Written By: Gay Idle
So, I have a confession to make. When we, the Pretty & Wise team, began talking about the idea of writing about women of the Bible I was not feeling super enthusiastic about the assignment. I mean…writing about women of the Bible…
All. Year. Long.
Hasn’t this been done? Entire books have been dedicated to this. Don’t we know enough already?
The answer to that last question is a resounding NO! Let me tell you. I’ve been participating in and teaching women’s bible studies for many many years now…I’m 64…do the math. The problem is I think I thought I knew more than I actually know. Imagine that. And while I think I did know a lot, maybe a tad bit more than the average Christian woman, I didn’t know what I didn’t know and what I did know was not all there was to know. Someone has said that studying the Bible is like peeling an onion. As you remove each layer another layer is revealed. Its aroma becomes more pronounced and you may even tear up a bit.
After writing about Esther, Ruth, the woman with the alabaster jar, and Phoebe, I’m finding that each time I revisit these familiar stories God is opening my eyes to new insights and challenges. I’m learning to peel back the layers. Now, with each woman of the Bible that I set out to discover anew, God is showing me things no one has ever taught me. And I have a bible college degree for crying out loud. But because of this God is lighting a fire in my bones to bring to light what He is showing me in His Word about these women. I believe somehow, through the years, so many of us have missed the boat in not realizing the importance of women and their calling to advance God’s kingdom here on earth.
One such woman, a prophet, is written about in one of my favorite accounts in the Old Testament. You can read the full account in two passages, as they both recount the story of Josiah the King and Huldah, the prophetess: 2 Kings 22: 1-20 and 2 Chronicles 34. Go ahead and read it now.
Josiah is one of my favorite Kings. Why? Because he had such a heart for God from an early age. He became king at age 8, he was 16 when he began seeking the Lord, and when he was 20 he began purging the land of all the forms of idol worship…tearing down the altars of Baal (false gods), destroying the images, the Asherah poles, and all other forms of Idol worship.
So where did this passion come from? Certainly not his father or even his grandfather. 2 Kings 21:6 tells us that his grandfather Manasseh, “sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced sorcery and divination, and consulted mediums and spirits. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking Him to anger.” Furthermore, we read this of his Josiah’s own father in verses 21-22: “He walked in all the ways of his father; he worshipped the idols his father had worshipped, and bowed down to them. He forsook the LORD, the God of his fathers, and did not walk in the way of the LORD.”
We’re not really told in these passages where Josiah got his passion for the LORD. I wonder if perhaps it was his mother? It can be speculated from a cross reference to Zephaniah 1:1 that he heard and was moved by Zephaniah’s prophecies of judgement against Judah and Jerusalem. In this reference we read that… ”the Word of the LORD came to Zephaniah…in the days of Josiah, son of Amon, king of Judah.” Zephaniah 2:1-3 tells us that he is calling the people to seek the LORD before the day of the LORD comes upon them.
In any case, Josiah was a man who sought after the heart of God. So, when Josiah was 26 years old he began implementing repairs to the temple of Jerusalem because it had obviously been neglected for many years.
As they were repairing the temple, the workers discovered a scroll and brought it to Hilkiah who was the high priest serving in the temple. Hilkiah told Shaphan, the king’s secretary: “I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD” (2 Kings 22:8). Shaphan read the book and then took it back to the King and read the scroll to him.
When Josiah heard the words from the book of the Law he tore his robes in despair and remorse because he realized that his nation had fallen far from God’s laws. He then sends a delegation of 5 of his most trusted men …Hilkiah, the high priest, Ahikam, son of Shaphan, Achbor, son of Micaiah(a prophet), Shaphan, the secretary of state, and Asaiah(the king’s officer) with this charge: “...inquire of the LORD for me and for the people and for all Judah what is written in this book that has been found.” He needed to determine whether or not the scroll was authentic.
Inspite of the fact that Jeremiah and Zephaniah were well known prophets at the time, the delegation went directly to Huldah, the prophetess who lived in Jerusalem near the temple. She must have been highly respected because she was not sent for, as was customarily done with people who were subordinate to the king. It also seems that these men had no problem seeking the counsel of a woman prophet.
Huldah boldy proclaimed the Word of the LORD to these men…and probably whoever else was with them. Three times she pronounced, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel says…” This proclamation shows that she knew that she was called to speak for God. She proclaimed that God was going to bring His judgement on the people of Judah because of their failure to obey his Word and because they worshipped false gods. But because Josiah had humbled himself before God she proclaimed that he, personally, would not see the disaster come upon the nation. (You can read her full prophecy here: 2 Chronicles 34:23-28).
Everything that Huldah prophecied aligns with the character of God, the nature of sin, and the extent to which the people of Judah had sinned against God. And her message confirmed that this document that had been found in the temple was indeed the Word of the LORD.
**Side note: Many believe this document to have been the book of Deuteronomy. Think about that. They had fallen so far from God that they had lost the book of Deuteronomy. The very book that carried the commands of God to His people.
The men delivered Huldah’s answer to the king. And Josiah accepted the message. He called all the people of Judah together to the temple of Jerusalam and he read to them the “Book of the Covenant” which had been found in the temple of the Lord. He renewed the covenant and had everyone in Jerusalem and Benjamin pledge themselves to it. And as the passage concludes, “As long as he lived, they did not fail to follow the Lord, the God of their ancestors.”
This is a remarkable story in the Old Testament that I would venture to guess many have never been taught. Have you ever heard the name of Huldah taught in Sunday School? Did you know that there was a time in history when God’s Word had been lost?
Deuteronomy 17:18, one of the many verses Josiah would have heard Shaphan read, tells us that when the king is established on his throne he is to write for himself a copy of the law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests (insures accuracy). The next two verses are key:
“It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel.”
It is obvious that this was news to Josiah. His father and grandfather before him both failed to follow God’s Word on this. It had been ignored for so long that it had gotten lost. LOST in the house of the LORD. How does this even happen?
But it did…and I fear it is happening today. Do we truly know who we are talking to when we call on the name of the LORD God almighty? Do we have a passion for His Word…enough passion to make us walk in obedience to it? To do away with the idols of this present world…to humbly step away from the siren call to self worship? Do you know others who proclaim Christ, but seem to be walking away from His path as fast as their feet can carry them?
If God is tugging at your heart to bring His message to this lost and dying world then it’s time to step up. Speak up. We have a privilege that those kings of the Old Testament did not have. They consulted the prophets in order to understand the Word of the LORD. We who are in Christ Jesus have the indwelling of God’s Spirit. We have a responsibility to come to God’s Word seeking wisdom from His Spirit as we read, study and apply it to ourselves and speak it to everyone within our sphere of influence. We have the very Word of God, Jesus Christ, dwelling within us. We are the temple. Has the Word been lost in the temple?
Huldah allowed herself to be used of God…to be a conduit for His very words. That is, after all, the role of the prophet. God used her to bring back His Word to the temple. Although it had been there the whole time and no one knew.
One of the mantles that God has placed on my life is to call people back to the heart of God…back into a right relationship with God. What about you? What is the calling God has placed on your life? How are you using what God has given you to effectively advance His kingdom?
My prayer is that God will continue to open our eyes to the treasures that can be found in His Word. That we peel back the layers to discover the great and unsearchable things that can only be revealed through God’s Word.
“Call to me, and I will answer and show you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3
Written By: Lyndsay Terry
Names are powerful. Names are so often prophetic of our callings, destinies, and identities. We see this over and over again in scripture. Even times the Lord renames people to assign their new identities or destinies.
Simon - Heard - changed by Jesus to Peter - Rock.
Simon went from hearing the truth to his new name - Peter - his belief in Christ as Truth being the whole foundation the Church was built upon.
Jacob - supplanter - was changed by God to Israel - to wrestle with God. His fathered the entire nation of God’s chosen people.
Abram - high father - who, at this point, only had a child with his mistress because he had become impatient waiting for God to fulfill his promise of children with Sarai - to Abraham - father of multitudes. God gave him the destiny of generations of God’s chosen people. And he cemented this destiny in his very name - his identity.
Sarai - princess - was renamed by God to Sarah - noblewoman. God renamed she and her husband when they had lost faith in God’s promise and went their own way to create their own destiny. God promised her children, but it had been so long and she was so old. She began to believe she needed to make a way for herself. After she failed and fell flat on her face, the Lord showed up to remind her of his promise and gave her a new name to cement her identity and destiny. When I read her transition from Princess to Noblewoman, it gives me a picture of a woman straightening her shoulders, standing a little taller, and having greater influence.
These are just a couple examples of the importance of names to our God. Names have power.
I want to touch on the story of a woman who often gets a bad rap. She is seen as “less than” so often when we share her story because she is compared to her sister. If you have a sibling, you understand how frustrating and devastating it can be to be compared to your sibling…and super annoying. This woman has two other prominent siblings in scripture and she’s often only remembered for one bad moment. I want to look at her story…her name…today.
Martha - lady of the house.
You probably already know the story I want to focus on…Mary and Martha when Jesus came to visit their home. You can read it in Luke 10:38-42. It isn’t long, but it is powerful.
“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Martha’s NAME, her identity, her calling, her destiny, means “Lady of the House”. It is her role to tend to the Lord’s needs and the guests in her home. To serve them, feed them, and care for them. Her role is beautiful and important. Jesus didn’t diminish her. We so often read this passage with that tone. That Mary had it right and Martha was just a busybody. But Jesus didn't diminish her...and He doesn't diminish you.
Listen…Martha was serving the Lord. Serving the Lord is necessary, a command even, and she was taking that very seriously. She was fulfilling her calling and living true to her identity.
So then how do those two things add up? If she was doing a good thing and even the right thing, why was Jesus saying Mary was in the right place and she wasn’t?
Martha had become overwhelmed with all the serving. She was anxious (have you felt that way in your ministry to the Church?), she was troubled (have you felt that way in your ministry to your family?), she was so busy (have you run yourself ragged?).
So often we read this as though Martha’s problem was that she was doing too much. I don’t believe that was Martha’s problem. You see, it’s not was you DO that burns you out. It’s what you DON’T do.
Martha was so busy serving the Lord, she forgot to spend time with the Lord.
Sis, when your work FOR the Lord replaces your intimacy WITH the Lord, you will burn out, become anxious and troubled about many things, and, like Martha, miss out on the good portion…sitting at the feet of Jesus and hearing his voice.
Yes, you’ve been called to this ministry and that ministry. Yes, you need to do the laundry and make dinner and bathe the kids and love your spouse. Yes, you need to do your job and care for your friends and connect with family and build your life. Yes to all of the above. But…
If those vital things become a replacement for your time sitting at Jesus’ feet and hearing his voice, then you’re missing out on the good portion and you’ll burn yourself out.
Martha just needed a moment of realignment. She just needed to be called back into His presence. She just needed the Lord’s voice. She just needed to lift her head.
Sweet friend, this is your moment of realignment. This is the Lord calling you back into His presence. It’s time for you to hear his voice again. It’s time to lift your head.
Lord Jesus, speak to your daughters here in this moment. We need your presence. We need your voice and your teaching. We are so busy, so tired, so dry. We need those rivers of living water that come only from you and only through time spent with you. So here we are, ready to listen, ready to be still, ready to rest at your feet. Renew us, refresh us, and revitalize us with your Spirit so that we can fulfill our calling, destinies, and live out our identities in you with passion and purpose. But we don’t want to forget WHY we do this and WHO we do this for. It’s because of you, Jesus. It’s all for you, Jesus. We don’t want to miss the good portion. We don’t want to miss you.
Written By: Olivia Caldwell
Beloved, are you waiting?
Does it seem as if the promise of the Lord tarries?
This theme of waiting on the Lord, and even waiting on the promise of God, has seemed to be ever before me, always what my mind goes to at the end of the day, in the stillness of the night.
I say to my husband and friends- often, it feels- that this waiting is nothing compared to the saints who have come before us.
In my small-scale waiting, I find myself at times lamenting, “How long, O Lord?”
It’s a fun season of waiting expectantly, crying out, humbling myself, surrendering to the Lord and trusting in GOD- and all of the messiness and warfare and mundane in between.
It’s so weird. And wonder-full.
Truth be told, I know that this season of waiting is beautiful- glorious, even. Do you believe that, right where you are, that this uncomfortable place is one that is full of glory, one that you will look back on and be filled with joy and gratitude for? One that you will testify of- testifying to the goodness and faithfulness of God??
Hey, how about right here, you go ahead and leave your device for a moment? Remember the faithfulness of God through the ages and His kindness and goodness to you. Go ahead and worship Him for as long as it takes for you to have even an iota of faith that that last paragraph there will come to pass.
Okay, so how can we wait well?
What if I answered that question with an example of what not to do? Bear with me..
The story of Sarah, found in Genesis, has been one I have not been able to move past.
Sarai and Abram have been promised a son, an heir. And not only that, but offspring as many as the stars of the sky, many and uncountable, even.
In Genesis 12-15, so much has happened. I mean- God gave Abram a promise and kept it as he set out and entered Egypt. Abram did as the Lord said and walked the length and breadth of the land the Lord promised him and his offspring. He went off and rescued his nephew Lot from an actual war featuring all these kings with only 318 of his trained men, defeating Chedorlaomer and the kings with him. Like- okay, wow. And then, the Lord again promised him, outright, “...your very own son shall be your heir.”
And then there’s this ceremony in the dark, dreadful and great darkness, where Abram falls into a deep sleep and God walks between the divided parts of an animal sacrifice. This is an oath-taking ceremony. God Himself takes the oath.
“If I do not keep the oath that I swear, may I be divided as this animal has been” is what this means.
“The threat of the presence of the holy God fills the darkness and burns in the fire. God will not break His word.” (The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament by Edmund P. Clowney)
And naturally, right after all of these miraculous wonders, it says in Genesis 16 that Sarai had born Abram no children. And she has bore witness to all of these wonders, no doubt, with and through her husband, but still these words cross her lips, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children.” And she directs Abram to go in to her female Egyptian servant, Hagar, because she speculates, “..it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” (Gen. 16:1-2)
Here again, Clowney notes in his book, The Unfolding Mystery, “According to the custom of the time, the child of a woman’s servant might be reckoned as her own.”
So, logically, Sarai is thinking of the promise the Lord has made and then looking at reality, which is that some time has passed and they didn’t even have time to begin with. The divide between the promise and reality seems too great to be breached.
And so, as she looks at her old, well-past-child-rearing body and cannot see how God’s promise could possibly come to pass, she begins to think of alternate, more realistic and certainly less miraculous and obviously God-ordained ways in which the promise may come forth.
It’s impossible, isn’t it? The Lord can’t possibly mean that.
But He did. And He does.
As we wait on the Lord, how we can wait well is to take Him at His word and to raise our hands up off of our circumstances and spread them out into surrender.
Do not look with your natural eyes at all that is happening around you. That barren land or that barren womb are ripe for the work the Lord intends to do.
It is not up to you, dear one, to figure it out with your (pardon me but) limited and human brain. You are not God.
When we even try to imagine how things will go and how the promise will come about, we place human expectations on a situation that is not bound by human limitations and is anything but natural. It is supernatural and only could be accomplished by God.
That’s the point. That’s glory to the Lord Jesus!
So what do we do in the waiting?
When the promise tarries, we tarry.
Yeah, so tarry also means to remain; to linger; to stay longer than expected, to not have an agenda, or to encounter God’s presence for an extended period of time.
In order to combat the doubt and discouragement that begins to creep in and in order to prevent our human hands from attempting to do that which the mighty hand of the Lord will do, we must tarry. We must sit at His feet and we must take as long as we need to remember that He is God and we are not.
He is faithful. He alone is able.
Tarry as often and as long as you need, beloved. Ask Him to give you eyes to see and ears to hear in the waiting. Let Him grow you and let Him teach you how to stay in step with His Spirit.
There is so much happening here that you cannot yet see.
For Abraham and Sarah, their son of the promise, Isaac, pointed to the promised Son. Isaac was heir of the promise and we are co-heirs with the Promised One.
“God’s promises are always too much, and there are many who would propose that God settle for Ishmael.”
We are not those who settle for anything less than what Jesus has made a way for. We are not those who try to build with our hands and our reason that which He has purposed to do from the beginning.
We are those who take the Lord at His Word and who wait expectantly.
Glory to the King!
(Hey, PS- you’ll notice in Genesis 16 & 17 that Ishmael, too, would head a nation. Abraham would be father of many nations. So, if you think you’ve ruined God’s plan with an Ishmael of your own, if you will, think again. Nothing can thwart His purposes. Keep on waiting, beloved. Redemption is nigh.)
Written by: Angie Reese
Many of us have experiences that can relate to the story of Naomi found in the book of Ruth. We might be married, have lost a spouse, have daughters or daughters-in-law, lost children, or had to move to a new place. The book of Ruth is named after Naomi’s daughter-in-law, but so much of this story is about Naomi herself and how she responded to all of the hardships of a Jewish widow at that time.
Naomi’s name means “pleasant” and I get from the story of her life that she was aptly named. She is married and has two sons and they end up having to move from their homeland in Bethlehem to the country of Moab because of a famine. During the ten years she and her family live there her sons marry local women, but have no children. Then her husband and sons all die (we aren’t told how). This leaves her to make some hard choices. Being a foreign woman with no man to take care or protect her, Naomi makes the hard choice to go back home and wants her daughters-in-law to return to their own homes so they can remarry and move on with life. With much convincing, Orpha agrees, but Ruth insists upon remaining with Naomi and going back to Judah.
This is the first and biggest clue to me that Naomi was a special woman. She is so loved by her daughters-in-law that they don’t want to leave her side and return to their own families - especially Ruth! Mothers-in-law get a bad rap. They are depicted by the world as almost evil. This is usually where we stop thinking about Naomi in this book. Our attention goes to Ruth and we use her words to Naomi in wedding ceremonies to display our togetherness and commitment to one another. But let’s allow our gaze to move past that today.
When Naomi and Ruth return home, it doesn’t give us a lot of details as to what happened, but it seems like they were accepted back into society and had a place to live. This is where we see the bitterness of the situation come into play. As she is welcomed back, Naomi tells her friends to call her by a new name - Mara - which means bitter. She states that the Lord has dealt bitterly with her. She is angry about all that has happened and is blaming God. This really struck me and took me back to a place of loss.
When I was in college I got a phone call in the middle of the night. It scared me, of course. My mother was on the other end of the line telling me that my uncle had an accident and was in the hospital. We didn’t know if he would make it. I hit my knees. I prayed harder than I ever had in my life for God to keep him alive. A little later I got the second phone call telling me he didn’t make it. He was so young and had a family - three kids - that he was leaving. It wasn’t fair! Why? Why him and not the other guy in the car with him? I was so mad at God. I thought - He didn’t listen to my prayer because if he had my uncle would be alive. Bitter. Angry. Furious at my loss and the loss of my family.
Just like in the story of Naomi, it didn’t take me long to see that God was going to make good from a bad situation. In my story, the family was brought together like they never had been before. My aunt fell in love with a wonderful man who took in those three babies and raised them like his own. In Naomi’s story we see that the redeemer was Boaz.
Boaz allows Ruth to gather in his field and Naomi guides Ruth through the process of gaining Boaz as a husband. Fast forward a little and Ruth and Boaz have a son. Naomi’s bitterness melts away and her friends help her to name the child and she becomes his nurse. She again has the family that she lost. I can just see her smile as she holds that sweet baby boy and sees in him her own two sons.
For me, Naomi is a wonderful example of how to move through a situation that seems hopeless. She was angry at God, but was able to move through it and remain faithful. She had a spirit that allowed her to be a pleasant and lovable person, but had flaws. She had Ruth and the friends that are mentioned in the story to help her through a hard time. As with many women of the Bible, I see Naomi as one that I would enjoy getting to know as a friend!
Naomi went from pleasant to bitter, but was able to step back from that bitterness. Let’s allow that lesson to sink into our hearts. It’s ok to become upset, but don’t let your name be changed permanently to Mara. Naomi’s friends didn’t listen to her when she asked them to call her that because they knew that her character was one of pleasantness. I hope the same can be said about us when we face struggles!
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