Hey, so, do y'all remember that part in Exodus where the Lord sought to put Moses to death and then Moses' wife, Zipporah, circumcises their son and touches Moses' feet with her son's foreskin?
To be fair, all of this takes up just three verses sandwiched between the Lord commissioning Moses and Moses gathering with his brother, Aaron, and the elders of the people of Israel just before confronting Pharaoh and delivering the Israelites. Take a look:
"And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’”
At a lodging place on the way the Lord met him and sought to put him to death. Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son's foreskin and touched Moses' feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” So he let him alone. It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision.
The Lord said to Aaron, “Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.” So he went and met him at the mountain of God and kissed him. And Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord with which he had sent him to speak, and all the signs that he had commanded him to do. Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the people of Israel. Aaron spoke all the words that the Lord had spoken to Moses and did the signs in the sight of the people. And the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped." Exodus 4:21-31
See what I mean? What are we supposed to do with this?
Okay, first, let's remember that God called Moses. God heard His people and intended to deliver them. God gave Moses promises concerning this weighty call:
"When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”"
God called Moses by name and promised not only the Israelites' deliverance, but also His presence with Moses and a sign unto him - "...when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain." So, did the Lord really intend to put Moses to death?
There's a lot about these three verses that are not straightforward and even invite some speculation, but I do think that we can look at the text and also Scripture as a whole and see that, a) the Lord's promises are true, and b) if He really did seek to put Moses to death, He absolutely could have, but He ultimately did not. So why is this included, then?
I believe we see here the importance of obedience unto the Lord. For some reason, Moses' son was not circumcised. We see in Genesis 17 that God commands circumcision as a sign of the covenant between Abraham and God. "So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant." (17:13b) I believe we can conclude with some certainty that Moses himself was circumcised (Pharaoh's daughter did immediately recognize Moses as one of the Hebrews' children) and yet his son was not. How could Moses answer the call of the Lord to deliver the people of Israel from slavery and oppression if he was not obedient to the Lord's command? How could he move into the promise of God if he was neglecting the covenant of God?
Matthew Henry's commentary says this, "Omissions are sins, and must come into judgment, and particularly the contempt and neglect of the seals of the covenant; for it is a sign that we undervalue the promises of the covenant, and are displeased with the conditions of it."
Whoa. Okay. Let's talk about Zipporah now.
For whatever reason, their son was not circumcised. And yet, when this event happens, Zipporah somehow knows exactly what to do.
And she does it.
All speculation of her part in this ommissive disobedience aside (as she was a Midianite), she, at the very least, knew of the call Moses had received from the Lord Himself and had left her home behind in order to set out for Egypt. And when faced with the conviction and judgment of the Lord, she immediately obeys. She knows - and she goes. Whatever reservations she may have had before, any mindset or notion - gone, in the presence of the Lord.
Listen, dear sister: we have to know that our obedience is of utmost importance. There are going to be times in our lives when the Lord has set something before us and we need to be obedient. That may look like stepping forward in obedience into a calling, yes, but we also must be faithful to listen and to obey quickly, when the Lord confronts us by His Word and by His Spirit. When conviction stirs in your heart and sears your conscience, do not delay! Do you not know what God has promised and the fullness of life that lies before you?
Zipporah may not inspire us to radical obedience in the same way that, say, Miriam or the Hebrew midwives in Exodus 1 may, but in her swift obedience on the precipice of the call and subsequent promise of the Lord, she provokes an immediate obedience, full of a great fear of the Lord.
May we remember Zipporah and today, even, invite the Lord in to cleanse our hearts, transform our minds and invite us into even greater obedience. May we step right into the promises of God over our lives, fully trusting in His Word, His character and His ways. May we remember such a seemingly small step of obedience that was of the utmost importance before the Lord God Almighty and that led to the deliverance of a nation and the securing of freedom for generations thereafter. That is how very big our obedience is.
May we have fresh eyes to see!
Joanna - if you are like me then you don’t think “Bible”, but rather hear the song in your head. Or maybe you think of a friend that has that name.
I was reading my Bible and the name jumped out at me. Who was this woman and why did I not know that she was there all along? Let me share with you what I found out!
Joanna is only mentioned in two sections in the Bible. Both of them in Luke.
Chapter 8 verse 1-3 tell us “After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.”
Then again in Chapter 24 verse 9-11 it says “When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.”
In these brief mentions of Joanna we get a snapshot of a regular everyday Christian woman during the time of Christ. Her presence in the Bible is not an accident and I feel like we can learn a few beautiful things from her.
Joanna was in a position to be generous. We read that she and other women were supporting Jesus and the twelve of their own means. They believed in what Jesus was doing and wanted to show their faith and support in the form of generosity. Making sure these 13 men had what they needed in everyday needs made it so they could focus on the work they were doing as “fishers of men”.
Need for Jesus
It mentioned in the first set of verses that Joanna and the other women were part of this group because they had been cleansed of unclean spirits or disease. They had recognized that they needed Jesus and his healing power. They had a strong enough faith in Him that they went to Him for help and found it. How amazing would it be to have had Jesus himself in the flesh heal you from something that would have set you so apart from society?
Love for others
Joanna and the other women mentioned not only showed this love by stepping into a servant role when taking care of the twelve and Jesus while they were near, but this extended in wanting to give Jesus a proper cleaning and burial ritual in his tomb. She and the others didn’t understand that Jesus would be rising from the dead and so they went down there to take care of him in one final way they knew how. What a surprise awaited them!
While she is not a major Bible character, I am so glad God pointed her out to me. Sometimes practical and timeless examples of women that we can look to as role models in our faith are difficult to find. We can learn from all of the women in the Bible, but Joanna has a special place for me now. She did what she did from a place of love and faith. I am sure Jesus and the twelve appreciated her and the care she took of them. I wonder how much wisdom she gleaned from being in their company for the time she had with them.
I hope Joanna can be an example to you as she has been to me.
Have you ever wanted something so bad that everyone around you knew you wanted it. Longed for it. Cried for it. And even still it was out of reach.
I love the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1 & 2. Hannah’s is a story of hope, a story of the trustworthiness of God. A story of endurance. A story of sacrifice and a story of renewal.
Let’s get a little backstory…
Hannah was one of two of Elkanah’s wives. She had no children, while Peninnah (wife #2) had children. Back in that day, having children brought a sense of pride. It was what you did. It was who you were and for some, like Hannah, who you weren’t.
Throughout the chapter we hear about how much Hannah struggled. How much Hannah was belittled and the hurt that she felt for wanting something so badly and it being so far out of reach. So much so that it kept her up up night. It affected her sleep and eating habits. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that this struggle permeated every aspect of her life.
Have you ever heard the saying that “Prayer is the least that I can do”? Can I be honest? I hate that saying… Prayer is not the least we can do. It is the most we can do. Don’t get me wrong, there are usually action steps that we can and have to take. But why do we, why do I, too often exhaust all of our physical and natural options before simply taking it to God first?
In verse 9 of that same chapter Hannah stands up one night after dinner and prayed, wept, cried out to the Lord asking for a son and promising to submit him to a life dedicated to the service of Lord.
In this moment of desperation, Hannah went to God right where she was at. Not put together with pretty words and a calm demeanor. As a matter fact she was in such a state that Eli actually reprimanded her for being drunk.
“…I was pouring out my soul to the Lord…”
That’s what Hannah told Eli. She told him that she was not drunk, she was pouring out her soul to the Lord.
When Hannah told Eli what she was doing Eli then told her to “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of Him.” The Bible says that Hannah went away, ate something and her face was no longer downcast.
I have to believe that Hannah went away believing that God saw her right where she was at. God heard her and she had hope.
At that point in time, Hannah’s situation hadn’t changed. There has only been one miraculous conception and her name didn’t start with Hannah. Even still, she went back home surrendering her heart to God and trusting that, at some point, God was going to fulfill her desire. The thing was, she had to be willing to give it to our Father even when it hurt, even when she didn’t understand. She needed to be willing to let Him show her His faithfulness.
If you read on you will find that Hannah went on to have a boy and she dedicated him to the Lord’s service. She gave up the very thing she desired most to give God the glory.
Lord, burn away the parts of me that don’t look like You, that my character can stand.
Hannah got her promise just like the prophet said she would. And just like she said she would she dedicated Samuel to the service of the Lord and the Lord blessed her.
When Hannah went in to pour out her soul to the Lord she was not concerned with what people would say or what they would think. She surrendered all. She gave all. We can only do that once we have received an understanding of the character and nature of our loving Father.
I pray that today, wherever we are, whether we are on the mountain top or in the valley, we take time to pour out our soul to the Lord. I pray that we submit to God anytime we don’t understand. I pray that we build our endurance. I pray that we continuously choose to go to God when we are burdened and when we are blessed. I pray that we surrender to God’s promises easily and trustingly knowing that He’s working all things for the good of those who love Him. I pray that we better understand the character and nature of God and who we are to Him.
Love you Sis,
Written by: Alexandria Brown
Are you familiar with the story of Esther? Most of us know that Esther is one of only two books in the bible named for a woman. The other is, of course, Ruth. Esther is known for her beauty, so perhaps you know that she was a Jewish woman that won a beauty contest of sorts and became a queen. Oh and then there’s that thing where she saved her people.
But have you actually read the book? It’s right there in the Old Testament between Nehemiah and Job. So go ahead and give it a read. It won’t take long…it’s only 10 short chapters. Takes about 30 minutes to read, go ahead. I’ll wait……………………………………..
Wow! There’s a lot of drama packed in those chapters. But what’s it about really? I mean there is no mention of God anywhere in the book. Did you notice that? Isn’t that the first thing we are to look for when we are reading His word? Where is God? What does this story tell us about the nature and character of God? Can we see His redemptive work in what we are reading? Those are questions I ask when I am digging into a passage of scripture. So let’s dig in and see what we can find.
The story… in a nutshell.
The story is set in Susa, one of the capitals of the ancient Persian Empire. The time was during the reign of King Ahasuerus, also known by his Greek name, Xerxes, who reigned 486-464 B.C.
“This is what happened during the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush: At that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa, and in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials… ” Esther 1:1-3b.
Here’s my long-story-short version.
So, basically King Xerxes gives a banquet for all the important people in the whole Persian Empire…it’s a huge deal! Celebrating past and possibly future conquests. Then he throws a big week-long bash for the men, from the greatest to the least of all the people present in his fortress at Susa. The wine is flowing and on the seventh day, feeling pretty good from all that wine and wanting to show off the beauty of his queen, he requests the presence of his Queen Vashti, who happens to be off in another part of the kingdom throwing her own party with the girls in the palace. She refuses to come. Maybe because he asks her to come wearing her crown, and possibly nothing else. He gets really ticked off and deposes her.
Now there is a lesson in the details of this part of the story, but we’re here to talk about Esther. So we will save the implications of Vashti’s situation for another time.
Now this is where Esther enters.
A plan to choose the new queen is set in place. The King appointed commissioners to each province to go out and assemble all the beautiful young girls and bring them to the harem at the fortress of Susa. Hadassah (Esther) was taken to the palace (Esther 2:8).
She did not go on her own…and there is no indication that her cousin took her. As a matter of fact, once she was assimilated into the harem to prepare her to meet the King, we are told that “every day he walked back and forth near the courtyard of the harem to find out how Esther was and what was happening to her.” (Esther 2:11). This sounds more like the actions of a concerned ‘parent’, not the actions of a parent who would be delighted to have her in the palace of the king’s harem. Also, side note: he had instructed Esther not to reveal her birthplace or her ethnic background. So in light of this, I hardly think of this as her winning a beauty contest as much as a beautiful young girl who was taken, most likely against her own will, at the command of the highest ruler of the land.
Esther was put under the care of Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the harem. Esther pleased him and won his favor. Nothing sexual here, because…EUNUCH…look it up. He began at once to provide special beauty treatments and special food for her. Apparently she was his choice for queen and he wanted to make sure she had the best advantages of being chosen. It worked! The King sees her and is blown away by her beauty, so she is chosen to replace Queen Vashti.
Meanwhile…stay with me here. There is a reason for the details.
Meanwhile, Mordecai overhears a plot to kill the king. So he reports it to Esther, who in turn, reported it to the king’s messenger giving credit to Mordecai…the plot is thwarted and the incident gets written down in the books that are kept for the king.
After this, Haman is honored by the king by being given a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles. So high that they were commanded to bow down to Haman to pay honor to him. But Mordecai being a Jew would not bow down to any man. This enraged Haman, who then concocted an idea of killing not just Mordecai, but all of his people, the Jews. Without actually naming the Jews, he convinces the king that it would be in his best interest to let him order a decree to kill all these people who do not follow the king’s laws. So the decree goes out.
Mordecai, hearing all that had been decreed, tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes. And, in public, began wailing loudly and bitterly. As a matter of fact, all the Jews throughout Persia did the same. It was a Jewish thing. Thus began a string of communication between a frightened Esther and a determined Mordecai through one of the king’s eunuchs.
It basically boils down to this:
Mordecai tells Esther about the decree (the plot against the Jews), and tells her she needs to go to the king, ask his favor, and then plead with him personally for her people.
Esther is basically terrified to do this. Why? Because there is one law that applies to every man, or woman who approaches the king without being summoned. You die. The only exception would be if the king extends his gold scepter to that person. Then you live.
She hasn’t been summoned for the last 30 days. Maybe she has fallen out of favor with her husband, the king? If she has the audacity to go to him without being summoned, she might not live to tell about it.
“Don’t think that you will escape the fate of all the Jews because you are in the king’s palace. If you keep silent at this time, liberation and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father’s house will be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.” Esther 4: 13-15.
Esther comes back with a plan. Have all the Jewish people in Susa fast for her for 3 days and nights. Esther and her girls did the same. Then she will go to the king. “...even if it is against the law. If I perish, I perish.” So she goes. As soon as the king sees her standing in the courtyard she wins his approval. He extends the scepter and she asks that he and Haman attend a banquet that she has prepared for them.
Several more things happen…Mordecai, once again fails to bow to Haman. So, at the urging of his wife and friends, Haman builds a gallows 75 feet high and plans to ask the king to hang Mordecai on it. But before that can happen the king has a sleepless night and asks the book with the daily recorded events to be read to him. A weird bedtime story. But in the reading he learns of Mordecai’s earlier reporting of the plot to assassinate him. And when he finds that nothing had been done to reward Mordecai, he glances out to find someone to consult about this. Haman just happens to be loitering around in the court so he brings him in and asks what should be done for the man the king wants to honor. Haman, being the narcissist that he is, assumes the king must be talking about himself. So He suggests some awesome stuff to be done. Great honor should be shown to the man in front of pretty much all the people. Much to his chagrin…the king ordered that Mordecai be honored…and Haman had to make it happen.
Then Esther threw a second banquet for the king and Haman. Not sure if this was the original plan or she just chickened out the first time. No matter, because it worked out even better that this second banquet just happened to occur after Haman’s second run-in with Mordecai. She told the king about the plight of her people and asked him to spare her life and spare her people. He seemed a bit clueless, and asked, “Who would devise such a scheme?” She replied, “The adversary and the enemy is this evil Haman.”
The King was mad, and left the room to get a handle on his anger. Haman began begging Esther for mercy. The king returned to see Haman literally falling all over Esther, which further enraged him so he had Haman hung on the very gallows he had built for Mordecai. On that day the King gave Esther all that belonged to Haman. He also gave his signet ring to Mordecai. The king’s edict could not be revoked…it was a thing. The king allowed Esther and Haman to send out another edict that declared the Jews had a right to defend their lives from those who wanted to annihilate them.
Mordecai was raised to prominence and power in the kingdom, and the Jewish people were saved. There’s actually a little more to this story. Which explains how this event, the deliverance of the Jews from genocide, became the Feast of Purim celebrated the same time every year. “The month when their sorrow was turned into rejoicing and their mourning into a holiday.”
This is not just Esther’s story, if it were there would be no reason to include it in God’s Word. This is God’s story, and yet, how can that be when God is not even mentioned anywhere in this story? I think that is the point. Even when we don’t see God, He is working behind the scenes through things that the average reader would call coincidence. Because we know that God is in every story, we can see His hand in the details. All those coincidences, those times of “...just happened to…”, we see throughout the story? That is where we can see God working out His plan.
It amazes me that He chooses to use a young girl and her guardian to save His people. He does not force their help or coerce their cooperation. And yet, He works out a way they can be used to accomplish His purpose.
Esther was beautiful. She had been forced into harem life and became Queen of Persia. She was reluctantly brave and chose to go ahead and petition for the life of her people at risk of death. “If I die, I die.” This was her defining moment. She was wise enough to ask for her people to fast for three days. Now it does not mention prayer, but I cannot imagine jewish people fasting without prayer. God works through the prayers of the righteous. The Jews were saved.
Names are so important in the Bible and I found that Esther, her Persian name, means Star. Her jewish name, Hadassah, means Myrtle. When you crush the leaves of a Myrtle tree they release their fragrance. Surely her experiences were crushing, and yet in the crushing her true God-given character was revealed. She rose to her calling, and walked out the role God had chosen for her. To be a shining star who rose above the evil of her day. A light that we can still see as we read the book that bears her name.
God orchestrates the circumstances of our messy, broken lives to accomplish His purpose. That means He can use me, and you despite all that the enemy does to derail us. God is working behind the scenes of the circumstances of your life, even when you don’t see Him.
Perhaps we all have a defining moment of our life and our faith. Or, because of the grace of God, many defining moments. The question is: How are we going to respond?
We will be talking about women of the Bible all year in Pretty and Wise. Don’t worry…most are not as long as the story of Esther.
It is our hope that in fleshing out these women’s stories and their impact in God’s kingdom, you will be encouraged to walk out your own defining moment in your walk of faith. Our prayer is that you are able to clearly see His hand in your life and circumstances every step of the way.
Written By: Gay Idle
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