Our Queens of Old.
Not only because I am a woman myself, but also because their legacy has so much power that is often overlooked, the stories in the bible about females are some of my favourite to read. How is it that for centuries the power that arises from their folklore is lost underneath a sea of famous legendries like Moses, Samson and Gideon? For certain, I cannot deny that these mighty warriors possess powerful stories of love, betrayal, and redemption. Yet, when we think of female leaders in the bible, why do we hesitate with question to recite the stories of women like Deborah, Rahab and Ruth? Don’t get me wrong, the mighty men in the bible are some of my favourite examples of faith, and as a woman, I can and do often use old testament heroes as examples to look at, yet it is when reading the stories of women, something unique touches my heart.
It is almost the secrecy in their stories, the ‘hush hush’ that makes them so powerful. Lady warriors leading men into battle? Female prostitutes who touch the heart of God? I mean seriously, in the church for centuries this kind of talk was almost considered blasphemy! What about Miriam, Esther or Rebekah? Ironic isn’t it? That I, as a woman, am about to challenge the importance of females in the Bible, when decades ago I would not have been given a voice? And funny also, the God almighty, who called the Great Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is the same God who asked a young girl, barely on the brink of womanhood herself, to become the mother of his only son and the mother of the entire Christian faith? I say fascinating.
Possibly around a year ago, God started helping me re-discover the bible stories I had learnt in Sunday school. It had been a long time since I had read Judges 4 or 2 Samuel 11. I had forgotten that Deborah led the Israelites into battle, and won! And don’t even get me started on Tamar. It was like I was a child discovering the ocean for the first time. Others had known about it, and they now took it for granted, but I had just unlocked a room of profound mystery and potential! For a moment I saw how many young girls would rise up, if they could just catch a glimpse of the fathers love and confidence and the imagery of this throughout these stories. These tales are not all war stories though that begin and end with pain. In fact, for women now (and, men too), they have become lighthouses of hope and promise.
That’s when Matthew 1 caught my eye, and a whole list of old men. I mean, sure it’s interesting I guess to see all the men that were fathers of Jesus, and great, if you wanted to know who Jesus’ great, great, great, great, great grandfather is, then it’s perfect. I nearly overlooked it completely, but then I saw something out of the ordinary. For every son that was born, there was a woman who bore him. Yet, out of 42 generations, only 5 women are mentioned. Why? What was so great about these women? Does it really matter that they are mentioned here? I mean at first glance, these women aren’t that significant. One slept with her father in law, bearing him 2 sons, another was a prostitute, another, caused a King to sin – no role models in the women here!
I could not have been more wrong.
As I tried to continue reading through Matthew, I couldn’t get past these women. But when I started looking into it, their stories became quite profound. It was through this that I discovered God’s incredible passionate heart. In other beliefs, God is placed at the top, overlooking all. It is impossible for him to have a loving heart for individuals. Yet in Christianity, God’s heart can be moved incredibly with the longing to be close to his people, because true love is a part of his being.
What we see in Matthew 1 is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah. It was Jewish custom and tradition that genealogies followed a paternal pathway. It was the man who passed on his name, family and inheritance. So in logical and traditional formats, no woman should have been mentioned. Not only that, of the 5 women that were mentioned, three of them, were not Jewish. In fact, they were not even from Israel. Even the mention of foreign women is despised in Jewish law. Not only were they women, they were people not recognised as God’s chosen people. Surely, this proves of a King filled with compassion and grace.
When we look closely at the stories of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary; when we touch on the beauty in their heart and the power in their faith, it is remarkable the amount of heritage that has been passed on and is free to receive in the church. How many young girls have been betrayed by men, hated their past, or lost everything? How many women have had their hearts broken and destroyed, or lived without knowing they were significant? These five women knew what it was like to be raped, to be a widow in times without welfare, or to lose their child – even seeing him crucified above you! Yet their unique purity and passion to trust in a God-that some of them did not even know- has enough destiny in it to lead millions to freedom. And it is overlooked, every day.
One of our famous and favourite authors, C.S.Lewis quoted once, “Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage!”
Let us not deny our little children with true examples of faith, especially our little girls fighting a man’s fight. Today, be encouraged to share their stories, to know their stories by heart and to be reminded that even thousands of years ago, God had a plan for the women in history. Not more significant or more powerful than the stories of men – but unique, special and together, the stories, the legends, the folklore that is passed on from us to our children as our fathers and mothers passed it on to us, will together, draw all examples to declare our King’s beautiful, unfailing love.