Chronicling 40: Day 75 of 365

Women Bow And Pray
A group of young women bow their heads and pray with bibles.

“It is not good for man to be alone, I will make a helper suitable for him.”

~Genesis 2:18

What is a Suitable Helper?

More times than I can count, I have heard a woman’s role is the “help meet” of her husband.  I have seen this explained in a variety of ways.  In one account, an author stated that being a help meet was submission to him as the head of the house.  She even went as far as to suggest that when you make dinner, you make what he likes whether you like it or not.  Others would contend that being a help meet is being the caretaker of the home and children, while he is off at work.  There is a designated line of duties if you are the man, and another set if you are the woman.

Helpmeet is a word often substituted for “suitable helper”.  Even this doesn’t really clear up what this term actually means.  So, let’s look at the original text.

Helpmeet = ezer k’engegdo

Ezer is used twenty one times in the scriptures, and most commonly used to describe God’s relationship to man; which is strength.  It is also used eight times as “savior”.  Was Eve a gift of strength to Adam?  Was she a savior to Adam?  In addition to these two definitions, a third is “to rescue”.  Was Eve a rescuer of Adam?   This is a pretty interesting line of questions considering that Eve presented the forbidden fruit to Adam.  Let’s keep going…

K’enegdo is used once in Scripture, which is Genesis 2:18.  This presents a bit of a speedbump, as we have no other Scripture to test it against in order to clarify it’s definition.  When we begin to look at extra-biblical texts, we can narrow it down to “meet for”, “fit for”, and “in front of, opposite”.  That last one, for clarity sake is like looking at one’s reflection in the mirror.  When I am facing a mirror, and I move my left hand… my reflection appears to be moving it’s right hand.  The same image, but yet slightly different.

Have you ever heard a Biblical scholar or Pastor refer to men and women as “equal but different”?  If so, they are referring to this latter definition of k’enegdo.  This we can test against the Scriptures because we know that man was made in the image of God, but are not God.  Genesis continues to point out after both Adam and Eve were created that both were made in the image of God.  In applying this definition to Adam and Eve, we would get that same result.  Alike, but different.

Putting this altogether, ezer + k’enegdo = Helper Reflection.  Eve’s job description was to be a helper to whom she reflected, Adam.

So, how do we help Adam?

Coming from a divorced family, I really didn’t know how to be married or a helper to my husband.  I went to the Scriptures to figure this out, landing on Proverbs 31 “The Wife of Noble Character”.  She was up before the sun, stayed up after the sun went down.  She was a home manager, business owner, cooking and caring for the kids, etc.  So many things, and I tried so hard to be this check list of a wife.  I also failed miserably.

As I began to find more Christian women to bring into my circle of friends, each had their notion of what being a help meet looked like.  Many of these notions lined up with gender stereotypes of what women should do, how they should behave, etc.  I remember having a conversation with a friend about her daughter’s hair. She was complaining about how unmanageable the hair was, when I suggested to just cut it short.  She replied she couldn’t cut it because her husband liked their daughters with long hair.  I chuckled and retorted, “Unless he’s willing to do her hair every morning, I’d cut it and not think twice about it.”

I considered this woman a very godly woman, and a good wife.  Our conversation stuck with me for the rest of the day.  When my husband arrived home from work, I requested that we have a talk.  I wanted to know if I was overstepping my bounds as a wife.  Was I doing things without asking him, things that he wanted to have a voice/opinion/say over?  There were two things he said to me:

  1. Tending to the kids is part of your job at home, do whatever helps your job to be easier.  If it costs more than your normal budget, check with me first to make sure we have the money that week or if we need to put it off until the next pay period.
  2. I’m gone all day working to provide for this family.  I don’t want to be weighed down by questions and decisions you are perfectly capable of making on your own.  I need you to do those things for me, it helps me to not have so much on my plate.

If I am to be a helper of my husband, I have authority to do what makes my tasks easier and what can ease his burden.  I realized right in that moment that being a “suitable helper” or “help meet” would look different from home to home.  My friend’s husband was not wrong, nor was mine.  We were each created to be the helper of our husband, in whatever way that works best for our home.  The stereotypical gender roles have little to do with it.

You Complete Me

In the movie Jerry McGuire, there is a scene where Jerry confesses his love by saying “You, complete me.”.   This says it all, in 3 simple words.  If we are a reflection, but different… it means that just as much as we are the same, we are also slightly different.  We may have different gifts and talents, and that is ok.  My strengths (ezer) complete his weaknesses, and vice versa.  I can come to the rescue (ezer) in the areas he drowns in.  I can save (ezer) him in the areas where he lacks.

I complete him, because I am fit for (k’enegdo) him.  I can meet (k’enegdo) his needs.  I am capable of being his reflection (k’enegdo) even though I am not a 100% copy.

Instead of assuming what a “helpmeet” would look like, we have instead sat down as a couple and talked about our individual needs, relationship, and home.   How do I better help my husband, and also how does he best help me?  While in our home my husband may leave all decisions regarding the daily life of our children to my decision making, in another home a husband may wish to be more involved.  Neither are wrong, just a different take on the same principle.

I think the New Testament couple Priscilla and Aquila is a great example of helpmeets, they were co-laborers as a couple in sharing the Gospel.  It says that when they encountered Apollos, they invited him into their home and they taught him.  This was a couple working together, each bringing their own strengths into this teaching relationship with Apollos.

When I speak about my husband and myself, in terms of The Great Commission, we both have strengths.  My husband has a gift for Evangelism, and I have a gift for Apologetics.  Together, he is the fisherman and I am the one that process the catch.  Equal, but different.  Completing one another, helping one another.  Our gifts don’t compete with each other, there is no trumping or besting of one another, no pushing the other down because I am better at something or he is.  Instead we are co-laboring, lifting each other up.

“Two are better than one because they have good reward for their labor:  If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Instead of sitting in a blanket, generalized, position based on what others define as “helpmeet”, instead look to where God has positioned YOU in your marriage.  How do YOU help YOUR husband best?

What does this have to do with Deborah and Jezebel?  Deborah, as a godly woman, would have understood that her ministry to her husband/family was important.  She would have understood how they worked together in God’s purposes.  Whereas, Jezebel was not respectful of being a helpmeet.  She was self serving, just as Ahab was.  Neither was looking out for the others interests, but instead their own.  Jezebel wasn’t helping Ahab to true greatness, but instead contributing to his corruption.

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Chronicling 40: Day 74 of 365

DebVsJez

Whenever the topic of women in church leadership (either leading a ministry, sitting as a deacon/elder, or as Pastor) comes up… Deborah and Jezebel are part of the conversation.  For those who support women in leadership positions (either fully or limited to certain positions) Deborah is their heroine.  For those who oppose it, Jezebel is their chief evidence against it.

When we came toward the end of our journey with Deborah, I shared why I believe that is within God’s character to raise up women to lead, and the circumstances that surround doing so.  Now, let’s explore Jezebel in the same way.

Just as much as we should embrace a true Deborah, we should be wise in discerning the presence of a Jezebel and fully aware of what she can unleash.  In the book of Revelation, Chapter 2, we meet another “Jezebel”.

Jezzy

Bible experts seem to stand in agreement that this is not actually a woman who is also named Jezebel, but a woman who is reminiscent of Jezebel from 1&2 Kings.

A few things stick right out to me:

  • NT Jezebel was tolerated.  OT Jezebel was invited in by Ahab, NT Jezebel was allowed in by the people or if she came in by force they didn’t try and stop her (ultimately allowing her presence).
  • NT Jezebel called herself a Prophet.  Anyone can call themselves anything, but that doesn’t mean they are.  A true prophet is anointed by God into that position, it is not one that they take on themselves.  The fact that this exact word is used tell us that Jezebel assumed the position herself.  (emphasis intentional and will be revisited). 
  • NT Jezebel had “her teaching” not God’s.  Very clearly we are told that Jezebel was not teaching the word of God, but her own teaching.  Whether this was a totally separate teaching or a corruption of God’s word, Jezebel was not teaching Truth.
  • NT Jezebel’s teachings contradicted God’s Word.
  • NT Jezebel was given the opportunity to repent and was unwilling.  NT Jezebel is not a leader who is teachable, or correctable.  Unwillingness to repent exposes pride, vanity, and a few other character flaws. 

As we look at the NT Jezebel we can see the correlations to the OT Jezebel, and we can also recognize that NT Jezebel isn’t even close to being a Deborah.

We are right to be cautious of a Jezebel entering into leadership in our church or ministry.  However we must be careful that we are not casting aside our Deborahs because we fear the Jezebel.

There has been a long standing “ideal” of what a woman looks like.  Gentle, meek, quiet, submissive, etc.  For many of us today, we envision the housewives of the 1950’s and earlier.  Thus, whenever a woman is more bold, assertive, confident, out spoken, etc. she is very quickly labeled as a Jezebel.  We don’t know what to do with these “break the mold” women, so instantly they are cast in a negative light.   Within the last year there have been several articles on the subject.  Essentially they all expose that when men and women share the same characteristics, the men are cast favorably (confident, assertive, leader) and women are cast less favorably (aggressive, bossy, controlling).

All of this is what led to the start of this series… Don’t confuse a Deborah with a Jezebel.  If we understand what a true godly woman leader looks like, and we can recognize the signs of an ungoldly woman leader, then we start off at a great advantage.

A Deborah is appointed by God, a Jezebel appoints herself.  It’s not their femininity that disqualifies them from leadership.  What disqualifies is the condition of the heart.  Ester was “called by God for such a time as this”.  Jezebel took advantage of the time she was given by the people.  Ester even broke the rules by going before the King uninvited, but she was successful because she was submitting to God versus seeking her own desires.

How Do We Not Confuse a Deborah with a Jezebel?

  1.  Know the Word.  You must know what the Scriptures say about leadership characteristics and qualifications, and what godly people should look/behave like in order to discern the wheat from the chaff.
  2. Don’t Assume.  Just because she is a woman, doesn’t automatically make her a Jezebel.  Take the time to investigate her leadership qualities and experience.  For example, 100% of my leadership skills in the workplace were developed by men who invested into my training. Therefore, my style tends to be more direct and assertive than most women… but that doesn’t make me a Jezebel.  When you get to know me, you see my heart for God and serving women well.

But what about Paul?  He said no way to the ladies teaching men.

This is a big topic, and I’m not going to address the pulpit yet.  That is a series unto itself.  Let’s just talk about leadership and teaching in general. What do the scriptures reveal?

  1.  Paul referred to other women as co-laborers with him in sharing the Gospel.  So clearly some women were teaching.  It can be argued that the women were teaching other women, or that the women were teaching alongside their husbands as a couple which meant that the woman was teaching men directly.  In either case, this clearly demonstrates that “women not teaching” was not a blanketed command for every city, every woman, every time period.
  2. Paul’s letter to Timothy addressed a non permittance of women teaching and usurping authority over men.  The first thing to note is the use of the word “usurp”.  Usurping authority is taking authority by force, it was not given to you… you were not elected… you were not appointed.  Jezebels are usurpers, who seek to take an authority not appointed to them.  Deborahs lead with an authority that is appointed or anointed upon them.
  3. Why would Paul write this in his letter to Timothy, if he also refers to women later as “co-laborers”?  For that, we need to understand what was happening in Ephesus at the time.  Historically we learn that Ephesus was a city full of Jezebels.  In the pagan religions, it was most common for women to be the chief priestess.  When Christianity came to town, these priestesses wanted to keep their position and assumed authority over the men in the early church.  They were not students of the Word, and therefore they would go about saying things they should not.   (Remember, Jezebels mislead and twist the scriptures).

Paul’s warning to Timothy about the women was the recognition that these women were not equipped leaders, called leaders, or appointed leaders.  Therefore he did not permit them to teach anyone.  They needed to be quiet, students of the Word, in full submission.  When you read through his letter to Timothy, there is no clear indication that it is ok for these women to teach even other women.

Scripture can not contradict itself.  We can’t have a blanket statement from Paul that women can’t teach, then by his own words refer to other women as co-laborers in the mission field of sharing the Gospel.  We can’t have Paul’s restriction at the same time as Titus 2:3-5 which compels women to teach other women, or Proverbs 31 that tells us that “wise instruction” was on the Wife of Noble Character’s tongue.  What the scriptures reveal by sharing with us Deborah, Phoebe, Priscilla, etc. and even Jezebel is that there are some who are godly leaders to be embraced and celebrated; and then there are those who are not.

But what about Eve, she was easily deceived.

After Paul tells Timothy women can’t teach, he continues in 1 Timothy 2:13-14 blames it all on Eve.  He says she was the deceived, she became a sinner.  Some translate this to essentially mean:  Eve was created second, and a woman, who was inferior and more susceptible to the Devil’s schemes.  Therefore she sinned, and then caused Adam to sin.  If Eve can be deceived, so can any woman.

From a logical standpoint, I have a problem with this interpretation.  First, because Adam was commanded by God not to eat this fruit, and he did it anyway.  He knew better.  Second, because once caught in his sin Adam’s first instincts were not to own his mistake but to blame Eve.  Adam even blames God as he hurls out the phrase “the woman you gave me”.  As a parent, in jest, when one of my kids has misbehaved… I have said to my husband “That child of yours…”.  When we speak in this way we are indirectly blaming the behavior on the other parent.  So was Adam in his word about Eve.  I highly doubt Paul was writing this sentence with the implication that Adam was without fault, and Eve was totally to blame.

And, I’m not alone in that belief.  Biblical scholars have also suggested that the reason Paul included this in his letter was to right a wrong.  The gnostic teachings in Ephesus at the time had been incorrectly teaching that Eve was created first and that Adam was the first to be deceived.  Not only do I agree that Paul was correcting misinformation, I contend it was an example to Timothy of why he was not permitting the women of Ephesus to teach.

Ultimately we can not elevate a few pieces of scripture from 1 Timothy above the rest of Paul’s writing about women, nor the rest of the New Testament.  Context is key here.  Which always brings me to the question of… If not here, then where? 

The Scriptures, in my belief, do support at least in general terms that women can be leaders with in the church and ministries.  What exact positions or offices can be held by women is another conversation.  Which women are right for leadership can be determined by testing them against the Word, identifying if she is a Deborah or a Jezebel.

Tomorrow, we are going to move forward in this conversation on leadership by looking at the term “Helpmeet” used to describe the woman’s role in the marital relationship.  What exactly does that mean, how was it defined then versus now.  We may even explore the topic of Co-Laborers tomorrow or the day after.  Then I’m taking a break to rest my mind for a few days and write on other topics.  During this time, I’ll be in prayer over whether or not we return to this series to further discuss women’s roles in the church or if it is time to move on. 

Chronicling 40: Day 73 of 365

DebVsJez

 

Deborah vs. Jezebel

Women, Women of Influence

Both Deborah and Jezebel were women.  Both, were women of influence.  Deborah was a woman who worshiped God.  Jezebel was a woman who worshipped Baal.  Deborah’s influence, was godly.  She was considered wise, she judged over disputes, and brought peace among her people.  Jezebel was harsh and manipulative, she was divisive, and sewed discord and chaos among her people.

Wives and Mothers

We know with certainty that Jezebel was both married and a mother.  Deborah, we can assume was at least married (as she is called wife of Lapidoth) and possibly a mother as well (culturally, that would make sense but she is called “mother of the sons of Israel).  Either way, both women had a responsibility to their household that would outweigh any of their own calling (Deborah) or ambitions (Jezebel).

Scripture wise, we already discussed the requirements to be a godly leader.  Which means that we know for Deborah to have been risen up as a leader over Israel, she too had to fulfill those requirements.  Deborah would have been a woman above reproach, who took care of her home (husband, children) well.  She would have been submissive to God, led by His will over her own. 

Jezebel, however, didn’t meet these leadership requirements.  Jezebel was disrespectful of her husband, she was audacious and outspoken.  She had ambitions that outweighed morals.  (Please note that one can be a godly women with ambitions, being ambitious in and of itself is not wrong… it’s the heart behind the ambition that is key).  She was vain and more concerned about herself than others. 

Prophetess and Prophet Killer

Deborah was a Prophetess, meaning that the Lord had gifted her with prophecy and she used her gift to deliver God’s word to His people who would listen.  Jezebel, she was a Prophet killer.  She didn’t deliver God’s word but instead attempted to silence it by killing off those who did.  Deborah had awe and reverence for God, where Jezebel had contempt.

Leader, Anointed & Usurped

Deborah was a leader of the sons of Israel, those who were still listening to the Word of God.  Deborah was placed into this position by God, and moved in accordance to his directions.  Jezebel, was a woman who married into Israel via Ahab… a man who was doing evil in God’s sight (and in fact considered the most evil).  A corrupted husband, married a corrupting wife.  Deborah was anointed by God, Jezebel was chosen by Ahab.  Deborah was called to lead, Jezebel controlled and manipulated into leadership.  Deborah led from a position that was given to her, Jezebel led from a position that she took.

Deborah lived a life of honor, among her people.  Jezebel instilled an environment of fear.  Deborah lived a long life of peace.  Jezebel did not, and ultimately fell to her death pushed by her own servants.  Deborah was honored.  Jezebel was consumed by the dogs to the point she was unrecognizable.  Deborah is spoke of today in high regard, Jezebel as a warning and in dishonor.

Chronicling 40: Days 71 & 72 of 365

DebVsJez

Yesterday, my intention was to write about Jezebel.  The Lord had other plans, and while I can see the value… it wasn’t pleasant.  Before I could write about Jezebel, I had to meet her.  Face to face. It’s take me a bit of time to process this encounter.  I spoke on the phone with a good friend about my experience, and she flat out said that the Lord wasn’t letting me write about something I had not been through.  So, true.  So, wise.  So, hard.

But, I’m glad that I didn’t write anymore about her yet.  This encounter will probably have an impact on how I write about her further.  The Lord set a divine appointment.

Jezebel was so outgoing, engaging, her personality was large, and she commanded the space.  Even I found myself laughing at some of the things she said.  If those who knew her were asked to write down a list of attributes about Jezebel, it would read like a lovely list.  Strong.  Confident.  Assured.  Knowledgeable.  Successful.  Beautiful.

I saw something much different, my list would read quite the opposite.  Broken.  Disconnected.  Misleading.  False.  Insecure.  Disrespectful.  Yet, in the moment… I found myself just as intrigued by her as others in the space.  Like a Hurricane… she was just as astonishing as she was destructive.  Still, my spirit remained unsettled by her presence.

As I was speaking to my friend about this encounter, I pointed out the irony of this encounter happening just as I was writing about Deborah vs. Jezebel.  And so we headed down a path of what we each had learned in the Scriptures about them.  My friend talked about Jezebel’s personality and character.  Then I said, “What I find interesting is that so many refer to Jezebel as a divisive person who corrupts.  But, in the Scriptures we learn that Ahab was already corrupt before Jezebel entered the picture.  Jezebel was invited in.”

When a space… whether it is a community, a organization, a ministry, or a church is already corrupted… they are primed for Jezebel to appear.  Jezebel doesn’t need an engraved invitation to show up to the party, she just needs a door that is left opened for her to slide into the fold.  Once through the door, her words are tempting… her personality is engaging… she speaks things that seem right or acceptable.  She says what others want to hear.  She doesn’t just give permission for people to follow the desires of their flesh, but she affirms it as a good thing.

In the book of Genesis, it is the snake in the garden that convinces Eve that eating of the forbidden tree is more than just ok, but that it is a good thing.  2 Timothy 4:3 warns: “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”  It is easy for women to go about and talk about what sounds good, what feels good, and seems like truth.  “Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to.” (1 Tim 5:13). 

We have to be so careful who we let in our circle.  Are we surrounding ourselves with Deborahs (wise, discerning, and godly women) or Jezebels (lying, manipulating, and godless women)?  This is why we are told to be students of the Word, because we most KNOW the Word so well that anything that is not of the word sticks out like weed among the flowers.  We have to lean in so much to the Lord, that anything that tries to distract us from Him is outside of our peripheral vision.  We must be filled with the Holy Spirit, so that when Jezebel attempts to tickle our ears that Truth compels us to flee.

Yet, we are faced with a conundrum… as leaders.  Do I surround myself with other Deborahs, hiding in the fortress of my city on a hill?  Or, do I face down Jezebel with God on my side?  Do I continue to minister to my Sisters in Christ, and leave these easily tempted women on their own to contend with Jezebel?  Do I take a stand between Jezebel and these women.  Do I bring truth to counter her lies?  Do I bring peace to counter her chaos?  Do I come armored for battle?

The Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Ephesians 6:10-18

Not every woman is going to be able to take on a Jezebel.  But, a Deborah can.

There are many different women in the Scriptures that are called to various types of leadership and influence in the church, ministries, and communities.  Not all leaders are going to have the same calling as Deborah.  But, if you are a Deborah… Jezebel is your enemy.  You may need to face her directly, or equip those who will with the Word of God.

Jezebels are present today.  They may sit among you in the pews, or be dispersed in your community.  Pray not only for your discernment to see her for who she is, but stand in the gap for those who do not know better.  Pray that they too will have eyes that see her intentions, discernment to go the other way.  Have other women praying with you, as you face Jezebel.  And lean into the Holy Spirit’s prompting on when to speak, when not to.  When to act, when to be still.  Allow God’s words to speak against Jezebel, not your own.

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.

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.