Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Eleven Mighty Heroines of the East - They were full of faith, wise and strong leaders way beyond their times!

Dedication: This post is dedicated to my wife, a heroine, queen of the Kingdom and warrior of the Lord. Fellow husbands... take note!

Leave it to women in the Bible to give us extreme examples of how to pursue the Kingdom, lead in humility, take action, yield to the Lord and have faith in Him. Here are a list of eleven women - some of them Jewish, others Israelites, and yet others just from the Middle East at large who really modeled these things. Keep in mind not only was this a "Man's World" but many of these women were not Israelite nor Jewish (yes, there is a difference!) showing that God's plan of Redemption is for all peoples and has always been this way.

I have to say, this post comes right on the heels of two articles I wrote; a dream about women being released to action (in the Middle East?) and a word about the Generation of Deborah.

Sorry, can't help but include her! Wonder Woman!
And yes, the pun is totally intended.

1) Hagar - Yield to God even in the most difficult circumstances and you'll be blessed.

Hagar was a slave. She was also Egyptian. Watch how God is no respecter of persons... she was the first person to have ever seen the "Angel of Yahowah" - an Egyptian, a slave, and a woman - the first person He chose to reveal Himself in this way!

When Sarah and Abraham (at the time, they were called Sarai and Abram) could not have a child, Sarah had the idea that Hagar could bare a child on her behalf (this was a custom of the times, and is no-where condoned in the Bible). When she found herself pregnant, Hagar started to behave pridefully with Sarah and so an irate Sarah mistreated her so that Hagar fled into the desert. For a pregnant women to flee into the very hostile environment of the desert, things must have been terrible back at camp.

There at a well, the Angel of Yahowah, a euphemism for God Himself, met her and told her to go back and blessed her child, Ishmael. This is the first recorded incident of someone seeing God in this way. The well where she saw the Lord was somewhere between the Sinai and Negev and she named it LaHai Roi, which means "the well of God who sees me". 
If you want more about how this story
foreshadows the story of Christ, check this out.
"She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” (Gen 16:13)
But here is the amazing thing that Hagar did, she yielded to God's instructions and return to be under the authority of Sarai. You can imagine the difficulties she would face and indeed ten years later she was cast out into the desert with the boy Ishmael, and the boy almost died but God rescued her and intervened personally to deliver her and bless the child. (see Gen 21).

2) Sarah - Don't tolerate the leaven of the Pharisees to any degree.

The entire saga of Sarah, Hagar, Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac is full of numerous foreshadowing of Jesus in different ways. One of these mystical ways, is how Sarah represents the New Covenant of Grace and Righteousness through faith, while Hagar represents the Old Covenant where one is made righteous only by works (Gal 4:24).

Now, one day, Sarah who now had given birth to Isaac, realized that Ishmael would dilute the inheritance of Isaac when Abraham died. Ishmael may have been the firstborn of Abraham, but Abraham's firstborn from Sarah was Isaac and Sarah did not want Ishmael to take that inheritance from her son. So she would not have it and asked Abraham to send her and the boy Ishmael away (this truly broke Abraham's heart, but God not only assured Abraham, but He also intervened with Hagar and Ishmael as I wrote earlier). 

How many of us today are too shy to break free from the legalism and spirit of religion? How many of us are ready to cast out this leaven of the teaching that one is righteous with God through works and that God's love is really conditional on our works? We don't realize that these teachings actually voids His Grace and nullifies the Sacrifice of Jesus. What I'm saying is, don't be afraid to be vicious with the works of Law in your life. Sarah was doing something mean to Hagar and Ishmael (something which God turned for good as Ishmael became very great) but spiritually we need to emulate Sarah in how she treated this concept of Law, Works, and Legalism, no matter how traditional and normal it seems.

3) Tamar - No one can take what is rightfully mine (in Christ).

Tamar was betrothed to Er, the son of Judah. They married but Er died young and Judah told her to live in her house till Er's brother was old enough to marry (this was a custom that was later incorporated into the Torah). She stayed on but Er's brother grew old and still she became no one's bride.

To redeem her family line and claim her rights, when Judah's wife had died and went on a journey, she disguised herself as a prostitute and placed herself in the path of Judah. Well, she became pregnant with twins, one of which became a descendant of the Messianic line of David.

We don't have a God like Judah, who does not keep his word. We have a Father, who loves us and will fulfill every word. But sometimes even with such a Father, we let many of His blessings fall beside us and never care to gratefully accept them. It was Tamar's boldness and initiative which really stood out and in fact, her name is one of the very few women recorded in the genealogy of the Messiah Yeshua, Himself! (Mat 1:3)

4) Rahab - Those who trust in the Lord are never alone and never forgotten.

What a strong woman with guts! Rahab was a prostitute of a city called Jericho that was about to be invaded and taken completely by the Israelites, a people that the people of Jericho understood to have some very, very strong deity, called Yahowah, supporting them. 

Now two Israelite spies had entered Jericho and going to a place where it was perfectly normal for strangers to enter, they entered into Rahab's house. Somehow the Jericho intelligence apparatus figured out that the spies had entered Rahab's house, but Rahab recognized the work of God (Josh 2:9) and hid the spies at great risk to her house.

She however ended up saving her house, being given a portion and inheritance with God's people, and her name is now recorded in Hebrews 11 as one of the heroines of Faith. She had Faith in God and that God would protect her even though from a human perspective she came from an 'enemy', pagan, nation! Oh that God would bring more Rahab's among us, who are not afraid to say to God that we are His and in Him we Trust so fully that we'd really live like what He says is Real!"

5 & 6) Deborah and Jael - Do you have the guts and faith to take the lead when none around you dare to?

Deborah was a leader of Israel in the days after Joshua, when Israel was a loose confederacy of 12 tribes with no king or centralized government. She was a spiritual leader who led as a judge, ruler and prophetess all at once. She ruled when there was a time of evil in the land and enemy armies far numerous then their own came to wage war against the tribes of Israel.

But she boldly told Barak, a military commander, to muster his men to confront them. Barak refused to go unless Deborah went with him and as a result Deborah told him that his victory was assured (whether she went or not) but because he refused to simply believe the Lord's words, the glory of the victory would be to a woman!

Indeed, Deborah went with Barak and the battle went well and Sisera, the enemy's general, fled for his life and sought refuge in  Moses' father-in-law's tribe, the Kenites - who were not Israelites. There, Jael, a certain Kenite woman saw Sisera and welcomed him into his tent assuring him safety. While Sisera was in the tent, exhausted and asleep, Jael wasted no time to slay the man (Judges 4).

Here you have two women, one leading when there was no leader and evil abounded in the land, unafraid of making prophetic utterances when being found false, not only would lead to severe consequences but all-the-more since she was woman! She had to be very bold to be able to go and tell Barak to risk so much.

And then there was Jael who was not an Israelite and yet understood deeper things than the elders of her tribe who had come into alliance with a state that was Israel's enemy's. You see, Jael knew who the Lord was and she knew that like the Kenite's ancestor, Jethro who guided and advised Moses, that this was the true mission of the Kenite tribe. In killing Sisera, a general of a state that her tribe was allied with, she not only took a stand for what was right even though she was just the "wife of Heber", she also even risked her own life and grave consequences for breaking this alliance on behalf of her tribe.

In the end this is how Deborah's blessing of Jael became recorded in the Bible for perpetuity:
Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent. Judges 5:24

7) Hannah - Don't be afraid to ask the Lord even when everyone says you shouldn't.

Hannah was barren and deeply wanted a child with her husband. She went to the temple to pray and there at the door post, she would stand and pray, downcast. At first, her husband responded by saying "Why so sad? Aren't you happy with just me?" (It'd be funny, only that Hannah was actually the guy's second wife on top of that!)

No, she was greatly saddened and no one could stop her. So she goes to the tabernacle door, at the entrance and there a priest called Eli thought she was drunk since she was praying silently but her lips were moving. Of course, she politely corrected the priest who ended up blessing her. 

Now what I love about Hannah is we see this woman coming to God and praying, again in a man's world - she didn't even enter the Tabernacle (this was a Temple of sorts but a mobile tent in reality). So rather than be discouraged, she went where she could go and while many went in and out and did their rituals (think Eli the priest who was 'ministering' to the Lord outwardly but could not the see the genuineness of this woman); this woman Hannah was there sincerely offering the Lord, real pure and fragrant incense, the incense of her prayers.

God heard Hannah and she gave birth to Samuel - a great prophet who would literal birth the Kingdom of Israel by anointing Saul and then later David. His Name means, God Heard.

8) The Widow of Sarafand - No matter how ridiculous it may sound, listen to God's instructions!

There was a woman in the days of Elijah, who lived outside of Israel to the North, in Zarephath, today's Sarafand of Lebanon. Now there was a great famine in all the land and God told Elijah to go to this town and to this woman's house specifically because He had commanded this woman to provide for Elijah.

Elijah appears at this widow's house, asks her to give to him the last remaining bread that she had, assuring her that her oil and flour would not run out. Watch how great her faith is - having somehow heard the Lord tell her in advance that Elijah would come to her house (Elijah, the Israelite - to go the house of a woman not only living outside of Israel, but to the house of a 'heathen', 'Gentile' woman!) and she believed it!

So strong was her faith that she actually went and did what Elijah told her and gave out her only food left, even though she had a son depending on her. (you bet this story is abused and abused by many to get people to give them money... even though it's clear, she gave Elijah a small piece of bread not money!)

To give you an idea of how strong this woman's faith was, she was granted to be what I think is the first person to witness the miracle of Resurrection!

9) The little girl of Israel - Understand the secret of Joseph, bless your enemies and never define yourself by your outward circumstances!

She was captured by Arameans and was now a slave in the house of a general of Aram, Naaman. This man was a leper and the little girl, who was from a Northern tribe of Israel, probably one that didn't even follow God very faithfully at all, somehow wanted to have her master healed! This was a huge amount of good will for some one with every reason to carry bitterness and vengeance in her heart. 

Instead, she almost pleaded with Naaman's wife, saying how much she wished that Naaman would go to Israel and ask for Elisha, the prophet of Yahowah who could surely heal her master! (2 Kings 5:3) Needless to say, Naaman sought out Elisha and was not only healed but began to worship the One and Only True God!

Nothing else is said about this girl, but I have a feeling that she was a true daughter of Joseph, not just in her tribal ancestry, but in his forgiving spirit, who although was a slave, always saw himself as someone who could give and bless others, no matter what they had done to him.

10) The Shunnamite woman - Seek wisdom and faith above your peers and people.

This prominent lady of a placed called Shunem, not only often hosted Elisha a prophet who operated in ancient Israel during a very dark age, but even built him a little upper room for him to sleep and rest in when he was around. She acted very wisely. How many people could have done this? You'd think that all the notables of the town would have been the first to rush out to host this great man of God. But no one did!

She was the only one to understand that by honoring the Lord she would see His kingdom manifest even more powerfully. Wouldn't Elisha have wanted to bless those who hosted him every time and went to such lengths to do so? I mean, this is logic! And yet she had the spiritual wisdom and revelation to want to do this for Elisha.

She was blessed as a result with a son, though her husband was old (Elisha's blessing!). But one day her son died. As soon as she felt him die, she placed him on Elisha's bed and very calmly went to see Elisha who was probably a great distance away. She didn't even tell her husband about her son's death. Because she believed Elisha would do something! In fact, she had great faith in the Lord.

The result was that she was now the second woman (and person) to witness the miracle of Resurrection!

11) The Queen of Sheba - In your getting wisdom seek wisdom all the more and be bold enough to bless even those above you.

The Queen of Sheba was from a kingdom that probably spanned the Red Sea from northern Ethiopia to Yemen in southern Arabia. She had heard about Solomon probably from Israelite immigrants or merchants, but whatever the case, today there is a relatively large Yeminite and Ethiopian Jewish community. Now here is the amazing thing; when she came to this king Solomon, who had been given by God a level of extreme wisdom, she did not hesitate to ask any questions... every question she had, she asked. And all the while she was intently observing and taking note of everything go on around her (1 Kings 10:1-13, 2 Chron 9:1-12).

Wow, I love that! Not only was she perceptive enough to know this was an opportunity of a lifetime and to have even planned to seek it out beforehand, but she was also very bold! She had the guts and gall to position herself not as one to receive the wisdom of God, but also to bless her counterpart. In other words, despite being awed by everything, she did bow did feeling worthless... she stood up and Blessed the Man! This is possibly the only instance where a man (and not just any man, but the greatest king of history) is blessed by a woman in the Bible!

That we would care enough, like this Queen, to seek God's Wisdom and to be Bold. Truly, truly, we have something far, far better today! His Name is Yeshua and I hope His Kingdom and His Righteousness you will seek with the same tenacity as this Queen of the South!

A queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and lo, a greater than Solomon here! Mat 12:42

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