Trust in GodWhen Sarah was told in her old age that she would give birth to a son, she had perhaps the most human reaction of any woman in the Bible. She laughed. The idea of conceiving and giving birth at her age would make most people laugh. That said, she saw that He told the truth when she gave birth to Isaac. Sarah’s life shows that you should always trust in God. His ways are mysterious, and His promises may even seem impossible, but He does not promise what He will not give.
Stand Up While You CanEsther is one of the bravest characters in the pages of the Bible. She lived during a time when women had no standing and were considered the property of their husbands, fathers, brothers and even sons. She was a Hebrew woman living under Persian control. As a member of an oppressed race, she had fewer rights than even the average Persian woman, and Persian women were told to be grateful if their husbands had them leave the room before raping the servant girls. Esther married into a household where Queen Vashti had been dismissed after refusing to risk her safety among drunk men who were, in all likelihood, already abusing the servant girls.
Esther was constantly in danger of abuse and death, yet when her people needed her, she did not hesitate to step up. She knew that failure could mean worse than death for her, but she still spoke up when her people needed her. She showed the sort of courage that is always needed in the world. Had she stayed silent, she herself would likely have been safe, but she could not bring herself to turn a blind eye to others’ suffering simply because it would not touch her. As Martin Niemoller said in his famous poem, “First They Came,” if one does not stand up for others when they have the chance, eventually there will be no one left to stand up for them when they need help.
Never Give Up HopeMiriam is one of the women in the Bible who has sadly become nothing but a mere footnote in history. She was the sister of Moses and Aaron, and the Bible describes her as being a prophet in her own right. She, however, is forever overshadowed by Aaron and Moses.
Moses and Aaron both have a great deal to teach people, but the lessons that Miriam’s life illuminates are often forgotten. At the very least, she is left out of them. While Moses and Aaron were at the forefront of the Exodus, Miriam was the one who never gave up hope. A woman and a slave, her life would have been brutal in ancient Egypt. Yet Miriam kept her faith and was chosen as one of God’s prophets when He rescued His people.
Listen When God Speaks to YouSome of the Bible’s most important characters are actually never given names. Among those important souls whose names are lost forever is the Samaritan woman by the well in the New Testament. To modern eyes, she is interesting but only of marginal importance. Her role in the ancient world, however, cannot be underestimated. While Jesus’ own people reject him, the Samaritan woman, a member of the group that had an all but declared blood feud with the Jews, stops and listens to this strange Jewish man. Christ, in turn, gives her a one on one lesson for the short time they are at the well together. The Samaritan woman, a person who would have been loathed by the Apostles, received one on one instruction from God Himself. She was a sign that anyone can hear God, but when He stops to speak to you, you need to listen while you have the chance to learn.
Think For YourselfSinners have as much to teach as saints, but many people are reluctant to discuss them. It is as if they think that the only thing people will really learn from a sinner’s story is how to sin. Mistakes, however, are often better teachers than success. Besides, one of the Bible’s central themes is that of redemption, and many famous sinners still have good lessons to teach.
Eve is considered to be the original sinner. She was the first to take a bite of the infamous forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. In doing so, however, she passes on a valuable lesson. Eve fell victim to the very human tendency to simply believe either what you are told last or what you want to believe. Eve was warned not to eat from the tree, but she listened to the snake either because she wanted an excuse to eat from the tree or because the snake was the last one to speak to her. Had she simply waited and asked God about the odd serpent, mankind would still be living in paradise.
While people today are unlikely to deal with a mystical tree haunted by a talking reptile, many people have a tendency to not bother confirming what they hear. They simply agree with one side of the story and never both to learn the other. This leads to unnecessary divisions and a dangerous resurgence in tribalism.
Take Responsibility For Your Own LifeMany of the Bible’s greatest heroes and heroines are those who are upright and strong. They may show moments of cleverness, but they are largely known for their strength, both physically and in God. Tamar, on the other hand, is one of the handful of tricksters in the Bible. She is small and, at first, known only for having cruel husbands. She develops, however, into a cunning woman who, in the tradition of tricksters everywhere, uses guile and illusions to get what she wants. Thankfully for both Tamar and Judah, what Tamar wants is for Judah to fulfill his responsibilities as head of the household and do what is right. Because he refuses to, Tamar takes matters into her own hands and lands on her feet.
Tamar often gets a bad rap from Christians, despite the fact that the Bible specifically states that she was a righteous woman, but she teaches incredibly valuable lessons. First, she shows the importance of stepping up to do what is right. Technically, it was not Tamar’s job to correct Judah’s wrong. Judah should have done it himself, or Tamar’s father should have intervened to right the wrong Judah had done to his daughter. When no one else interceded, Tamar could have simply languished in her misery. Instead, she risked her life to do what was right.
The other major lesson that Tamar teaches is reflected in her actions. In fact, the lesson is that she took action at all. Tamar could easily have simply sat back and lamented her misery and remained a victim. She was not, however, content with that. Rather than simply waiting around for someone else to either fix things or bemoaning her misfortune, Tamar went out and created the life she wanted to live with a little out of the box thinking.
Always Show KindnessRahab tends to be one of those biblical characters who is either reviled or adored. In reality, she was a much more complicated person. As a prostitute, she was a sinner, but she was also a believer in God and His works as shown by her knowledgeable discussion with the Israelite spies who saw to it that she survived. When Rahab hid the spies, however, she had no way of knowing if they would spare her family or simply murder her in advance of the invasion to keep her quiet. Despite that, she hid them anyway. She is a reminder that even in times of turmoil and terror, there is a need for kindness. It was not Rahab’s knowledge that ended up saving her life. Instead, it was her kindness that spared her.
Fight Your Own BattlesJael and Judith are two women who have been all but forgotten by most Christians, and it really is unfortunate. These two women were the ones who killed the leaders of invading armies and saved the Israelites. Their stories are similar in that regard, though they differ on a number of points. Jael, for example, uses her husband’s relationship with King Jabin to convince the king to let down his guard when he is fleeing from the Israelite army. Jael took advantage of the king’s trust in order to kill him. Judith, on the other hand, worked alone. The Israelites had all but given up, but Judith decided to try one last thing. She used her beauty to convince the Assyrian commander Holofernes to let her into his camp and tricked Holofernes into trusting her. Then, Judith killed Holofernes in his sleep. Both Judith and Jael took matters into their own hands when they needed to do so. They were not convinced of their own helplessness or that they were doomed. They were not content to let others fight their battles for them. Instead, they ended up striking the decisive blows.
There are fewer women in the Bible than men, but that does not negate what they have to teach us. From reminders of the power of hope to the importance of using the brain God has given you, biblical women teach unique lessons. There may not be as many of them, but that only makes the lessons they have to teach that much more important. After all, a single powerful quote can do more than any number of half-hearted pages.