Women’s Role in the Church – Part 3

Continuing our examination of women’s role in the Church, it may be better understood by biblical examples of women in leadership, authority, and prophetic roles, and better instruct us in how God views the daughters of Eve. 

Esther Saves a Nation (Esther 4:12-16) 

The troubled history of the Saints under the Old and now the New Covenant would seem to add credence to the worldly advice not to discuss religion. When Jesus forewarned us, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33b NIV), He had just said, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace” (16:33a NIV), then He just as immediately added, “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (16:33c NIV). The Saints have time to do what God requires them to do in this world, even to save a Nation. “If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2Chronicles 7:14 NIV). As commemorated by the Jewish holiday Purim, Esther saved a Nation. 

Haman had just received permission to annihilate the Babylonian Jewish population, because of his hatred for Mordechai. But, neither he nor the king realized Esther was a Jewess. Mordechai informed Queen Esther of the new law that would destroy all of the Jews. He begged Esther to make request of the king for her people. Esther replied to Mordechai, “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king” (Esther 4:11 NIV). In our NT age, we know to obey the laws of man’s government, not because we formulated those laws, but because we are subject to God. “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Romans 13:1 NIV). When governments enact laws bidding us to do what God forbids, or forbidding us to do what God commands, only then are we not subject to man’s law. Peter and John best expressed that sentiment to the Sanhedrin. “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to Him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20 NIV). Of course, the process of law with modern democratic governments allows for appeal, interpretation, and amendment by secular authorities; but, the principle of subjection to God first, then to secular law, remains unchanged. Esther embodied that spirit of subjection to God, realizing her attempt for deliverance of her people could cost her life, which would be her subjection to secular law. “I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16 NIV).

Is it only difficult or unusual times in which godly women are to stand and speak for God? Even the wisdom of the world says, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the nation,” whose pithy insight sounds much like the cunning observation, “Give me control of a nation’s money and I care not who makes its laws.” David clarified the matter, “One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: Power belongs to you, God” (Psalm 62:11 NIV). God is the power and has all power. We are to be subject to Him. Godly women prophets arise, when no male prophets are found. 

King Xerxes evaluated his options, when Queen Vashti refused the king’s command to appear “to display her beauty to the people and nobles” (Esther 1:11 NIV). If he did nothing, calamity would befall his administration. “17 For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women, and so they will despise their husbands and say, King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come. 18 This very day the Persian and Median women of the nobility who have heard about the queen’s conduct will respond to all the king’s nobles in the same way. There will be no end of disrespect and discord” (Esther 1:17-18 NIV). If he punishes Vashti, then he restores respect for the law of the Medes and Persians. “Then when the king’s edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest” (Esther 1:20 NIV). Ancient secular authorities understood this as a matter of maintaining the order of society, but Esther did not get taken up by the debates of society. She used her voice and position to secure God’s influence through the deliverance of the Babylonian Jews. “Who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14 NIV). 

Anna Looks Out for God (Luke 2:36-38) 

“36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:36-38 NIV). 

What an exalted display of devotion to Yahweh than Luke’s depiction of Anna the “prophetess [Greek, prophētis, female prophet cp. prophētēs, male prophet]” (Luke 2:36 KJV)! The tides of change were beginning to lap at the shores in preparation for the unfolding of God’s New Covenant. “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah” (Jeremiah 31:31 NIV). “And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws” (Ezekiel 36:27 NIV). “17 In the last days, God says, I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 38 Peter replied, Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:17, 38 NIV). 

What do we know about Anna? First, she was a “prophetess” (Luke 2:36 KJV), like other godly OT women, which indicates she spoke for Yahweh. Second, she was of the northern tribe of Asher (2:36). Third, she was widowed young after seven years of marriage, and was 84 years old (2:36,37). Fourth, she ministered to God, “for she never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying” (2:37 NIV), which reflects the NT standard for older widows. “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children” (Titus 2:3-4 NIV). Fourth, she was led by the Spirit of God to the scene of Joseph, Mary, Simeon, and the newly born Jesus, i.e., “coming up to them at that very moment” (Luke 2:38 NIV). Fifth, she gave natural expression of the joy of seeing God’s Appointed Messiah. “She gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38 NIV). Anna the prophetess did what anyone would do, who had just seen the face of the long awaited Messiah. She thanked God and told all faithful saints with similar expectations, wherever she could and whenever they would listen, about the wonderful event! Go, and do likewise! 

Mary Exalted Her Savior (Luke 2:38-42) 

“38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me! 41 Martha, Martha, the Lord answered, you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42 NIV). 

To our NT Gentile first glance, we would have to agree with Martha. But, what was the significance of Mary’s actions? It was more than the endearing action of a faithful follower, sitting lovingly at the feet of Jesus — which it was. The place at the foot of the rabbi was reserved for the student. “Surely it is You who love the people; all the holy ones are in Your hand. At Your feet they all bow down, and from You receive instruction” (Deuteronomy 33:3 NIV). Saul of Tarsus was taught at the feet of Gamaliel. “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today” (Acts 22:3 NIV). Jesus reminded us that really only one thing is “needed” (Luke 10:42 NIV) — to learn at His feet. All disciples are instructed to replicate this pattern. “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2Timothy 2:2 NIV). But, we must consciously ensure our students continue go back to the Original Source. Good argument to study the original languages of Scripture.