Chronicling 40: Day 70 of 365

DebVsJez

The Scriptures Introduce Jezebel

We first learn of Jezebel in 1 Kings 16:31, she was the wife of King Ahab and daughter of King Ethbaal (King of Sidonians).  Jezebel, like her father, was a worshiper of Baal.  Through Jezebel, King Ahab would also serve Baal.  In 1 Kings 18:4-19, we learn that Jezebel was killing God’s Prophets.  Eventually the Prophet Elijah confronts Ahab for making trouble for Israel, abandoning the Lord’s commands, following Baal.  Through events organized by the Prophet Elijah, the Lord kills prophets of Baal and Ahserah.   1 Kings 19, King Ahab tells Jezebel what happened, blaming Elijah for killing her prophets and Jezebel threatens Elijah’s life.

By the time we get through 1 Kings 19 and 20, Ben-Hadid has attacked twice, and overcome the outlying regions.  A prophet tells Ahab that he would defeat Ben-Hadid twice in order to turn Ahab back to God, to prove that God is greater than Baal.  Ahab was to kill Ben-Hadid.  But instead makes a treaty with him, which is seen as disobedience to God.  The prophet tells Ahab the penalty for this is life for life.  Ahab is described as depressed by this.

In 1 Kings 21, Jezebel returns to the conversation.  King Ahab makes an offer to buy land from Naboth.  Naboth turns down the offer, and basically King Ahab pouts over it.  He goes to bed, refuses to eat.  Jezebel calls Ahab out on his behavior not being very kingly, and in essence tells him to pull himself together and assures him that she will get the land.  To do so, Jezebel sets up an innocent Naboth who is accused of speaking against God and King and he is stoned to death.  Jezebel sends King Ahab out to take the land, now that the owner is dead.  Elijah meets the King and informs him of the penalty for this action: which includes disaster upon Ahab, death of his descendants (sons) and no males from Israel available to him (for his daughters), and that Jezebel will be eaten by dogs.

Surprisingly, Ahab humbles himself before the Lord and he himself is spared (although the consequences will still fall upon his descendants).  We fast forward to 2 Kings 9, where the Lord has anointed Jehu as King.  Jehu kills Joram (son of Ahab and Jezebel), and then Jezebel.  All of which align with the consequences Elijah told King Ahab would fall upon him.

We again hear of Jezebel in the New Testament, Revelation 2:20-21.  It is believed that this is a woman who is not actually named Jezebel but referred to as such because her characteristics are reminiscent of Jezebel. 

So, what do we know based on the scriptures?

  1. Ahab was already not just doing evil in the sight of the Lord, but he was seen as the worst.  He was already corrupt.
  2. Ahab marries Jezebel, who is a Baal worshiper, daughter of Sidonian King.
  3. Jezebel had a strong personality, dominating wife, forceful character, manipulating, vengeful, and unrepentant.
  4. Jezebel was murdering God’s Prophets, threatened Elijah’s life.
  5. Jezebel’s influence extended over her children.
  6. Jezebel was a schemer, proud, and vain.
  7. In the New Testament parallel description in Revelation 2:20-21, this Jezebel calls herself a prophet, misleads people, non-repentant, not without penalty.

Tomorrow, we are going to compare Deborah and Jezebel.  This weekend, we’ll explore why Jezebel is used as an example against women in leadership.

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Chronicling 40: Day 69 of 365

DebVsJez

Deborah was a Judge, and the word judge and leader are interchangeable in the original Hebrew.  We are goin

g to explore the qualifications of being a leader, according to the Scriptures.

First and foremost, God is going to raise up a woman into leadership who is a godly woman.  What defines a godly woman?

Watermark Community Church published an article on the five characteristics of a godly woman.  Each characteristic was supported by scripture in the Old Testament.

5 Characteristics of a Godly Woman:

  1. She will seek God first.  1 Chronicles 16:8-12, Psalm 9:10, Psalm 27:1-5, Psalm 34:10-14, Psalm 40:16
  2. She will speak, faithfully.  Genesis 2:18, Proverbs 27:5-6, Proverbs 31:8-9, Proverbs 31:26, Psalm 19:14, Proverbs 12:18, Proverbs 13:3, Proverbs 16:13, Proverbs 20:15, Proverbs 24:26
  3. She will show true beauty.  Proverbs 31:30, 1 Samuel 16:7, Proverbs 11:22
  4. She will stay humble.  Isaiah 66:2, Psalm 141:5, Proverbs 3:5-6, Proverbs 12:1, Micah 6:8.
  5. She will serve the Lord.  Psalm 16:11, Psalm 84:10-12

A Godly Woman’s Ministry Calling:

Proverbs 31 gives us a great example of the connection of the woman’s gifts and talents and how she will use them to serve the Lord.

  • Her Ministry to Her Husband:  Proverbs 31: 11,12, 23
  • Her Ministry to Her Children:  Proverbs 31: 14, 15, 21, 27, 28
  • Her Ministry to Her Community: Proverbs 31: 20, 24, 31
  • Her Ministry with Her Gifts:  Proverbs 31: 13, 16, 17, 22, 26

In the Old Testament we consistently see women leading and serving in the above four categories.  In the New Testament, we also see that women were Financial Benefactors, Students, Leaders, and Missionaries. 

  • Financial Benefactors, such as Joanna.  Luke 8:2-3
  • Students, such as Mary.  Luke 10:38-42
  • Leaders, such as Phoebe.  Romans 16:1
  • Missionaries, such as Priscilla.  Romans 16:3

Women of Influence:

Women have an innate ability to influence one another and those around them.  Therefore, we need to look at the traits common to women who are influencers and how that relates to the church.  The book Women of Influence lists 10 traits of women who want to make a difference and influence Kingdom work.

  1. They are passionate about influencing and mentoring.
  2. They are gifted with leadership or teaching.
  3. They have a personal relationship with Jesus.
  4. They are dreamers, who see the big picture with optimism.
  5. They are good with people.
  6. They are willing to initiate, or take the first steps.
  7. They are women of integrity.
  8. They have an intensity that pushes them to endure the long haul.
  9. They are inquiring, they ask questions and want to understand.
  10. They are infectious, people are drawn to them and want to learn from them.

We are going to refer back to this list when we get to the point of how to determine the difference between a Deborah and a Jezebel.

Qualifications for Leadership:

In addition to these traits, qualities, and characteristics of leaders the New Testament very clearly lays out the qualifications to be considered for leadership. In 1 Timothy 3:1-12, the qualifications for Overseers and Deacons reads:

v1:  It’s a noble task.

v2: be above reproach, faithful in marriage, temperate, self controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach.

v3: not given to drunkenness, not violent, not quarrelsome, not greedy

v4:  must manage the family/household well, have obedient children, and this is done in a respectful manner.

v5: “If anyone cannot manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?”  Remember, this is the verse that supports our ministry to our family/home is priority.

v6:  not a recent convert (ie: spiritually mature).

v7:  good reputation with outsiders (ie: not just within the body of believers).

v8:  worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, not pursuing dishonest gain.

v9:  “They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience”.  (Remember were at the top of this piece we referenced women who are good leaders are students.)

v10:  they must be tested before service.  (In other words, they are not just appointed, but approved into the position.  If you wonder why we have hiring/search committees … this is why).

v11:  “IN THE SAME WAY, THE WOMEN ARE TO BE WORTHY OF RESPECT, NOT MALICIOUS TALKERS BUT TEMPERATE AND TRUSTWORTHY IN EVERYTHING.”

We are going to jump to the Greek translation for a moment:  Likewise wives being without reproach let them minister deacons in all things faithful temperate not slanderers ruling well.” 

It is due to the Greek text, that I believe women are included as leaders within the church… not excluded.  In addition, based on the wording, women are held to the same standards as men in those positions.

v12:  Husbands faithful to one wife, managing his children and household well.

v13:  Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.

The Standard Is High:

Leaders are held to a higher standard, and will be held to greater accountability because their words and actions influence others.  If your doctrine or theology is wrong, you will lead others astray.  If you set a bad example in your speech or behavior, you give the impression to others that these words/behaviors are acceptable.  As Christians we are to be noticeably different from the rest of the world, those in leadership even more so.

When Paul continues his letters to Timothy warning about women in leadership, it is because the women in Ephesus at the time didn’t meet these qualifications.  If Deborah was a woman who met all of these qualifications, thus she was able to judge/lead Israel.  Jezebel, however may have been a woman of influence, or a leader… but she wasn’t a godly leader.  She didn’t meet these qualifications.  She is a perfect example of the women Paul warns against.

We are going to start talking about Jezebel for the next several days.  Who was Jezebel, what type of leader was she, and how does her story related to Paul’s warning to Timothy about women in leadership?  I’d also like to explore the gray areas between.  Not every woman who heads toward leadership in the church/ministry is a Jezebel.  But, she may also not be a Deborah.  We’ll wrap this up around that topic.

 

 

 

Chronicling 40: Day 68 of 365

DebVsJez

Deborah was a woman, Prophetess, wife of Lapidoth, and judge who was leading Israel at the time (Judges 4).  Deborah told Barak to march against their enemies, and Barak insisted that he would only do so if Deborah went with him.  Deborah said she would go with Barak, but due to his lack of confidence the victory would be in the hands of a woman.  And, this is exactly how it played out.

Women in the Old Testament:

When we take a look at the role of women in the Scriptures, particularly in connection with women leading… Deborah is the number one contender.  I think this is because she is not just known as a Judge, but considered a “Major Judge” (NIV Study Bible).  Because of her wisdom as a Judge, being known as a Prophet, and also her involvement with the military action; Deborah was primed to be the example.

However, Deborah was not the only “leading woman” in the Scriptures.  There are those who led well, and those who did not.   There were five Prophetesses that are very specifically mentioned:  Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Noadiah, and Isaiah’s wife.  In less formal “leadership” we can even look to women like Rahab, Ruth, Esther, and the Proverbs 31 woman.  For some women in the Scriptures, leadership was more formal than for others.  These were patriarchal societies and women in high position of authority was not common.  However it was not entirely absent either.

We can also see this continued into the New Testament, women were sometimes entrusted with very important roles and tasks.  They were not disqualified for being a woman.   And, as we look through Scripture in totality, when a called female leader makes a bad decision it is not her role in leadership that is questioned but rather her actions.  Those who are false leaders/prophets are called out for that they are, and that is an entirely different situation.  Good leaders can make bad choices, male or female.

 

What is the role of a Prophetess?

I am a big fan of not reinventing the wheel, so I’m going to share this explanation from the article:  Women Prophets of the Bible.  I think it is a really well written and concise explanation of the position, Scripture support links are included as well.

A prophetess is simply a female prophet. Just like a prophet, a prophetess is a person called by God. A prophet (male or female) is the mouthpiece for the one who sends him or her; the prophet speaks on behalf of the sender (Exodus 7:1-2). A prophet is considered a seer (1 Samuel 9:9), because God gives him or her the gift of foreknowledge. God reveals his secrets to prophets (Amos 3:7), and true prophesy is initiated by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11 both rank prophets as second only to apostles.

Furthermore, predictions should be tested to see if they come to pass. Prophets who make all sorts of predictions, but they don’t come to pass should be ignored (see Deut 18:20-22, Jer 28:9). Still, discernment is required because certain prophecies have stipulations of coming to pass that are contingent upon the recipient’s response (see Jonah and the judgment upon Nineveh).

One thing that I firmly believe about women called into leadership roles is that they are not given a separate list of qualifications or expectations.  Anywhere we see in the Bible qualities that are expected of leaders, examples of godly leaders, characteristics of leaders, etc. all of this applies to women as well.  The difference is not the job or the calling, but how women execute that calling that is different.

Which is entirely why I believe that in His goodness God has called women into leadership positions, not because there were no men available, but rather because women lead from a different place.  Sometimes we need a gentler hand, a different perspective.  He will call a woman in to leadership because He has a need and purpose for her in that time/place.  Like we read in the book of Esther (4:14)… “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”.

Wife of Lapidoth?

Historically what we understand about women in the Old Testament is that women were defined as unmarried virgins, married women, and widows.  But this is not 100% across the board truth.  We know there were temple prostitutes, highly probably that they were not married.  We know that men took on multiple wives, but we also know in the Old Testaments there were slave girls who mothered children while unmarried.  We also know that there were concubines, which were not wives.  So even though the cultural norm was that women would fall into those three descriptions, there were exceptions.

It is possible that Deborah was not married.  Initially, I positioned that I believed that she was married based on how she was described in the Hebrew text.  I couldn’t see any logical reason they would introduce her twice as a woman, or twice as a wife (the word for woman and wife are the same).  Based on the sentence, it made most sense that she was married to a person vs. a Lapidoth being a city.  When I continued the study yesterday, I also learned that it is possible that Lapidoth was not a city or a person (capital L) but actual a description of her (lower case l).  In this case “woman of lapidoth” would make sense and translate to a “woman of fiery spirit”.

Perhaps, Deborah wasn’t married at all.   There is no mention of Lapidoth in the rest of the Scriptures.  Not as a person, not as a city.  When Barak asked Deborah to go with him, there is no mention of Deborah having a conversation about this with her husband, or her husband going with them.  The more I sit on this topic, the less inclined I am to believe that Deborah was married.  She is also referred to in Judges 5 as the mother of the sons of Israel.  If she wasn’t married, then I believe this is a reference to her maternal leadership of Israel vs. actual children.

Unmarried women would historically live with their family, and since Scripture supports that leaders are to be faithful in overseeing their homes… Deborah was a contributing member of the family.  We see throughout Scripture examples of leaders and missionaries who had regular jobs/duties in addition to their calling.  Only the Levites who were set apart as Priests would have a more focused, dedicated calling/service.

What is the role of a Judge?

According to Smith’s Bible Dictionary:  “The judges were temporary and special deliverers, sent by God to deliver the Israelites from their oppressors; not supreme magistrates, succeeding to the authority of Moses and Joshua. Their power only extended over portions of the country, and some of them were contemporaneous. Their first work was that of deliverers and leaders in war; they then administered justice to the people, and their authority supplied the want of a regular government.”

The Scriptures give us four Major Judges (Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, Gideon) and we know there were about eight minor judges.  The Judges were in place between death of Joshua and the monarchy.  The time of the Judges spanned about 300-480 years.  Judges 4 pretty much explains the need for the Judges.  Joshua had died and so there was no one leading Israel.  During this time there was a repeating cycle of disobedience to God, God allowing foreign oppression, Israel cries out in distress, and God raises up a judge to deliver His people out of the oppression.

It appears that as soon as a judge would die, Israel would fall back into disobedience and this would land them back under foreign oppression, until they cried out and a new judge arose.  This makes it evident that there were years where Israel was without a judge leading over them, but we are not given to many specifics on how long these seasons lasted.

Based on the original Hebrew, the word judge means to lead.  We know that Deborah was prophesying for the Lord to the people, that her wisdom was sought after, and that she was settling disputes.  When we look back at Moses, we can see the same role.  Moses was the mouthpiece of God, people sought his wisdom, he settled disputes among the people.  Moses was considered to be the leader of Israel, and also commanded military action when God directed him to do so.  In Hebrew, Moses was refered to as “shofet” and that is the exact same title used for Deborah.  Shofet = military leader, over people, and judge of disputes

Was Deborah a military leader too?

Some would argue that Deborah was not a military leader, and place that designation on Barak.  I do not see any Biblical evidence that Deborah was a judge but not in the full capacity of that position.

In Hebrew, Moses was refered to as “shofet” and that is the exact same title used for Deborah.  Shofet = military leader, over people, and judge of disputes.  Additionally, Moses himself would send out other military leaders in his ranks, and we don’t question him as the leader of Israel.  Just because Deborah didn’t ride a horse out into battle, or draw a weapon, doesn’t discount her as a military leader.  In fact, we see in Judges 4:14, after the troops had been gathered it was Deborah who gives Barak the orders to advance.

Therefore, I can not find any reason logical or Biblical to denounce Deborah as a military leader.

What does “leading Israel” mean, particularly in reference to Deborah, in Judges 4?

Deborah was every bit as much of a judge as any other, her “job description” and expectations would have been the same for that role. This meant that Deborah was leading Israel spiritually (delivering the Word of God), legally (judging over disputes), and militarily/politically (she’s a shofet).

BUT… in addition to being a judge (remember Smith’s Bible Dictionary called this a temporary role), Deborah was also a Prophetess.  The role of a Prophet was not a temporary position.  However we do have some holes in the history.  We do not know how old Deborah was when God called her as a Judge.  Nor do we know how old she was when God gifted her with prophesy. She could have been a Prophet the whole time that Israel was “doing evil” and they didn’t listen to her. Or, the gift of prophecy may have come at the same time she was called as a judge (which is why people began to listen to her).

My guess, and it is just that, lands on the presumption that at least for a time Deborah was a Prophetess ahead of her calling.  It would have given the people ample time to see the evidence/proof that Deborah was in fact an anointed Prophet.  This is how they would have grown to value her position in their community, trust her, and lean into her wisdom.  Then when the time was ripe, the role of judge fell upon her as well.  Her history and credibility would have given the people the confidence to trust her as a judge.

Deborah is a leader in the community as a Prophetess, the Lord raises her as a judge.  Sisera is defeated.  Judges 5:31 states that “the land had peace for forty years”. Judges 2 affirms that Israel behaved themselves as long as the judge was alive.  Therefore, we know that after Sisera was defeated that Deborah sat as judge for another forty years.  Perhaps the role of “judge” wasn’t always a temporary calling after all.

The Scriptures do not necessarily state that the person still acted as a judge, merely that peace lasted the length of their life.  However, as Deborah was not only a judge but a Prophetess… it’s pretty safe to assume that she had a vital part in the future of Israel until her death.

Chronicling 40: Day 67 of 365

numbers

From Yesterday’s Post:

The order of Deborah’s description in her introduction poses the following questions:

  • If the order is significant, then that means her role as a Prophetess would trump her role as a wife. Can we find any place in scripture that states that our role to tend our home/family trumps our calling?
  • If the order is not significant here, then it could impact how we view “order” in other Scriptures.  How can we determine when/which verses where order is something to note and when it isn’t?

We’ve got some big thoughts to unpack here, so let’s dig right into the first point to consider:

The Order of Things:

I have heard many speakers and teachers, and read many books/articles, that state that the order of things matter.  In the introductions of people in the Bible, we learn a lot about who they are in society.  Is this a family member, friend, co-laborer, official, or leader?  Is this a formal letter to deal with an issue, or an informal conversation?  What is the significance of this person or group of people.

When we are introduced to Deborah, she is first listed as a woman, then a Prophetess, then a wife, and then judge/leader of Israel.  As stated yesterday, I believe that it was very intention that Deborah was first identified as a woman.  The rest of the judges were men, and that makes Deborah unique in this role.  Based on my research, I do not believe Deborah was raised up because there were no men available but that Deborah was exactly who God intended for this time and place.  I also believe Deborah’s gender is mentioned first because of imago dei, the image of God.  In Genesis the first thing we learn about God’s creation order of humanity is that man and woman were made in the image of God.  Deborah was woman, imago dei, created in the image of God.

The next ordered description is that Deborah was a Prophetess.  In the Old and New Testament, we see many examples of where the Lord anointed a person with a gift/talent and called that gift/talent into service.  I contended yesterday that prophecy was Deborah’s gift and it was called into service as a judge.  If order is important, then we recognize that her role as a Prophet (chosen to deliver the Word of God and guide Israel) is the key to how she leads Israel.  This is not just a position where Deborah was acting as a legal judge settling disputes, or creating societal rules or laws.  Deborah was leading in accordance to God’s direction, God’s will. While she would rule on disputes and smaller issues, they would have been secondary to guiding Israel and sharing God’s Word.

Third in the order of her introduction is “wife of Lapidoth”.  Yesterday we discussed that the Hebrew word used her can translate to wife or woman.  And, since in the original Hebrew text the first description of Deborah is “woman”, it made sense to assume the word used with Lapidoth would have meant wife.  There would be no reason to list “woman” twice.    There is a lot of educated guessing here because we just don’t know who Lapidoth was.  If it was a man, then clearly she would be his wife.  If it was a city, then she would be a resident of that city.  Again, the wording seemed to be to indicate she was a wife of a person.  However, a third option was revealed in my research.  Easton’s Bible Dictionary suggests that Lapidoth was actually not a formal name but an informal word; lapidoth which means “torch”.  A “woman of lapidoth” in that informal context would mean a “woman of light” or a “woman of fiery spirit”. 

There is literally no confirmation that Deborah was married, or had children.  If we could confirm she was a literal mother, then by default we could safely conclude that Lapidoth was an actual person.  She is only referred to in Judges as a mother of “Israel”, no genealogy is associated with her.  Historically, women (especially those of status) would be 1. unmarried virgin, 2. married woman, and 3. widow.  With the lack of information we must lean into what makes the most sense but also not get hung up in the details that we miss the bigger picture.

If she was unmarried, it could explain her freedom and ability to lead without any distraction.  If she was married, her role as prophetess being listed before her role as wife could be an indication that her calling superseded her marriage.  This is point I want to focus on.  When speaking of women in leadership, we are often cautioned that our marriage/family is our first ministry and greatest calling.  Thus, limits may be put on women in leadership in order to preserve that primary ministry.  If our calling (how God uses us and our gifts for Kingdom purposes) is our primary ministry that changes a lot of how we view women in leadership. 

Can we find any place in Scripture that states that our role to tend our home/family trumps our calling?

The first piece of Scripture that comes to mind is The Great Commission: 

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the   age.”   ~Matthew 28:19,20

The Great Commission directs us that our “job description” is to 1. make disciples, 2. baptize them, and 3. teach them.  If The Great Commission applies to everyone, then this is the job description of both men and women.  In 1 Corinthians 7:8, Paul suggests that it is better to remain unmarried in order to not be distracted from our ministry work.  Marriage is suggested as a solution for those who can’t “control themselves”.  Single & celibate was better than married, and married was better than single & promiscuous. 

From the very beginning we know that the Divine Order is God first.  No one disputes this, but the next rung on this top down ladder starts to get fuzzy.  Some will place spouse second, children third, moving outward to the community at large.  Some will place self in there, arguing that in order to serve others we must also take care of our selves.  Some will even put children above spouse.  Among all of this, we have to figure out where our calling lands.  Does our gifting/calling come before our spouse?  Our kids?  Our church?  Our community?  Is it last on the list after we have served people generally speaking?

I believe one of the best responses to this topic comes from this piece: Should a Husband Place Ministry or Family First .  I want to focus on these two points:

  • In the New Testament one of the requirements of leadership is that they have been leading their own home well.  One can not lead in the community at the sacrifice of their own family.
  • In the Old Testament when marriage is defined as two coming together as one, leaving their old families behind.  In other words, a husband and wife would be united in their calling to make disciples.

This makes it appear that the family is the priority.  Does that contradict Paul’s words on staying single in order to focus on ministry?  Not at all.  Whether you are single or married, you have a responsibility as a leader to tend to your home.  The requirements in the New Testament for leaders indicates that before they can even be considered for leadership they must be faithful leaders at home.   Within my research I was unable to find any Scripture that supported the notion that calling/ministry trumps our responsibility to our family.

Order Does Matter, but not always.

What does this mean for Deborah?  Most simply it means that either Deborah was single/childless, or that if Deborah was married that her husband was united in her calling.  Regardless of her marital status, I believe Scriptures support that her calling as Prophetess would not have trumped her responsibility to her home life.  So, in this instance I do not believe the order in which Deborah was described is an indicator of which roles were of more importance than others.  In a few days, we are going to look a little deeper into what that means for a leader to be a faithful keeper of the home & helpmeet (particularly in relation to women in leadership).

While I do not see any indication that order mattered here in identifying Deborah, or the importance of her various roles, that doesn’t mean that we disregard the importance of order in any other Scriptures.  Henry DuBose explains this very well in his piece God Works His Will Through Divine Order, when he states:

Divine order is very important, and we find it all the way through the Scriptures. There is a very simple reason for God using divine order like He does. It is because God’s plans are carried out by men. He works through His people. Thus, divine order becomes most important and necessary.

~Henry DuBose

In this piece, DuBose indicates that since God has to employ imperfect men to do the work of His Plan; having instructions in place is an absolute need.  Instructions are the order in which we complete a task or assignment.  The evidence that the Lord uses divine order is seen in too many places to disregard it. 

The complexities and order of creation stand as an evidence of God, so He uses order to reveal Himself to the world.  Between the laws we see listed out in the Old Testament, through the writing of the Commandments, and even into the New Testament … we are shown a God of order.  There is a way to do, and not to do.  A way to behave, and not to behave.  Even a way to make amends, to love, etc.  The Old Testament also gives us prime examples of the consequences of that happens when man steps out of God’s order. 

How Do We Know When Order Matters?

While there are a lot of articles you can read about this subject, I think the simplest way to determine if order matters is to test it against other Scripture. 

Similar Patterns:

In this instance, related to Deborah, the first thing we can do is look at how the other judges were introduced.  There was no consistent pattern to the introduction of other judges.  If order was being established, there would have been a similar pattern among the introduction of each judge.   You can also look at other women in the Scriptures to see if there is a similar pattern in how women are introduced as a whole.

Create Categories:

The second thing we can do is categorize the piece of Scripture being studied.  If you are not sure how to categorize the Scripture, start by asking questions.  What is this about?  What questions does this bring up?    In the case of Deborah, my examination of the order brought up questions about whether calling trumps marriage.  Even if I couldn’t categorize Deborah in a neat and tidy file folder, I knew I could look to Scripture that talked about marriage and family priories. 

Google It:

Even when you want to rely on Scripture to prove Scripture, a Google Search is still helpful.  You can enter the verses into the search bar with words such as:  commentary, support of, criticism of, cross references, opinions, etc.  Within these various articles and publications you will find Scripture references that you can then look up.  You may find the article beneficial or enlightening, or chose to disregard the whole article and just focus directly on the verses it references.

Tuesday:

To learn more about Deborah, we are going to explore her roles are Prophetess, Judge, Leader.  We’ll define the positions, put them in context to one another, see if there are any differences between how Deborah fulfilled these positions and the other Judges. 

Wednesday:

We are going to explore the qualifications for being a leader (Old Testament and New Testament) and discover where women fit into leadership in the general sense.  I’d love to tackle the topic of specific positions, but I think that is better saved for a post after we finish with Deborah and Jezebel topic.

Thursday:

I will wrap up with any final thoughts on Deborah.

Friday:

We meet Jezebel, and begin the break down of who she was… why her story is significant.

Next Week:

I expect that we will walk through Jezebel for about six days, giving her equal time as Deborah.  I’ll wrap up my final thoughts on Jezebel on Wednesday.  Most likely Thursday/Friday, I’ll dive into the the what started this whole exploration:  Don’t Confuse a Deborah for a Jezebel.

Chronicling 40: Day 66 of 365

DebTree

We left off yesterday with some questions to explore:

Why Deborah?  I’ve heard that the only reason Deborah was selected as a judge was because there were not suitable men.  This is not seen in this portion of scripture.  We need to find out where this idea was birthed.  Is it supported in the scripture?

Why the Various Roles?  Deborah is listed as a prophet, leader of Israel, and a judge.  What are the differences between each of these positions?  Where do they overlap, and if/why this matters?

Why the Order?  I noticed that Deborah’s role as a Prophet was listed first, even before her role as a wife.  When we, as women, are constantly told that our marriage/family is our first and most important calling… I think this order is very interesting.  Is this significant, that she was listed as a Prophet before wife?  I want to explore this question.

Who Was Deborah:

Through various translations and study Bibles, Deborah was noted as a:

  • Prophet
  • Wife
  • Judge
  • Leader of Israel

Deborah the Woman:

What is very interesting is when I looked into the Interlinear Bible (which includes original Hebrew) Deborah was specifically identified as a “woman” in this position.

“And Debora a woman, a prophetess Lapidoth’s wife, she (was) judging Israel at that time.  and she (was) living under the Palm Tree of Deborah, between Ramah and between Bethel in the hills of Ephraim; and went up to her the sons of Israel for judgment.”

~Interlinear Hebrew to English translation of Judges 4:4-5

In my research, I couldn’t find any specific reason for including the given fact that Deborah was a woman.  As you read the rest of her introduction, the gender of Deborah seems pretty obvious.  Yet, when we are introduced to the judges before/after… not a single one includes the description “a man”.  Therefore, I believe that this was intentional to make sure with 100% certainty that Deborah’s full identity was clear.  Most likely because it was not common for a woman to be seated in this position of authority, and that makes her gender an important fact in the story.

Where Were the Leading Men?

A chief argument about Deborah’s role in leadership is that there were no other men willing or able to lead.  But, where is this found in the scriptures?  Leading up to Deborah what we see is a repetition of behavior.  Israel did evil in the eyes of God, they were delivered into the hands of their enemy, Israel would cry out, God would raise up a judge to lead Israel, while the judge lived things were good, and once the judge died Israel would again do evil in the eyes of God.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  It was a habit.

Before and after Deborah, there were men who were leading.  So what happened during this time that would bring God to raise up a woman as a judge?

There is literally not one piece of scripture before or including Judges 4 that states there were no men available to lead.  Judges 5 gets a bit trickier.  Depending on the translation it can read that there were no willing men, the town where Deborah was had been deserted (in other words there were no men at all), and then that there were no men willing to fight.  This last translation is the kicker, because when Deborah was acting as a judge for the men in Israel that was not a military position.  She was handling disputes, providing wisdom, and sharing the direct Word of God as a Prophetess.  

If the first two translation suggestions (no willing men, no men at all) is accurate, you can argue that this is the basis of the belief that Deborah led because no man was willing to.  On the other hand, if the latter translation is accurate… no men willing to fight… then you could argue that this had nothing to do with Deborah’s call into leadership and instead was a reference to the lack of a willingness to fight their enemy before Deborah was called as a judge.  So, once again, let’s look at what the Interlinear Hebrew translation tells us about this verse in Chapter 5:

“The leaders in Israel they ceased until I arose, Deborah, I arose a mother in Israel they chose new gods then war was at the gates!  A shield if one was seen, or a spear among forty thousand in Israel.  My heart (went out) to the lawgivers of Israel (who) volunteered among the people. Bless Jehovah!

~Interlinear Hebrew to English translation of Judges 5:7-8

This scripture, seems to point to the repetition of Israel’s history… do evil, handed over to enemy, call out for help, God raises a judge, the judge restores order.  Until that time, that Deborah was called, no one was standing up against their enemy.  Israel cried out for God to deliver them, He raised up a judge (Deborah).  Once the correct leader was in place, the people fell into place to make the advancement against their foe. 

It’s also interesting that we don’t see any mention in Judges that anyone stood in opposition to Deborah as a judge.  If her being raised to this position was in contradiction to God, wouldn’t someone have stood against her?  Or, wouldn’t some reasoning be given to explain Deborah’s calling?  Instead, we see a people willing to come to Deborah as a judge, Barak’s insistence on her coming with him, and in Chapter 5 we see that others stood with Deborah as well.

Another argument against Deborah is that in the scriptures it states that God raised up each of the male judges.  In the introduction of Deborah in Chapter 4, it is not specifically said that God raised her up.  However, this opinion is made void in Chapter 5:7 when it is written that things changed for Israel when Deborah arose.

My final argument against the “there were no men” position is simply that God is a creator God, who has a history of taking the unwilling and least likely people and making them a leader.  Moses was unwilling at first, giving excuses as why he couldn’t lead Israel out of Egypt.   God can also raise anyone He chooses from the dead.  Therefore, if God wanted a male leader… a male judge… He could have done so by calling and equipping any of the men in the area or raising up a man from the grave to do so. 

This idea that there were simply no men, and that is why God broke from the rules, seems to put God in a box that makes sense to the human mind… when we try to justify something that doesn’t fit our belief/position.  I believe that in this instance it was not that Deborah was the only option, rather she was the right/best option because she was God’s chosen for this position.  Additionally, the willingness of the men to come to her for judgement and to advance under her direction against their enemy reveals a willingness to follow her lead.  Deborah wasn’t the last or only choice.  She wasn’t a usurper.  Deborah was raised as a judge by God for this time and purpose.

The Many Roles of Deborah:

Deborah was listed specifically as a woman, a prophetess, a wife, a judge, and a leader.  There are some who believe that some of these titles are intertwined.  That to be a judge means to be a leader, or that because of the time period wife and woman were expressed by the same word and it could go either way in the translation. 

  1.  In the interlinear Hebrew translation, Deborah is referred to as a woman, and then a wife of Lapidoth.  It would make no sense for the author of this introduction to describe Deborah as a wife, then a wife of Lapidoth (a person).  Nor would it make sense to describe her as a woman, then a woman of Lapidoth (a city, place).  If the word is used twice, especially in a single sentence, what makes the most sense?  That she is either a wife and a woman of Lapidoth, or she is a woman and the wife of Lapidoth.  Considering the time period, what makes the most logical sense is that she is in fact the wife of a person named Lapidoth.
  2. In the interlinear Hebrew translation, Deborah was not defined as a judge and as a leader.  This would support that in this case judge and leader could be exchanged for one another at any given time.  They were not seen as distinctly different jobs.  We will spend time exploring this role in more depth Tuesday.

I believe we can be confident in the assumption that Deborah was a woman, and she was a wife.  And, that her role as judge could also be the role of leader.  Translations that use either independently are accurate; and I think those that use both do so to clarify the role she had. 

A more accurate view of her roles would be:  woman, Prophetess, wife, and judge (leader) of Israel.

The Order of Things:

We continually point to God being of order not chaos.  We refer to the creation order, how the marriage was ordered, how the leadership of Israel was ordered, etc.  God loves order.  Therefore, I believe that the order in the introduction of Deborah is very intentional.  Her role as Prophetess trumped her role as judge.  When we learn about Spiritual Gifts in the New Testament, we are given the list of gifts and then later how those gifts can be used in the body.  Prophecy is listed as a Spiritual Gift in Romans 12:6-8, and I contend that in this instance Prophecy was her gift, and Judge was the position in which she would use the gift.

If I am correct in that contention, this would also make sense as to why Deborah was listed as a woman, then the wife of Lapodith.  To be a wife, one must first be a woman. Now that brings us to the crux of this thought process because Deborah was described as a Prophetess before she was listed as a wife. If the order is important, what does this say about our position as women when it comes to calling?

We are often told that as women our first calling is to our marriage and our children.  If in fact Deborah was married to a man named Lapodith, it is possible she had children.  Those who have wrestled with the scriptures where Deborah is referred to as a “mother” are not one hundred percent certain if she was an actual mother or if this was figurative to her being a woman leading Israel.

The order of Deborah’s description in her introduction poses the following questions:

  • If the order is significant, then that means her role as a Prophetess would trump her role as a wife. Can we find any place in scripture that states that our role to tend our home/family trumps our calling?
  • If the order is not significant here, then it could impact how we view “order” in other Scriptures.  How can we determine when/which verses where order is something to note and when it isn’t?

Tomorrow, we will explore these two points.  How do we know when order is or isn’t significant?  What do we know culturally about how people were introduced in letters, stories?  What can we observe in the scriptures about how people were introduced (we’ll look at the other judges, as well as other key people in the Scriptures).   Then we will look at the implications of what we discover.

Texts Used Today: 

The Interlinear Bible (Hebrew, Greek, English) edited & translated by Jay P Green, Sr.

The Zondervan Study Bible (NIV) edited by D.A. Carson

the Study Bible for Women (HCSB) edited by Dorothy Kelley Patterson

NIV LifeConnect Study Bible edited by Wayne Cordeiro

Deborah: The Woman God Uses , article on Bible.org

Christian Standard Bible

 

 

Chronicling 40: Day 60 of 365

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In almost every church I have attended, the same invitation comes my way… Children’s Ministry volunteer.  If you are a woman, with children, there is some sort of natural assumption that you will serve in this area.  I’ve always been surprised by how quickly the invitation comes.  In some cases it comes too quickly.  

I remember once being asked if I was interested in volunteering as a Sunday School teacher on my very first visit.  We had just moved to a new city, we knew absolutely no one, and this was just one of several churches we were visiting as we tried to find a new church home.  No one knew me, my history, my experience.  I was a woman, who had children, and that was enough.

I recall when a member of church leadership found out that I had a theatre background, the natural invitation was for me to direct the Children’s Christmas Program.  There was a day that some church leaders, their wives, and volunteers were having a casual lunch and talking church business.  As I passed by, I heard one of the wives chime in that “anyone who has children in the Children’s Ministry should have to volunteer a set number of days per year.” 

Does Being a Woman Mean I am Gifted For Children’s Ministry?

Somewhere we have gotten the notion that just because a person is a woman, that she must have a natural inclination toward children in general.  Even more so, if she has children herself.  That being a woman and a mother, in and of itself, defines her ministry gifting toward childcare, the church nursery, and volunteering in the Children’s Ministry.  As women and families join our church, we automatically funnel the women right through those doors.   We make this decision before we even learn anything about them, what their gifts are, and how they feel called to serve.

Where Do I Belong?  How Do I Serve Here?

If you are not serving in Children’s Ministry, usually the next stop is Worship Ministry.  Can you sing? Play an instrument?  I see this assumption more often among women who have grown up in the church.  If this is not your calling either, then you are usually left with just a few options… making the coffee & bagels on Sunday morning, greeting people at the door, bringing meals to the sick, and secretarial duties.  Perhaps there is an opportunity to lead a Bible Study or participate in the Women’s Ministry.

When you attend a larger church, and statistics suggest that half or more of the church is made up of women, there are only so many people who can fill these roles.  This leaves quite a few women with no place to serve.  And, with these roles being routine (greeting at the door, handing out the bulletins, putting out bagels), there are some women who don’t feel that their gifts and talents are best used here.

What Happens When I Don’t Serve With My Gifts

In a book I recently read, Church Refugees, this was a common problem among those who had been long term, dedicated, serving leaders that ultimately led to leaving their church.  Even though they had been serving for decades, they never felt as if they were serving in their actual gifted areas.  Instead, they just felt like warm bodies plugged in to an empty spot because they were dependable.  Many felt that their offers to start a ministry, or attempts to build up an existing ministry, were hindered.  There was no place for them grow, nor trust to allow them to lead, despite their years of dedication.

What Does This All Mean?

  1. We shouldn’t assume that just because a person has a particular gender, that automatically means they are good at a stereotypical area of ministry.  Some men can be stellar in Children’s Ministry, and some women may not be.
  2. We should take time to learn about the gifts and talents of the women who join our churches.  We shouldn’t look at new members as warm bodies to fill empty spots.  Instead, we should learn about their education, skills, job, gifts, talents, and callings.  Then, find areas in the church that allow them to serve and use these gifts and talents.
  3.  Don’t discount a person’s ministry calling because you don’t see how it fits into the church vision or the immediate need.  Spend time talking with her about what this ministry calling looks like, pray over whether or not this ministry is something that can be supported by the church.  Just because you don’t personally see the need, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
  4. If there is not a place in the church specifically that can use this person’s gift, consider if your church is connected to a local ministry that could.  If this is a woman with leadership skills, consider organizations that may be hiring or looking for volunteers.
  5. Have a very clear view on where women can serve in the church, help disciple women in those leadership positions, and trust the women to lead well.  If she can run a fortune 500 company, I am certain she is capable of leading a Women’s Ministry too. 

I saw this tweet the other day, in regard to women in the church.  I think it is a great place to leave off today’s post:

“Without you, the church is missing half of it’s voice, half of it’s gifting, half of it’s mission and ministry.”  Scott Lencke

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicling 40: Day 54 of 365

I was a little more than frustrated.  In the last couple of months I have read some articles that have centered around women in leadership in the church.  The comments that accompanied the articles were tough.

My first observation was that no matter how broadly the articles painted the scope of leadership, the comments were always focused on one area… women in the pulpit, or as Pastors.  I get that is an area that is full of contention, but I’m amazed at the narrow focus.  As if being a “Pastor” is the only way one can lead in the church.  There is a difference between leading a church and leading within the church.  But, based on the comments, it was as if blinders were keeping out all other possibilities.

In another article, it went a bit further and discussed some bigger issues in the way women have been treated in the church.  Woman after woman sharing stories that made my skin crawl. The woman who was told that it wasn’t rape if it was her husband.  The teen told to marry the guy who raped her an impregnated her.  The woman who was told that she needed to submit more and pray harder so that her husband would stop beating her.  The teen girls who were tired of their virginity being equated to bubble gum and gifts that were utterly destroyed once they were used up, as if Jesus couldn’t redeem this part of their life.

Did the comments address this hurts and pains?  Nope, they just continued to debate women in the pulpit.  Lord, help us.  I can recount my own conversation with a Pastor (not my own) who was talking about his church calendar, and how he can’t be everywhere all the time.  When I suggested that he look to some of the women in the church to help ease the load, he replied:  “The best thing the women in my church can do to help me is to take care of their husbands and children”.

What about about the unmarried women?  What about those who don’t have children?

What about our women who feel called like a Deborah, but accused of being a Jezebel for stating they feel called to lead within the church/ministry?

We read in the Scriptures that we are created in the image of God, that we are valuable, and worthy.   We read that we are given gifts and talents.  Yet somewhere, someone decided that the gifts and talents given to women amounted to volunteering in the nursery and making the coffee.

I know of women who lead in fortune 500 companies who can’t even lead a womens Bible Study in their own church.

How does that make sense?

I know of a woman with 30+ years in an industry who volunteered her services to the church, and they said no thank you and hired a young man right out of college.

How does that make sense?

Recently, someone shared with me that she felt that her gifts and calling were hindered in the church.  And that word “hindered” stuck out at me, because I read that several times in accounts from the book “Church Refugees” from Group Publishing.  The book is about the “Dones” in the church, the ones who after years of loyally serving are leaving the church and is actually the largest percentage making an exodus from the “institutional church”.

While I don’t necessarily agree with each individuals personal account (from a doctrine standpoint) there was a common thread of feeling “hindered” in the church from serving in a meaningful way.  And, these were not people who had been in the church a little while, or just come to faith.  Rather these are the people who had been long time members 10+years, faithfully serving, and hoping/praying that the church would see their calling as valuable and support it.  Eventually, they lost hope that they could ever affect change and took their gifts and talents to a place that would embrace them.

Many of the “dones” ended up plugging into community ministries; fellowshipping and serving with other believers as they serve their community.  This is a little scary to think about, because it means that 1. the church’s largest group leaving is comprised of it’s best and 2. the church is either blissfully unaware or blatantly ignoring the exodus.

What does this mean for the future of the church as we know it?