Saturday, January 24, 2015

Were Women Allowed To Serve God In The Old Testament?

What Did The Serving Women Do At The Door Of The Tabernacle Of Meeting?

Question : Please explain Exodus 38:8?

Answer : Greetings in Jesus wonderful name! Here is the verse you have asked for, "He made the laver of bronze and its base of bronze, from the bronze mirrors of the serving women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting." (Exod 38:8). The way I see this verse is through the eyes of the New Testament because Old Testament conceals the New Testament, the New Testament reveals the Old Testament. We sure know that God called two main leaders named "Bezalel" and "Aholiab" to design and to build in all the manner of workmanship to build the Tabernacle during the time of Moses, to build it in the way the Lord wanted it to be done for His Glory (Exo 31:1-11). But these two could never finish such a great work without people helping them to do it, so along with them God had "put wisdom in the hearts of all the gifted artisans" to complete it as God has commanded previously (Exo 31:6). We know that women are usually the most artistic, talented and gifted artisans in stitching clothes according to the Bible because it puts this skill as one of main thing for her to be qualified as the Virtuous Wife or Woman of Excellence that the Book of Proverbs speaks about (Prov 31:13, 22, 24). So naturally as a part of the team many artistic women whom the Spirit of God filled with in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge and in all manner of workmanship also partook in helping these two leaders who built the Tabernacle (Exod 28:2-4). These women were called as "serving women" who were devoted in doing the work of the Lord. Seeing these women serving the Lord, many more who were fully devoted must have joined with these women to do the daily chores of the need of the Tabernacle, like provide water, clean the place, devotedly worship God and pray to Him and do what ever day to day humble job was required of them as a way of devoted service of worship towards the Lord, and that is why we see them "assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting" during the erection of it, and then later to help the Levites and the priests in continuing their work for the Lord every new day unhindered by any need that arises (Exo 38:8). This became a tradition that continued because we see them still serving nearly 400 years later at the "entrance to the tent of meeting" at the time of Eli the Priest who raised Samuel to become a Prophet in the house of God, who later became as God's mouth piece in the nation of Israel (1 Sam 2:22; 3:1-11, 19-21; Exo 16:35; Acts 13:21). In other words, we see no women ordained officially as a Levite or in a Priestly capacity in doing the work of the Lord anywhere in the Bible, but inferring in to the above Scripture we find that they were unofficially given the privilege of serving God in the Tabernacle of the outer court according to the gifts and callings they exhibited along with their complete devotion towards the Lord.

We know how much important a mirror is to a women, in those days there were no glass mirror like our days but they were using high quality polished bronze as mirror to see their faces and external beauty. People say, 'Mirror changes the way Women view themselves' but these holy women who saw God work through them found that it is God who reflected the dirt of their heart and made them clean themselves in humility to look beyond the external to see their inner beauty and be satisfied with that calm and quiet spirit which they displayed before Him through their work in His Presence (1 Peter 3:3-6). These devoted women artisans who were in love with God for giving them a privilege to serve Him to build His place of residence among them were so overwhelmed that when they heard from their leaders "Bezalel" and "Aholiab" about God's instruction to them regarding building a bornze basin that will be kept for all the Levites and Priests to purify themselves before entering the inner court of the Holy Place or the Holy of Holies, immediately they came forward to part with their most precious possession which were their highly polished bronze mirrors and gave it sacrificially to be made as the bronze basin that will hold the water for cleansing. This tradition of women particularly offering their own precious possession, skill and devotion to the Lord have given them a permanent place to work for God in like manner for generations down the line at the door of the Tabernacle. How do we know that for sure about the above fact?

Exod 25:3 says that the list of materials that could be donated included a request for quantities of bronze. Exod 38:29-31 (cf. 25:3; 35:5) says that the response to this request was overwhelming and that two and a half tons of bronze were donated. But, interestingly, the bronze basin is not listed amongst the items made from this stockpile of donated bronze. Separate to the general bronze donations were the mirrors donated by the ministering women. Both biblical and archaeological evidence shows that ancient mirrors were made from burnished metal, not glass. So the mirrors supplied by the women were made of highly polished bronze (Job 37:18). At this point I want to remind you that the bronze basin is the only item in the tabernacle that was made from gender specific donations because the Bible says in Exod 35:22, 24 and 29: “And the men came in together with the women, every one willing of heart; they brought in bracelets, and nose rings, and rings, and jewels, every gold article...every one bringing an offering of silver and bronze” … “and every man and woman whose hearts impelled them brought a voluntary offering to the Lord,” this inclusion (from v. 22 to v. 29) suggests that women, no less than men, had access to all materials that could be contributed independently and they willingly gave it all to the Lord.

What can we learn from the above exposition of Exod 38:8 :

1) God calls whomever He wants and fills them with His Spirit in wisdom, understanding, knowledge and in all manner of workmanship to serve Him the way He wants. God forbidding women from doing priestly and levitical work is a principle that He has given for all to keep in the law of Moses but it cannot be a rule to stop any women from serving Him the way He has called and gifted them (Acts 2:17-18; Exod 28:3). We see this above context in the light of God's heart towards women in His service, where God has accepted a gender specific offering just to prove to all people that He is never biased towards any women particularly but loves men and women equally to empower them to serve Him.

2) God wants both men and women to offer themselves as a living sacrifice to become holy and acceptable to God and do a reasonable service to Him (Rom 12:1). The women whom we have seen above were so devoted and were in love with God that they readily parted with the most precious possession that they possessed [i.e. their Mirrors] and sacrificed it to God which God accepted and used it for one of the most sacred article in the tabernacle which was the bronze basin in which the Levites washed themselves before ministering to people. In the New Testament, as we live a life of faith and offer ourselves sacrificially to God and part with the most precious things of our lives by keeping God first and committing it all in to God's hands, God will use us for His own service to save souls and be wise (Heb 11:6; Luke 14:26; Matt 4:19; Prov 11:30).

3) Women were never denied a place in God's ministry, rather they are put as managers of the home who need to minister to the needs of the home first (1 Tim 2:9-15; 5:14; 1 Cor 14:34-36), and then to other women (Tit 2:3-5), and then finally to the general public of both men and women, if they are gifted and empowered by God for such a thing in an unofficial capacity under the guidance of senior leaders or their own husband within the House of God [i.e. but without exercising authority over men (1 Tim 2:12)] (1 Cor 11:5; Rom 16:1-2, 3). This is the reason during creation of humans, God first created Adam and then added Eve to complete the family hierarchy which is the basic unit that can be applied to a larger setting of the House of God if that basic unit is exemplary and an example for all others in its operation (1 Tim 3:4-5). And after the fall of humanity in to sin, God first asked Adam and made Him accountable for his failure first even though it was Eve who first fell in to sin and then later asked Eve about it because Adam was expected by God to teach his wife all that He taught and commanded him personally, and thus keep her under his care and away from temptation through his spiritual guidance and protection (Gen 2:16-18; 3:8-19; 2 Cor 11:3; 1 Tim 2:14; Rom 5:12). This proves that there is no law against women to serve in a spiritual capacity for the edification of the Church, but God set a principle that unless He first empowers a women and wants them to be used in that capacity of edification to the Body of Christ or as having one or more calling of the fivefold ministry (Eph 4:11-16; Acts 2:17-18), God wants them to first naturally take care of their home and then the women folks through their spiritual guidance to them.

4) The bronze basin is first mentioned when it is commissioned by God in Exod 30:18. Lev 8:4-7 says that priests were washed all over at the Bronze basin before being clothed with priestly garments and anointed. Exod 40:31 says that the priest must do this before entering the Tent of Meeting or sacrificing on the altar anytime. This washing ritual was a never ending law that was to continue from generation to generation. The penalty for non-compliance was death (Exod 30:21). The position of the basin right beside the door of the Tabernacle is probably so the priests cannot miss this ritual (Exod 30:18), and is made of highly reflective bronze perhaps for the same reason. The women are said to tsaba.Heb’ ‘serve/minister’ near the door of the Tabernacle. It is at the door that much ritual activity took place. Exod 30:18-19 tells us that the priests prepared the sacrifices and offered them on the bronze altar near the door. We know that the serving women's offering of their bronze mirrors was used greatly in a precious way to express God's approval of these women's service to Him in a positive way, but in the account of bronze censers of Korah, the Levite men, it was used to plate the Altar to reveal God's wrath against people without faith who respect not His appointment and calling to reject His authority lightly, this reveals the negative consequence of sin to show that God respects a person not by gender but by their faith and heart devotion towards Him (Num 16:38-40).

5) Tsaba’ is used to describe the women’s service in Exod 38:8 and 1 Sam 2:22. In the majority of other cases where tsaba’ appears in the Hebrew Bible it means “to go forth, as a soldier, to war” (Num 31:7; Isa 29:7, 8; 31:4 and Zech 14:12), and along these lines tsaba’ is often attached to God’s military name -YHWH tsabot – meaning “the Lord of hosts”. But, in the context of Exod 38:8 this particular meaning does not fit. The women do not appear to be engaged in warfare or guarding the door of the Tabernacle. So is tsaba’ used in another way in the Hebrew Bible? Yes it is. Tsaba’ is also used to describe the period of indentured service for the Levites in and around the tabernacle in Num 4:23, 35, 39, 43 and 8:24. It describes the duty performed by Aaron’s descendants, the Kohathites, Gershonites and Merarites who minister in the Tabernacle. Each of these groups had different tasks. This gives us a clear idea of how the serving women at the door of the Tabernacle ministered to do their service as a part of the sacred service to God, in a unofficial and unnamed Levitical role. We see in Paul the apostles writing that He urges the Church to honor the true widows and women who serve humbly to be supported financially by the Church (1 Tim 5:3-16). We see in the past time that so many women of God like Anna the prophetess (Luke 2:36-38), Miriam the prophetess and the sister of Aaron led the women of Israel to praise and worship the Lord with song, music and dance, Deborah was a prophetess and she was judging Israel, Prophet Isaiah himself married a prophetess (Isa 8:3) and Huldah was a prophetess who were all empowered by God to do spiritual warfare in prayer and help the nation of Israel, and the same has happened in the Church for the devoted women to serve God in an unofficial capacity [i.e. not as official minister of God over men specifically] through their service towards God in whatever way they have been called and empowered by God to work for Him. Praise the Lord!

6) The sacrificial offering of women means much to God because Jesus appreciated and spoke greatly of a widows offering of just the last two coins because she had given her all to God sacrificially by faith in the constant provision of God (Mark 12:42), Jesus allowed the women to support his ministry through their financial giving and did not feel ashamed because of receiving from them or stopped them from giving to Him (Luke 8:2-3), Jesus used a woman named Mary Magdalene to send the good news of His resurrection to all His disciples (John 20:17-18), Junia was a women apostle of great reputation and maturity in the Lord during the time of Paul's apostolic ministry (Rom 16:7), Phoebe was a woman servant of the Church and ministered to the saints of God (Rom 16:1-2), Persis was a beloved Sister who labored much in the Lord according to Apostle Paul (Rom 16:12), Priscilla the wife of Aquila were both bold fellow workers of the gospel in Christ Jesus (Rom 16:3-4), etc... thus Women are called by God to do different tasks for Him, so nobody should judge a person based on gender to keep them away from serving God in the Church if they are really called by God for a particular service even though it might be very unconventional for them to do it.

Much Blessings....


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