Uptight, Upright, Homeschool Girls

The latest No Greater Joy magazine was published a few moments ago and I took a look, not expecting to read what I did.

http://nogreaterjoy.org/articles/part-2-want-get-married/

The article was about homeschool girls, you know, the very “spiritual” kind. Yes, I am one of them. Time and life has changed me a lot but that’s somehow a big part of who I am still.

For homeschool girls like myself, we do tend to be very picky and judgmental, not only with relationships but with friendships and a thousand other things. The guys I know from a similar background have a more relaxed approach!

See, there are two contrasting ideas. One is that a Prince Charming somehow exists somewhere out there, someone who meets every one of our expectations to the letter. Anyone who comes along who doesn’t meet these expectations is a distraction by the Evil One.

The other idea, propagated by the Pearls, is that there is no such thing as a “perfect man”. No unmarried man is that mature, they argue, it takes time. Marriage makes a boy into a man (I would differ with that of course). God may have someone for you who is not your “ideal”.

One thing I know for sure, all our ideals that we somehow thing can guarantee us a happy marriage and a righteous husband are just that – ideals. We in the homeschooled movement have learned that people who say all the right things, have all the “right convictions” and tick all the right boxes are just as sinful and flawed as everyone else. Are we not all saved by the grace of God?

Life has taught me to be less restricted and judgmental, to stop putting people and ideas into boxes and making moral decisions about everything.

The Pearls suggest that homeschooled young ladies get out of our bubble, our very limited social group full of people who live and believe exactly the same as we do down to the letter.

For me, socially, this has been a very good experience. I have gotten to know people who are very different, and learned to be a better person because of it.

Don’t take it in a sense that we forget all our convictions and that we don’t rely on the Holy Spirit. Don’t take it in a sense that we should marry any man, as long as he is male, without applying any discernment whatsoever. It just means we have to get out of this boxed-in mindset. God doesn’t just work only in our narrow little definition of what a Christian is and we shouldn’t either.

Rizpah, the Palace Pariah

Studying the lives of women in the Bible has led me to appreciate their strength in the midst of suffering. Life was not easy for women in ancient times. Their lives were fragile, precarious, and at risk so much of the time. Many women, like Sarah, Rebecca and Elisabeth faced barrenness and the social rejection and stigma that that came with. Some were married to cruel or wicked husbands, like Abigail. Widows faced poverty, desperation, even starvation. And these were the women who were “lucky” enough to be married! Some women were low-born women not considered high-ranking enough to be considered for marriage, consequently, they became concubines. What we know of women who became concubines, like Hagar, Bilhah and Zilpah, they did not enter into these situations by choice. They were servants (slaves) and this was sometime that was decided for them.

We would, of course, prefer not to think about such women, to forget they exist and only consider the “noble”, higher-born, or more privileged women in our estimations. But the Bible includes such women for reasons beyond what we can understand. The Bible attaches no shame, no guilt, and no condemnation on concubines. The writers of Scripture did not erase them (or unwed mothers like Mary and prostitutes like Rahab and Mary Magdelene) from the narrative.They were women of their time, subject to a cruel system beyond their control. Take the story of the woman in the book of Judges, a concubine who ran away from her master and was forcibly taken back from her fathers’ house, only to be raped to death by an entire town. She then had her body desecrated, butchered, and paraded before the entire nation.  Trying to find something redeeming in these accounts is rather a challenge!

Rizpah was one such woman. While she lived, she was the sexual servant or concubine of Saul. She was subject to him, yet was not considered worthy of becoming his wife and queen.

We know from Scripture that Saul was an unstable and mad king – insecure, jealous, raging, She was in a vulnerable women, subject to such a man. We can make a conjecture from the character of Saul as depicted in Scripture that Rizpah probably did not have an easy life. It is very likely that she was abused and mistreated in some way or the other while he lived.

Beyond the grave, however, the actions of King Saul were to reap the most devastating effects. Rizpah had two sons, we do not know their names. We can imagine for a woman in her position, her children would of immense importance to her. We find out from the Biblical narrative just how much.

The account of what happened to Rizpah’s sons is written in 1 Samuel 21:1-14. But let’s view the story from Rizpah’s perspective.  One day, her sons are taken from her by order of the king. Out of the blue, they are given over to the Gibeonites and hanged. They had not committed any crimes. We do not know if anyone explained to them or Rizpah why they were being executed, despite having done no wrong.

On a larger scale, justice was being served. Saul’s actions were repaid by his offspring. Yet, on a personal scale, this was so unjust. Rizpah had her sons taken from her and killed.

Her love for her sons, and her shock at their untimely deaths must have been . She mourned their bodies, shielding their corpses day and night like a woman gone mad with grief, as if she had nothing to live for (and it is probable she didn’t).

What did Rizpah have left? What little position she had as the palace concubine was not gone. Saul’s line was destroyed, his dynasty replaced. It is likely she was shunned for her association with the house of Saul and lived in a precarious position as it was.

And he delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the hill before the LORD: and they fell all seven together, and were put to death in the days of harvest, in the first days, in the beginning of barley harvest. And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth, and spread it for her upon the rock, from the beginning of harvest until water dropped upon them out of heaven, and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest on them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night.
(2 Samuel 21:9-10)

Her actions, however, were brought to the attention of the king. Something in what she did, what her position was, must have touched David’s heart. Without her dedication, her sons would probably have rotted to death in the open field, devoured by animals.

And it was told David what Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, the concubine of Saul, had done. And David went and took the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son from the men of Jabeshgilead, which had stolen them from the street of Bethshan, where the Philistines had hanged them, when the Philistines had slain Saul in Gilboa: And he brought up from thence the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son; and they gathered the bones of them that were hanged. And the bones of Saul and Jonathan his son buried they in the country of Benjamin in Zelah, in the sepulchre of Kish his father: and they performed all that the king commanded. And after that God was intreated for the land.
(2 Samuel 21:11-14)

It said that “David went and took”, as if he personally saw the matter done. He also took the effort to bury them on their ancestral land, almost as if to make amends and definitely to show respect to the bodies.

And it was only after Saul and his offspring were buried in this was that “God was intreated for the land”.

So you see, Rizpah played a role in bringing an end to the famine, in restoring the land. Her sorrow touched the heart of the king. While it is an incredibly tragic story, it is sobering and also a reminder of the extent of a mother’s love.

Something we can learn from this is to have a heart of mercy. Instead of being prejudiced and resentful against Rizpah for all the wrongs done by the house of Saul, David perhaps saw her as a person, a mother. When his actions hurt someone, even inadvertently, he took care to set things right as well, despite the face that his hands were also tied in this situation.

Royal Daughter #1: Jehosheba

Screenshot (3)We’re going to kick off the series by looking at a very special woman, an actual royal daughter. Her name is Jehosheba (Yehosheva in Hebrew), which means “YHWH’s oath”.

The Bible passages are: 1 Kings 11 (the whole chapter), and 2 Chronicles 22:10-11 and 2 Chronicles 23.

What the Bible tells us about Jehosheba was that she was born into a prominent position – she was the daughter of a king and sister of a king. She was also the wife of the high priest.

Jehosheba had a place in the royal household, and when her mother arose the Lord put in the position to save the live of an infant, Joash. We can imagine that if all the royal princes’ lives were in danger, Jehosheba was also risking her life in saving Joash. In this she showed herself courageous and willing to sacrifice herself. Like Esther, Jehosheba was placed by God in the right place at the right time, “for such a time as this.” In that moment, in the chaos and upheaval, she chose to obey God and fear God rather than save her own skin.Image result for jehosheba

But when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal of the house of Judah. But Jehoshabeath, the daughter of the king, took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him from among the king’s sons that were slain, and put him and his nurse in a bedchamber. So Jehoshabeath, the daughter of king Jehoram, the wife of Jehoiada the priest, (for she was the sister of Ahaziah,) hid him from Athaliah, so that she slew him not.
(2 Chronicles 22:10-11)

It really matters not it Athaliah was Jehosheba’s mother or stepmother. Either way the Bible shows us a contrast beyond the two women. One, a power-hungry woman who would do anything to seize the throne for herself, another, a woman who respected God’s anointed and sought to restore Judah’s true king. One was a murderess, the other was a woman who saved lives. One was an idol-worshipper, the other, one who helped restore the worship of YHWH.

Jehosheba was willing to defy the queen’s orders. Rightful or not, Athaliah had made herself ruler of the land. This passage shows us that we are obedient not to manmade decrees and rulers but ultimately to YHWH. As Simon Peter said, we need to obey God rather than man!

The Bible showed time and time again how God uses women to save lives. The very first woman, Eve (Chava in Hebrew), had a name which means “life”. Jochebed saved her son Moses, and Mary saved her son, Jesus our Lord. Esther saved her entire exiled people. The Bible shows us that murder and widespread killing is a work of the evil one, while saving lives is of God.

As a result of Jehosheba’s actions, the nation of Judah turned back to the true worship of YHWH, away from the worship of Baal, the false god. She did more than save a king – she helped bring about revival in the nation of Israel together with her husband, Jehoiada the priest. Indeed, what we see hear is a god-fearing couple who were both powerfully used by God.

What can we learn from Jehosheba? What other women do we know of, who were courageous in the face of evil and whom God used to save lives and restore a nation?

Royal Daughters: Introduction

Screenshot (3)Welcome to the new Scripture study series, “Royal Daughters in Training”. This series is about learning what it means to be a woman and is based on two questions, “Why did God make woman?” and “Why did God make me a woman?”.

To answer those questions, we’re going to be looking at over forty women in the Bible and learning from their examples.

We must remember that God teaches us “”line by line”, “precept by precept”. We also should understand that as unique and individual God’s will for each of these women were, so is His will and purpose for us. Also, as human and fallible as each of these women were, so are we. That should give us comfort and assurance.

We will be looking at both positive and negative examples, as everything in the Bible was written for “our admonition” (1 Corinthians 10:11) as well as encourage and exhort us.

And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
(2 Timothy 3:15-17)

Our goal is to grow up into women after God’s own heart, furnished unto all good works!

How to follow along the series: I will be publishing a list of the women studied and each passage of Scripture the study will draw from, then, a link will be created to each post in which I share some of my thoughts. The idea is for you to examine each passage on your own, with your mentor and mentees (i.e. mothers and sisters in Christ) and just listen to what the Holy Spirit is teaching you from each passage. If you are interested in doing this study and journalling the lessons you have learned along the way, do write them down and I hope to compile them together, whether by publishing your notes or by linking to your blogs.