Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Observations and lessons for women and men from Huldah, the prophetess

This article was developed from my recent daily reading which covered II Kings 22. The passage relates the finding in the temple of the book of the law of Moses by the Hilkiah, the priest, during the reign of King Josiah in Jerusalem. The book of the law had been lost for an unspecified period of time. There are some observations and lessons for our learning concerning our sisters in Christ in the royal priesthood of believers.

  1. The book of the law was read by Shaphan, the scribe, in the presence of King Josiah who was the leader of Jerusalem and Judah.
  2. King Josiah, as the leader of the people of God, showed the wisdom into which he had grown. Josiah had ascended to the throne at age eight. Now, at age twenty six his wisdom was evident. After the book had been read to him by Shaphan, the scribe, King Josiah did not close the book and conclude that the content of the book was clear and self explanatory. No, he directed Shaphan to return to the men who had sent him to King Josiah. The king directed them to inquire of the Lord for him concerning the words of the book. They, Shaphan, Ahikam, Achbor and Hilkiah, did not take King’s Josiah’s instruction to mean that they were to discuss it among themselves and to come back to the king with the result of their discussion.
  3. Jeremiah was a prophet of God during the reign of King Josiah. (Jeremiah 1:3) There was a seer, another term which was used of a prophet, in Jerusalem who was a contemporary of Jeremiah. Hilkiah the priest, and the other men who went with Shaphan to inquire of the Lord as King Josiah had directed could just as well have gone to the prophet Jeremiah. Instead, they went to inquire of the Lord through Huldah, the prophetess who was a contemporary of Jeremiah. This runs counter to the quick reply by some brothers and sisters that when women such as Deborah led or prophesied, as in the case of Huldah, that it was because there were no men around who were filled with the Spirit to fulfill the task. Women, according to their explanation, were nothing more than the default secondary choice. However, the primary choice for the king, priest and scribe was to inquire of the Lord through a woman, Huldah, the prophetess.
  4. King Josiah, the leader of the Lord’s people, accepted without question or argument the response from Huldah, the prophetess.

leadership and those who lead
There is a reason why I emphasize that King Josiah was the leader of the Lord's people. It is because there is a mistaken notion among some brothers and sisters who equate leadership with preaching and teaching by men who go before the congregation. Leadership is something which, they insist, God never ordained for a woman. The focus of this article is the subject of prophesying, not leadership, by a woman who is described by the scriptures as being a prophetess. This explanation in which leadership bundled together with preaching, teaching and prophesying is dubious. It reflects a lack of understanding, namely leading, with something which, as it is argued, women were not ordained by God to fulfill. Hence, by associating and equating leadership and bundling leadership together with preaching, teaching and prophesying by women they believe they can effectively nullify and exclude women all of these in one swift action. Of course, it is always noted without fail that this exclusion of women is “in the assembly” _ consisting of men only.

a pronoun
The authoritative text from the scriptures, the written word of God, as to what constitutes a prophet is Numbers 12. (This definition is overlooked just as much as it relates to Moses and Jesus, neither of whom, according to the definition declared by God himself, qualifies them as prophets.) It relates the direct words of God himself, not Moses, to Miriam, who was herself a prophetess, and Aaron. Note the use of the masculine gender "to him" by God. No doubt there are some who will dwell and drill down on this pronoun in isolation. They will likely note that God did not say "or her" when speaking about who is a prophet. They may sound good. It is true, in fact. The problem is that some disciples run with the incomplete understanding or misunderstanding that God limited his calling of prophets to men only and to the exclusion of women.

two questions
The lesson of Huldah debunks such needless, pointless arguments and mistaken notions. I fully anticipate the response: Yes, but Huldah did not prophesy in the assembly. And so it goes on and on. There is a second relevant passage concerning prophecy. It is the prior chapter in the book of Numbers. There are two questions from these consecutive chapters eleven and twelve in the book of Numbers which are quite significant. The first question is from God to Moses. The second question is by Miriam and Aaron.

The LORD said to Moses, "Is the LORD'S power limited?

and they said, "Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?"

The first question is posited by God to Moses before the reaction of Joshua to Moses. The response of Moses to Joshua was a prophecy which was taken up centuries later by the prophet Joe. What Moses prophesied was his longing desire that all the Lord’s people were prophets. Joshua’s reaction to Moses reflects Joshua’s unwitting rhetorical response to the very question which God had posited earlier, “Is the Lord’s power limited?” Joshua found himself at a loss to understand much less accept the reality that prophesying was not related or limited to a place or location (such as, “in the assembly”) or a position of leadership. According to Joshua, yes, the Lord’s power is limited _ to men, leaders to be specific.

Here is what transpired and to which Joshua reacted. God had instructed Moses to bring out of the camp the seventy elders of Israel. God was going to put some of the Spirit that was in Moses and put Him upon the elders. Only sixty eight of the elders came out of the camp. When they began to prophesy so too did the two men, Eldad and Medad, who had not come out and remained in the camp. The text notes that they all prophesied, but they did not do it again. It was a lesson from God for the elders of Israel that Moses spoke with the authority and Spirit of God.

Joshua reacted. Joshua had mistakenly thought, like many saints today, that prophesying is limited to those, who like Moses, are 1) in a position of leadership, or 2) in the right and authorized place or location such as outside of the camp. Double check for yourself that Moses himself was no more a prophet than Jesus. The spirit by which some insist that any teaching, preaching or prophesying by a woman is limited to doing so outside of the assembly of the saints in Christ is the same spirit of jealousy of Joshua and just as mistaken.

The second question reflects the blindness of what a child as a servant of God has received from God. It is reflected in Miriam and Aaron’s question. The truth is that God had spoken and did speak through Miriam. She was a prophetess. Yet, because she wanted more, namely, the leadership of Moses not only was she blind to what God had called her, but she was blind to what God had given to her. Today there is an abundance of modern day questions not unlike Miriam. Typically, these questions are in the negative form. Those questions are posited as a default, paltry teaching concerning our sisters in Christ and prophesying. It is the same spirit of Miriam from antiquity. Those questions may create the impression that the one posing the questions, which usually no one will venture to offer a response, must understand those things about which no one is able to engage with him or her, but it is just an impression.

What are some of the lessons for the saints in Christ today? Some brothers and sisters are quick to dismiss any lessons much less any lessons from the Old Testament which speak to the matter of the daughters of God prophesying, teaching or preaching. The reality is that despite the much touted words of the apostle Paul that whatever was written in earlier times was for our instruction (Romans 15:4) those who lead, teach and preach often fail or are unable to bring out those lessons for the saints in Christ. Here are just two lessons from Numbers as to what constitutes a prophet and the passage of II Kings 22 concerning Huldah and our sisters in Christ prophesying, teaching and preaching.

Lesson one: When God stated that he speaks “to him” when referring to one of his prophets this was not to the exclusion of women. Huldah stands as a clear example without the muddle of convoluted concoctions and single, word, original language definitions for us to understand what God stated and what God demonstrated.

Lesson two:  Women who are filled with the Spirit, as in the case of Huldah, who have been called and anointed to prophesy, teach and preach are to be called on to fulfill their ministry. Women are not a secondary choice. Women are not the last resort simply because there is not a man filled with the Spirit present to address the leaders much less the congregation of the Lord’s people.

Undoubtedly, this upsets and makes some men and women uncomfortable. This is not the intent. Surely, we can understand and empathize if Joshua was troubled to learn that he was mistaken about the jealousy which he thought would please and honor God and Moses by urging Moses to restrain Eldad and Medad from prophesying.

What was true of Huldah and Eldad and Medad is true of the sons and daughters of God today. God did not pour out his Spirit on his sons for them to keep silent or to be silenced any more than he poured out his Spirit on his daughters for them to keep silent or to be silenced.

Examine the sufficiency of the claim that what you claim is “scriptural.” Surely, there was nothing more “scriptural” for King Josiah than the book of the law, yet he inquired of the Lord. A barrage of questions amounts to neither understanding nor edification for the saints and it is hardly an inquiry intended for the learning of all together. One could just as well ask why was there not a man, a prophet to be specific, other than Simeon to bless the child Jesus. It was Anna, the prophetess who never left the temple and through whom it pleased God to give thanks to God and to speak about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. Again, one could just as well ask why was there not a man at the tomb of Jesus when he rose up from the dead, but there is no need for such wonder and speculation. A woman, Mary Magdalene, was present to proclaim the risen savior to his unbelieving male disciples.

The interpretation and application of the written word is hardly accomplished by formulating and parroting a multitude of negative questions such as why didn’t Jesus call any women as apostles? Why is there not an example of a women preaching before a congregation of the Lord’s people. These may create an impression of understanding, but the call of God for those who lead, teach and preach is to edify the saints and to give God the glory and not to create mere impressions.

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