Strong in their Behalf

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Yesterday I was reading in my devotions about King Asa.

It seems that King Baasha of Israel was trying to gain control; so he started to build the city of Ramah to put King Asa under siege.  Of course, this worried King Asa , and he immediately started thinking about who could come to his rescue.  Well, he remembered one of his alliances and asked for King Benhadad, the Syrian king’s, help.  King Benhadad came to King Asa’s aid (after receiving great treasures of silver and gold from the Lord’s House as payment), King Baasha left and stopped building the city of Ramah, and everything seemed like it worked out fine for King Asa.  That is, until God sent a messenger to tell King Asa that he, the grand king of Judah, had made a really big mistake—- never once had he asked for God’s help.

Because thou hast relied on the king of Syria, and not relied on the Lord thy God, therefore is the host of the king of Syria escaped out of thine hand.

Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubims a huge host, with very many chariots and horsemen? yet, because thou didst rely on the Lord, he delivered them into thine hand.

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars.” (2 Chronicles 16:7-9)

God is telling King Asa that He would have been more than happy to help out.  He is constantly looking for those who are willing for Him to step in and take control.  He even recalls the past times when He helped out King Asa because of the king’s reliance upon Him.

 

The really sad thing though is that King Asa did not learn his lesson.  The Bible continues his story until the end of his life, and this is how it ends.

12 And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians.

13 And Asa slept with his fathers, and died in the one and fortieth year of his reign.”  (2 Chronicles 16:12-13)

 

So I had to stop and think- how often do I really rely upon God?  When a problem arises, I run to my parents or my mentors for advice.  When I’m lonely, I seek my friends.  When I’m confused, I turn up the music or pour myself into a book.  When life is going well, I rely upon myself to make decisions and keep everything going smoothly.

For the past month I felt like the hard things of life were drowning me.  I tried on my own strength to overcome, but it didn’t work.  It was not until I finally gave up and let God that things started to make sense and the fog started to clear.  But why does it take me so long to give up?  Why don’t I go to God first of all?

Is it because of pride?  Is it because I simply take God’s strength for granted?

God wants to help me out.  He watches as I stumble and slip through the mud.  He watches as I fall and scrape my knees on the sharp rocks.  He is walking beside me, reaching out His Hand.  All I have to do is REACH UP.  All I have to do is take His hand, and say, I can’t do it on my own.  Then He will lift me into His arms, dry my tears, bandage my wounds, and carry me through the rugged, hard land.

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.

 

 

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Strong Heroines

People are funny things- we always want to be someone different than who we actually are!

I enjoy taking those random personality tests on facebook, sometimes they are pretty accurate and the next time they are REALLY far off.  I sure don’t think that picking your favorite book can tell you exactly what Bible heroine you are, but sometimes it can be a pretty good clue.

When people would compare me to a woman of the Bible, I always received the names of Miriam, Martha, and Deborah.  So it did not surprise me when the “Bible heroine test” came out as Deborah.

I have always longed to be a Ruth who made the submissive beautiful statement of “where you go, I will go” and then had a fairy-tale romance with Boaz.  I envied Esther, the gorgeous queen who won the heart of the king and then saved the entire Jewish nation; or Mary, the mother of Jesus, who was so sweet and virtuous that she was the one chosen to carry the Christ Child.  But I’m always labeled as the characters that aren’t quite as well-beloved as some of the “famous” ones.

I decided to really look at Miriam, Martha, and Deborah’s lives and see what made up these woman and what I could learn from them.  Their stories are actually quite interesting and amazing, and I have come to the conclusion that I am quite content with being patterned after these ladies of the Bible times…as long as I don’t repeat the mistakes that some of them made.

They all have something in common- they are strong, they are leaders, they are quick to make decisions and act upon them, and they know how to include others in their plans.

How does a woman with these characteristics handle life today when we are surrounded with submissive, tender, and meek women?  How do we balance our personality traits that sometimes seem like a curse?  How do we keep from offending, coercing, or intimidating others?  How do we not dictate the men in our lives but allow them to establish their godly male leadership?

I wrestle with all these questions, and I know that my very strong-willed friends do as well!

As a child, I was talkative and bubbly and quickly made decisions.  I was the oldest child as well, which did not help matters.  I soon discovered that people do not like when you always tell them what to do.  I also discovered that a woman with strong personality tends to drive people away from her if she is not careful.

Miriam- The firstborn, the protector and guardian of her little brother, Moses, a prophetess, the one who helped lead the women with Aaron and Moses during the wilderness adventures, the one who broke into joyous song when the Red Sea crossing was complete, the one who was cursed with leprosy and separated from the group because she had condemned the leadership.

Martha- The sister of Lazarus and Mary Magdalene, the firstborn, the one who was in charge of the housework and making sure things got done (most likely the owner of the house), the one reprimanded by Jesus for putting material things before spiritual.

Deborah- A prophetess, a wife, a trusted source of wisdom, a judge, the initiator of action, the one who broke into rejoicing after the victory.

All three of these women filled important roles in the Bible.  If they would not have been there, something special would be missing.

Miriam was there to speak to the Egyptian princess and help save baby Moses.  She was public in her praise of God’s miracles, and was not ashamed to lead others in that as well.  According to Scripture, she was partnered closely with Aaron and Moses in terms of leading and decision-making- which is somewhat uncommon for those times of history.  Her downfall was when she decided that she knew better than God’s established leadership; and instead of talking with God and Moses, she went to Aaron and scorned Moses’ decisions.  She was promptly punished with leprosy and banned from the camp until Moses pleaded to God on her behalf.  I believe that she was a changed woman when she came back from her solitude, although nothing more is said about her until her death.  Would it not be interesting to know her entire story – to know what happened between her punishment and her death?  I would like to think that she became wiser in how she used her leadership qualities and did more help than she had even done before.

Martha was quite a lovely woman when you think about her life.  She helped make Jesus’ time on earth restful and peaceful.  She was the one making the household decisions and responsible if anything did not go right.  Her problem came when she was so intent on making sure the meal was its best and that the guests were comfortable and well taken care of that she forgot to slow down and listen.  She forgot that being with Jesus is the key to serving Him.  She did not realize that criticizing others for their seemingly irresponsible, weak, neglectful behavior is not the best way to get something done.  Martha thought that she knew what was best at that moment, and so complained when others did not see it her way.  Jesus lovingly corrected her- for he did love her.  This verse is so special, (John 11:5)  “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.”  Jesus saw that Martha was giving her very best to Him in her own way, and He appreciated and loved that about her.  He only had to redirect her attention when she got a bit carried away!  Martha must have learned her lesson and balanced both the tasks with the time; and we gather this because of an event that takes place later on in Scripture.  A commentator pointed out that Martha probably had investment as well in the bottle of expensive perfume that Mary poured upon Jesus’ feet.  Never once do you hear Martha condemn Mary for her actions; isn’t that beautiful!  Her heart was at the right place this time.

Once in a while you hear of women prophets in the Bible…

Anna- Luke 2:36

Huldah- II Kings 22:14

Four Virgins- Acts 21:9

But it was mostly men that held such a position and honor.  However Deborah is unusual in the fact that not only was she a prophetess, but she also was a judge!  She called Barak unto her and told him that God intended for him to go into battle against Sisera.  He said that he would not go unless she went with him.  I can just imagine Deborah shaking her head at his statement and saying, “Fine, I’ll go; but instead of you getting battle honor, a woman is going to get the credit for destroying Sisera.”  So she marches with Barak into battle and tells him to go forth because the Lord goes before them.  They win the battle, and a woman, Jael, destroys Sisera as prophesied earlier.  Judges chapter five then records Deborah’s song, a beautiful proclamation of God’s praise and might.

I think we can learn a lot from these ladies.  Being a strong woman does not make us better than other women, but neither does it make us bad or sinful.  We do not have to try to change our personalities or sculpt it into something that we are not.  There is a lot of good that we can do with our strength.  We can cause action, inspire, encourage, and uplift in ways that others may not be able to.

But this can also be our downfall.  We can become so intent on the mission that we forget the True Commander.  We can become so involved with achieving that we hurt and step on others that are in the way or are not working with us.  We have to be careful that we actually appreciate our friends and their personalities.  We need to not simply use them for what we may gain from the relationship.  We must not feel threatened by other strong women and hold them off because we want complete control.

Ladies, we also have to be very careful with the men in our lives.  We have the power to motivate or destroy them.  Don’t roll your eyes at the sixteen-year old youth leader that just can’t seem to get his act together; don’t step in and make his decisions.  Instead come along beside him and encourage him.  We may be able to make powerful choices, but the most powerful thing we can do is let the man lead and develop into the godly male leader that God intends for him to be!

I don’t know how this applies to marriage (obviously, I’m not married so I can not pass statement=), but Deborah and Lapidoth seemed to be able to make it work.  If I ever do get married, I pray that my husband, the true leader of the home, will respect and value what I think but will ultimately make the final decision on a matter.

I think though for single women, we easily intimidate men because we have become so used to making decisions.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help; you don’t have to be in complete control all of the time.  Don’t walk over the “weak” men, and don’t fight and criticize the strong ones.  Be okay with letting go!

Like I said before, we hold a lot of power and strength in our personalities that can be used for great good, but it can also be turned into a weapon of destruction, hurt, and manipulation.

Lord, may we constantly come to You for wisdom in how to make choices, how to relate with others, and how to glorify You.  May we never be ashamed to break forth in song that praises You.  May we be able to be the support the men need- not mindless dolls, but yet not scheming bossy feminists.  Thank You for giving everyone their own personality; help us to work with each other so we can fit our unique talents and giftings into a beautiful picture that honors You!    Amen.