Exciting phrases, easy acronyms, and memorable lists formed from dense works of systematic theology can be helpful for the everyday Christian. While these reductions of God’s Word and His nature help us understand general frameworks, they are unable to help us understand everything the Bible teaches. It is one thing...
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. (Proverbs 25:11)
Have you ever wondered what a word fitly spoken looks like? The Old Testament has many examples of women who spoke words of courage and help and displayed a kind of God-confidence that is to be admired. Consider these ten women in the Bible who were bold and faithful in their Spirit-led interventions and, in their womanly way, were mightily used by God.
Moses was about to be put to death by the LORD, but Zipporah wisely intervened by circumcising his sons and therefore saving his life so he could fulfill his mission to lead God’s people out of Egypt.
At a lodging place on the way the Lord met him and sought to put him to death. Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” So he let him alone. It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision. (Exodus 4:24-26)
Barak was hesitant to obey the LORD, but Deborah boldly reminded him of God’s promise to go before them, and the blessings that come with obedience.
She sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali and said to him, “Has not the LORD, the God of Israel, commanded you, ‘Go gather your men at Mount Tabor, taking 10,000 from the people of Naphtali and the people of Zebulum. And I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the river Kishon with his chariots and his troops, and I will give him into your hand’?” (Judges 4:6-7)
3. Manoah’s wife
Manoah was tempted to fearfully overreact after a visit from God, but Manoah’s wife calmly and insightfully encouraged him with words of faith. Their promised son Samson would evoke longing for the greatest promised son, Jesus.
And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.” But his wife said to him, “If the LORD had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to use such things as these.” (Judges 13:22-23)
Boaz was kind to pray for Ruth, that she would receive protection from the LORD, but Ruth humbly called Boaz to recognize that he was God’s choice to provide that protection. Ruth became the mother of Obed, grandfather of David.
Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer. (Ruth 3:9)
The Priest Eli was unable to decipher the difference between a rambling drunk and troubled woman seeking the LORD, but Hannah gently corrected him and opened his eyes to see how God was at work. God’s answer to her prayer, her son Samuel, became a great prophet who would anoint David as king.
As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad. (1 Samuel 1:12-18)
David was angry and ready to commit murder, but Abagail discretely appealed to him to do the right thing and leave vengeance to the LORD, protecting David from the folly of his temper.
David said to Abagail, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me from this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand!” (1 Samuel 25:30-33)
7. The Wise Woman of Tekoa
David was unwilling to forgive his son, but the wise woman of Tekoa helped him to see that reconciliation was better than banishment.
Then the woman said, “Please let your servant speak a word to my lord the king.” He said “Speak.” And the woman said, “Why then have you planned such a thing against the people of God? For in giving this decision the king convicts himself, inasmuch as the king does not bring his banished one home again.” (2 Samuel 14:12-13)
8. The Wise Woman of Abel-Bethmaach
Joab was prepared to destroy an entire city because of one guilty man, but the wise woman of Abel-Bethmaach entreated to find a peaceful solution, saving many lives.
Then a wise woman called from the city, “Listen! Listen! Tell Joab, ‘Come here, that I may speak to you…They used to say in former times, ‘Let them but ask counsel at Abel,’ and so they settled a matter. I am one of those who are peaceable and faithful in Israel. You seek to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel. Why will you swallow up the heritage of the Lord?” Joab answered, “Far be it from me, far be it, that I should swallow up or destroy! That is not true. But a man of the hill country of Ephraim, called Sheba the son of Bichri, has lifted up his hand against King David. Give up him alone, and I will withdraw from the city.” (2 Samuel 20:16-21a)
9. The Shunammite Woman
The Shunammite woman’s husband was content to merely provide a meal to God’s servant Elisha, but the Shunammite woman proposed that they show real hospitality and were rewarded in the birth of their son.
And she said to her husband, “Behold now, I know that this is a holy man of God who is continually passing our way. Let us make a small room on the roof with walls and put there for him a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp, so that whenever he comes to us, he can go in there.” (2 Kings 4:9-10)
Mordechai urged Esther to use all of her influence to change the King’s deadly decree, but Esther humbly requested that first all the Jews in Susa gather for three days of fasting, demonstrating her belief that only God could save her and her people.
Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.” (Esther 4:15-16)
Fearless Faith in Jesus
Did this list surprise you? These wise and faithful women intervened for the good of others, some at the risk of their very lives. I’m encouraged to read how the Bible is full of bold, godly women who respectfully used the influence given to them to rescue, protect, and guide.
May we all embrace the quick-thinking of Zipporah, the diplomacy of Deborah, the insight of Manoah’s wife, the exhortation of Ruth, the gentle correction of Hannah, the discretion of Abagail, the clever speech of the wise women of Tekoa and Abel-Bethmaach, the hospitality of the Shunammite woman, and the courage of Esther.
These women of the Bible knew the greatness of their God and had a boldness of speech to match, and while I’m grateful for their particularly feminine example, they all fell short and needed a Savior, just like you and me. Therefore, I know I can pursue this kind of faithful courage with confidence only because of the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
As the word made flesh, he spoke up for me by dying in my place on the cross, and he rose again to give me an eternal hope so that I never need to give in to fear. Because he sent Jesus, I can be confident in God’s love for me and, by his favor, I can pursue the godliness of the courageous and faithful women of the Old Testament, as many saints both dead and alive have done before me. And by his Spirit, my voice can provide words fitly spoken for his glory.