5/12/19

God’s Loves Women

 

I’ve preached a few dozen Mother’s Day sermons… they’re in a file...  some good sermons because good subjects usually make good sermons; it’s hard to go wrong when speaking of good, godly mothers. 

 

I was blessed with a wonderful mother.  I sense that more and more the older I get.  Jayneen has been a wonderful mother, now on a second round.  I have been blessed with a super mother-in-law who always takes my side in any disputes Jayneen and I have – how can you top that?  And I have had many other “mothers” (I’ll explain later).

 

That said, I now think that Mother’s Day focus should be broader than just mothers.  Oh no doubt, good mothers should get honor when honor is due them!  They are champions for the family who again and again go above and beyond the call to bless everyone who God has entrusted to them.  I know many is the time we never ever see or hear a peep or whimper about the challenges they face and overcome – stretching money, training children, sometimes training husbands, gardeners, teachers, chauffeurs, cooks, and on and on... God bless you and may you find great joy and reap great rewards in continuing to do what God has called you to do and dedicating yourselves so heart-fully to it.

 

But Mother’s Day does not universally bless.  Some know only bad mothers who loved themselves more than they loved their children and for whatever reason did not accept mothering’s challenges.  God bless any who must overcome that enormous handicap of not having a good mother to guide and go cheer them on success in the world.  Additionally, God bless all surrogates mothers who have stepped in to help in whatever way they could to make up that loss.

 

So my broader focus this Mother’s Day is to honor all God-loving women who whole-heartedly dedicate themselves to Him and His Son, Jesus Christ, and serve Them over all other things in life.  I affirm that in no way does loving God first diminish at all her love for her husband and children or others she might be mothering, it enhances it.  In families where a mother puts God first, husband and children should already know that without her saying it, and they should already know they’re blessed by that and have nothing taken away at all.

 

Remember I said a bit ago that I had “other mothers”?  I spent 10 years preaching at four small churches in Mississippi and Tennessee, driving every Sunday morning, having a church family as afternoon hosts, and then driving home Sunday evening.  The women who hosted me and cooked wonderful meals for me I appreciated as “mothers” of a sort.  It was the same way with Joan Howell who was my “mother” for sixteen months while I worked in Verona, Italy.  Coming to Southwest in 1976 still single, I had several older women become my mother… (prominently Bettye Woodruff).  I thought it was all fulfilling Jesus’ promise:

 

 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30).

 

I considered myself as devoting my life to God and so took it that He was being faithful to take care of me.  Looking back now, I can see that I gave little and gained much.  But I was spot on right about God giving me many wonderful “mothers” to look out for me everywhere I’ve ever been. 

 

I can’t be the only one here who has had this blessing – God has given lots of us extra mothers along the way.  If you’ve been blessed in that way, you should praise them the way Paul praised Rufus’ mother as being “a mother to him also” (Romans 16:13). 

 

So “Thank You” and “Happy Mother’s Day” to all women who deserve it and are celebrating it in any way. 

 

With remaining time I want to turn my attention to showing how greatly God loves women, especially His daughters by faith.  

 

As for me, I dearly love and appreciate church women.  Who has blessed my ministry the most, men or women?  I’d say, “No contest, red ribbon for my bro-thers in Christ… first-place-blue-ribbon goes to the Christian sisters I’ve known.  Our women do ministry!  In the church, the men talk the better game; the women play the better game.

 

How has God shown His love for women? 

 

Let’s start with creation.  Remember that Creation was “good”?  And “very good.”  But not complete until God formed Eve and brought her to Adam.  A strong message in early Genesis is that Adam lacked and God completed him by creating Eve!  Everything Adam didn’t have was added with Eve.  Think of a two-piece jigsaw puzzle with all the cutouts and knobs fitting together to perfection and completing and revealing the composite image of God.  Eve came with great honor.  As Adam is called the “father of all living,” Eve is the “mother of all living.”  Adam could not “replenish the earth” alone. 

 

Others?  Noah couldn’t have built an ark and preach for 120 years and raise three sons worthy of salvation from the flood to restart the world without Mrs. Noah.  God couldn’t “bless all nations through the seed of Abraham” without the “seed of Sarah.” 

 

Theologically, God has chosen to locate some of His character strengths predominantly in women.  His masculine care for those He loves we see often in  “Father” and “shepherd” motifs; His feminine care is seen as mother eagle with young (Exodus 19:4).  Listen to the words of Deuteronomy 32:10-12:

 

In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste.  He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft.  The Lord alone led him…

 

And in a mother hen… In the NT, Jesus likens His desire to save the whole Jewish nation to the desire a mother hen has to gather all her chicks safely under her wings (Matthew 23:37). 

 

And as a human mother… In Isaiah, Zion (city of God) moans and says, “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.”  God’s answer: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget, I will not forget you!  See, your names are written on my hands” (vv 14-16a).  

 

It’s meaningful that the Holy Spirit in Proverbs presents “wisdom” (God’s wisdom) as feminine.  And we should note that no person gets greater praise in Scripture than the “virtuous woman” of 31:10ff.

 

I’ve compiled a long list of women from the OT text whom God cared for and used to bless their families and His people. 

 

Eve, Noah’s wife, Sarah, Hagar, Rebekah, Leah, Rachel, Tamar, Shiphrah and Puah (Exodus 1), Jocabed, Miriam, Zelophehad’s daughters (Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah) [Numbers 27:1-11), Rahab, Deborah, Jael, Naomi, Ruth,

 

Hannah, Abigail, Bathsheba, Huldah (a prophetess), Jehosheba (1 Kings 11:2-3), the unnamed virtuous woman (Proverbs 31), the Shunamite woman of the Song of Solomon, and Esther.

 

The New Testament list would be…

 

Mary (of Nazareth), Elizabeth, Anna (another prophetess), Mary and Martha of Bethany, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Salome (James’ and John’s mother), Susana, a company of women who travelled with and supported Jesus’ traveling band, the Samaritan woman at the well, the Syrophoenecian woman, the poor widow giving two mites,

 

a penitent woman who anointed Jesus’ feet, Pilate’s wife, women at the cross, women at the tomb, Dorcas, Lydia, Priscilla, Phillip’s “four daughters who prophesied,” Phoebe, Lois and Eunice, Apphia, Nympha, “older women” who taught younger women, and “holy women of old” (1 Peter 3).

 

The enormity of the power God gives women can be seen in the wreckage and ruin that came to God’s people and others when the Bible’s bad women behaved badly, e.g., Delilah, Solomon’s foreign and idolatrous wives, Jezebel, Herodias, Salome, Athaliah.

 

Beyond the Bible’s narratives about God’s good women, there is an abundance of Bible evidence to show God’s high esteem for women.  Peter cited Joel 2:28-32 as the explanation for what people were seeing and hearing on Pentecost (Acts 2).  Joel had predicted that the Holy Spirit would be “poured out on both men and women.”  Though we’ve set our minds to a men-only leading and teaching in Acts 2, women apparently were also helping to tell Jesus’ story to the throng of Jews gathered.  Likely some of the 3,000 who were baptized that day were won by their words.

 

God gave Phillip “four daughters who prophesied” (Acts 21:9).  They followed in their father’s footsteps as daughters of a Spirit-filled man, one of the seven men chosen to care for the needy Grecian widows in the church (Acts 7) but also an active evangelist (to the Ethiopian nobleman and Samaritans [see Acts 8]). 

 

Priscilla – the wife of Aquila – is given prominence.  She and her husband made both tents and disciples with Paul. But they’re especially noted for teaching the high-potential, eloquent Apollos “the way of the Lord more perfectly” (Acts 18:1-3). 

 

Then Paul called Phoebe “diakona” (Romans 16:1).  The a on the end of a Greek word indicates something feminine.  So was she a woman “deacon”?  Good question…  The word in root form appears often and in most cases is translated “servant” whether in masculine or feminine form.  Only in a three instances besides Romans 16:2 is it translated “deacon” (Philippians 2, 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1).  No one questions that Phoebe was a servant.  The interesting thing about Romans 16 is that other women are named by Paul whom he lauds their giving gifts and talents in service to the work of the kingdom – Paul notes that Mary, Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis all “worked hard in the Lord.”  Yet he calls none of these “diakona,” only Phoebe. 

 

That women were visible and prominent in the early church is inferred from Paul’s instructions about qualities necessary in deacons… their “wives” are to be “worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything” (1 Timothy 3:11).  Some scholars believe that Paul’s not addressing deacon’s wives but rather women deacons themselves – this is because there is no mention of elders’ wives when he gives qualities of elders.  Whatever, at the very least, deacons’ wives or women deacons were to be trustworthy and respectable – either demands prominence in the church.

 

Euodia and Syntyche of Phillipi were prominent women in the church since their disagreement prompted a public chiding from Paul (Philippians 4:2).  Apphia (Philemon 1) and Nympha (Colossians 4:15) definitely hosted churches in their homes (likely exerted leadership, certainly influence), and probably Lydia, too (Acts 16).

 

That we have four different gospels is a puzzle to some but each gospel has a particular target people in view:  Matthew… Jews, Mark… Romans, Luke… Greeks, John… a 60 year-old church.  The Spirit chose to reveal God to us through Jesus’ story as seen through four different sets of eyes.  Regarding women, Luke significantly highlights and shows Jesus interacting again and again with them to show how He loved and valued them, and elevated their status.

 

I know I have posed some questions I have left unanswered.  But this is beyond question: God loves women immensely!  He loves faithful mothers, faithful wives, faithful servants, and His daughters in the faith everywhere.

 

Let’s revisit Zelophehad’s daughters.  They asked Moses that inheritance be given to daughters when there were no sons.  Such a request is unnecessary now.  Paul declares that Jesus’ new covenant has instituted equality.  Here’s what he said: 

 

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (Galatians 3:26-29).