Due to inclement weather, the 9 a.m. service for Sunday, Jan. 20 has been cancelled. We will have one morning service at 10:45 a.m. as road conditions improve.

Women's History Month

by Mary Ellen Black

Women from history ... the history of God’s people ... written down for all of time. Women remembered for sinful disobedience, mistakes, faith, hurts, heroics, deceit, loyalty, obedience, and lineage. All of them were created by and used by and for God’s purposes. All of them are memorable to most who are familiar with the Scriptures and some, like Eve, are known to those who have little or no real knowledge of Scripture. Some are inspirations of hope when there appeared to be no hope, like Esther who was used to save a people who were facing annihilation. Others, invoke courage, like Jochebed, who defied the edict that her infant son must be put to death, or Rahab, who hid the spies on her rooftop and helped them escape certain death. Eating forbidden fruit, looking back when you were told not to, trickery, deceit, and manipulation are all things that come to my mind when I remember some of these women. While we might be tempted to sweep their stories under the carpet, so to speak, it’s important that we don’t miss how God used them and the invaluable lessons we can learn from them. We may think they aren’t appropriate to share, or at least not all of their sordid details, with those outside “the family” but I would disagree - consider the impact they make on the gospel story when God is not just seen as someone who saves but someone who saves prostitutes and liars and those who have no hope of salvation. What hope these women might bring when those who have tarnished pasts hear how our God, the one true living God, uses the disobedient or outcast to accomplish great things. How much hope might a woman who has endured pain and suffering from abuse or broken promises gain when she hears the story of Tamar and how God worked all things together for the good of His people, or of the devastating losses of Naomi and God’s amazing provision? Think of the inspiration to pray boldly and with confidence that comes from Hannah’s story, or to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to His teaching like Mary, or to reach out in faith like the woman who had the bleeding problem. Oh, the stories, the examples, the fingerprints of God through the women He chose to make known to us through His Word. The Bible is rich with history and women are a great part of it. Read their stories and be inspired by their faith, learn from their mistakes, practice what God saw and pointed out as good, and share them with others as lights of hope in a world full of crooked and perverse people who need to know the truth and love of our God, a love that knows no boundaries. Ladies, may we, like Queen Esther, hear the words and challenge of Mordecai, who said,  “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”. The people around us that do not know Jesus face an eternal hell when their life here on earth is over but we have been given the opportunity to make the truth known - our King has given us the power we need - for such a time as this.

*Information and quotes for the following bios are in part from the Scriptures and gotquestions.org

Eve
“The woman who was instrumental in sin entering the world and from whom we can learn “what not to do”. She was the first woman created by God from Adam’s rib ... placed in the Garden of Eden as a helpmate to her husband. She was given the privilege of God’s company, of knowing His goodness and the beauty of His creation prior to sin entering the world. She could be the poster child for Peter’s warning to be self-controlled and alert because our enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion (or in Eve’s case, like a serpent) looking for someone to devour.

Na’amah 
(Noah’s wife), walked onto an ark with only her family. Following the leadership and faithful obedience of her husband, she left all that she knew behind because God said He was going to send a flood. [Genesis 7:7 And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood.]

Lot’s wife
unnamed in the Scriptures but known for becoming a pillar of salt after looking back when they were fleeing the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Jesus cites this story in Luke 17, as He describes a future event: “It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it” (verses 28–33).

Sarah
the wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac, failed to trust God when His promise to give her a child did not happen quickly enough. Her lack of faith brought great trouble to her life and to our world today as she instructed her handmaiden, Hagar, to sleep with Abraham and provide a child for them. God still honored His promise and Sarah gave birth to Isaac at the age of 90 but the consequences that followed are still known today. We must not miss the example that Peter uses of Sarah where he refers to her as “a holy woman who hoped in God”,
1 Peter 3:5-6. Sarah willingly left her home and stepped out into the unknown to follow Abraham, as he followed the directions of a God with whom she was unfamiliar at the time. She endured much to try to provide an heir for her husband and to keep her husband safe in dangerous lands. In the end, she had faith enough to believe that she and her husband, at the ages of 90 and 100, would produce the promised heir, Isaac. Although she lived in a world of danger and confusion, Sarah stood firm in her commitment to her husband and to God, and her commitment was rewarded with blessing.

Naomi & Ruth
whose lives are testimonies to God bringing good out of something tragic, or bitter as Naomi’s story infers. When a famine hits Judea, Elimelech and Naomi and their two boys relocate to Moab (Ruth 1:1). There, Mahlon and Kilion marry two Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. After about ten years, tragedy strikes. Elimelech dies, and both of Naomi’s sons also die, leaving Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah widows (Ruth 1:3–5). Naomi, hearing that the famine in Judea was over, decides to return home (Ruth 1:6). Orpah stays in Moab, but Ruth chooses to move to the land of Israel with Naomi. The book of Ruth is the story of Naomi and Ruth returning to Bethlehem and how Ruth married a man named Boaz and bore a son, Obed, who became the grandfather of David and the ancestor of Jesus Christ.

Esther
the Jewish maiden who became queen of Persia and rescued her people from a murderous plot to annihilate them. Her story is recorded in the Old Testament book bearing her name. Esther was the cousin of a Benjamite named Mordecai, who was also her guardian, having adopted her as his own daughter when her parents died. Mordecai held an official position within the Persian government (Esther 2:19). When Esther was chosen as a candidate for queen, Mordecai instructed her not to reveal her Jewish background (verse 10). He also visited the king’s harem daily to see how Esther was doing (verse 11). She won the grace and favor of the king, according to Esther 2:17, he loved her more than all the others and made her queen. Throughout her story, it becomes evident that God was at work. For you see, sometime after she became queen, Mordecai heard about a plot against the king’s life and made it known to Esther and later a plot to annihilate their people, the Jews. Esther’s bravery and faith in God are a testament to the trust this young woman had in the living God. Her life is a lesson in God’s sovereignty over His creation. God maneuvers every aspect of life to position people, governments, and situations for His plan and purpose. We may not know what God is doing at a particular moment, but a time might come when we realize why we have gone through certain experiences or met certain people or lived in certain areas or shopped in certain stores, or taken certain trips. The time may come when everything comes together, and we look back and see that we, too, were in the right place at the right time, just as Esther was. She was in the harem “for such a time as this.” She was made queen “for such a time as this.” She was strengthened and prepared to intercede for her people “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). And she was faithful to obey. Esther trusted in God and humbly served, no matter what it might cost. Esther is truly a reminder of God’s promise, as written in Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Tamar
the daughter-in-law of Judah Jacob’s son Judah (patriarch of the line of Judah) had three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah. Er married a woman named Tamar, but then died, leaving her a widow. Since it was required that the next of kin care for a brother’s widow, Tamar was given to Onan, but he also died. Shelah was still a boy and could not marry Tamar, so Judah asked her to return to her father’s house and wait until Shelah was grown up. However, once Shelah was old enough, Judah did not honor his promise. Tamar remained an unmarried widow. Tamar then went into town disguised as a prostitute, tricked Judah, and got him to sleep with her. She then became pregnant by Judah and bore twin sons named Perez and Zerah. The story is recorded in Genesis 38. It was through Perez’s son Hezron that King David and, eventually, Jesus Christ descended.

Rahab
a prostitute who places her faith in the true living God and saves the two men Joshua sent in to spy out the land. Gotquestions.org refers to her as “one of the most thought-provoking and astonishing heroines of the Old Testament”. Her story is found in Joshua 2-6 but lives on in the story of Jesus, whose legal father was Joseph, a direct descendant of Ruth. You see, once the spies safely escaped the city, they returned to Joshua and reported that the “whole land was melting with fear.” The Israelites crossed the Jordan into Canaan where they laid siege to the city of Jericho. The city was completely destroyed, and every man, woman, and child in it was killed. Only Rahab and her family were spared. Ultimately, Rahab married Salmon, an Israelite from the tribe of Judah. Her son was Boaz, the husband of Ruth.

Jochebed
the mother of Moses, who found a way to protect her son (Ex. 1:17-19 and 2:3) from the edict of Pharaoh that all infant boys be put to death (Ex.1:6-18)

Miriam
who did as her mother Jochebed instructed and was used in the plot to save Moses from certain death. Miriam watches over her baby brother Moses among the bulrushes on the banks of the Nile. Their mother had hidden Moses in a basket on the river bank to protect him from Pharaoh’s decree to throw all Hebrew baby boys into the river (Exodus 1:22—2:4). As Miriam watches, Pharaoh’s daughter discovers and pities Moses, and Miriam quickly intervenes to ask if the Egyptian princess would like a Hebrew woman to nurse the child for her. The princess agrees, and Miriam quickly gets their mother. Pharaoh’s daughter commands Moses’ biological mother to nurse him and bring him back to her when he is older. By the grace of God, Miriam helps save the infant Moses (Exodus 2:5–10).

Rebekah
the wife of Isaac and the mother of Esau and Jacob. Rebekah’s marriage to Isaac was the result of God’s providence, her pregnancy was an answer to prayer, and the lives of her sons fulfilled prophecy. Rebekah’s choice to lie and deceive her husband is an example of how wrongdoing in human beings does not thwart the plans of God and how God can ultimately bring about His will, through His mercy and wisdom, despite our sin (see Genesis 50:20).

Hannah
who was barren and prayed to God out of her “great anguish and grief,” was soon given a son. She named him Samuel and dedicated him to the Lord as a Nazarite, fulfulling the promise she had made in her prayer (Numbers 6:1-8). In Hannah’s prayer, God is presented as the One who helps the weak. She begins her prayer with “My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in the Lord.” Hannah recognized that her strength came from God and not from herself. She was not proud in her strength but rejoiced in God’s ability to make a weakling strong. Her story also teaches us that God can use human weakness to accomplish great things. Samuel, Hannah’s son, grew up to be a great man of God – the final judge and the prophet who anointed the first two kings of Israel. But why was Hannah’s story necessary? Why not just start with Samuel in the tabernacle or at the start of his judgeship? Why not simply let him be born to a God-fearing couple and send an angel to tell them to dedicate their son to God? In short, why involve Hannah’s grief? Because God is glorified in Hannah’s story. Her weakness, her trust in God as she turned to Him, the fervency of her desire, and her faithfulness in bringing Samuel to God as promised are all evidences of God working in Hannah’s life. Her tears were ordained to be part of the glorious story of what God was doing in Israel’s history. Every person experiences desires that will not be quenched and circumstances that cause grief. Many times, we simply do not understand these things. However, in the life of Hannah we see that God knows our story from beginning to end, that everything has a purpose, and that trust in Him is never misplaced.

Rachel
a major character in the early Old Testament; she was a daughter of Laban, sister of Leah, favored wife of Jacob, and mother of two of Jacob’s children, but not before much anguish. In order for Jacob to be able to marry Rachel he had to work for her brother for seven years, after which time Laban tricked him and put his daughter Leah in Rachel’s place at the wedding. Rachel and Jacob’s tale is one of the great love stories of the Bible. Jacob preferred her sons, Joseph and Benjamin, over his other children. He loved Joseph particularly (Genesis 37:3), and, although his preferential treatment of Joseph was wrong, it eventually led to the Hebrews’ move to Egypt. All of this was part of God’s plan for His people to prepare them for the coming of the promised Messiah, Jesus.

Deborah
was one of the judges of Israel during a time of oppression. She is called a prophetess and the wife of Lappidoth. The Lord spoke through her as she held court under a tree called “the Palm of Deborah” in Ephraim. The Lord also used her to set her people free and defeat the king of Canaan. Deborah’s story is found in Judges, chapters 4 and 5. We can see that God’s power is what matters, regardless of the instrument He chooses to use. Man or woman, strong or weak, confident or hesitant – all are strong when they are moved by God’s Spirit and filled with His strength. We can also see in Deborah a picture of God’s tender care for His people. As a mother cares for her children, so Deborah led and nurtured Israel (Judges 5:7).

Martha
a significant New Testament figure, a personal friend of Jesus, and someone with whom many women today identify. She was quite the spirited woman, rebuking Jesus when she found her sister, Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus while she was busy serving. Martha’s life was changed by her friendship and encounters with Jesus. Through her stories (Luke, 10, John 11 and 12) we see the importance of balancing service with worship, of trusting the Lord even when all seems lost, and of using our material resources for the glory of God.

Mary (of Bethany)
Martha’s sister, is considered one of the most beautiful women in Biblical history. She had a heart’s desire to be near her Lord. What we see in her in every occasion (Luke, 10, John 11 and 12) is a sweet Spirit focused on Christ and not herself or the other situations or people around her.

Anna
another of the few prophetesses mentioned in the Bible. “She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying” (Luke 2:37). After becoming a widow, Anna dedicated herself wholly to the Lord. She never left the temple in Jerusalem but spent her time worshiping, fasting, and praying. It is possible that Anna was given living quarters at the temple because of her designation as prophetess, or she may have lived close by. What stands out is that her devotion was constant for the majority of her life, and her devotion was rewarded with an encounter with her Savior. Her many years of sacrifice and service were worth it all when she beheld the Messiah, the One for whom she had waited so long ....  if we, like Mary, make sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to Him our priority, we will have her depth of understanding, her passion for Christ, and her complete faith in His plan for our lives. We may not have Jesus sitting in our living rooms in person, but we have His Word, the Bible, and from it we have all the knowledge and understanding we need to live a life of secure and confident faith like Mary of Bethany.
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