The silence deepened in the already attentive class as the young widow, with tears gently flowing down her cheeks, raised her hand and asked if she might share a thought with the students. A native of West Africa, she traveled from her homeland to pursue professional training as a Home Economics teacher so she could support her elementary-aged son.Her youngest brother, comparable in age to her son, also made the journey with them. She was the guardian of both boys.
Lifting her course text she shared, “This is my first Bible study book. I learned from studying it that my heavenly Father is personally concerned about me as a woman. He understands my emotions, my fears, my joys, and my heartache.Each woman in this book challenges me to glorify God as a woman.I am encouraged to follow the godly character qualities that the women of the Old and New Testament modeled and to shun those that are sinful. Ladies, please learn from them!”
This young widow’s words concisely captured my reason for selecting as one of the course texts a book that challenges my students to understand the truth of 1 Corinthians 10:6 and Hebrews 11. Each individual recorded in the Bible is placed there for the reader’s instruction(Legacy of Faith by Lydia Brownback). Their character qualities challenge us to embrace or shun their example.Let’s spend some time pursuing the vignettes of some of the women recorded in the Old and New Testament with the focus of modeling their character qualities. Their examples set us up for success in our homes.
Our first vignette captures Mrs. Noah.Can you imagine being married to someone who wanted to spend his time building a huge ship in the middle of a sea of dry land because it might rain?In addition to this strange behavior, he wanted to invite an entire zoo of animals to live with them on the vessel. During the construction process, she undoubtedly experienced scorn, ridicule, and isolation. Yet, she met each circumstance with patience and loyalty.
Then moving day arrived! Mrs. Noah willingly followed her husband into their new home where a different brand of patience was needed. She spent an entire year without the sight of land. More than likely she was asked to share in the enormous task of caring for hundreds of animals.Her fellowship opportunities revolved around seven people and the only female companionship were three daughters-in-law. Yet, the account in Genesis 6:1-8:22 offers no report of sinful responses by Mrs. Noah.She is truly a credible model for patience and loyalty.
How would you like to be one of two wives? Add to the dilemma the fact that you are unloved, unsought, undesired, and a bride by trickery. Not exactly the foundation for the launching of a “happy ever after marriage.”
Genesis 29:15-35 describes Leah, the second vignette in our literary album who learned to be content, like the apostle Paul (Philippians 4:10-13). Leah’s vignette reflects contentment in the midst of challenging circumstances and the choice to find happiness in the midst of grief. A bride only a week before Jacob married Rachel, she knew that she was second in favor for his affection and always would be.Though her home life was less than ideal, she chose to cultivate contentment. At the conclusion of her life she could rejoice that she was the mother of six tribes of the Hebrew nation.Her son Judah was chosen to carry the direct family line to King David and thus to our Lord.When you are confronted with challenging circumstances, will you embrace Leah's example of cultivating contentment?
Did you know that Exodus 2:1-10 reports the first description of foster care? A woman, Pharaoh’s Daughter, only known by her father’s position chose to offer compassion to an infant that should have meant nothing to her.Obviously our heavenly Father touched her heart compelling her to raise the child as her own son.Moses, the baby in a basket, would one day become a prince of Egypt because Pharaoh’s Daughter chose to offer uncommon compassion.
The same heart of compassion reached out to a little girl, the baby’s sister, and provided the uncommon circumstances which allowed his own mother to nurse and care for him. A woman known only as Pharaoh’s Daughter extended compassion and in so doing changed the course of history.Are you willing to offer compassion in your corner of the world? You too might be an instrument our Lord uses to impact future generations in an uncommon way.
Opting for Obedience
If an angel appeared to you and delivered the same message as he did to Mary, would your response be, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:35)? Mary models for us a heart that was focused on graciously and willingly submitting to the will of God. Luke 1:46-55, a passage often referred to as “Mary’s Magnificat,” reveals that her heart and mind were saturated with the Word of God.What a wonderful reminder to twenty-first century believers of having God’s Word so deeply embedded in one’s heart and mind that when challenging circumstances befall the reflex reaction is to meditate on it.
Obedience was characteristic of Mary throughout the portion of her life recorded in the Scriptures.Though we know nothing about her childhood and early adulthood, we do know that she was chosen by God to give birth to Jesus.
The annunciation is the first record of her obedient spirit (Luke 1:26-38). Later, at the foot of the cross, she responded to her Son’s transfer of her care to John (John 19:25-27). The last mention of Mary in the Scriptures finds her praying with the apostles in the upper room of Jerusalem after the Ascension (Acts 1:19-14). As you contemplate your life, are you opting for obedience or choosing to do your own thing and then asking God to bless your endeavors?
Even in the twenty-first century, to be a successful businesswoman is sometimes a difficult feat.Acts 16:11-14 provides the resume of a woman who was a successful and influential woman in Bible times.
Our final vignette describes one of the most profitable and prominent women of Philippi, Lydia.Known as a “seller of purple” she was undoubtedly a wealthy woman since purple dye was extremely expensive.Purple garments were usually worn only by royalty and the upper class. Lydia’s financial status allowed her to have a home which eventually welcomed Paul, his missionary team, and the church at Philippi.
Lydia willingly jeopardized her professional career to embrace the gospel and become the first Christian convert in Europe. Her confidence in her Savior compelled her to mature in her faith and to eagerly spread her faith.How many successful Christian businesswomen today would follow Lydia’s example and endanger their careers to openly proclaim the gospel?
Having caught a glimpse of the character of the women who walked through the pages of the Old and New Testaments, perhaps you will consider probing the lives of others.As you do, remember that embracing godly character qualities often begins with an act of the will—that is, doing the right thing and then allowing your emotions to catch up with you (remember the book of Psalms is directed to our will, not our emotions). Combining studying biblical role models with the instruction of the Psalms, will you purpose to pursue the assimilation of godly character qualities by modeling the mindset of other godly women recorded in Scripture?You might consider beginning your pursuit with the statement,
I WILL, LIKE . . .
The Queen of Sheba, diligently seek godly wisdom (1 Kings 10:1-13);
Ruth, respond to the advice of older women (Ruth 3:11);
Sarah, submit to those in authority over me (1 Peter 3:6);
The little Jewish Maid, boldly, but appropriately, speak of my faith (1 Kings 5:1-14);
Esther, choose to take risks to further God’s kingdom (Esther 4:1-17);
The Widow of Zarephath, trust my heavenly Father to multiply my resources
(1 Kings 17:10-24);
The Shunammite Woman, extend hospitality (2 Kings 4:8-37);
Elizabeth, believe that God works miracles in women of all ages (Luke 1:5-25);
Mary of Bethany, listen with a teachable spirit, to my Master’s words
The poor widow, give out of my need rather than my abundance (Mark 12:42);
Mary, exhibit humble love and devotion for my Lord (John 12:2-3);
The woman with the lost coin, approach each responsibility with tenacity
Dorcas, share my talents with those in need (Acts 9:36-43);
Lois and Eunice, endeavor to leave a godly heritage (2 Timothy 1:5);
The Wise Woman of Proverbs, purpose to fear my Lord (Proverbs 31:10-31).
Realizing that I cannot hope to achieve these goals in my own strength
I will rely upon my Lord . . . for I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me