Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Biblical Womanhood for Young Women ~ by Ruth

Have you ever honestly asked, “What does it mean to be a biblical woman?  It’s a good question. And depending on where you look, you’ll find a variety of answers.

Many today discuss manhood and womanhood, wondering if gender makes a difference.  Some are working to erase distinctions between men and women in society’s structures of family, church, workplace, community, and government. As students of God’s Word and followers of Jesus, we ought to seek to first understand God’s perspective on this issue.

What you believe about manhood and womanhood will significantly shape every season of your life: How you relate to your parents and siblings, what you pursue in education and career choices, how you interact with men and questions of dating and courtship, how you respond to the calling of singleness or marriage, how you relate to spiritual leaders, and more. The quest to understand and live out biblical womanhood matters.

To be a biblical woman is to think and live in light of what is written in the Bible. God’s Word has a lot to say about womanhood, and through it we can be shaped by God’s design for women and his instruction to women.  Deep down inside we all have questions about who we are and about God's plan for our lives. Understanding the framework of biblical womanhood has answered a lot of these questions in my own heart. The truth of God's Word has set me free from fears and insecurities, and it has have given me confidence to take risks to love and serve others in big ways. As I've taken these steps of obedience, I've found refreshing rest, contentment, and joy in God and his good design for my life.

Let’s take a look at what the Bible says.

Shaped by God’s Design: Back to the Beginning
In Genesis, we learn that God designed the human race in his own image, and the first and foremost expression of being made in the image of God was to be made as male and female. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).

The distinctions between the genders were part of God’s original creation, when God saw that everything was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). He gave man and woman the work of populating the earth, caring for and cultivating the land, and practicing dominion over the animals. They could not fulfill these tasks alone. They needed each other.

When Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden, given work to do, and animals to care for, God noted,  “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18). God created Eve as a helper for Adam, and in doing so, God brought completion to his created world. Eve was the finishing touch, the grand finale. Adam rejoiced in this good gift: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:23).

God designed man to lead, to provide, and to protect. God designed woman to help the man in his tasks, with an ability to nurture new life and to offer companionship. This distinction of roles reveals unique reflections of God’s image and glory, and significant gifts and abilities. The differences do not relate to the worth or value of the individual members: both genders are equally important and necessary. The strength of one provides something that is lacking in the other. Together, they reflect a fuller picture of the image of God.

At the time of the Fall, when Adam and Eve rebelled against God, the roles of the man and the woman came under attack and became corrupt. When God confronted Adam and Eve, the punishment for their sin directly affected their gender roles and their calling to fill the earth and subdue it. God cursed the woman with pain in childbirth and difficulty in submitting to her husband in marriage, and he cursed the man with pain and complications in work and providing food. They would both face physical death. (See Genesis 3:16–19).

Understanding God’s design in creation and the brokenness that followed the Fall are keys to discerning biblical womanhood today and to seeing how we should now live. Each generation and culture is impacted by this foundational design, and also by the corruption that has come because of man’s sin against God. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection bring new hope to our relationships in light of the redemption that can come to us through the gospel. What we cannot do in our own strength, God can enable us to do by his grace and mercy. Living in harmony as men and women is one of these miracles of God’s grace.

Shaped by God’s Word: Insight for Today
Not only does Scripture shed light on God’s purpose and design for creating us as male and female, it also offers instruction and examples that provide wisdom, insight, warning, and promises for our daily lives. God’s Word certainly doesn’t avoid the good, the bad, and the ugly in woman. We see women as mothers and maidens, sisters and sinners, friends and foreigners, wives and witches, business owners and beggars, prostitutes and prophets, queens and counselors. The list could go on! Let’s explore a few places in Scripture that discuss womanhood and examples of women of deep faith. 

Proverbs 31 is one of the most well-known passages that heralds godly womanhood. In this chapter, we find a description of the “excellent wife” who lives a life of virtue, industry, wisdom, love, and understanding. She is a woman of strength and purpose who cares diligently for her family, invests in her community, and lives in a way that honors God’s design and character. We read that her worth is “far above jewels” (Proverbs 31:10).

Another passage in Scripture that reveals womanly qualities of great worth—in fact, of great worth to God himself—is I Peter 3:3–6. Addressing godly wives, Peter writes, “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.”

These concepts of godly, God-ward womanhood can apply in every culture and every generation. They relate to the “hidden person of the heart” and reveal the “imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit,” a heart and life of faith and trust in God himself to care for us and lead and guide our lives. Even when the men in our lives make mistakes (as did Abraham and the husbands of the women to whom Paul wrote), we can look to God as our helper and strength, and walk in faith.

The “holy women” in whose examples I especially delight include Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mary’s servant-hearted submission to God’s call on her life led her on a path that few understood. From the first encounters with family and friends who misjudged her pregnancy out of wedlock, to the final moments of witnessing Jesus’ crucifixion, Mary endured suffering and sacrifice. Yet she faced these challenges with faith and obedience. She welcomed God’s call on her life with these amazing words of trust and surrender: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

The Old Testament story of Ruth, a woman from Moab, is a tale of redemption and grace. Ruth’s character reveals a woman of determination and faith in the living God, even in the midst of tragedy and suffering. With loyalty and compassion for Naomi, Ruth endured poverty and hardship in order to provide companionship and help for her mother-in-law. Through his mercy, God used Ruth’s life to showcase his grace by including her in the line of Israel’s King David and Jesus Christ.

When Israel was in exile, a young Jewish girl became queen of the Persian Empire through an incredible display of Providence. Yet Queen Esther’s life was not a simple one. Living in a culture hostile to her people, Esther was married to one of the most powerful rulers of history. When the Jewish people were threatened with extinction, Esther sought God’s help and appealed to the king with grace and wisdom that God used to turn his heart to protect the Jewish people and punish their enemies.

Scriptural references to godly women display the qualities of virtue, strength, faith, purity, loyalty, industry, and compassion. These qualities are needed in every generation, and they can be demonstrated by women regardless of age, appearance, marital status, education, occupation, and social standing. God can be at work in your heart today, developing these qualities in you.

Be Today’s Biblical Woman: Student, Servant, Spokesman, Showcase
In the end, biblical womanhood is about God. He created us in his own image, to reflect his glory on the earth. He has given us unique gifts and strengths that are meant to be used in ways that honor him and others. He has given us wisdom and insight in the Scriptures that can shape our hearts and lead our lives in paths that honor him. 

Psalm 144:12 offers a helpful picture of biblical womanhood: “May our sons in their youth be like plants full gown, our daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace.” A pillar is an essential part of the structure of every building. It must be strong and stable. To be a “corner pillar” is to carry more weight, and also to be prominent. The pillars of a palace are “cut” for adornment and beauty that reflects the honor and wealth of the one who dwells there.

A pillar on its own isn’t worth much, but when it serves as part of the whole palace, we can see its strength, beauty, and usefulness. It is an essential support to the entire structure. King David prayed that the daughters of Israel would resemble these pillars: strong, beautiful, enduring. In our generation, may we be such essential, glory-giving pillars in our homes, churches, schools, communities, and workplaces, that wherever we are, each place may become a palace ready for the presence of God, our King of Kings.

I pray that you will become a life-long student of biblical womanhood. Seek to see and understand what the Scriptures say about women. In your close friends, in the books you read, and in the women you emulate, seek those who are following a biblical pattern and who are living in light of the gospel of Jesus. Open your eyes to see the lessons lived out around you (the good, the bad, and the ugly) in your family, your church, and your community.

May you surrender to Jesus’ leadership in your life; allow God’s Word to shape your heart; and let him take your life and lead you to whatever corner of the world that needs to see the expression of his love and character that is evident in you. May you be a truly biblical woman—not a woman of perfection—but one of grace, faith, forgiveness, longsuffering, diligence, and loyalty: all through Jesus Christ.

Recommendations for Further Study & Development
·       -  Read the Book of Proverbs and take notes on the instructions, warnings, and promises given to women (or concerning women).
·       -  Pray that God will make you to be a woman who fears the Lord, so that he will be praised when others see his grace at work in your life.
·       -  Become a student of biblical manhood and encourage the men in your life to be shaped by God’s Word and to live as men of integrity, leadership, and responsibility.

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