Challenges

 

Psalm 68:11: The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.

 

Women were special participants in the plan of God at key points throughout Biblical history. The Old Testament records the contributions of women like Miriam, Deborah, Ruth, Esther, Abigail, and others.


Women were important in several major events during the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ and the spread of the Gospel. We are interested in these distinctions because they reveal God's plan to include women as ministers of the Gospel message:


Mother Of The Messiah:


It was through a woman, Eve, that sin first entered the world. But it was also through a woman, Mary, that redemption came to the world:


...And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)

 

The Gospel message, the Word in the form of Jesus Christ, came to earth through a woman.


First To Preach Redemption:


When Jesus was a baby, His parents took Him to the temple to present Him to the Lord for blessing which was the custom of Jewish people. As they presented Jesus to the minister in the temple, he recognized this was the promised Messiah who would save the world from sin. Simeon lifted praise to God:


For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. (Luke 2:30-32)


A woman named Anna witnessed this event. The Bible reveals she was a prophetess and a widow who lived in the temple and served God continuously with fasting and prayer (Luke 2:36-37). Anna recognized Jesus as the promised Messiah and was first to share the message of redemption through Christ:


And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. (Luke 2:38)


Woman was instrumental in the original sin of mankind. Now she was instrumental in the plan for redemption from sin. Anna became the first Gospel preacher to the Jews.


First To Receive The Revelation Of The Messiah:


The first time Jesus acknowledged He was the Messiah it was to a woman. Jesus was passing through Samaria enroute to Galilee. While His disciples went to purchase food, Jesus rested by a well near Sychar in Samaria.


A Samaritan woman came to draw water and Jesus talked with her. Their conversation is recorded in John 4. During the discussion, Jesus acknowledged for the first time that He was the Messiah:


The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh which is called Christ; when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am He. (John 4:25-26)

 

First Cross-Cultural Evangelist:


To the time of the account in John 4 the ministry of Jesus was not extended beyond the Jewish people. After He revealed Himself to the Samaritan woman, she became the first cross-cultural evangelist of the Gospel. She preached to the Samaritans and many believed on Jesus (John 4:41).


Just as Anna was first to take the message of Jesus to the Jews, the Samaritan woman became the first preacher to the Gentiles. The Samaritan woman was an adulteress. At the time of her meeting with Jesus, she had been married five times and was living with a man who was not her husband. Yet Jesus revealed Himself to her and she ministered to her people.


No matter what your past has been, God wants to reveal Himself to you, change your life, and then use you for His glory. Just like the Samaritan woman, you can find an exciting place of ministry in Christ.


It was not necessary for Jesus to pass through Samaria on His way from Judea to Galilee. In fact, it was out of the way. But there is no place that is out of the way if there is one soul there who needs the Gospel. There is no village too remote, there is no city too far out of the way. You may reach one person there with the Gospel and they can bring revival to an entire community.


It was necessary for Jesus to leave the main road from Judea to Galilee in order to reach this woman. If we are to reach the uttermost parts of the earth with the Gospel, it means some of us will leave the main roads of life. We will have to go out of the way and choose difficult paths.


Through this one woman an entire city was reached with the Gospel. Jesus demonstrated an important principle of evangelism in this encounter: We must reach faithful men and women who will be able to reach their own people with the Gospel:


And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also.
(II Timothy 2:2)


If you train this type of people, they will be able to reach the multitudes.


Last At The Cross:


The Bible records that the women who dedicated themselves to Jesus during His earthly ministry were last at the cross. When Jesus died:

 

There were also women looking afar off, among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses and Salome, (who also when he was in Galilee, followed Him and ministered unto Him) and many other women which came up with Him unto Jerusalem. (Mark 15:40-41)


Because of their love for Jesus, these women waited at the cross until His death. Faithful to Him as He entered Jerusalem to the praises of the crowd, they also were faithful at the time of His death.


First At The Tomb:


Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses watched to see where Jesus was buried after His body was removed from the cross (Mark 15:47). After resting on the Sabbath, they arose early on the first day of the week and went to anoint the body of Jesus with spices as was the custom. When they arrived at the tomb they discovered Jesus was not there. The women saw two angels who told them:


He is not here, but is risen; remember how he spoke unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. (Luke 24:6-7)


First at the tomb, women were first to receive the revelation of the resurrection of Jesus.


First To Preach The Resurrection:


When the women heard this joyous news they:


...returned from the sepulcher and told all these things unto the eleven and to all the rest...
And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not. (Luke 24:9 and 11)


First To See Christ:


The first appearance of Christ after His resurrection from the dead was to Mary Magdalene. This story is recorded in John 20:11-18.

 

Afterwards, Mary shared the good news...
...that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things unto her. (John 20:18)

 

First European Convert:


The First European convert of Paul was a woman named Lydia:


And a certain woman named Lydia...heard us; whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.
(Acts 16:14)

 

Powerful Influence Of Women


In addition to the special ways in which women were used in the plan of God, it is important to recognize their powerful influence and to caution as to the proper use of power. The first major influence of woman was when Eve drew Adam into sin. The first sin illustrates the powerful bond between man and woman which can be used for either good or evil.


For this reason, God commanded Israel not to marry wives who were alien to Him. He warned that these women would have the power to turn their husbands' hearts away from God:


Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things?...nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin. (Nehemiah 13:26)


When you study Strange Women vs Virtuous Women, the Proverbs of Solomon, you will find many comments about "strange" women.

 

Solomon had learned, to his sorrow, the powerful influence of an ungodly woman. He follows a similar theme in Ecclesiastes where he refers to ungodly women as having hearts like snares and hands as bands:


And I find more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets and whose hands are bands; whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her. (Ecclesiastes 7:26)
 

The Bible reveals that Solomon...
...had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart...and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God... (I Kings 11:3-4)

 

Samson, a man chosen of God to bring deliverance to the people of Israel, was diverted by the powerful influence of a woman. Read the story of Samson and Delilah recorded in Judges 13-16.


Isaiah records that leadership by ungodly women caused Israel to turn from the right path:
 

...women rule over them, O my people they which lead thee cause thee to err and destroy the way of thy paths. (Isaiah 3:12)

 

In the New Testament, it records that devout and honorable Jewish women brought great persecution against the early Church:


But the Jews stirred up the devout and honorable women...and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts. (Acts 13:50)


The powerful influence of women is not wrong. God gave women their power potential. When used for evil, it is destructive. When used by the Holy Spirit, it is a force that can change the hearts of men and the destiny of entire nations. This is illustrated by the Biblical record of women such as Deborah and Esther.


Special Challenges To Women

 

In view of the powerful influence of women, the Bible has directed special challenges to women.


A Challenge To Devotion:


The first challenge comes through the inspiration of Solomon who was seeking for women truly devoted to God. He writes:


..one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found. (Ecclesiastes 7:28)


What a challenge to be that woman among thousands, a woman whose heart and life is devoted to God!


A Challenge For Direction:


God wants women to have direction in life, with divine purpose for living.


Psalm 68:11: The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.
 

Many purposes women set for themselves are not eternal. They set goals for marriage, education, and a profession. But when these have been achieved, what remains to give purpose to living?


God challenges women for directed living.

 

Whether they are housewives, students, or professional women, they are to be involved in taking the Gospel to the world. Whether you live in a city, village, or remote tribe, you can be part of this international network of women who have a common goal:

 

Publishing the good news of Jesus Christ.

 

 

A Challenge For Discipline:


God spoke to women through Isaiah with a special challenge:
Rise up, ye women that are at ease; hear my voice, ye careless daughters; give ear unto my speech. (Isaiah 32:9)

 

Read God's entire message in Isaiah 32:10-20. This passage was written at a time when an invading army was about to seize Judah as punishment for their sins, but it is applicable to any women who set their hearts on the world and its pleasures.
 

The women to whom God spoke were careless and at ease because they had money and happiness.

 

They turned from God to the pleasures of the world. The country and cities in which they lived were to shortly be destroyed, but they were unaware of the impending disaster.
 

The same challenge flows from God to women today.

 

Many are at ease and have filled their lives with temporal pleasures. They are unaware judgment is coming on the world and that people all around them face a Christless eternity. Christian women live at ease while their nations fall to godless revolutions. They enjoy pleasures of the world while atheists take control of the government. God's message to women is, "Arise"!
 

Through the Prophet Isaiah, God told the women that their lands, houses, and fields would be destroyed. All that was worldly and temporal, everything they clung to would perish. The only way they could avoid this judgment was to rise up in the name of God, shake themselves from ease, and listen and act upon God's message. Unfortunately, the women of Judah to whom this message was delivered did not obey. Judgment came, and the cities were destroyed as God had warned.
 

But there was a promise of hope. After the judgment, the Spirit of God would be poured out:
 

Until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high and the wilderness be a fruitful field and the fruitful field be counted for a forest. Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness and righteousness remain in the fruitful field. (Isaiah 32:15-16)
 

Through the power of the Holy Spirit the wasted land would become a fruitful field which would experience such growth that it would become a forest.

 

Although God may chasten, He returns to pour His Spirit on that which He judges. From the wasteland springs an abundant harvest.
 

If women who are at ease receive this challenge for discipline and listen to the Lord, they will not be chastened. If you recognize your spiritual condition, your preoccupation with the things of the world, and confess your sins, He will forgive you.

 

But the message extends beyond personal application. Spiritual renewal could have prevented judgment on the entire nation. God spoke to the women of Judah to lead this spiritual renewal. God was saying, "If you women will listen to my warning, rise up and take action, you can prevent judgment upon your nation.."


The call to women goes out throughout the world today..."Rise up, ye women, that are at ease...hear my voice...give ear unto my speech."
-Forsake worldly pleasures!
-Renew yourself spiritually!
-Stir yourselves and your nations so the judgment of God will not fall upon you.


A Challenge For Dedication:


To rise up and take our rightful position as Godly women requires dedication.

 

Paul presents a challenge to all believers including women. It is a call to dedication:


I appeal to you..to make a decisive dedication of your bodies-presenting all your members and faculties-as a living sacrifice, holy, devoted, consecrated and well pleasing to God which is your reasonable, rational, intelligent service and spiritual worship.


Do not be conformed to this world-this age, fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs. But be transformed, changed by the entire renewal of your mind, by its new ideals and its new attitude.


So that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect in His sight for you. (Romans 12:1-2)


Dedication to God and discipline to the ways of God results in direction which leads to knowledge of the perfect will of God in your life.