The Proverbs 31 Family

“He married Jezebel…” 1 Kings 17:31

This post is the finale of the Proverbs 31 Family series!

The thesis of this series has been that: men and women influence each other in faith and effectiveness; that our fates in ministry are tied; that our purpose is united beyond position.

So let’s talk about Jezebel! And Ahab. What couple better exemplifies the assertions above? In the worst way possible, of course, they do.

Jezebel influenced Ahab to worship her gods. She was the one killing the Lord’s prophets, yet it was Ahab who was present at Mt Carmel. And for what Jezebel overheard (because she wasn’t actually there), about what happened at Mt Carmel, she cursed Elijah.

Influence. Outcomes tied. United beyond position.

Men and women, in relationship, create a dynamic. What might only be latent potential in each, takes form and life together.

Ahab married Jezebel. He brought her in. He gave her influence in Israel. She was a foreigner, a princess, a priestess, loyal to another kingdom, evangelist of other gods, and relishing the opportunity to exert demonic dominion over Israel just given the chance.

And, she gave Ahab a platform for the evil that was already in his heart: “He began to bow down in worship to Baal. First Ahab built a temple and an altar to Baal in Samaria. Then he set up an Asherah pole. He did more to provoke the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than any of the other kings of Israel before him,” 1 Kings 17:31-33.

It could be speculated that the depth of Ahab’s depravity might not have been drawn out without Jezebel.

The magnetism of relationship is so powerful that the Proverbs 31 Queen Mother was wise to take such care in describing to her son, the king, the kind of woman to seek out as a partner in ruling.

The Proverbs 31 Queen Mother knew that the whole of a relationship is greater than the sum of its parts– as is its force, its magnitude, its gravity.

“No one else so completely sold himself to what was evil in the Lord’s sight as Ahab did under the influence of his wife Jezebel. His worst outrage was worshipping idols,” 1 Kings 21:25-26.

There is possibly no “spirit” that is so recognized among Christians today as the “spirit of Jezebel.” Her influence is renown and recognizable in relationships even now.

In terms of spiritual warfare we can look at calamity, misfortune, sickness, loss, disappointment, oppression, war, and other uncontrollable phenomena as workings of the enemy to undermine a Christian’s resolve. Yet, I think that the most pervasive and wearying form of warfare that we see is, in fact, in our relationships.

I think this hostile form of gorilla spiritual warfare is the kind most described in the Bible as well.

Jesus experienced the warfare that takes place in intimate friendship when he told Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God but merely human concerns,” Matthew 16:23.

Peter had made a zealous comment that surely Jesus would never go to the cross! Yet his comment burdened Jesus rather than shouldered Jesus’ burden. Of course, Jesus the man, his corporal being, did not want to die– as per Gethsemane– and Peter was making it harder for Jesus to remain in his resolve. So he rebuked him– as Satan!

Peter was being used by Satan to wear Jesus down, to keep him from his passion, to put a thin wedge of doubt into his mind. Peter might actually have been in use as the second temptation of Christ that we are told about in Luke 4:13: “When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came.”

Was Peter that next opportunity?! What a terrible thing for a friend– or a wife– to be: the next opportunity of the devil to temp your loved one away from their God-given purpose.

If we weighed every one of our words and assessed each of our conversations, I am sure that we are all, at times, Jezebels and Peters.

We have all at a point entertained a conversation that influenced the evil already in a friend’s heart to flourish and bear fruit. We have all probably given a loved one the “easy-out” word of encouragement that made it even harder for them to keep at the hard right over the easy wrong.

This concept of spiritual warfare within relationships, and specifically within conversations, is the topic of my blog series coming January 2019, titled, “Too Much Talking: Spiritual Warfare in the Book of Job.”

I’ll be exploring how Job remained blameless through all manner of loss- his home, his possessions, his children, his health, even losing his wife’s respect– yet it was in conversation with his friends that he was the most tempted to blame God.

His friends were the most insidious influencers that the Accuser sent to undermine Job passing “the test.” The power of conversation can never be taken too seriously.

Proverbs 10:19– “When words are many, sin is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”

 

 

I hope you’ll join me in January 2019 for “Too Much Talking: Spiritual Warfare in the Book of Job.” In the meantime, this fall, I’ll be publishing contemplations on the Biblical Fall Feasts and several essays on the Liturgical Holidays. The first of my Fall Holiday series will be posted in time for Rosh Hashanah next week!

 

The Proverbs 31 Family

“It was the woman you gave me…” Genesis 3:12

This woman you gave me. Adam may as well have said, “God, you aren’t good. You give bad gifts. God, you tempted me by binding me to this temptress. God, you rigged the deck against me.”

This kind of attitude undergirds the war of the sexes– man and woman look at each other with contempt, suspicion, and a rebellious need to control one another because we fail to believe that the spouses that God has given us are good gifts.

We think little of God’s sovereignty and grace until one of His gifts to us seems to short circuit. We think much of our own influence and goodness until we misstep. When we fail devastatingly, suddenly we’re Calvinists and God is some controlling overlord that should have stopped us, or should have put a hurdle in our way. The rest of the year we are good Arminians gleefully paving the way to our own spiritual mountaintops.

When we hate a member of the opposite sex, when we revile our spouse, we discredit God’s good gift to us in the form of a partner, and we sin against His command to be fruitful and abundant together (Genesis 1:28.)

When we are at odds with the opposite sex, a person who we are supposed to be in productive relationship with, we are not victim to a raw deal, we are continuing on with the willful, deceptive, rebellious attributes of the Curse.

I mean in this to say, enmity from a sister to a brother or a brother to a sister in Christ, is a sinful action against God’s gift to us.

We do this in all areas of life! We take something God gave us in grace, abuse the expanse of freedom given us, and then blame God for our inability to work out our salvation, to build our family, to exercise our gifting, to submit to one another, to be least, to be last, to be a faithful servant.

Look at what our compass chapter through this series, Proverbs 31, says: “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, to guzzle wine. Rulers should not crave alcohol. For if they drink they may forget the law and not give justice to the oppressed. Alcohol is for the dying, and wine for those in bitter distress. Let them drink to forget their poverty and remember their troubles no more,” (vs. 4-7.)

Kings and queens and priests– what God calls us through our sonship because of Christ, do not live in active self-pity.

And the first area of active self-pity to eradicate in the Christian life is a mistrust of God over the mistakes that a dear one made and in so doing led you into that mistake with them.

The Proverbs 31 Queen Mother advises her son to find a wife who is actively trusting in God as evidenced by her strength, dignity, and boldness (Proverbs 31:25.)

“This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They trusted God and accepted the authority of their husbands,” 1 Peter 3:5.

The challenge of this verse is marginally about submission, and majorly about trusting God. If your litmus for submission is built on trust in each other, your house will fall. We can only be successful together when our constant endeavor is to trust God and to have our productivity as a unit to stem from there.

The command for men to love their wives as Christ loves the Church is equally as much founded on trust in God as woman’s trust in her husband must be founded on trust in God. Love is not contingent upon your trust in your wife. What does Christ’s love for the Church look like?

It looks like a man who found a treasure hidden (the Kingdom of God) in a field and in His joy over it sells all He has (the Cross) to buy the field (the world), in which He has reburied the treasure. (Matthew 13:44)

Jesus did not purchase those who are His out of the world, but rather entrusted His kingdom to us while in the world until His return. That is immense trust!

That is the kind of trust that King Lemuel has in his wife, to whom he entrusts all that he has, his entire household, and the investment of his riches, and the dignity of his reputation while he rules and reigns at the city gate. (Proverbs 31:10-31.)

Our marriages, our partnerships and relationships in business and church and community dealings between men and women, the success of them, the failure of them,  reflect nothing less than our trust in God and the tides of our going in or our coming out of life under the Curse.

There is life under the law of sin and death, and their is life under the law of grace– the law of grace being full satisfaction in the goodness of God. We see the reflection of our freedom in how we behave when standing face to face with each other.

The Proverbs 31 Family

“Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife,” Matthew 1:20

I want to talk about Mary and Joseph as a picture of submitting our physical realities to spiritual realities. We live in the natural but are called to the supernatural.

My favorite themes in 1 Corinthians are: first, the discussion of the physical body vs. the spirit– and how those competing appetites affect how we worship and serve God, and second is, the way that Christians are assigned, appointed, anointed, and arranged in the spiritual realm to be useful in the Body of Christ with intent and specificity by the Lord.

The interplay of the physical and the spiritual pervades the New Testament– starting in the Gospel narratives. There are a lot of picnics, meals with disciples, lunch at the in-laws, dinner parties with sinners, biblical feasts, festivals, weddings, Passover, the Last Supper. Jesus’ earthly ministry is punctuated by meals.

Jesus also tells the woman at the well that he can give her living water so that she will never be thirsty after drinking it. He speaks of us “feeding” on Him, the bread of life– A spiritual meal that does not lack, does not require more meals after.

The Gospel of John, the most “spiritual” gospel, reveals Jesus as the Holy Spirit, yet talks repeatedly of food, in order to talk about spiritual hunger, and that Jesus satisfies.

This seemed the premise of Jesus’ rebuke of Martha. Martha was busy with her, possibly usual task, of preparing the meal for Jesus and his disciples. She was attending to her physical assignment, which probably would have been fine had she not complained about Mary. Mary was not preparing a meal for Jesus but was receiving a meal from Him. She was fulfilling her spiritual assignment to feed on Jesus.

We have both physical and spiritual assignments from God, but! Our physical duties always yield to the spiritual ones. Your earthly life must punctuate your spiritual life. If your spirituality is just a comma in between your workday and dinner, don’t be surprised that your soul continues to hunger and that your flesh continues to lust.

The account of Joseph’s encounter with the angel Gabriel in Matthew 1:18-25, brings insight into the gravity of both the physical and spiritual assignments that God gives us, and how we are called to submit our physical assignments to our spiritual ones.

Joseph was physically anointed, as a man, to be head of a household, husband to a virtuous woman, father to legitimate children. He was called in the natural to be religiously observant, an adherent to the law, an abhorrer of sinfulness. Yet, Gabriel tells Joseph “she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus,” Matthew 1:21. (emphasis mine)

Before this dream of Gabriel, Joseph had planned on quietly breaking off his engagement to Mary. He didn’t want to embarrass her, but it seems that he was “afraid” (Matthew 1:20) of what the implications of marrying a pregnant Mary might be.

Could the implications have been feeling like he had botched his earthly mantle as a faithful Jewish man? That he had failed to be a strong leader over his household, in which his wife and children respected him? That he might not be admired for his morality, but that people might snicker at him as a cuckold? That he’d sacrifice the satisfaction of living a righteous life in the eyes of man?

Could taking Mary as his wife– throwing away his fear– mean throwing away everything he thought God had called him to as a man?

To be the leader who would raise, protect, provide for, and name Jesus– “And Joseph named him Jesus,” Matthew 1:25– would require that Joseph lay down every right inherent to his God-given, physical assignment as a man.

He would lay down everything he had ever been taught about being a religious man in order to take up the demands of his new spiritual assignment.

The first counter-intuitive, counter-cultural aspect of this assignment was that Joseph had to tailor the very beginning of his marriage and family life to his wife’s calling and his son’s purpose. Men in his time did not organize their lives around their wives and children.

A patriarch in Joseph’s day would probably feel that it is their right to set the agenda, to take the most important role, to delegate menial tasks to others, to arrange themselves in the natural position to receive praise. Women and children wouldn’t even be part of the plan, let alone “be the plan.”

It must have been hard to believe that this was what God was asking him to do! Wasn’t this opposed to the natural order of things?!

In his calling, to be Mary’s husband and Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph did not: set the agenda, was not even nearly the most important actor, accepted menial tasks rather than delegating them, and was completely outshone by every one else in the Nativity narrative.

Joseph, Jesus’ father, is an early and strong example of living Christianity. He completely submitted his physical duties to his spiritual assignment. He did not reserve any natural craving, but satiated his spirit with his faith in God’s word over his life.

If we continue to be hungry for the rights inherent to our physical identities, we forfeit our time at Jesus’ feet and our usefulness to the kingdom.

The Proverbs 31 Family

“Be sure your wife follows the instructions I gave her,” Judges 13:13

The story of Manoah and his wife is a frontline argument that God speaks to women and through women. Their son, the Nazirite, Samson, is typically the star of Judges 13, but his parents had a rare righteousness in their relationship that is well worth exploring.

The story of Manoah and his wife has four special qualities to it that also equate to double-edged directives for Christian women now. These are the four plot points:

  1. Jesus appeared to Manoah’s wife to personally give her instructions on how to behave during pregnancy in preparation for Samson to be a Nazirite.
  2. When Manoah wanted to hear for himself confirmation of what his wife had been told, Jesus did not appear to him, but again to his wife, who then went and got Manoah so that he could hear personally from Jesus the instructions, which the instructions for Manoah were to: “Be sure your wife follows all the instructions I gave her.” (emphasis mine.)
  3. Manoah after a conversation with “the Angel of the Lord” finally realizes that he has been talking to God (pre-incarnate Jesus) and freaks out thinking they’ll be struck dead cause you can’t see God and live– it is his wife that assures Manoah that God would not have appeared to “us,” brought “us” good news, or have accepted “our” offerings just to kill us.
  4. In verses 24-25 of Judges 13, we are told that “When her son was born, she named him Samson. And the Lord blessed him as he grew up. And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir in him while he lived in Mahaneh-dan.” (emphasis mine.)

So let’s unpack these plot points a bit more to see how they cut both as a sword of victory for the war-faring woman, and a sword of truth that cuts to the quick.

Number #1:

God speaks to women specifically with specific assignments that are specifically for them. Women can have uniqueness in their calling– they are not merely attaches to their husbands’ callings; they have their own.

Judges 13:3-7: “The angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah’s wife and said, ‘Even though you have been unable to have children, you will soon become pregnant and give birth to a son. So be careful; you must not drink wine or any other alcoholic beverage nor eat any forbidden food. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and his hair must never be cut. For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth.'”

It is a unique, solemn, lonely walk through pregnancy. No one can do it for you, and not even truly with you. Pregnancy is all on you, babe. And in just the same way, there are things that God will give a woman to do that are not tandem to her husband but solely her responsibility– both a show of God’s love for his daughters and a responsibility!

Only Manoah’s wife could control what she did and did not drink. Samson’s start as a Nazirite– not his conception, but his call to holiness– was on her only. Samson’s calling was riding on hers.

Number #2:

What God gives you is yours. When God gives something for you to do, He is not then going to turn around and give it to your husband.

Judges 13:8-9: “Then Manoah prayed to the Lord, saying, ‘Lord, please let the man of God come back to us again and give us more instructions about this son who is to be born.’ God answered Manoah’s prayer, and the angel of God appeared once again to his wife as she was sitting in the field.”

Manoah wanted to hear for himself about his soon-to-be son. There had to be some level of excitement there; and men like to take a special ownership of their sons. But, the Angel of the Lord appeared again to his wife. And all He said to Manoah was “The instructions are what I already told her, so you can talk to her more if you want. If you want a job, just keep her accountable to do the job I gave her,” (loosest imaginable interpretation of Judges 13:13.)

I see in that a demonstration that the instructions were for Manoah’s wife because this assignment was specially hers, and He was not going to “give that away from her,” so to speak.

And! This is a directive: Her response to God’s gift to her is one of security and not insecurity; submission and not usurping.

This woman is not even named in the Bible. She is Manoah’s wife. She shows Christian submission by going and getting Manoah to talk with the Angel upon His second appearance to her. She shows no jealousy over her calling, no fear of her husband bearing over her, nor of him taking her favor. This unnamed woman, who has a special calling for her life, is not afraid of her husband, and can share her blessing with him.

If we’re really honest, how many of us dynamic women– women of calling, gifting, and zeal– get worried that our husbands will outshine us in ministry, be preferred in public, and elbow us out of our assignments? Manoah’s wife was not. And nor should we be.

Number #3:

Wives will sometimes be called to have faith for the “both of us.”

Manoah had a weak heart. He needed to hear straight from the Angel. He then needed to make a sacrifice. Then he realized the Angel was God and thought he was going to die. His wife meanwhile is cool as a cucumber.

Judges 13:23: “But his wife said, ‘If the Lord were going to kill us, he wouldn’t have accepted our burnt offering and grain offering. He wouldn’t have appeared to us and told us this wonderful thing and done these miracles.'”

Not only did Manoah’s wife encourage him in faith, she was inclusive when speaking of the appearances of the Angel of the Lord. She did not speak of “me” and “you” and “us,” even though that would have been warranted in describing the sequence of events. She focuses on unity: “we.”

She could have hoarded her assignment/blessing/instructions/calling as specially hers, but she doesn’t. She chooses to be unified with her husband in what is uniquely hers.

Without that kind of confidence she could not have had the faith she needed for both she and her husband.

Insecurity is not isolated. Misgivings in one area will diminish your faith in another. Disunity in one area will cause division in other areas as well.

Another directive: Even what God gives specifically to you must be free from fear of your husband’s spiritual authority– as figurative or literal as that may be in your house.

Number #4:

You will be rewarded.

Credit is important to all of us. We want to be acknowledged for what we have done, the amount of effort or sacrifice involved, and for the success and beauty of the fruit of our labor.

Again, Judges 13:24-25: “When her son was born, she named him Samson. And the Lord blessed him as he grew up. And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir in him while he lived in Mahaneh-dan, which is located between the towns of Zorah and Eshtaol.”

Manoah’s wife gets the credit, and she gets her reward. Samson is referred to as her son. She named him. But more importantly, the highest reward for any mother is for her children to be blessed and to have the Spirit of the Lord stir in them.

I would think that the apex of any ministry would be for it to be called “yours” and for it to be described as “blessed” and marked by the move of the Holy Spirit! And it’s a little scary for a Christian woman to pour into a calling she was personally given, knowing that when this apex of favor comes to fruition that many people will just assume it was her husband’s calling/assignment/blessing/instructions/obedience.

Manoah’s wife did not covet what God had given her to do, did not lord it over her husband, did not peel off in independent pursuit; she shared mutually with her husband, she remained submitted to his leadership, and they walked humbly forward in faith.

Her hope was in the Lord who had spoken to her personally. Whenever you trust another person to share with you, whenever you trust your husband to share with you, it is that you are trusting in the One who gave to you, the One who made a promise to you, and that you are certain He does not waver or fail.

 

 

 

The Proverbs 31 Family

“His wife said to him…’Curse God and die.’ ” Job 2:9

What a supportive wife Job had. Willing to enjoy the years of her husband’s abundance and favor with the Lord, not however, willing to suffer in his suffering. To say to him, “curse God and die” is telling him that he should kill himself.

We can look to the church’s historical view of suicide to see why this interpretation can be valid. Suicide was once considered among the gravest and damning sins because it terminally opposes the will of God– in other words: “curse God and die.”

Again, what a supportive wife! Definitely not a woman of good report or one to take counsel from.

And with that spring board, I want to introduce the final arch in the Proverbs 31 Family series.

So far, we looked at Proverbs 31 to find that faith and calling are interdependent pursuits– male/female relationships matter. Our first families: Elizabeth and Zechariah; Sarah, Abraham, and Hagar; and Isaac and Rebekah explored what tension in male/female relationships look like and the strife it causes in our faith and calling. Proverbs 31 is about support, integrity, and unity in calling. Dysfunctional faith relationships lack these qualities.

The next set of relationships: Esther and Mordecai; Deborah, Barak, and Jael; Moses, Midwives, Mothers, and Miriam, showed the cooperative nature of effective faith relationships. Cooperation, humility, and belief gives turbo-energy to fulfilling our callings. Proverbs 31 is very much about effectiveness. The idea of gender wars energizes no one, defeats everyone, because we are meant to be one flesh under one purpose for a God who is One.

Finally in these last five families, we will tackle the most misogynistic question I know of, “Should a man listen to a woman.”

Luckily, what we will find by looking at: Samson’s parents; Mary and Joseph; Adam and Eve; and Jezebel and Ahab is exactly what we see today looking briefly at Job and his wife– whether a man should listen to a woman has very little to do with her genitalia and very much to do with what she is saying. 

Proverbs 31:11— “Her husband can trust her, and she greatly enriches his life. She brings him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.”

Proverbs 31:26— “When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.”

Proverbs 31:28— “Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her”

Proverbs 31:31— “Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gates.” or “Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.” (NIV and NLT.)

There is no mistrust in a Proverbs 31 Family. There is no disparaging in a Proverbs 31 Family.

Finally, by comparing two families that exhibit Proverbs 31 traits to two families that absolutely do not, we are about to see that not only are genders wars against God’s original plan for humanity, gender wars are gloriously surmountable within this present Christian life. Men and women are meant to, and can, be at peace with each other, work together in love, and show honor to one another as befits– not just King Lemuel’s family– but King Jesus’ family.

The Proverbs 31 Family

“The midwives feared God…” Exodus 1:21

As we know, the story of Moses begins against the backdrop of an attempted genocide. The Pharaoh of Egypt was attempting to diminish the numbers and influence of the Hebrew people by ordering the Hebrew midwives to kill any male baby born to Hebrew women.

“But because the midwives feared God, they refused to obey the king’s orders,” Exodus 1:17. The defining and valorous characteristic of the midwives was their fear of God. These were two ordinary women doing an ordinary job whose extraordinary fear of the Lord was the frontline defense for protecting the life of Moses– Moses who is arguably the most important figure in the Bible outside of the Son of God. Moses, the recipient and conveyor of the Old Covenant law, the assumed author of the first five books of the Bible (Pentateuch.)

It is notable that the fear of God that these two midwives had earned them the honor of their names being recorded in the book of Exodus. Shiphrah and Puah.

Shiprah and Puah were not the only women, going about their every day, who made an impact on the protection of Moses’ life, and the movement of his course into the precise position that the Lord had for him in his youth– to be an adopted child in the house of Pharaoh.

There are five women identified in 18 verses who made simple decisions within the small sphere of influence they had that steered Moses into God’s will for his life.

The midwives refused to murder him; his mother hid him and then entrusted him to the Lord by releasing him in faith down the Nile; his sister watched after him as he floated away in a basket; the Pharoah’s daughter interrupted her bathing to gather him from the reeds; his clever sister then leapt at the opportunity to recommend their own mother as his wet nurse.

None of these individual actions are all that incredible. These are the actions of women doing what women do.

Midwives bring children into the world, not out of it. Mothers protect their children, and at a point for each of us, we have to release them to the Lord, for His protection is beyond what we can give. Sisters look after their baby siblings. And princesses ignore their daddy’s orders cause at the end of the day they know that “baby gets what baby wants.” Adding to the text with that last one, but honestly, the royal house knew that Moses was a Hebrew child, so somehow the princess got away with defying her father’s edict.

Now, I know how annoying it is to be told as a woman that “your ministry is to your husband and children.” I get a sort of violent gagging sensation when I hear that said. So let’s reframe that in light of the women who “birthed” Moses’ into his calling:

Your ministry is the fear of the Lord.

No matter what your job, what your role, what your position, what your gender– your ministry is living moment to moment with a sensitivity to the Lord’s promptings.

If interrupting a bath out of curiosity over a basket can change the humble status of a Hebrew slave child into striking position to become the greatest influencer of the Old Testament, then there is no action that is beneath impact.

It is true that in the Bible, men get the lion’s share of recognition. They tend to be the one’s doing all the cool stuff and getting positions of power and interesting assignments. That can be frustrating for women who desire to be impactful for the kingdom.

However, the women of Moses’ story: the midwives, his mothers, and big sister Miriam, prove that impact and importance are not the same.

Importance is of little importance to God. But God honors those who fear Him by crafting the mundane actions we take and natural reactions that we have into influential tools for His glory and plans.

Jesus talks extensively in the Gospels about God’s preference for hidden devotion, humble acts of obedience, and the honor stored up for those that are waiting to receive their rewards in heaven.

Women have a privileged position of disadvantage on earth. We are the types Jesus called “blessed” in the Sermon on the Mount. The worst thing we can do is to covet Moses’ mission to the extent of despising our own.

Persist in fearing the Lord. Only He knows what great work you have done that was so normal to you that you overlooked it as being significant.

Our only work is fearing the Lord– no matter where that leads us, and no matter how exciting, interesting, or admirable our path may or may not seem to others, and no matter whether it was a “man’s job” or “women’s work.”

There will be no gender discrimination when Jesus is handing out crowns of righteousness beside the throne of God.

 

The Proverbs 31 Family

“The Lord will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman.” Judges 4:9

I have to begin by pointing out that the most read translations of Judges 4:9 read, “The Lord’s victory over Sisera will be at the hands of a woman” or “The Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” That’s the NLT and NIV respectively. But the most common phrase across translations of the Bible used to explain Jael’s victory over Sisera is that he was “sold” to her. “The Lord will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman.”

Why was God selling him? Sell? Not give, sell. Well, here is my postulation: The victory over Sisera belonged to a man named Barak. God had set this certain victory aside for Barak. God did not just give the victory away when Barak asked the judge, Deborah to go with him into battle; Barak had declined God’s gift of victory so God allowed Jael, a non-Israelite woman, to buy that victory from Barak through the currency of her cunning and opportunism.

It was given to Barak, it was bought through labor by Jael.*

God always gives gifts designed for us with only minimal effort required for us to enjoy them. The Garden of Eden? It was given to man to rule over as a marvelous gift. It hardly required more than naming animals. It blossomed and flourished and was renewed by rivers that God placed there. All Adam had to do was accept the gift and reap the benefits of it.

It was the same for Barak. He didn’t approach Deborah to ask for an adventure or conquest that God might have for him. Deborah called him to come to her so she could tell him that God was giving him a gift– a victory over the general Sisera that would free his people from the oppression of King Jabon the Caananite, meaning that God heard their prayers even after all the evil paths they had followed, which is why God had allowed King Jabon to overcome them in the first place.

Sweet gift! This is like a gift of victory, freedom, fame, legacy, and probably an opportunity of high position among the Israelites in re-forming a functioning government once the fog of battle cleared.

But Barak, gives a condition for accepting this gift– that Deborah come too. This reveals a  weakness, a lack of readiness, deficient moxie, no gumption.

The victory was sure; God promised it. It was for the taking– but not really, because only one person had it been given to, Barak, only he could take it. Deborah rallies the warriors saying, “This is the day the Lord will give you [Israel] victory over Sisera, for the Lord is marching ahead of you,” Judges 4:14.

The freedom was for Israel, the credit was for Barak. He passed. So Deborah says, welp, your gift that you didn’t want will be sold to a foreigner, a woman.

I firmly disbelieve that Deborah told Barak that a woman would have his victory as a misogynistic punishment. It wasn’t like, “you are such a coward that even a woman could do what I ask.” Ummmm, no.

I think Deborah was prophesying. After all, she called Barak to give him a prophesy; the whole conversation was prophetic.

I believe that there is a system of giving and receiving that is revealed in this passage. This story does not, however, describe a system of command and punishment.

Judges 4 and 5 teach vital principles about the governing properties of God’s promises. 

God creates a gift for you. You either accept or deny it. Meaning it can, not necessarily will but can be sold to someone else. Like a spouse. A house. A business. It is yours until you let it go, at which time someone else can purchase it.

That’s why Jesus had to buy back the world. God made it as a gift for us, and the serpent tricked us into giving it to him, into letting it go, into saying, “Eh, I’ll pass, thanks.”

That’s why Jesus had to come as a man and not just God who is spirit. The world was made for man and only a man could buy it back. We sold it to Satan for an apple.

The good news is, after Barak and Deborah went into battle– after Jael tricked Sisera into taking a nap in her tent and drove a stake through his skull while he slept– everyone shared in the joy.

The people sang jubilantly and heralded the exploits of Deborah. And they blessed Jael. And they acknowledged Barak too. No one was left out from the victory dance.

That is the great hope of salvation. Many of us are gunna pass on various gifts, callings, triumphs, blessings that God designed for us. But either way, whether we live a fulfilling and victorious Christian life, or a defeated and embattled Christian life, when Jesus comes back we will all partake in His glory, His victory, and His jubilant, joyful song. 

 

 

*The idea that “work” and “money” are equivalents originates no later than famous philosopher, John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government. Also, biblically, we see Jacob having to buy Rachel with 14 years of labor, among other tales portraying labors of love that we find throughout the only worthwhile Romance in the universe known as Holy Scripture.