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Numbers 27: Give us an inheritance among our father’s relatives.
In preparation for entry into the Promised Land a census has been taken and the method for division of the land is made public. A group of sisters, all daughters of the late Zelophehad appear before Moses to seek justice. The division of land is by families and it’s sons who are to inherit from their fathers. These women explain that their father died without any sons and because of that his descendants are being left out of the plans for property ownership in Canaan. Moses takes the issue to the Lord and the Lord agrees. The plan is rewritten to take into account men who die with no sons to inherit their property. This is a historical decision that elevates the status of women in Israel. I find the circumstances quite interesting. What would have happened had these women not come forward with their petition? My guess is that their unique situation would have been overlooked. As individuals, they would have been okay because when they married they would have shared in their husband’s inheritance. Because of their bold request, though, the Lord listened, agreed, and responded. This then, becomes an example of prayer having a direct influence on the Lord. He willingly listens to us and allows us to have influence in what he does in this world. Had they not stepped forward things would have been okay; but because they did, things happened as they desired. To think that the Almighty welcomes my petitions, considers them, and is willing to respond to them amazes me. This is quite a powerful lesson to find buried here between the report of the census and more instructions concerning burnt offerings in the book of Numbers!
Take Away: As surprising as it is, the Lord welcomes my petitions and is willing to consider them and to grant them.
How much I have and how much does what I have have me
Luke 8: There were also some women in their company.
The ministry of Jesus is in full swing here in the North. Jesus teaches, heals, and performs other miracles. He’s now traveling from place to place leading a large band of dedicated followers. Of course, we see the disciples in that number but also several women are in his entourage. These women, we’re told, have stories of deliverance to tell. They’re also major financial supporters of this ministry. I think it’s instructive to remember this as I read later on of Jesus telling the rich young ruler to give it all away and then follow. Apparently, these women are, at the same time, wealthy and followers of Jesus. They haven’t been instructed to give it all away. As I think about this I realize that the problem isn’t how much money the young man has, but is, rather, how much the money has the young man. These women who accompany Jesus use their resources for his work. I think it’s important to realize the balance that’s required of us who follow the Lord. Anything that comes between him and me needs to be cast off. All else is to be laid at the feet of Jesus, a part of my living my life in him.
Take Away: Having money isn’t the big deal. The big deal is when my money has me.
The Good Wife
Proverbs 31: A good woman is hard to find, and worth more than diamonds.
The final portion of Proverbs is called the “Hymn to a Good Wife.” Apparently, it comes from the mother of someone called King Lemuel. His identity is another of those minor mysteries. Some people think that Solomon is actually speaking of himself and the words of wisdom come from Bathsheba. However, that appears to only be based on a desire to keep this “all in the family.” Others say that the final chapter of Proverbs is from the same fellow who gave us the second to the last chapter, good old Agur Ben Yakeh — another person we know nothing about. Again, this is just stuff that has no major significance but is interesting to think about. I can’t help but smile when I realize that the much quoted tribute to a good wife was probably written by a woman! Still, it is nice to see such positive words about women who love and serve their family; women who make a difference in this world for their loved ones and for God. After all, if not for this passage, what would preachers use for a text on Mother’s Day? (I’m kidding, I’m kidding!)
Take Away: If you’ve found a “good woman” treat her right and thank God for her!
1Kings 11: King Solomon was obsessed with women.
It’s too bad that Solomon’s story can’t end with chapter 10. That whole chapter is about his achievements and fame. I read it and can’t help but be impressed by all he does. Then, I turn the page and here’s “King Solomon was obsessed with women.” Even as he’s over the top in his achievements he’s also over the top with his obsession. He collects women in the same way he collected wealth and fame. This will lead to his downfall. The Bible is always up front with us when it comes to the failures of its heroes, and that’s the case here. Even as I read of Solomon’s making silver as common as rocks in Israel, I read that he sins against God by marrying women from the surrounding pagan nations and allowing them to influence him away from God. His willingness to be “unequally yoked” brings about his great failure. No doubt infatuation with the opposite sex has been the downfall of many throughout history but the larger issue here is that God requires my first allegiance. Anything that comes between God and me becomes my god. To obsess over anything is to deny his Lordship in my life.
Take Away: We’re never too smart or successful or, yes, even too wise to mess up. The key is to live close to the Lord and follow his directions for living.
Judges 4: God will use a woman’s hand to take care of Sisera.
It comes as a surprise that we must journey into what might be called the “dark ages” of Israel before we find a genuine woman hero in the Bible. I guess it could be argued that Moses’ sister Miriam qualifies, and maybe she does, but Deborah really shines here. Sisera is the commander of an occupying army that’s dominating the Israelites and Deborah is their recognized leader. She calls for Barak, another well-known Israelite, and tells him that it has become clear to her that God’s going to deliver them from Sisera and his army. Barak, though, is afraid to proceed without Deborah at his side. Deborah replies that because of his fear, God will use a woman’s hand to take care of Sisera, and she, not him, will get the credit. It all plays out as she said and, not only does Deborah go down in history as the one who leads the way to freedom a woman named Jael finishes Sisera off. Long before the promise of “daughters prophesying” is fulfilled in Acts 2, we find God using women as leaders in his work. Thank God for women who are willing to be used of God to accomplish his purposes.
Take Away: The Lord uses willing people, and there’s to gender qualification in it.