Faith of Women Series: Hannah

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Back in April, I did a post on Hannah. It mostly highlighted her prayer in a dark time in her life. This post will be more on what motivated her to pray like she did. Hannah must have been an incredible woman.

Many things show Hannah’s faith. To begin, Hannah is that she was married to a man who broke biblical law and married two wives. What made it worse is that the other wife had children and she did not. She would have been subject to an open shame. Not only was her husband, Elkanah, living contrary to the Bible, she also had to endure infertility. As if polygamy wasn’t enough to endure. All along she maintained her faith in who God was despite the lack in her husband or that of her circumstances.

Hannah was the fourth woman mentioned in biblical history to suffer through infertility. Before Hannah, three other women endured the despair of not being able to conceive. Sarah was the first, followed by Rebekah and then Rachel. What makes Hannah stand apart, however, is that she accepted God’s promise with unwavering faith. The other three did not. Sarah laughed at the angel’s proclamation that God would give her a child. (Genesis 18:12 NIV) Rebekah questioned, “If all is well, why am I like this?” as her twins struggled in the womb. (Genesis 25:22 NKJV) Rachel gave the responsibility to her husband. (Genesis 30:1 NIV) But Hannah trusted God without any doubt. Her reverent fear of the Lord was just one of many of her godly qualities.

You can read her story in 1 Samuel chapter one. To summarize, her husband and her go up to Shiloh year after year to make sacrifices to the Lord. Each time she falls before the Lord in earnest heart-felt prayer. She longs for a child. At the annual sacrifice at the major shrine of Shiloh, Hannah’s predicament is intensified by her husband’s allocation of sacrificial portions, one to each of his wives and children: the value of the women is demonstrably enhanced by their child-bearing capacities. Though he gives a generous portion to Hannah, this gesture still emphasizes the fact that she has born no children and thus does not comfort her. When she weeps and does not eat, Elkanah tries to assuage her misery with a series of “Why” questions, concluding with “Am I not more to you than ten sons?” (1:8). If I were her my response would be, “I’m obviously not enough for you so how could you ask me that?” Obviously, she is of far greater restraint and faith than myself.

During this unfolding of events, Eli the priest comes to Hannah and blesses her (twice actually) and God answers her prayers and grants her a child. That child is none other than Samuel the prophet. In my opinion, the greatest of the Old Testament prophets. But this isn’t about him. It’s about his mom. Many people would stop here. But Hannah’s faith drove her to fulfill her side of the prayer. She had promised to dedicate her child to the Lord for His service. And that’s exactly what she did. This mama took her baby boy and left him in the service of God, only to see him year after year when she would travel to Shiloh. That would take immeasurable amounts of faith. Out of her faithfulness, God ends up granting her five more children. FIVE! What a story. What a woman of God. Here is her prayer:

Then Hannah prayed and said:

“My heart rejoices in the Lord;
    in the Lord my horn[a] is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
    for I delight in your deliverance.

“There is no one holy like the Lord;
    there is no one besides you;
    there is no Rock like our God.

“Do not keep talking so proudly
    or let your mouth speak such arrogance,
for the Lord is a God who knows,
    and by him deeds are weighed.

“The bows of the warriors are broken,
    but those who stumbled are armed with strength.
Those who were full hire themselves out for food,
    but those who were hungry are hungry no more.
She who was barren has borne seven children,
    but she who has had many sons pines away.

“The Lord brings death and makes alive;
    he brings down to the grave and raises up.
The Lord sends poverty and wealth;
    he humbles and he exalts.
He raises the poor from the dust
    and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes
    and has them inherit a throne of honor.

“For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s;
    on them he has set the world.
He will guard the feet of his faithful servants,
    but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness.

“It is not by strength that one prevails;
those who oppose the Lord will be broken.
The Most High will thunder from heaven;
    the Lord will judge the ends of the earth.

“He will give strength to his king
    and exalt the horn of his anointed.”

1 Samuel 2:1-10 NIV

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Faith of Women Series: The Servant Girl

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This is the fifth post in a series where I’ve been highlighting incredible women from the Bible who have been an inspiration to me and countless others. Today’s focus is unique because no one knows her name. Which goes to show us that our name is not important, but our faith is. While no one may remember you in a hundred years, your faith can carry on to affect generations to come.

 

 

Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said.

2 Kings 5:1-4 NIV

This is basically all we know about the young girl, that she was taken captive in Syria and that she was a servant girl. Our last post looked at a young girl who became a Queen and used her position and influence to shape the future of Israel. Here is a young girl here also uses her position, not one of power but still one of influence.

I love what this girl does because what slave girl would care one bit about her owner? One who loves God, that’s who. Jesus tells us to love those who persecute us (Matthew 5) and this young girl demonstrates that in a real way. She actually sought the well-being of the ones who took her from her home and family. This is divine love, one that can only be inspired by true faith in the God of Israel.

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.

Colossians 3:22 NIV

As believers in the Lord, we are NOT meant to be situational servants but frequently faithful. Everything we do is meant to glorify God in heaven regardless of where we are in life and no matter what is done to us. That is the lesson of faith that this young girl puts on display. People of faith don’t operate on the idea of reciprocity. We can be people who love even if we aren’t loved.

And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

Colossians 3:17 NLT

Because of this young girl, Naaman was able to be healed from his leprosy by the Prophet Elisha and God was glorified. One act did so much. That was true for her, and that is also true for us.

Faith of Women Series: Esther

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For those familiar with Veggie Tales movies, the story of Esther is well known from an early age. She has forever been immortalized as a woman of courage and of grace. Every year many Christians and Jews get together to celebrate a feast known as Purim. This usually takes place in February or March depending on the year because the Lunar calendar and the Gregorian calendars don’t line up. One thing that is often done during this celebration is the reading of the book of Esther. God’s story of rescue and preservation of His persecuted followers. And one central figure to the entire story is none other than the woman that the book is named for. Esther is one of only two women in the entire Bible to have a book named after them. Generally, the titles are reserved for the authors or initial recipients of the letters. Not so here.

Esther is by far my daughters’ favorite heroine of the Bible. When they get to choose the bedtime Bible stories they almost always pick this one. My five year old could probably recite the entire thing for you. Her’s is the real-life princess story. No not Disney’s version, even though I love Disney movies. Her’s is a story with good overcoming evil at both a personal and national level. There were very real dangers that could have cost her, and millions, their lives. Esther’s story has importance for the entire Jewish and Christian faiths. Which is why we celebrate her, and God’s faithfulness in her story, today.

Esther had a lot of disadvantages from the very beginning. She had no parents. As an orphan child, she was adopted by her cousin Mordecai, who raised her as his own. Her original name was Hadassah. She was a Jewish girl living during captivity in a hostile empire called Babylon. No one would suspect her for the one who would be used by God to save an entire people. But that’s exactly what happens.

One day the King issues a decree to have all young virgin women of the empire rounded up for a selection process to be his new bride. Hadassah is one of them. That could not have been an exciting prospect for her. It must have been terrifying. But God is using this situation to bring about His future redemption. This is but one of many moments for Esther where she had to display tremendous courage and faith. She left the only family she knew and became the Queen of the most powerful empire in the world. But her challenges do not end when she becomes Queen. When a plot to destroy the Jewish people is uncovered by Mordecai, Esther has to decide whether or not she will go before the King, uninvited, and reveal her true identity along with the evil plot.

For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

Esther 4:14-16 NIV

Once again, Esther chooses to put her own life on the line in order to serve God’s will. Trusting in the Lord, she steps out in faith, uncertain of what lies ahead. As the story went on, Esther bravely went before the king, foiled the plot, and saved her people. Her entire story is one of courage and faith. Choosing not herself, but her calling. Even as a Queen, she was still a servant. Her faith never changed no matter her station in life. At so many points in her life, she could have lost focus and lost hope. But she endured, undoubtedly because she was a woman of incredible faith.

Faith of Women Series: Deborah

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This is the third post in a series we began last week, devoted to great women of faith from the Bible. Not only is it devoted to those incredible women, but also to the amazing women in my life and yours, who have helped pave the way for a life of faith.

My daughters love Wonder Woman. I have to admit, she’s a pretty cool superhero. But characters who are a figment of our imagination can only do so much. What we need are real-life examples who demonstrate the same qualities. That way, our inspiration can be rooted in reality. When it comes to a real-life Wonder Woman, I think of Deborah. Now there are no stories of her using a magical lasso or leaping over a building, but Deborah was a warrior. According to the Book of Judges, Deborah was a prophetess of God, the fourth Judge of pre-monarchic Israel and the only female judge mentioned in the Bible. She was awesome! Let’s jump into the story.

Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’” Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”

Judges 4:4-8 NIV

Deborah led a nation, commanded armies, and was the source of men’s courage. She rallied God’s people to victory. She instituted justice. Deborah was the mouthpiece for God to a nation floundering to find their way. She was the voice for faith among a people battling with faithlessness. She was so beloved that the entire next chapter is devoted to a song about her. She is one of few in all the Bible who were extended this honor. In one of Israel’s dark moments, her astounding faith brought the people together to overcome a formidable foe.

Jesus said that faith can move mountains. Deborah proved that it can certainly move nations to accomplish great feats. Her faith captivated a people because she believed God was Who He said He was. She showed Israel, and us today, that faith can be fierce and powerful. Thank you, Deborah, for standing in faith, even when others wouldn’t. Thank you for inspiring women warriors of the faith who came after you.

Faith of Women Series: Ruth

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Faith is not gendered specific. Nowhere in the Bible does it state that men can exclusively serve the Lord, pray, fast, or exude tremendous courage and trust in the Lord. In fact, women make many appearances throughout the story of the Bible in key roles. This series is devoted to the great women of faith, past, present, and future.

The last post began this series by looking at Rahab who makes her arrival in Joshua chapter two. Today, we look at Rahab’s daughter-in-law. Ruth is one of my favorite women of the Bible for several reasons which I’ll talk about in this post. Let’s talk about her story.

Ruth was a woman of Moab. This was land on the southeast border of Israel. It was a people often opposed to the people of Israel. Here again, we see God about to use a woman from a pagan people to fulfill His promises. Just like Rahab, she will be plucked out of a people for greater things.

Ruth was also a daughter of hardship. In the book of Ruth, we read that she left her family to be married and not long after, she lost her husband. She also lost her father in law and saw the death of her sister’s husband. Times were not favorable. Out of these conditions, Ruth will endure and go on to see greater days. She was not weak and did not succumb to hardship.

Ruth was extremely devoted. This is one of the character traits that I have been inspired by the most when it comes to her. In the wake of so much loss, Ruth’s mother in law Naomi decides to head back to Israel. Ruth can choose to either stay and start again with someone else in a land that she knew. Or she could follow Naomi. Option one is far easier. But anyone familiar with the story knows that she didn’t take the easy route.

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”

Ruth 1:16-17 NIV

In my opinion, this is one of the great expressions and statements of love in the Old Testament. If more of us were like Ruth, divorce would be demolished, businesses would not fracture, politics would not be plagued with scandals, and everything else rooted in self-interest would dissipate. This is a person emptying herself to care for another. Apart from Ruth, Naomi could have been destined to be destitute. Her love was the driving force of her life and it took tremendous faith to leave everything behind for what she knew mattered the most.

Ruth’s faith-driven obedience didn’t end here. As the story progresses, Ruth does all she can to uphold her promise to Naomi. That obedience eventually leads her to Boaz…the son of Rahab. The story made short, they fall in love and they marry. Naomi’s life is preserved, she is taken care of, her family’s land in Israel is redeemed by Boaz, and the happy couple eventually becomes the proud great grandparents of a king…King David. Her life is proof that our personal faith will have expanding influence and impact. A Moabite woman’s faith preserved the kingly lineage. A Moabite woman’s faith saved a life. A Moabite woman’s faith demonstrated love on a level that many of us only aspire to. Praise God for this Moabite woman’s faith.

 

 

 

Faith of Women Series: Rahab

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I’ve heard several who argue that the Bible is a misogynistic story with little regard for women. That assertion couldn’t be further from the truth. The pages of the Bible are filled with extraordinary examples of women who have played integral roles in the story-line of the Christian faith and the unfolding of God’s redemptive plan in the world. This series is meant to highlight those incredible women who serve as an inspiration to both men and women across all generations.

It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

Hebrews 11:31 NLT

It may seem like an interesting way to start this series out by highlighting a prostitute from the Bible. I assure you, Rahab’s story is a powerful one. So what do we know about her? She was a Canaanite woman living in the city of Jericho. As mentioned before, Rahab was a prostitute who was also a biblical heroine. According to the narrative in Joshua chapter two, before the conquest of Canaan, Joshua sent two men as spies to see the land. They end up coming to Rahab’s house for lodging and information. That’s when Rahab’s story begins to mesh with God’s plan for her life, which happens to be intertwined with the future of an entire nation…Israel.

Let’s break down a few things. Her home was in a city that stood in the way of a God’s plan to fulfill a promise given to a man named Abraham back in the book of Genesis. That promise was to give certain land to his family, which became known as the nation of Israel as they grew in numbers. The problem was that the land was filled with a lot of people. People who were absent from morality. Think the most wicked of humanity and you’ll get the picture. Hitler had nothing on them. The land needed cleansing and Rahab was going to play a big part in that. Just the fact that God is going to use someone who is part of such a disastrous and evil people to work redemption is incredible. Rahab proves that faith can still exist among a broken society and within broken people.

Rahab finds herself at a crossroads in this story. She can out the spies and alert the city of the impending nation on their doorstep. She can side with those whom she lives among, or she can step out in faith and risk it all. By helping the spies she is ultimately putting her own life, and the lives of her family, at risk. It reminds me of those who chose to hide and help Jews in 1930’s Germany rather than side with the prevalent evil of the nation. That too took tremendous faith.

Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.

Joshua 2:8-11 NIV

This is her statement of faith. She says that she knows the Lord has given Israel the land and that God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. This post opened with a verse from Hebrews 11, commonly referred to as the “Faith Chapter” of the Bible. Rahab is listed there. She is in the so-called Hall of Fame of faith. Her trust in the God of Israel to see His promise through was her motivating factor. Her faith was worth her life if necessary. Her faith drove her to step out of the corruption of the Canaanite people and join herself with God’s people. But this isn’t where her story ends. Rahab was saved amidst the destruction of Jericho and would go on to give birth to a man by the name of Boaz. He goes on to marry the woman of our next post, Ruth. Their line goes through King David and all the way to Jesus of Nazareth. Rahab…redeemed, rescued, and righteous by faith. A woman of the ages.