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Women ‘Keeping Watch’ In the Old Testament

The purpose of the OT Women of Advent series is to highlight how, from the beginning of time, God included women in moving the story of redemption closer and closer to fulfillment.

The birth of Jesus which we celebrate at Christmas was an event that was forecasted and long awaited in the Gospel story. Its fulfillment took humans and the Israelites through many paths, the stories of which comprise the Holy Scriptures.

Key figures, men and women, feature in these stories and it is an attempt to draw attention to the women whose strategic placement, although often overlooked, were key to the birth of the promised Messiah. These women helped Israel’s waiting for the promise not in vain. Their role, place and participation lit the way for Israel to continue to see and thus move towards the light at the end of their dark tunnel of sin and separation from God and one another. These are their stories.

Rebekah

“And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, “Our sister, may you increase to thousands upon thousands; may your offspring possess the cities of their enemies.” (Gen. 24:60).

It is interesting that Rebekah, wife of Isaac, promised son of Abraham, is the only woman in the Bible to have received a blessing that sounded similar to the promise God made Abraham in Genesis 22:17,

I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies,

Although Rebekah was not a direct descendant of Abraham to whom the original promise was made, nevertheless, the promise over her husband’s line was reiterated upon her via the blessing of her own people. Was this coincidence or was this God at work to demonstrate that the promise is not only to the men, which would then effectively minimize the equally important role and participation of women as wives, daughters, sisters, etc.? I’d argue the latter.

Thus, just like Sarah, we can also see that God needed and incorporated Rebekah into the vision for His promised people. As a matter of fact, Genesis 24:44 & 24:51, show indeed that God chose Rebekah to partner with the heir of the promise.

Leah The wife who was despised, but who ended up bearing the majority of  Israel’s patriarchs, from which would come the promised people, from whom would come the promised Messiah.

One of the most significant things about Leah is the naming of her children. In Leah’s naming of her children, we see the progressive turn of her faith from trust in man, to trust in God. The place where God needed all humans to be and where He was directing them – look to God, not man for your deliverance!

Tamar 

In Genesis 38, we meet Tamar, the woman whose persistence about her marital rights earned her a place in Jesus’ genealogy.

Pharaoh’s Daughter, through whom the LORD raised Moses, the founding leader of the new community of God’s people from whom would come the promised Messiah. Although not an Israelites, her participation bears continued witness to God’s commitment to all humanity. A commitment that often resulted in Gentiles helping to move the Gospel story forward, but more importantly a place marker for the fact that Gentiles and Jews are part of the promised and long-awaited redemption.

Zipporah, through whom God showed that even Gentiles could and would keep covenant with Him. Zipporah’s presence in Moses’ life resulted in him receiving some of the best counsel ever for maintaining godly & flourishing communities for God’s purposes. In continuation of the Gentile participation, we see what will later be more prominent after Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection, i.e., that even Gentiles can and do bear witness to and do keep covenant God, and as such, Gentiles will be faithful participants in and inheritors of the promised redemption.

Zelophehad’s Daughters Who showed that women inherit in God’s Kingdom thus foreshadowing what the reign under the Messiah would be: men and women equally participating in Kingdom activity. These women foreshadowed the liberation and restored equality that would one day belong to all women with the coming of their promised King.

Rahab, another Gentile woman who aligned herself with God’s purposes for the promised nation and community of the Light and by so doing, moved the story of the fulfillment of God’s promises re this promised nation and their role in redemption closer. Rahab not only represents the ongoing mission of God to include people of every tribe and tongue in His Kingdom, she is also a foremother of Jesus (Matt.1: 5)!

Bathsheba The woman through whom God continued Jesus’ genealogy in David! While Bathsheba’s story is complex on many levels, it is comforting to women to see that God neither blames nor punishes women for men’s sins, because although she was wrongfully taken, sexually assaulted and her husband killed by a man of God, God would give her dignity by choosing her son to participate in the lineage of the Messiah. Thus, we see God redeeming Bathsheba’s story as her offspring and descendants featured prominently in Jesus’ genealogy (Matt.1:6).

Ruth

Another Gentile woman, whose faithful commitment to a member of the promised family resulted in her being part of the lineage of Jesus. Another woman whose activity strategically contributed to the fulfillment of the long awaited Messiah (Matt.1:5-6). It is in Ruth, that the connection between women and the hope of Israel is made,

Then the elders and all the people at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Ruth 4:11

 

Esther

Who preserved the people of God, even when it seemed like it would cost her her own life.

Theologians have said that the beauty of the covenant God made with Abraham and reiterated in Jacob, is that it has always either relied upon unlikely sources (e.g., old man with aged wife) or that the promised lineage often suffered threaten of annihilation.

If this is true (Scripture provides proof that it is indeed so), then Esther played a significant theological role in moving the Gospel story forward, for we see that it was through her that God rescued the people who would be a light to the nations and from whom the Light of the world and the promised Messiah would come. As such, Esther helped the people of God continued to hope and wait for the promised deliverance.

Esther also features as a foreshadowing of the promised Messiah in that she was willing to put her life on the line in order to save the lives of her people. We see that in her willingness to lay her life down for her people, God gave her life back! Although not often compared, whatsoever, to Jesus, this is a discredit to the placement of Esther’s story in the Scriptures because her story shows that the work of caring for, defending and preserving God’s people is not a work that’s reserved only for men. Her story also prepares us for the major sacrifice of one person, Jesus, so that all others could live.

Conclusion

Having a knowledge and understanding of women’s involvement in God’s movement of the Israelites’ (and our) redemption story towards fulfillment, helps us properly reflect upon God’s ongoing work in the world and in the world to come.

Is it a work that will include women? Is it a work in which God will prominently feature women?

Should we expect to see women’s inclusion in the ongoing Gospel story as God’s will or women’s will?

This and many more questions can be answered by looking back at what roles women played in the fulfillment of His greatest promise to the world – the Incarnation.

 

 

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