly, dignified, quiet, devoted woman proclaimed Christ for as long as she lived.

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Mary, the mother of Jesus

Mary was truly remarkable. Sovereignly chosen by God to bear the Christ child, from among all of the women who had ever been born, she was the one who brought our Redeemer, the Messiah into the world. Mary was an ordinary human being, but she had great faith, courage, and piety. She proved her faith with obedience, her courage with humility, and her piety with thoughtfulness, prayer, and submission.

A few weeks ago, in Part 1 we told about Mary’s early life – her encounter with the angel Gabriel and her betrothal. Mary visited with her cousin Elizabeth, who was also miraculously pregnant with John the Baptizer. We then took some time out – in Part 2 –  to examine more closely Mary’s song of praise to God, often called the Magnificat. Mary’s song is one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded. It reminds us of the Psalms and many other songs in the Old Testament. Mary is the first theologian in the New Testament, blending dozens of Old Testament Scriptures into a few verses to praise, honor, and testify to God’s plan of redemption.

This week let us pick up the story from Mary’s visit to Elizabeth.

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months then returned home. When it was very nearly the time for Jesus to be born, Mary went with Joseph to Bethlehem. Women did not usually travel during the advanced stages of their pregnancies. Was she aware of the prophecy that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem? We don’t know. We do know that angels spoke to Joseph as well. Perhaps the angel directed Joseph to take Mary with him even though her presence was probably not needed at the registration. We know that whatever came her way, Mary responded in obedience and with great courage.

Even upon arriving in Bethlehem Mary could have wondered if she did the right thing when she and Joseph found that there was no room for them at the inn. Still she humbly obeyed. It would not have been easy to give birth in a stable. Mary trusted God. Though barely out of childbed, she graciously entertained visitors – rugged shepherds who came by to rejoice in the birth of Jesus. All of these things she pondered in her heart.

When Jesus was eight days old, Mary and Joseph took Him to Jerusalem to be circumcised. Simeon gave praise to God for allowing him to see the Savior before he died. He also prophesied that Jesus would be a “light of revelation to the Gentiles.”

Simeon also gently told Mary that, “this child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34, 35) Mary was amazed at these words, but continued to ponder all of these things in her heart – something Luke would mention many times in his Gospel. Anna, a prophetess in the temple also praised God for the Savior. Mary was truly a thoughtful, pious woman.

About two months after Jesus’ birth, Mary went to the temple for her purification as also required. Mary is a faithful example of an obedient follower of God.

A short time later, when Herod sought to kill the baby Jesus, Mary courageously fled to Egypt with Joseph though Egypt was a land traditionally an enemy of the Israelites. Then returning home to Nazareth she and Joseph raised Jesus as a normal boy even though Mary knew that He was the Son of God.

Though Mary’s firstborn Son was special she led a typical life as a mother in a small village in Galilee. There is no evidence that she treated Jesus any differently than her other children. Mary would have fixed meals, washed robes, and schooled Jesus as a small boy. The Bible doesn’t say that Jesus did anything other than what ordinary human boys do when He was young.

There is only one incident in Jesus’ childhood mentioned in the Gospels. (Luke 2:41-51) On this occasion Jesus astounded the leaders in the temple with His knowledge of the Scriptures and His wisdom in understanding and applying them to life. Of course Jesus is also God, but on this occasion He showed His attention to learning and His devotion to studying about His Father as a human child. We mustn’t forget that in Jesus’ day a twelve-year old had already had many years of training in the Torah. Mary would have helped Jesus with His Scripture memory and study even as Christian parents do today.

Jesus returned to Nazareth after this incident with His parents and was subject to them in all things. This means He was not only a good student, but He was a good Son. All during the years that Mary raised Jesus she would have been wondering just what it would mean that Jesus was the Messiah. What was He going to do?

So Mary enjoyed a normal family life with her children raising them the way all good mothers did in those times. At some point Joseph died. Mary did not remarry when Joseph died, but depended on her sons, especially her firstborn, Jesus, to help care for the family.

Mary would then be raising her children as a widow. Being the oldest Son, Jesus would have taken over the position of head of the family. He would have assumed the duty of seeing to it that His mother was protected as well as His sisters and brothers. These were all the normal duties of any son in those times. Jesus continued to care for her until the day that He began His public ministry.

Jesus made His identity as God’s Son public at His baptism. Was Mary present at Jesus’ baptism? The Scriptures do not say, but this was an important event in the life of a Jew; perhaps she was present. If Mary was there, then she saw the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove and heard God’s voice from heaven. These things would have reminded her of that time over 26 years ago when the angel appeared to her and announced who her Son would be. She would have recalled Simeon’s words to her and also Anna’s prophecy. The things that she had been pondering in her heart would begin to make sense. As would be true for all of Jesus’ disciples however, it would take time for the mission of the Messiah to become clear.

On the way back home to Nazareth, Jesus, Mary and some of His brothers or friends stopped in Cana for a wedding. At this wedding in Cana we see the first opportunity to witness the change in the way Jesus related to His mother.

The story is well known. At the feast the wine ran out. This was a major embarrassment not only for the bridegroom but also for the steward who was in charge of the wedding feast.

Most readers comment on Jesus’ response to His mother, but I would like to back up first for a minute and ask, “Why did Mary even ask Him?” Did she realize that He could work miracles? He hadn’t done a miracle yet. And what kind of miracle was she asking for? Most of Jesus’ miracles would be about doing really important things like healing people or even raising people from the dead. Why was Mary asking Jesus to help with a less than a life or health-threatening situation? Why did Jesus go ahead and do this miracle as the first one of His public ministry?

In light of this, Jesus’ answer to Mary makes more sense. It was very kind and considerate. His response has always seemed harsh to people, “Woman, (note: not “mother”) why do you involve me? My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4) At first it seems like Jesus is giving His mother the brush off. We should remember two things.

First, Mary is now in a slightly different relationship with Jesus. Just like any young man who leaves home, Jesus holds His mother in great respect but must make His own decisions.

Secondly, Jesus knows what His life is to be. Remember, at the temple when He was twelve years old He told His parents that He must be about His Father’s business. What did Jesus think of making His first public miracle one of seemingly small importance? He could have told His mother that it was just too bad about the wine but His Father doesn’t want Him doing such trifling works.

Instead somehow Jesus indicates to Mary that He will help. Mary tells the servants to do what Jesus instructs them. In this way, Mary shows that she understands that her Son now has the authority. She is telling Him, “Yes, You are now to go out on Your Father’s business. I will return to Nazareth and You will go and do the work that Your Father has given You.”

As always, Mary had pondered all of the things that were told to her about her Son. Now she is beginning to see the reality of Jesus’ deity. Now she is beginning to understand what the predictions about her Son were all about. There would still be a long way to go as Jesus’ purpose for coming to earth would begin to unfold.

As Jesus’ ministry progressed people began to oppose Him more and more. Once after Jesus cast a demon out of a man the Pharisees accused Him, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” (Matthew 12:24). These Israelites thought that Jesus was evil or insane. The rulers began to plot Jesus’ death.

It was right at this time that Mary and some of Jesus’ brothers and sisters came to see Him. Mary must have been wondering how things were going for Jesus. As a mother, was Mary worried about the anger and hostility that was clearly being shown by the Jewish leaders?

When someone told Jesus that His mother and brothers were waiting outside to see Him, He responded, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” (Matthew 12:48) Some have said that Jesus’ response was being disrespectful to His mother. No, Jesus was not slighting them but trying to make a point. He immediately answered His own question by saying, “Here are my mother and my brothers!” as He pointed to His disciples.

As Mary listened to Jesus explain that, “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven, is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:50) she would have understood that Jesus was referring to more than just His physical family. Mary returned home with the assurance that she had a double relationship with Jesus, physical and spiritual. Jesus was her Son and her Savior.

We don’t hear about Mary again until we meet her standing at the cross when her beloved Son was put to death. There she was standing with other women, and John the disciple. What pain and anguish must have been in her heart as she beheld the cruel and painful death of her Son.

Here again, we see how considerate Jesus is of His mother. Though He has the weight of the sins of the world to bear, He takes time out to provide for Mary. He puts her in the care of John, the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” John took Mary into his own household. Jesus shows that though He said that His family now includes all believers, Mary still held a special place in His heart. Though Jesus’ time on earth was growing short, He spent some of it doing His last duty as a human son by thoughtfully caring for His mother.

Mary returned home with John and waited for events to unfold. Was she as surprised as all of the other disciples when on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came and told Peter and the others that the tomb was empty? It is very likely that no one understood the full extent of Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth until His resurrection. But what joy must have filled her heart when she heard the good news!

This is not the end of Mary’s story. We know that she was waiting in an upper room in Jerusalem along with the eleven apostles and over 100 other disciples after Jesus ascended into heaven. (Acts 1:14) The believers would be filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. They would then all go out to proclaim the Gospel of the good news that Jesus lived, died, and rose again so that people could receive forgiveness for their sins and be at peace with God.

Mary would surely have been a willing and dedicated follower of Christ her Son proclaiming the good news to everyone. We know that she lived for at least a few more years because of the details of her life in Luke’s Gospel. Only Mary herself could have recounted such intimate details to Luke.

 

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The Song of Mary

Many scholars have portrayed Mary as an ignorant peasant girl with little understanding of the Scriptures. But Mary’s song of praise reveals that she had studied the Scriptures. Why is this important? Because Mary would be the teacher for the little boy Jesus. It was important that her home would be one of worship to God filled with knowledge of God’s Word, love, thankfulness and praise. All of these, the mother Mary was able to do.

Proof of this is in Mary’s song, one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded. It reminds us of the Psalms and many other songs in the Old Testament. Mary is the first theologian in the New Testament, blending dozens of Old Testament Scriptures into a few verses to praise, honor, and testify to God’s plan of redemption.

There are scores of Scriptures that are alluded to in Mary’s song. You will find that you have a miniature history lesson of the Old Testament as well as a picture of God’s faithfulness to His people all in Mary’s song.

Mary’s song follows the pattern of the other famous songs in the Old Testament. 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.

You can see the similarity in Mary’s song to other 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). We will refer to many of these songs in this post below.

Turn to Luke 1:46. 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)

Mary was not just praising God for her own part in God’s plan. The meaning of her pregnancy was that the longed-for Messiah was finally coming to Israel. This was cause for everyone to rejoice. When she visited her relative, Elizabeth, this godly cousin also rejoiced that now the things that God had promised since the beginning, were finally being fulfilled. Christ was finally coming!! Mary was humble and amazed that God would do such remarkable things through her, a lowly and undeserving handmaid. But nevertheless she was thankful and so happy that she couldn’t help bursting into song!

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As we turn to the stories of women in the New Testament let us begin with:

A Note About Jesus and Women

Women were not treated with respect in Jesus’ day. The rabbis had a saying, “Talk not much with womankind.” And this statement was found in the Talmud, “It was taught: Do not speak excessively with a woman lest this ultimately lead you to adultery.” In other words, men can’t speak straight across to women as equal human beings.

Jesus broke the mold. By interacting with women the way He did, He was directly violating the rules of the Pharisees. In contrast to this the Gospels, especially Luke’s Gospel, show Jesus lifting women to a place of freedom and respect that they had not known before in Judaism.

Christianity is different from all of the rest of the world’s religions.

While the leaders in Israel would cater to the rich, Jesus would go to the poor. While the Pharisees would only speak with other men, Jesus would speak with women. The leaders would emphasize the externals of religion; Jesus would emphasize the heart condition.

I’ve never heard a sermon on the interaction of Jesus with women. I’ve heard only a handful of sermons on any woman period. This really concerns me. At the very least it leaves the impression that women are not important. At the worst, it gives the impression that we have not learned anything from the Lord Jesus about how to treat women.

Jesus showed that He valued women when He spoke to them. This must have been shocking to those around Him. We know from John’s Gospel, for example, that even the disciples were “surprised to find him talking with a woman,” (John 4:27).

Jesus knew His Scriptures better than anybody. Women were created in the image of God at the same time as men (Genesis 1:27). Putting aside all of the issues in today’s “gender debate”, let us focus on how Jesus treated women. What can we learn from that?

Let’s begin with the story of the first woman in Jesus’s life – His mother Mary.

Mary, the mother of Jesus

Mary was truly remarkable. Sovereignly chosen by God to bear the Christ child, from among all of the women who had ever been born, she was the one who brought our Redeemer, the Messiah into the world. Mary was an ordinary human being, but she had great faith, courage, and piety. She proved her faith with obedience, her courage with humility, and her piety with thoughtfulness, prayer, and submission.

We learn the most about Mary in Luke’s Gospel. Doctor Luke took it upon himself to interview many disciples of Jesus in order to write his story. Luke wanted everyone to know that he was giving the exact truth of the events surrounding Jesus’ life, and so he wrote the things “just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word,” (Luke 1:2). The main eyewitness was of course Mary who was there from Christ’s conception until His death.

It should not surprise us then that we have Mary’s words recorded for us in Luke’s Gospel or that there are so many details about Mary’s interaction with Jesus. Mary was still alive and probably shared all of the stories with Luke personally. Even after the resurrection Mary continued to be a faithful witness. That explains how we know the very conversations that Mary had with the angel, Elizabeth, Jesus, and others.

We don’t know very much about Mary’s upbringing. We know that she had a sister, Salome, who was the mother of Jesus’ disciples, James and John. Salome was also a devoted follower of Jesus and was there at the cross with Mary when He was crucified. Of course, we also know that Mary was related to Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist. Besides this, we only know that she grew up in Nazareth as the daughter of a poor but hardworking family.

From her song, the Magnificat, we can see that Mary grew up in a godly family. Perhaps listening to and reciting or singing the Scriptures was a big part of her every day life. Girls did not go to the synagogue as boys did, but that doesn’t mean that Mary, who loved God with all of her heart would not have loved to hear the stories of God’s mighty works. When the angel came to see Mary, she knew Who God was and what He had promised, and was ready to obey God.

In the Scriptures, we first meet this humble peasant girl when an angel of the Lord goes to Mary’s home and announces God’s plan for her to bear Jesus. At the time of the Annunciation, Mary was probably a teenager. Back in that day, girls were often betrothed at age thirteen. Her marriage was probably arranged by the parents of Joseph, her prospective bridegroom. Joseph was a carpenter. He was also a godly and righteous man.

In those days a betrothal was as legally binding as a marriage. In fact, if a betrothal was broken by one of the parties, through infidelity for instance, there had to be a divorce proceeding. There were two ways to get the divorce, a public trial, which would have been very humiliating for Mary, or a quiet proceeding. In the quiet proceeding, the wronged party could get two witnesses to sign a release with him and send the other party away. In Joseph’s case, he thought that he would just send Mary somewhere to have her child secretly and avoid disgrace. We know that an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, and then Joseph knew that everything was all right. This was God’s plan. And so he willingly took his part as Mary’s husband and earthly father of Jesus.

Mary must have known what could happen to her when Joseph found out that she was pregnant. She knew that the horror of public scandal might await her. But she trusted God to take care of her. She surrendered herself unconditionally when she said, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38) Mary did not doubt or question God. She just immediately, humbly, and joyfully submitted to God’s will.

Some people think that Mary did not believe the angel when she was questioning, “How will this be since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34) Luke had already told the story of Zacharias who did not believe the angel. When the angel told Zacharias that he and his barren wife would have a child, it was just too hard for him to believe. (Luke 1:5-25)

But unbelief was not the motive behind Mary’s question. Mary was not questioning the angel because she doubted God. She merely wanted to know how a virgin could get pregnant. Though the Bible doesn’t say, I have to wonder if the humble maiden also wondered why she was the one who was chosen. After all, the Israelites had been waiting for their Savior for hundreds of years. Perhaps Mary thought that she wasn’t good enough to be the mother of the Messiah; nevertheless she believed God.

So the angel explained to her that God would be the Father of Jesus. The Holy Spirit would cause the conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb. Indeed, Jesus would be the King who would sit on David’s throne. Mary’s response was of total submission to God, ” I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38)

And so, Mary’s faith is an example to us. She proved her faith by responding with humble obedience. She went to visit her cousin Elizabeth who confirmed 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) Mary knew that the child she carried was the Savior that everyone had been waiting for. Jesus is the promised king, the promised son of David.

Mary, the first New Testament Theologian

Many scholars have portrayed Mary as an ignorant peasant girl with little understanding of the Scriptures. But Mary’s song of praise reveals that she had studied the Scriptures. Why is this important? Because Mary would be the teacher for the little boy Jesus. It was important that her home would be one of worship to God filled with knowledge of God’s Word, love, thankfulness and praise. All of these, the mother Mary was able to do.

Proof of this is in Mary’s song, one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded. It reminds us of the Psalms and many other songs in the Old Testament. Mary is the first theologian in the New Testament, blending dozens of Old Testament Scriptures into a few verses to praise, honor, and testify to God’s plan of redemption.

There are scores of Scriptures that are alluded to in Mary’s song. You will find that you have a miniature history lesson of the Old Testament as well as a picture of God’s faithfulness to His people all in Mary’s song.

Mary’s song follows the pattern of the other famous songs in the Old Testament. 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.

Mary’s song fills this pattern. (Luke 1:46-55) – In the next post we will focus on Mary’s song – the Magnificat.

Mary was not just praising God for her own part in God’s plan. The meaning of her pregnancy was that the longed-for Messiah was finally coming to Israel. This was cause for everyone to rejoice. When she visited her relative, Elizabeth, this godly cousin also rejoiced that now the things that God had promised since the beginning, were finally being fulfilled. Christ was finally coming!! Mary was humble and amazed that God would do such remarkable things through her, a lowly and undeserving handmaid. But nevertheless she was thankful and so happy that she couldn’t help bursting into song!

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months then returned home. When it was very nearly the time for Jesus to be born, Mary went with Joseph to Bethlehem. Women did not usually travel during the advanced stages of their pregnancies. Was she aware of the prophecy that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem? We don’t know. We do know that angels spoke to Joseph as well. Perhaps the angel directed Joseph to take Mary with him even though her presence was probably not needed at the registration. We know that whatever came her way, Mary responded in obedience and with great courage.

In our next post we will continue with Mary on her life’s journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In our first post about Bathsheba, we saw that God has great compassion for His children. Bathsheba is one of many women in the Scriptures that have been misunderstood or portrayed badly by scholars. We have already seen how the Jewish leaders have portrayed Tamar as a prostitute even though she was not one. Later we will see the same slur against Mary of Magdala’s reputation. That is why it is so important to read the Bible and see what it really says about these women.

Hollywood likes to portray Bathsheba as a temptress. It sells more movies, but their version is not the same as the Bible’s. I believe that Bathsheba had no choice when King David had his men bring her to the palace. As a vassal and a woman she was not allowed to refuse the king. Some commentators want to cast Bathsheba as a seductress and blame her for David’s sin. But the Bible does not describe Bathsheba that way.

In our story in Part 1 (Posted April 3, 2018) – Bathsheba experienced a forced relationship with a man who was not her husband, widowhood, and bereavement of a child. But God blessed her marriage to King David and they had some happy years. David was much older than Bathsheba and so not surprisingly he preceded her in death.

This week in Part 2 – Bathsheba as Queen Mother – we see more evidence of God’s sovereignty and compassion. Bathsheba mourned the loss of a child and then the loss of her husband. But God was not done with this faithful daughter yet.

Let’s turn to the continuation of this story of a very blessed woman – Bathsheba.

The years rolled by and when David was really old and close to death, one of his sons decided not to wait for him to die but to have himself declared king. Nathan’s prophecy was coming true. There was a lot of trouble in David’s family.

Turn to I Kings 1:25:

Adonijah, the son of Haggith, one of David’s other wives, called together all of his other brothers except Solomon and threw a party. Those who attended celebrated with eating and drinking and exclaiming, “Long live King Adonijah!”

 Nathan the prophet, who was not invited to the party either, went to Bathsheba and told her to hurry to the king before it was too late. Nathan honored Bathsheba by going to her as the one who would be able to talk to the king and inform him about what was happening and ask the king for help.

Turn to I Kings 1:15-18:

So Bathsheba sent to see the aged king in his room, where Abishag the Shunammite was attending him. Bathsheba bowed down, prostrating herself before the king. “What is it you want?” the king asked. She said to him, “My lord, you yourself swore to me your servant by the Lord your God: ‘Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne.’ But now Adonijah has become king, and you, my lord the king, do not know about it.

While Bathsheba was speaking, Nathan the prophet came into the room and confirmed her words. King David called for Bathsheba and promised to make Solomon king that very day.

David assured Bathsheba that Solomon was his choice (and God’s!) to inherit the throne. David gave orders for Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet to anoint Solomon as king and have him sit on David’s throne immediately. The people watched as Solomon was anointed. Trumpets blew and the people proclaimed, “Long live King Solomon!” (I Kings 1:39)

Adonijah and his followers fled. Solomon showed Adonijah mercy and let him return home. Solomon was safely on the throne now. Adonijah unfortunately would not learn his lesson. More about that in a moment.

Bathsheba had acted wisely and courageously when her son Solomon was threatened. It seemed that all of Israel was going after Adonijah. She and Nathan were alone in approaching David. Yet Bathsheba relied on God’s promise and David’s faithfulness that her son would be the next king. David respected his intelligent, resourceful wife and acted upon her request immediately. Bathsheba’s son was promptly made king.

Bathsheba was a wise woman. But in the last story we read of her in the Bible we see her acting in a rather puzzling way. It has to do with her stepson Adonijah.

Turn to I Kings 2:13-14:

Now Adonijah, the son of Haggith, went to Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother. Bathsheba asked him, “Do you come peacefully?” He answered, “Yes, peacefully.” Then he added, “I have something to say to you.” “You may say it,” she replied.

Adonijah went on to ask Bathsheba to speak to King Solomon for him and get Abishag the Shunammite as his wife.

Though Adonijah tried to make his request seem like a small thing to Bathsheba, he really wanted to be king. He believed that it was his right as the older brother and he thought of a way to usurp Solomon’s rule. In those days, a new ruler would often take the wives of the previous king to prove that he was now the reigning king. Though David had not cohabited with Abishag, she was still considered a concubine. (Another of David’s sons, Absalom had already tried this. See 2 Samuel 16:21-23.)

Either Bathsheba was fooled by Adonijah or perhaps she just had a very tender heart. It is difficult to see why she would even think that Solomon would grant Adonijah’s wicked request. Perhaps she really hoped that Adonijah meant the best. After all, when he greeted her he assured her that he had come “peacefully”.

A more probable explanation is that Bathsheba was wise enough to know that Adonijah had not repented and would always be a threat to her son Solomon. Perhaps Bathsheba took Adonijah’s request to Solomon so that Solomon would have an excuse to remove this rival and consolidate his throne. I guess we’ll have to wait until we get to Heaven to know for sure. I believe that Bathsheba was a kind and forgiving woman, but she had already shown much courage in getting her son on the throne. Whether or not Bathsheba knew what Adonijah was really asking, Solomon did. The king sent one of his men to execute Adonijah immediately.

Again, Bathsheba was exonerated before all of Israel as Solomon set a throne for his mother on his right side. Bathsheba was ruling as the Queen Mother.

Turn to I Kings 2:19, Solomon, “had a throne brought for the king’s mother, and she sat down at this right hand.”

Solomon loved and respected his mother Bathsheba. Some commentators believe that the “Excellent Woman” of Proverbs 31, written by Solomon, was modeled on Bathsheba. The worthy woman in Proverbs 31 is a trusted companion and a devoted mother. Bathsheba fits the description of the honored and noble woman whose “children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” (Proverbs 31:28-29)

We find Bathsheba one more place in the Bible that is often overlooked. In the Song of Solomon, the bride praises her husband as they prepare for their wedding day.

Turn to Song of Solomon 3:11 where the speaker says:

Come out, and look, you daughters of Zion. Look on King Solomon wearing a crown, the crown with which his mother crowned him on the day of his wedding, the day his heart rejoiced.

Who else can this mother be but Bathsheba? And here we see her as the Queen mother crowning her son on his wedding day. God had compassion on Bathsheba and raised her from the depths of loneliness and sorrow to the heights of comfort and joy!

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A Note on God’s Compassion

In this story we will see that God has great compassion for His children. Bathsheba is one of many women in the Scriptures that have been misunderstood or portrayed badly by scholars. We have already seen how the Jewish leaders have portrayed Tamar as a prostitute even though she was not one. Later we will see the same slur against Mary of Magdala’s reputation. That is why it is so important to read the Bible and see what God really says about these women.

Hollywood likes to portray Bathsheba as a temptress. It sells more movies, but their version is not the same as the Bible’s. I believe that Bathsheba had no choice when King David had his men bring her to the palace. As a vassal and a woman she was not allowed to refuse the king. Some commentators want to cast Bathsheba as a seductress and blame her for David’s sin. But the Bible does not describe Bathsheba that way.

Historians and Hollywood have often tried to say that the adultery was all Bathsheba’s fault. But Bathsheba was violated physically, then widowed, and bereaved of a child.

God is compassionate. Bathsheba was comforted in her mourning. And then, miraculously God raised Bathsheba from the depths of sorrow to the heights of joy as He gave her another son. Her son would be the next king of Israel.

Let’s turn to the story of this very blessed woman – Bathsheba.

 Turn to 2 Samuel 11:1:

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.

Normally, King David would have been with his troops. We are not told why he remained in Jerusalem. Perhaps his generals were doing an adequate job. The Israelite army was successful in destroying their enemies. Perhaps there was no need for David to endanger his life any more by leading the battles.

Continuing at verse 2-5:

One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”

Those who blame Bathsheba for David’s sin often try to say that she was bathing on her roof on purpose where the king could see her. That is not very likely.

In the first place the Bible doesn’t say Bathsheba was on her roof; we are told that it was King David who was on the roof. That is the point to the story. He was standing where he could look down into the courtyard of Uriah and Bathsheba’s home. He should have wandered off and looked at something else and not violated Bathsheba’s privacy. It got him in trouble.

Secondly, when David got up from bed it was night. How late was it? How dark was it? Bathsheba had every right to expect that she was bathing in the privacy of her own home at a time of the evening when she could expect to be alone.

It was very unlikely that she was on her roof. Who would haul heavy water jars up there? Actually Bible historians tell us that bathing went on in people’s courtyards. Her maids would bring her water and attend to her behind a screen. She had every reason to believe she was having a private bath. The reason David could see her even behind a privacy screen was that he was on his rooftop looking down at her.

David stood there and watched as this beautiful woman bathed. David could have looked away and respected Bathsheba’s privacy. Even if David had not looked away but indulged his lust by watching Bathsheba, he still could have turned and gone back to bed and forgotten about the whole thing. Instead he took steps to satisfy his lust. David sent a messenger to find out who she was.

Who was Bathsheba? Let’s pause here and talk about Bathsheba. We know very little about her early life. Bathsheba’s father was Eliam, also known as Ammiel.

Ammiel was ranked as one of David’s thirty-seven “mighty men” (2 Samuel 23:4). As such, Eliam or Ammiel would have been a frequent guest at David’s palace.

Originally her father named her Bath-shua, which means “daughter of my prosperity”. Her later name, Bathsheba means “daughter of an oath” signifying the oath-bound covenant made with Abraham.

Bathsheba was married to Uriah as a young woman. Uriah, a Hittite, was an officer in David’s army; in fact, he is listed with the 37 top-ranking heroes – one of David’s mighty men – (in 2 Samuel 23:39). Perhaps as one of the mighty men, Uriah met Eliam’s daughter Bathsheba in a gathering and asked for her hand in marriage. In any event, he was an important man.

The fact that Uriah had a house in Jerusalem very near King David’s palace suggests that when the Israelites were not at war, Uriah’s peace time job may have been as one of the palace guards or even one of David’s personal body guards. It was the proximity of Uriah’s house that unfortunately made it possible for David to be tempted when he looked down into their courtyard while Bathsheba was bathing.

David sent messengers to get Bathsheba. When David’s men told him that Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah, he would have known that Uriah (one of his chief men, remember) was away at the battle. He knew that Bathsheba was alone and helpless. Bathsheba could not refuse the king and David knew it. At this point David could still have let the matter drop, but he didn’t.

When Bathsheba came, David lay with her. The Bible is clear – David lay with Bathsheba. He is the one who controlled the situation from first to last. Frankly, David sinned against Bathsheba. The Bible makes it clear that she was a victim.

Bathsheba soon found that she was pregnant. This was a terrible situation for her. She told King David about her predicament. David knew he had to do something.

Let’s return to our story picking up at 2 Samuel 11: 6-9:

So David sent this word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David. When Uriah came to him David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him. But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house.

David decided to deal with the problem of Bathsheba’s pregnancy by getting Uriah home as quickly as possible. David thought that Uriah would naturally sleep with his wife upon returning home. Then the child would be presumed to be Uriah’s.

But Uriah was a dedicated, disciplined soldier and refused the comforts of home while the other soldiers were staying in temporary shelters. Even Joab was camping in the open field. Uriah asked, “Shall I then go to my house to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? By your life and the life of your soul, I will not do this thing.” (2 Samuel 11:11)

David tried several times to get Uriah to go home, but Uriah would not think of his own comforts ahead of his duty.

David then tried desperately to cover his sin. He sent a letter to his general Joab, in the hands of Uriah himself, to put Uriah in the fiercest place of a battle knowing Uriah would be killed. David added murder to adultery.

Think for a minute of how far David went to cover up his sin. He had one of his best men killed. He involved his general, Joab, in participating with him in an unjust murder.

Continuing with verse 26, 27:

When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. After the time of the mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.

Bathsheba mourned for her husband Uriah when she learned of his death. David had not only violated her physically, but now he also caused her to be a widow.

Not only that but the laws in Israel were plain – a woman found pregnant out of wedlock was to be put to death. David raped her, made her a widow, and then put her in danger of her life. How lonely and helpless Bathsheba must have felt.

God was displeased with David and sent Nathan the prophet to speak to him. Nathan’s words are significant.

Turn to chapter 12:1-3:

The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

Nathan told David a story about a rich man with many flocks of sheep and a poor man with only one ewe lamb. The rich man needed to prepare a meal for a visitor and instead of using one of his own many sheep he took the poor man’s ewe lamb.

David grew angry and said that the rich man deserved to die for his evil deed and should make restitution.

Turn to 2 Samuel 12:7-10:

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.”

Let’s look carefully at Nathan’s story. The metaphor he used is not an accident. The sheep in the story are adult animals. The ewe lamb is a baby. The lamb is vulnerable and depends on its owner for protection.

Bathsheba was depending on her husband for protection, but he was away at war. Normally Bathsheba could rely on her strong husband, one of David’s mighty men, to defend her. Uriah would never have let anyone through the door to harm his wife.

David knew Uriah was away and he took advantage of the situation to take Uriah’s one ewe lamb. If David needed to have some physical comforting, he had plenty of wives for that. At this time in his life, we know that there were eight named wives for David and many concubines. He did not need to find another woman.

David understood what Nathan was telling him. He responded, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan told him that God had forgiven him since he repented.

 But sins have consequences even if God has forgiven them. The child that was conceived by this unlawful union died. Bathsheba must have mourned greatly over the death of her first child.

David comforted Bathsheba after the death of this child. Bathsheba conceived again and bore a son and they named him Solomon.

David loved Bathsheba until the end of his life. God gave Bathsheba four sons, one of which was the future king, Solomon. (I Chronicles 3:5)

Bathsheba must have forgiven David. It must have meant a lot to Bathsheba when David repented publicly. This exonerated her. As a child of God she would have known that repentance and forgiveness are important. And as a godly wife it was important to her that her husband be right with God. Bathsheba could love, honor, and obey a man who turned from his sin and did what was right.

In the next post we will see how Bathsheba reigned with her son Solomon to the end of her life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Note About Obeying God Rather Than Men:

It may seem obvious that we should obey God rather than men when there is a conflict between those two authorities. But it is not always so easy when worldly authorities have the power to command our obedience and to punish us if we disobey them.

A familiar New Testament story involves the apostles Peter and John. The Jewish priests and Sadducees were angry when the apostles were preaching about Jesus and threw the disciples into prison. The next day when the rulers met they questioned Peter and John. It was apparent that the rulers could not keep them in prison so they let them go but admonished them to stop preaching in Jesus’s name. Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you or to him? You be the judges!” (Acts 4:19).

The Jewish leaders saw themselves as the authorities in Israel. But the apostles said that God is a higher authority.

Peter and John were not the first to disregard earthly authority. When the Hebrews were enslaved in Egypt, Pharaoh instructed the midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, to kill all of the male babies. “The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do: they let the boys live.” God blessed the midwives with families of their own for obeying Him.

There is another in the Old Testament of someone who believed that it is better to obey God rather than men. This was a woman named Abigail.

Her husband Nabal was her authority. Nabal acted foolishly and his faithful wife tried to rescue the situation and save his life. The way that Abigail took things into her own hands would have made her husband angry. If Nabal would have known what Abigail was going to do he would have forbidden it. Abigail risked severe punishment, but she feared God more than her husband.

Let’s turn to I Samuel 25 and read this story of a wise woman – Abigail.

 

Abigail – Wise Counselor

 Now Samuel died, and all Israel assembled and mourned for him, and they buried him at his home in Ramah. Then David moved down into the Desert of Paran.

A certain man in Maon, who had property there at Carmel, was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was shearing in Carmel. His name was Nabal and his wife’s name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband was surly and mean in his dealings – he was a Calebite.

While David was in the wilderness, he heard that Nabal was shearing sheep. So he sent ten young men and said to them, “Go up to Nabal at Carmel and greet him in my name. Say to him: ‘Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours! Now I hear that it is sheep-shearing time. When your shepherds were with us, we did not mistreat them, and the whole time they were at Carmel nothing of theirs was missing. Ask you own servants and they will tell you. Therefore, be favorable toward my men, since we come at a festive time. Please give your servants and your son David whatever you can find for them.’

When David’s men arrived, they gave Nabal this message in David’s name. Then they waited. (I Samuel 25:1-9)

At the time our story takes place, Saul is the king of Israel. You may remember that the Israelites were at war with the Philistines during these times. When David was a lad, he fought the champion of the Philistines, the giant Goliath. After that he went to work at the palace for Saul. As Saul grew older, he became jealous of David. He even threatened to kill him, so David had to go away and hide from Saul. He was on the run.

He had a large following of men who stayed with him, living in the wilderness of Paran. There he was not only safe from Saul, but he was able to be of real service to his countrymen by protecting the large flocks which pastured far and wide from the predatory raids of the wild tribes of the desert.

One of the people that David protected was Nabal, a wealthy land owner. Nabal had many flocks of sheep. A special time for sheep farmers was when they did the shearing. It was a time of rejoicing, for when the fleeces were sold, there would be much money and a big celebration. Nabal had sold his wool and was throwing a huge party. Because David and his men had protected Nabal’s sheep, they felt that they should be invited to the celebration. David sent a delegation of ten men to greet Nabal and ask for something in return for his service.

Nabal answered David’s men roughly and sent them away empty handed. He had insulted them by acting as if he didn’t even know who they were. They went back to tell David about Nabal’s rejection, and when David heard this, he was very angry. He had four hundred men put on their swords and follow him back to Nabal’s place. Two hundred men stayed behind with the supplies.

Continue with I Samuel 25:14-17:

One of the servants told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, “David sent messengers from the wilderness to give our master his greetings, but he hurled insults at them. Yet these men were very good to us. They did not mistreat us, and the whole time we were out in the fields near them nothing was missing. Night and day they were a wall around us the whole time we were herding our sheep near them. Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household. He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him.”

In the meantime, one of Nabal’s servants had heard how Nabal mistreated David’s emissaries. This servant knew that it would be no good to try and reason with his master who was “such a wicked man that no one can talk to him.” He ran and told Abigail, Nabal’s wife. Abigail was a wise woman and could be trusted to know what to do. The servant told her all about how David and his men had protected them all those months that they tended the sheep. Abigail immediately resolved to take action.

Abigail was not only beautiful, but intelligent. She knew what needed to be done, and that it had to be done quickly. She had the servants load up some food and beverages and put them on donkeys. She told them to go on ahead of her to meet David. She herself followed on her donkey as soon as she could. “But she did not tell her husband Nabal” (I Samuel 25:19).

Imagine what courage Abigail must have had. She had heard that David and four hundred armed soldiers were coming after her husband. She had no way of knowing what the outcome would be. She did not know if David was so angry that he would punish everyone before she had a chance to talk to him. She knew that she had to hurry and meet David before he reached her house.

Continuing at verse 20:

As she came riding her donkey into a mountain ravine, there were David and his men descending toward her, and she met them. David had just said, “It’s been useless – all my watching over this fellow’s property in the wilderness so that nothing of his was missing. He has paid me back evil for good. May God deal with David, be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him!”

Abigail may have been trembling when she saw David, but she met him bravely. She got down off of her donkey and bowed to the ground and begged him to listen to her.

Continuing at Verse 24:

She fell at his feet and said: “Pardon your servant, my lord, and let me speak to you; hear what your servant has to say. Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name – his name means Fool, and folly goes with him. And now my lord, as surely as the Lord your God lives and as you live, since the Lord has kept you from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, may your enemies and all who are intent on harming my lord be like Nabal. And let this gift, which your servant has brought to my lord, be given to the men who follow you.

This is a pretty amazing speech. Abigail is speaking disrespectfully of her husband. But there is a good reason for this; Abigail wants David to know that Nabal’s reputation is terrible with everyone. He’s just a fool, and not worth David’s time. In contrast to Nabal’s wickedness, Abigail praises David, calling him “lord”. She appeals to his honor as a man who wants justice. She reminds him that God has stopped him from avenging himself with his own hands. Abigail is the one who prevented David from committing bloodshed, but she tactfully gives him the credit for not continuing to pursue revenge.

Instead, Abigail asked him to put all of the blame on her. She told him to treat her as his maidservant. She apologized for not knowing sooner about the young men that David had sent to see Nabal.  She begged him to accept the gift of food that she had brought.

Abigail continues with a prophecy for David. Turn to verse 28:

Please forgive your servant’s presumption. The Lord your God will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my lord, because you fight the Lord’s battles, and no wrongdoing will be found in you as long as you live. Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my lord will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God, but the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling. When the Lord has fulfilled for my lord every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler over Israel, my lord will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the Lord your God has brought my lord success, remember your servant.”

Abigail shows foresight and wisdom in this speech. She continues to build David up as a man of God who would not really want to do something that would stay on his conscience forever. She gave David a chance to save his face. By then David had cooled off. Abigail appealed to his character as a man of God. David repented and admitted to Abigail that she was right.

Continuing with verse 32:

David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. Otherwise, as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.”

David accepted Abigail’s gift with thanks. He then told her to go home in peace.

When Abigail went to Nabal he was holding a great banquet. He was in high spirits and very drunk. So she decided not to speak to him until the next morning.

In the morning Abigail told Nabal all that had happened the day before. Nabal’s heart failed him and he became like a stone. About ten days later the Lord struck Nabal and he died.

When David heard that Nabal was dead, he knew for certain that God had upheld his cause against Nabal for treating him with contempt. God had also kept him from doing wrong by avenging himself on Nabal.

God rewarded the faithfulness and courage of Abigail. Turn to verse 39:

Then David sent word to Abigail, asking her to become his wife. His servants went to Carmel and said to Abigail, “David has sent us to you to take you to become his wife.” She bowed down with her face to the ground and said, “I am your servant and am ready to serve you and wash the feet of my lord’s servants.” Abigail quickly got on a donkey and, attended by her five female servants, went with David’s messengers and became his wife.

Abigail was now under David’s protection as one of his wives. David was getting a wife that would be his spiritual equal as a good companion and counselor.

We don’t know any more about Abigail than what we read in I Samuel 25. We can be encouraged from what we do know that God cares for His children. How exciting it will be to hear about the rest of her life when we get to Heaven!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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