Sunday, October 29, 2017

Greater Influence Of The Lesser Known Women Of The Bible

            There are lessons to be learnt from every character in the Bible. However, we habitually focus on the popular characters such as Adam, Eve, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Joseph, Esther, Mary, Paul, Peter, John and the rest. (I do not want to include the Lord Jesus Christ as one of the ‘characters,’ for HE is the central theme of the Bible.)

            Examining the life of every popular character in the Bible to gain vital life lessons is appropriate, but do we then surmise that there is nothing much to be learnt from the lesser known characters of the Bible? I do not think so.

            A Christian woman is the most vital cog of the Christian family (cf. Proverbs 31: 10-31). Hence, let us examine the lives of a few lesser known women in the Bible and the potential influence they can be on us.

Job’s Wife

            Job’s wife is an infamous example of do-not-be-like-that-person. Apart from the more popular Eve, who is often crowned as the cause for the fall, Job’s wife, being lesser known, would still adorn the Biblical Hall of Shame. 

            St. Augustine referred to her as “the devil’s accomplice” and John Calvin labeled her as “a diabolical fury.” What did she do to merit such wrath? She exhorted Job to dispense with his integrity and curse God, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9, NIV). It was also quite possible that she threw a tantrum at Job during his severe trial, for Job said, “My breath is offensive to my wife…” (Job 19:17, NIV).

            We cannot curse God under any circumstance. We cannot motivate anyone to dispense with their integrity. Nevertheless, Job’s wife cannot be relegated to the Bible’s infamous Hall of Shame, for there is a very good lesson to be learnt from her life.

            The Bible narrates three devastating events that occurred in her life. These, certainly, would have inflicted severe emotional trauma upon her. Consider these events:

            (1) She experienced severe financial loss (Job 1: 13-17).

            (2) Her children died (Job 1:18-19).

            (3) Her husband Job was inflicted with extremely painful illness (Job 2:12 & Job 3).

            These events and the consequential emotional trauma could have motivated her to advise Job to curse God and die. But there is a significant point to note. God did not rebuke Job’s wife as HE rebuked Job’s friends (Job 42: 7-9). Instead, when God blessed Job, HE also indirectly blessed her. In other words, she shared in Job’s blessings:

            (1) She gave birth to ten more children (Job 42: 12-15).  

            (2) She shared the “doubled wealth” that God blessed Job with (Job 42:10).

            Hence, we deduce that she was faithfully present with her husband during his most painful period of his life, serving him, to the best of her abilities, to endure the most severe trial of his life. To not cause the spouse further emotional trauma during severe trials, and to diligently serve the spouse with faithful service and constant encouragement to enable a successful triumph over trial is a beautiful lesson taught by the life of Job’s wife.

Lois & Eunice (Acts 16:1-3; 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14, 15)

            Paul, in his letter to Timothy, extols the faith of Timothy’s mother and grandmother to an extent where he says that their faith has brought about Timothy’s faith, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lo′is and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you.” (2 Timothy 1:5, RSV).

            When women display exemplary spirituality, which in this instance was faith in God, that faith will certainly be rubbed off on the other members of the household. The lives of Lois and Eunice contributed to the enriched spiritual life and diligent service of Timothy. As Paul testifies, Timothy is the spiritual derivative of his grandmother and mother, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:14-15, NIV).

             Similarly, may our faith and love for the Lord be passed on to the members of our household so that they love and serve the Lord with all their strength and mind.

Philip’s Four Daughters (Acts 21:8, 9)

            There is just one short reference in the Bible about the four daughters of Philip the evangelist (the same Philip who ministered to the Ethiopian eunuch), “And he had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied.” (Acts 21:9, RSV). This miniscule detail about Philip’s four daughters may be bypassed as a mere narrative without any further implications. But the context of Philip’s existence and the presence of two key words in this narrative (unmarried and prophesied) warrant a deeper thought.

            Philip and his four daughters lived among unbelievers. Hence, the fact that all four Philip’s daughters prophesied, carries greater significance. To prophesy or to serve God amidst unbelievers is not an easy task, for persecution would have been a certain possibility. So the fact that all four of Philip’s daughters prophesied amidst persecution reveals not only their faithfulness and dedication to God, but their courage to serve God despite the persecution.

            The fact that they were unmarried could be a testimony to their celibate life, and they may even be the forerunners to celibacy in women (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:8-34). Celibacy, as Apostle Paul rightly words it, paves way for a greater service to the Lord, “the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:34, RSV).

            Although very little has been said of Philip’s four daughters, we can learn much from that very short narrative. They were faithful and dedicated to God’s work, and they displayed remarkable courage to serve the Lord. We would be better off if we possess these traits in us.

Priscilla (Acts 18:2, 18, 26; Romans 16:3; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19)

            Priscilla, a Jew, was the wife of Aquila. Apostle Paul was much appreciative of their service to the Lord.

            How joyful and blessed it would be to see both the husband and the wife serving the Lord together! The Bible always mentions Priscilla and Aquila together, never apart.

            Priscilla and Aquila did not care for their life while serving the Lord. Tradition reveals that Priscilla and Aquila were martyred for the sake of Christ. Their diehard determination to serve the Lord - come what may - is a great lesson to us.  

            Priscilla and Aquila’s knowledge of the Christian truth was profound and deep, yet they were simple and humble. Their knowledge of the truth in concert with their humility, helped them to serve as mentors to Apollos, who developed as a mighty preacher of the gospel:1

The eloquent and fervent Apollos with all his brilliance and power suffered a sorry limitation as a preacher. He knew only “the baptism of John” (Acts 18:25, 26). He knew nothing of salvation through the cross and the accompaniments of salvation. The larger truths of the Gospel of Redemption were as yet unknown to him. Priscilla and Aquila followed the crowds who went to hear this most popular and persuasive preacher.
As they listened, Priscilla and her husband detected the negative defects of the preaching of Apollos. He taught no positive error, denied no essential of the faith. What he preached was true as far as it went. Apollos knew the truth, but not all the truth, and so in the quiet way, with all humility, Priscilla and Aquila set about correcting the apparent deficiency of Apollos. Inviting him to their home they passed no word of criticism on what they had heard him preach but with consummate tact instructed him Biblically in the truth of the crucified, risen and glorified Saviour. “They expounded unto him the way of God more carefully” (asv)
What was the result of that Bible course which Apollos received from those two godly, Spirit-enlightened believers? Why, Apollos became so mighty in the Gospel that he was called an apostle. In fact, he became so effective as a true gospel preacher that some of the Corinthians put him before Peter and Paul. But all that Apollos became he owed, under God, to the quiet instruction of Priscilla and Aquila. In Apollos, Christ gained a preacher whose spiritual influence was second only to Paul himself…
If we cannot be great, by God’s grace we may be the means of making others great. Quiet, unobtrusive Andrew little knew when he brought his brother Peter to Christ that he would become the mighty Apostle to the Jews. As husband and wife, and humble tentmakers, Aquila and Priscilla greatly enriched the ministries of Paul and Apollos whom God, in turn, used to establish churches.
           To conclude, our lives would be greatly influenced if we study the lives of women and men in the Bible. Our spiritual life would exceedingly be enriched if only we allow their lives to shape ours – all for the glory of God and the extension of HIS Kingdom on earth.


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