Mervyn Steadman is a very shy, retiring person whose secret alter-ego currently serves pseudonymously as a worship leader in an entirely online church. He has overcome great personal inhibitions to make his first live oral church presentation here at Wascana Fellowship to help us celebrate our micro-Feast of Tabernacles.
Today’s topic is about two women who were involved in leadership in ancient Israel. I will attempt to relate their stories to the Feast of Tabernacles – with emphasis on a woman’s perspective.
First let’s consider Miriam who loved her baby brother Moses so much that she didn’t want to see him abandonned.
Exodus 2:1-10 tells the story of how the mother of Moses set her baby in a tiny ark to float down the Nile river, hoping that a good hearted someone might find him and take pity on him.
His older sister, Miriam, followed along on the river bank and watched to see what would happen.
It so happened that Pharoah’s daughter was bathing there and saw the ark, as the current must have taken it close to shore and among the reeds, which probably gave some privacy to the bathers. Anyway Pharoah’s daughter opened the little ark and there was a baby crying inside and she had compassion on him.
Exodus 2:7-9 says “Then said Moses’ sister to Pharaoh’s daughter, Shall I go and call a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for you?
And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go”. And the maid went and called the child’s mother.
And Pharaoh’s daughter said unto his mother, ‘Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages’. And the women took the child, and nursed it.”
So Miriam had boldly stepped forward to do what she could to help Moses survive and be properly cared for.
Later on after Pharoah and his army were drowned in the Red Sea, Miriam led the women in singing and dancing.
Exodus 15:20-21 says ” And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.
21And Miriam answered them, Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider has he thrown into the sea.”
It also stated there that Miriam was a prophetess.
Wikipedia says “a prophet is an individual who believes they have encountered the supernatural or the divine, and serve as an intermediary with humanity, delivering this newfound knowledge from the supernatural entity to other humans.”
Sounds like this would apply to the Bible writers as well.
Miriam celebrated the victory by singing a new song and led the women in rejoicing and dancing. Let’s consider the situation of the women who must have been greatly relieved to feel safe from being reconquered by the Egyptians. They no doubt had struggled long and hard to care for their families while in slavery and then after crossing the Red Sea they had to keep house in tents in the wilderness on the way to the promised land. They had heard the promise of it flowing with milk and honey, and they probably envisioned being able to put their homemaking and cooking skills to use to brighten up the lives of their families and friends.
However their hopes of entering the promised land were dashed by the evil report of the scouts and the decision of the majority to stay out of Canaan.
They had to carry on their family lives in tents while moving from place to place for another 40 years in the wilderness. They did their best under difficult circumstances and survived long enough to raise the next generation, who were the ones led across the Jordan by Joshua.
Some time after Joshua died, Deborah became a prominent leader.
Judges chapters 4 describes how Deborah became the fourth judge over Israel and it tells of her exploits there.
Judges 4:4 says “And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time.”
Lapidoth supported Deborah as a silent partner from behind the scenes, and he may have been one of the first “stay at home dads”.
When Israel entered Canaan they conquered the hill country but not the valleys, which were defended by the Canaanites who had 900 hundred iron chariots.
When Deborah and Barak mustered forces to attack them, God sent a flood down the river Kishon and mired the heavy iron chariots in the mud. They were massacred, but their leader, Sisera fled on foot.
He found refuge in the tent of Jael, another heroine, who killed him with a tent peg through his temples while he slept.
After the battle Deborah wrote a victory song telling about it in chapter 5.
Judges 5:1-3 says “Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying,
Praise the LORD for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves.
Hear, O you kings; give ear, O you princes; I, even I, will sing unto the LORD; I will sing praise to the LORD God of Israel.”
Verse 6 says “In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath (Shamgar was a previous judge), in the days of Jael, the highways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked through the byways.”
Apparently the highways were not safe to travel on so Israelites had to take more secluded routes.
Verse 11 says “They that are delivered from the noise of archers in the places of drawing water, there shall they rehearse the righteous acts of the LORD, even the righteous acts toward the inhabitants of his villages in Israel: then shall the people of the LORD go down to the gates.”
So Deborah secured the main highways in the area and also provided safe access for the women to draw water. However the Canaanites were not completely removed from the land, which God allowed for a number of reasons.
The Gentiles were in a position to observe how Israel lived and worshipped their God and how they were blessed – so they might want to worship him too. The Israelites had to defend their way of life and not take things for granted.
I think we can relate this to the Feast of Tabernacles and to our lives today, as we endeavor to live as Christians, – being led by the Holy Spirit, – in a world that chooses to do what seems right in their own eyes. God has set us in the church and, although all our sins are forgiven, our sinful habits were not removed all at once. We were released from bondage to sin and we look forward to entering the promised land by the resurrection at Christ’s return. We can relate to the Israelites who wandered in a physical wilderness, because we live in a spiritual wilderness of religious confusion. When God called us I think we were troubled by the confusion and were looking for answers. We didn’t get all the answers all at once, but we found where to look for them. I confess I thought I had found all the answers at that time. Wrong!!
Maybe we can also relate to the situation of Deborah who led her people while living in the promised land, being surrounded by non Israelites, and dealing with pockets of them here and there. Perhaps it is similar to us living in the church as a spiritual haven, while we make our living and associate with people in the world and at the same time trying not to go back to being OF the world.
The examples of Miriam and Deborah should have a bearing on women emerging as leaders in the church today as well as in the world to come.