Ruth: Strength in Waiting

heju / Pixabay

Waiting, I know, just thinking the word evokes emotions of anxiety.

I will shop a certain place, consciously paying more for items, simply to avoid the inevitable wait of a cheaper store. I will excitedly make my way towards the local coffee house, practically smelling the fresh ground heaven, only to find I don’t have time to wait in the interminable drive thru line.

My husband taught a message recently about our fast-food society, describing how our culture demands everything yesterday, and responds with anger and frustration when situations move too slowly. We stress fast food, fast cars, fast service, fast internet, and fast phone lines, among a plethora of other unable to live without necessities.

In a fast paced world we want relationship, knowledge, and stability to occur at an equally fast rate and end up sacrificing these things on the altar of convenience. A true relationship takes time to build, true knowledge takes time to experience and understand, and stability takes time needed to measure our decisions on the balance of life’s choices. Time means we have to wait.

We settle for less merely to avoid the pain of waiting.

heju / Pixabay

As we take a closer look at Ruth chapter three, waiting plays a significant role in shaping both Ruth and Naomi’s lives. Chapter three begins with another healing step for Naomi as her focus switches from self-pity to Ruth’s needs. Naomi instructs Ruth on the tradition of kinsmen redeemer, the Levirate marriage in which the nearest family relative marries the widow of the deceased to ensure the continuation of a family name. Naomi’s instructions included specific details regarding the manner Ruth should present herself to Boaz.

Instructed to anoint herself, a physical action signifying an end of her mourning, Ruth also needed to emotionally prepare to take a step into her future. Our minds and our actions should constantly reflect our preparation and obedience to perform God’s will. 1 Corinthians 15:31 teaches we should die daily, putting ourselves under the subjection of God, anointing our minds with prayer, study, and fasting the tools provided to help endure the arduous task of waiting.

Ruth presents herself to Boaz, and finds his heart open to her request, but he insists on waiting until morning. He wanted to ensure no misconceptions occurred regarding his intentions and respected the importance of following the protocol established for him to claim her as his bride. Similarly if we are always completely honest with our actions, then no questions arise concerning our intentions. Romans 13:12-13 declares we should put aside darkness and walk in honesty and light.

Even when we make mistakes, honesty will keep the consequences from growing.

Ruth heads home, excitement mingled with fear, beginning the task of waiting if the elders will permit her marriage to Boaz. Ruth’s stress almost palpable in the scripture is met with the wisdom and patience only a mother bears, as Naomi instructs her, “Sit still.”

Ever experienced that whole excitement mixed with fear thing? Blah, it’s not always the most pleasant experience, and I would much rather dwell in the comfort of certainty than the gut wrenching dread the unknowing creates. Sitting still, as Naomi advised, seems nearly impossible with such emotions captivating the body and mind.

Sitting still, remains the best, and sometimes only, action capable of managing the uncertainty of waiting.

We experienced waiting, now referred to as the dark period, when a proposed two years stretched into four to bring our daughter home from Thailand. It shaped me in such a way, teaching me lessons I now know God intended. Lessons I desperately needed to learn regarding patience, hope, and generosity, of what it actually means to truly trust in God. An easier road, a quicker path, a faster solution could not be found and I can now say how truly thankful I am for the waiting.

Isaiah 40:31 records all we need to remember, They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

If you find yourself in the trenches of waiting, I urge you, don’t give up hope.

Waiting brings our pride under subjection, strengthens our weaknesses, and teaches us wisdom beyond our years.

Waiting

Naomi sat warmed by the fire, watching Ruth’s hands knead flour into their bread.

Her heart ached, remembering the pride Elimilech felt when Ruth’s father agreed to the bride price for their son. Ruth came into their lives with a quiet passion and loyalty. Naomi rejoiced at her eagerness to know about Bethlehem and the God the Israelites served.

Naomi continued to watch, as Ruth, unaware, pushed thick curls back from her face, leaving a faint trail of white across her forehead. Evidence of the grief and harsh reality of life were not yet apparent on Ruth’s youthful features. Naomi’s heart swelled with love, and she knew it was time to unfold the plan which would bring life back to them both.

“Ruth, it is time you finished,” said Naomi, leading her away from the chore, “and time to put away your mourning. Come we shall bathe and anoint you, I have a gown saved for you to wear,” declared Naomi, pulling out a soft pale blue gown embroidered with silver thread. Hearing Ruth gasp, Naomi explained,” I brought it with us from Moab, it was my wedding dress, the only thing I have preserved. I could not bear to part from the memories it brought of a happier time.”

“Why would you dress me as a bride, Naomi? There is no one here who would consider a Moabite widow for a bride, even if they now claim me as friend.” Ruth spoke gently, her fingers brushing the soft folds of the gown.

“Ruth, let me help you, as you have helped me. Boaz is kindred to the house of Elimilech, he is unmarried, prosperous, and a man of peace. This relationship makes him responsible to carry on the house of Elimilech, for the firstborn of he and a widow of Elimilech’s family would be a son to me. I know he is a good deal older than you, but I also know he will treat you justly. Go now, while he is on the threshing floor, wait until all becomes still and uncover his feet and lie down next to them. He will know what it means and what to do next, if he fulfills this duty hope is restored to our future.” Naomi finished with a sigh, realizing the plan came not only from her mind. “Thank you, Lord God of my fathers,” she whispered.

Ruth’s mind raced at all Naomi presented. How could Naomi have known the secrets of her heart? How many times had she forced Boaz from her mind, believing thinking of him betrayed the memory of her husband and Naomi. Not allowing herself to the think of the possibility of rejection, she declared, “I will do all that you ask.”

Ruth walked into the night, finding the field, she waited, each second increasing the rushing of her heart. Finally silence overtook the night and she made her way to the sleeping Boaz, and gazed upon the face so often in her dreams. His temples, gray at the sides, gave way to dark wavy hair still full and even now refusing to stay out of his eyes. Summoning her courage, she knelt and uncovered his feet, lying down beside them.

Only a few moments went by and Ruth felt Boaz sit up, “Who is there?” he whispered.

“It is I, Ruth, your handmaiden. Spread your protection over me for thou art my kinsman.” Ruth could not keep the tremor from her voice as she spoke, head down, too afraid to meet his eyes.

“Ruth, look at me,” Boaz gently instructed, lifting her chin.

Meeting his eyes, surprised to find tears in them, Ruth felt her own eyes overwhelmed with emotion. “Ruth, blessed are you of the Lord, I would have thought you would seek someone more youthful, or more wealth, but I should have remembered you for the virtues you displayed. I will do all you need of me, but you need to know there is a nearer kinsman than I. Stay here for the night, it is too dangerous for you to walk back and I don’t want anyone to think you came to see me in secret. I will go in the morning and see if he will accept or decline and allow me to fulfill the role of kinsman redeemer.”

Night stretched before them, sitting side by side they waited for the long minutes to pass by until the sun started to edge over the horizon. Yet, she would have spent a million more minutes, sharing thoughts and dreams waiting with the man she realized she loved.

Leading her to the road, before others were aware of her presence, he poured a measure of barley into her hands. “I would not let you return to Naomi empty handed.”

Standing still, Ruth watched until Boaz could no longer be seen. Her feet could not race fast enough to Naomi’s side. Bursting into the house, Naomi got up and reached out for her, as Ruth hurriedly replayed all that had taken place. Story finished Naomi, began to pace the floor.

“Will he ever come?” she questioned, pacing the floor.

“Sit now daughter and rest yourself. We must wait, and in waiting find the strength for whatever lies ahead.” Naomi spoke, a smile in her voice, for it had scarcely been a half hour since Ruth returned home.

Read Ruth chapter three.

Blessings,

Laura S.

© Copyright 2017 | A Closer Look

 

 

 

Ruth: Kindness

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Kindness

What is it about kindness that makes it so easily recognizable?

Why do we find ourselves surprised when an act of kindness interrupts our everyday life?

As we continue the study of Ruth, and take a closer look at chapter two, kindness becomes the theme that changes the lives of two women overshadowed by tragedy. Ruth begins working in a field, alongside other poor women, hoping to pick up the grain left by the reapers in an effort to provide food for their families. Scripture states she happened to end up in a field belonging to Naomi’s kinsmen, Boaz.

Side note: Happened? I don’t think so, nothing is happenchance to God. In the same way God led Ruth to the right place, at the right time, He leads us exactly where we are supposed to be. Job 24:1 states, times are not hidden from the Almighty.

When we are first introduced to Boaz, immediately his speech identifies him as a man of grace and dignity. Boaz keen observation of his property reveals a strange woman on his field. His workers identify Ruth, describing her as hardworking, giving Boaz even more cause to notice her.

Boaz displays kindness by instructing Ruth to work only in his fields, so he can guarantee her safety, and he also instructs to rest when she needed rest. He took care of her out of kindness, with no other reason or motive. Immediately humbled and grateful, Ruth bowed before him, honoring and respecting him despite her surprise. Her surprise continued as he praises her for the courageous and faithful actions she demonstrated toward Naomi, explaining why he offered his help.

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Another little tidbit for free: Proverbs 31:31 describes a virtuous woman as someone whose works praise her in the gates. Like Ruth, our works should precede us and be a direct reflection of the Holy Spirit within our hearts.

Ruth, heads back home with enough to provide a meal, and tells Naomi everything that happened. Naomi’s bitterness begins to change as she blesses the Lord for bringing Boaz into their lives, and thanks Him for His kindness and the kindness of Boaz.

Hesed

If you look up the scripture in Hebrew, Naomi refers to the kindness shown by God and Boaz, as hesed. Hesed means loving kindness and loyalty, and is often described as being difficult to describe in the English language. Hesed is the same word used to describe Ruth’s feelings and actions toward Naomi. Acts of hesed are acts performed without expectation.

A book I am reading, O2 by Richard Dahlstrom, discusses the meaning of living generously. To truly be generous, you have to do something for someone who does not have the means to reciprocate. You can show a kindness, but an act of true generosity, an act of hesed goes above and beyond just being nice.

To love like Christ, we must embrace the full meaning of hesed. Ephesians 5:2 instructs us to walk in love, as Christ has loved us. Christ died on the cross knowing many would never love him in return. We must learn to love in the same way, and prevent selfish motives from determining who deserves our kindness.

Kindness requires effort.

Especially in our culture, we have to stop the busyness in our own little world and take the time to recognize moments when God prompts us to be kind. We must observe our daily lives with the realization that God creates purposeful encounters, giving us the opportunity to reflect His love to those crossing our path.

Ephesians 4:32, Be kind to one another, tender-hearted forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has forgiven you.

Galatians 5:22-23, But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Luke 6:35, Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.

Colossians 3:12, So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

Proverbs 3:3, Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.

Kindness

Looking into the pouch, Ruth realized the grain left would provide enough bread for one more day.

Three weeks ago their journey brought them into Bethlehem. Upon arrival, Naomi led them to the well, a common gathering place for the women. Old friends recognized her almost immediately and most of the town came out in greeting, even directing them to a small empty cave dwelling to live in. Naomi had shed bitter tears comparing it to the fine home Elimelech brought her to as a bride. Ruth gently reminded her that two widows with a small home seemed better than two widows without one.

Closing her eyes, a dull throb increasing behind them, Ruth heard the voices of shock when the people learned she was a Moabite. When Naomi refused to leave her or send her back, no other help came. Joining Naomi at the fire, Ruth spoke softly. “I will try to go and glean in the fields today.”

“Ruth, no, it is too dangerous. Many of the fieldworkers abuse the women, there is no one whose protection would prevent them.” Naomi protested her face creased with anxiety.

“We have no choice. We have used the last of our food, and without money to buy more we will starve.” Ruth spoke the last words firmly as she prepared to leave, keeping her own fear from Naomi. She knew too well the dangers of an unprotected woman in the field, especially a foreigner. Departing quickly, before Naomi could persuade her to stay, she headed out with a prayer on her lips, “Yahweh, I know I am not an Israelite, but Naomi is, help me to find grain today so she might live. See her in this plight and let your will be done, use my life to save hers. “

Head high, Ruth walked past field after field, ignoring the rude comments often called her way, something propelling her to keep walking. Close to noon she found a small filed out of the way from the others. Men reaping did not even look up as she fell in step with the gleaners behind them, and thankfully they remained silent.

She recognized a few women from the well, but they soon blocked her path, forcing her to find only what they accidentally left behind. She continued to work when they stopped to eat, she had nothing to eat anyway. Eyes stinging with tears, exhaustion began to take hold, and Ruth knew her body must rest. Making her way to the edge of the shelter, emotionally and physically worn, sleep claimed her almost instantly.

A hand shook her arm and Ruth jumped from sleep. Round with fear, her eyes looked up to find a well-dressed man, certainly not a field worker, with a look of concern on his face. “Don’t be afraid. I am Boaz, this is my field. I am told you are Ruth, daughter-in-law of Naomi. I want you to continue to come and work in my fields, where I know you will be safe. Here, you must drink or the heat will overwhelm you.”

Holding out a water skin, Boaz look of concern eased her anxiety. Flushing red, Ruth realized she held his gaze. Immediately, she averted her eyes, assuming a position of humility bowing low to the ground. “Why? Why are you being so kind to me, a widow from a foreign land?”

Boaz helped her stand, his eyes finding hers once again. “Word of you and your loyalty to Naomi, your honorable actions since the death of your husband, and how you left everything to bring Naomi back to Bethlehem, spreads quickly in a small town. Be assured, the God of Israel will protect you and reward you for all your work.”

“I hope I do not disappoint you. Thank you, I do not know what to say.” Ruth could barely manage the words, relief pouring over her soul.

Boaz gave her a little food, and left quietly. Going swiftly back to work, Ruth found the women did not push her aside and she gathered three times the amount of the morning. Light footsteps carried her back to Naomi, with enough barley to keep them for several days.

Naomi gasped, seeing all Ruth collected, “In whose field did you manage to gather all this?”

“I worked in the field of Boaz. He told me to come back and work until the end of the harvest. “Ruth working at the fire, failed to see the look of understanding and calculation play across Naomi’s features.

“Bless Boaz and Bless the Almighty one for kindness this day. Boaz is related to our family, surely God has sent him to protect us.” Naomi declared, a small amount of wonder mixed with her words.

And life carried on, the harvest continued, and the women were content.

Read Ruth chapter 2.

Blessings,

Laura S.

© Copyright 2017 | A Closer Look

 

Ruth: Steadfast

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Have you ever questioned your circumstance?

Have you ever wondered how anything good could come out of a problem or situation?

How do we keep a positive attitude when we are in the middle of a crisis?

How do we stay steadfast and keep our priorities aligned with God?

When we take a closer look at the book of Ruth, we find two women, Ruth and Naomi, faced with the tragedy of losing their husbands. Naomi’s hope lies in returning to her homeland, and she offers Ruth, her daughter in law, the chance to remain in Moab, Ruth’s country of birth.

 

Unsplash / Pixabay
Unsplash / Pixabay

I wonder if Ruth struggled with that decision on the road that day, the darkness of the unknown tempting her to remain in the comfort of familiarity. Feels a bit like what we face, doesn’t it? Oftentimes we struggle with doing something out of the ordinary and return to old habits because they are comfortable.

Familiarity may feel right, but that doesn’t make it right.

In fact, many times God will be pushing us out of our box of familiarity and into the unknown, teaching us to lean not on our own understanding, but in Him, pushing us to grow in faith and trust until we recognize His will and not our own.

Ruth, steadfast in her decision, tells Naomi, “Where you go, I will go; and where you live, I will live; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”

Naomi, in her grief, doesn’t recognize the hand of God guiding their way. Even as they miraculously survive the journey, she points out the bitter hand that God has dealt her, quickly forgetting it was by choice that her family left Bethlehem.

How quickly we too can forget Romans 8:28, which says, “all things work together for good to those that love God, to those called according to His purpose.”

I pray I can be like Ruth. I pray I recognize that I can’t live one day without God. I pray I am willing and steadfast to go where He leads and give up what is comfortable to fulfill my calling and my purpose.

If we cling to God so that our desires become secondary, John 10:10 tells us we will find life and that more abundantly.

If we are steadfast, 1 Corinthians 15:58 reminds us our labor will not be in vain.

Naomi and Ruth arrived back in Bethlehem at the beginning of the harvest time. God orchestrated their journey so they would arrive at a time when widows were permitted to work and provide a means of sustenance. They hoped only to survive, but God had so much more planned for them.

The End was only the Beginning.

Steadfast

Raising one hand, Ruth shielded the sun from her eyes, gazing at an endless path stretching before her. Turning slightly, she could still see Moab on the horizon. Orpah came beside her, she too looking toward Moab.

Naomi reached out to both women, her daughters in law, taking them by the hand. “My daughters, I have loved you like you were by own since you came to live in my house. Orpah, you brought your smile and laughter and Ruth, your passion and vivacity. The road before us is mine to take, not yours. I have no hope of a future, no hope of more sons for you to marry and carry on the line of Elimelech. Return to the house of your fathers, marry again and find happiness.”

Ruth watched as Orpah began weeping and Naomi turned to comfort her. Orpah clung to Naomi for a moment and then turned back toward Moab, not looking back to see if Ruth followed.

Ruth picked up Orpah’s pouch, adding the burden to her own, and assumed her position on the road. Walking in silence, Ruth hid her hurt from Naomi, not understanding why she would want them to part.

Over the last ten years, they had shared the joys and sorrows of life. Naomi held Ruth in her arms and comforted her as she lost child after child to stillbirth. Naomi comforted her with stories of her ancestors and of their God Yahweh, different from the gods of Moab, a God who required obedience but did not demand human sacrifice. A shared strength kept then going during the loss of Elimelech and then Mahlon.

As much as she would miss Moab, her family, and all she knew, Ruth simply could not imagine being separated from Naomi.

Naomi finally broke the quiet, “Ruth, please, I have nothing to offer. I hope to die on this road. Go back to your people, to your gods, and to your life.”

Looking calmly into Naomi’s eyes, a quiet passion filled Ruth’s words, “Where you go, I will go. Where you live, I will live. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” Ruth turned, her feet continuing on the path before them.

Naomi recognized Ruth’s determination, and she simply did not have the strength to fight her. She also recognized something else, although Ruth refused to serve the gods of Moab during her marriage to Naomi’s son, this was the first time she accepted Yahweh as her God.

Read Ruth chapter one.

Blessings,

Laura S.

© Copyright 2017 | A Closer Look

Manoah’s Wife: Defining Sacrifice

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You can’t do that.

Have you ever heard those words, and had difficulty listening to them? It seems like they are forever being repeated in our household.”No, you can’t stay out till 1 a.m. you’re only fifteen. No, you can’t watch that you’re only twelve. No, you can’t have mountain dew you’re only four.”

To which all three of the little angels sweetly reply, “Ok, you’re right,” and they skip off to clean their rooms without being requested.

Right, I’m obviously day-dreaming by this point. Saying, “You can’t do that”, incites utter chaos and rioting in the Strand household.

Most people don’t want to hear the word “No”, much less give up something of importance. Yet, having to respect “no” and make sacrifices is a part of growing up and taking responsibility for ourselves.

How does this relate in our spiritual lives? What can we learn from sacrifice, and saying no to perhaps our own wants and desires?

When we say the word sacrifice, it doesn’t typically evoke positive feelings. Kind of like saying the word “diet”, or “exercise”, no one WANTS to do those things but we would all like the end result. Sacrifice means an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy (Miriam-Webster).

Judges chapter 13 introduces us to Manoah’s wife (sometimes identified with Hazelelponi in 1 Chronicles 4:3), who was required to give certain things up in her life. Like Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel we read that she was unable to have children. Although it might seem cruel to point this fact out, during this time period having children was essential to a woman’s worth and place in society. Yet, as we take a closer look, it seems God continues to delight in making the impossible, possible.

An angel appears unto Mrs. Manoah and tells her she is going to have a son. He instructs her not to drink wine, strong drink, or eat anything unclean for her son will be a Nazarite. A Nazarite vow required the person to abstain from wine, wine vinegar, grapes, raisins, liquors, basically anything that contained a trace of grapes.

jill111 / Pixabay

I wonder how she reacted to these instructions. After all, she wasn’t going take the Nazarite vow. It doesn’t take too much to figure out that the news of having a baby overshadowed everything else. I’m sure, as most pregnant mothers would agree, she was willing to do whatever it took to ensure the safety of her child. A few months of self-sacrifice paled in comparison to the joy of holding her son in her arms.

Over and over we are called to make sacrifices, to make choices that will define and shape our lives in that moment and in the future. Living for God does mean giving up things, in fact, the closer you become to Him the more it seems you sacrifice.

Luke 9:23-24 tells us that to be followers we have to deny ourselves, and goes on to say whoever loses his life for the sake of Christ will save it.

How do we reconcile that? How do we understand that in giving everything we are to serve God, we actually find the completeness people spend their entire lives seeking to acquire?

An answer can be found in Matthew 6:31-33, that tells us not to worry about where our next meal comes from, or if we have clothing to wear. Instead it encourages us to seek first the Kingdom of God and everything we need will be supplied. Can I add that our wants will be supplied as well, for when we give God blesses us with even more than we need (Luke 6:38).

Don’t be surprised as you grow closer to God, as you truly begin seeking Him first, for those wants and needs to become different than before. In fact, many things that seemed important to have or achieve will become secondary to what actually deserves your time, your money, and your life.

I don’t know what sacrifices God will call upon you to make, for it won’t look the same for me as it does you. Some people may be called to give up certain things for a time period, perhaps so they can devout more time to the work of God. Some will be called to missions and give up their homes and leave all that is familiar to them. Some will be called to sacrifice careers, money, time, and relationships.

God will not force you to make a sacrifice. He simply asks you to choose.

Are you willing?

Manoah’s wife followed instruction and made the sacrifice required regarding the food she ate, and became the mother of Samson. Who despite his mistakes judged Israel for 20 years, whose stories of strength and overcoming adversity we continue to teach today.

Be willing. Be open. Just see where God takes you.

Sacrifice

Light barely outlined the horizon, as Hazelelponi interrupted nature’s stillness. Finding her way in the dim light, she sat alongside a small brook trickling through the desert valley. Folding her feet underneath her, she took a deep breath and allowed her eyes to take in the red and orange glow filling the morning sky.

She closed her eyes as her mind asked, Why? No tears came. They had all fallen years before, when her desire for a child overwhelmed every other aspect of her life. With time, she learned how to seal her emotions off, place a smile on her face and silence her lips from speaking the longing of her heart.

Those who shared her plight did not want to bring attention to the fact that their homes were empty. Those blessed with family simply could not understand, despite how they cared.

Manoah, her husband, insisted they did not need children so full were their lives with nieces and nephews, even now two of them slept under their roof. She had hoped this time, for the first time in a long while, but the familiar pains awakened her before the day began, erasing that precious thought.

Her womb remained empty.

Her duty to life called her back to present, and with a resolute sigh, she pushed herself to her feet. Turning to leave, light filled her vision, as a man walked steadily towards her and took her hand into his. Her mind told her to be afraid, to move, to scream, to do anything but stand there mesmerized by this stranger. She felt no fear, only a deep calm settling inside her alongside an awareness of something greater than herself.

In a deep tone of certainty he spoke to her. “I know you believe you can’t have children. I am here to tell you that you will soon have a son. I am to instruct you not to drink wine, or anything like it, and only eat of those things determined by the commandments to be clean. You will conceive and have a son, and no razor shall ever touch his head for he will be a Nazarite unto God from the womb. He will deliver Israel from the Philistines.”

In one moment he stood before her, in the next his voice echoed on the wind, leaving her to wonder if she dreamed of his presence.

“Manoah, Manoah,” finding her voice, she ran towards her home. Joy burst in her heart, a deep confidence assuring her the man spoke truth.

Blessings,

Laura S.

© Copyright 2017 | A Closer Look

Deborah: Finding Your Place

Have you ever questioned your place in God?

Have you ever felt like maybe it wasn’t your place, or you didn’t have the right to speak up about a situation? Not because you didn’t know how your felt or what to do, but perhaps you worried what others would say or think?

Most of us would say, “yes”, simply because we have all been faced with that very dilemma.

Before the kings of Israel arrived on the scene, God spoke through and used judges to guide Israel. We read in Judges Chapter 4, where Deborah, the only female judge of Israel named in the Bible, experiences a circumstance that causes her to question her place, and even to give reason for her hesitation.

Deborah, prophetess, wife of Labbidoth, became judge of Israel during a time when they were under the oppression of a Canaanite King, Jabin. Yet, the Israelite army did not go out against them. Deborah sends for Barak, their general, basically to figure out when their next move will take place. He basically tells her—I’m not going unless you go with me.

First of all, I find a general of an army asking for a woman’s support, when the culture of the day held very few women’s rights, to be surprising. My thoughts started spinning concerning the scripture in 1 Peter 3:7 where the wife is referred to as the “weaker” vessel. What exactly does that scripture mean? In relation why did Deborah hesitate, did her emotions get in the way, or was she not intelligent enough to understand battle, or perhaps afraid?

If we take a closer look at scripture, and the life of Deborah, we will not find anywhere that the Bible implies that women are intellectually or emotionally inferior to men. Or any less capable of performing the will of God.

The word, “weaker”, can cause offense especially if applied incorrectly. Peter, when he wrote those words, recognized the weakened position of women in the 1st Century.  The word translated here, into weaker, is also used to describe a prisoner, or someone who has lost their freedom or opportunity. It is not the same word used to describe physical or emotional weakness.

In the 1st Century Jewish and Greco-Roman cultures. women held very few rights. Especially in the pagan cultures a wife was often considered a man’s property. Peter is giving instruction on how the early Christian church should separate themselves from this viewpoint understanding that women were “heirs together of the grace of life.”

 In fact, the scripture is telling men to make sure they are honoring their wives.

Not ignoring her opinion or not allowing her voice to influence him, rather to be her voice in a society that robbed women of freedom of speech. And to do otherwise would hinder their prayers, not help them.

It’s why God created man, and then created a help mate for him, we make a really good team. If a husband is not taking the time to listen to his spouse, his help mate given to him, then he is not behaving in a Christ like manner. We know that Christ listens to and hears the prayers of his church. And Ephesians commands husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. A wife was to submit to her husband as the voice of their family in a culture dominated by men. It did not infer that she should not influence him, or that her opinion held no merit because she was a woman.

Deborah’s position in the Old Testament makes it very evident that God does not view women as an inferior sex. Instead, it strengthens the fact that He can and will use women them equally.

The culture explains Deborah’s hesitancy to her general’s request. She knew going with him would bring judgement, and would take away from his victory. The verse says she warns him they will honor a woman with the victory instead of the general. He, in his wisdom, knew the price of battle and willingly shared his glory with her knowing it would bring victory to his people.  The scripture records she agrees to join him, and the Israelites do overtake their enemies.

How did Deborah find herself elevated as a leader? The Bible first describes her as a prophetess, and I believe somewhere in her life she learned to hear and recognize the voice of God. She didn’t stop there, but found her place as prophetess when she raised up her voice to share the Word of God to her people.

Like with Deborah, God‘s spirit can guide you to make that decision that seems impossible.

He will give you direction. (Psalm 119:105)

He will give you wisdom. (James 1:5)

He will teach you what to say. (Luke 12:11-12)

He will be your voice. (John 16:13)

Our culture has come a long way towards women’s equality, but at times Satan will try to rob every one of the freedom we have in Christ. To the point where we feel like we don’t have the right to say anything, and that we are unworthy to be used by God, that we have no place in the kingdom, and we feel trapped.

Can I encourage you today, don’t think God hasn’t defined a place for you. Like my grandpa would say-Follow your heart. If God has called you remember the words of Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Place

Deborah: The VoiceTaking a deep breath, Deborah studied the man’s face before her. Lines furrowed his brow and dark circles highlighted his eyes, revealing the stress he carried.

“Barak,” she began slowly, weighing her words, “it is not because I don’t want to help, but do you understand what will be said? They will say you are weak and needed a woman to win a battle.”

His gaze perused her face for several minutes, words almost unnecessary as their eyes spoke in a language defined by years of friendship. “Do you understand who you are? Do you realize the affect your presence has on those around you?”

Kneeling before her as a statement of honor, the seasoned general held out his hands. “Deborah, judge and mother of Israel, my heart beat is to win the victory for our people for the glory of the Lord God. I would implore you to join us against the Canaanites. Help win this battle, your presence will bring strength, hope, and confidence. How foolish and prideful do you think I am, that I would be willing to sacrifice the lives of my men, to risk losing the battle, simply because I didn’t want to share the victory with a woman? Join us.”

Deborah turned away, allowing emotions to begin circulating through her, and she waited for the confirmation to arrive. Many called her wise and respected her decisions without question. She knew, however, that her wisdom came from a higher source and she couldn’t claim it as her own. Therefore, she waited quietly asking God to guide her choice. Clearing her mind, she relaxed, releasing the tension in her shoulders, and exhaled.

Go. Warmth flowed down her arms and legs as she recognized the voice of God. “Arise Barak, and let us go,” she continued with authority, “the Lord has gone before, and will deliver us.”

Blessings,

Laura S.

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