Radical Women!

Tucked away in a rather obscure and often passed over portion of Scripture is a great story about some really radical women known as the Daughters of Zelophehad.  I use the word radical because their actions affected the nation of Israel dramatically.  They were, in the right sense of the words some of the first women’s rights activists that we know of in our Judeo-Christian background.  So, I invite you to follow along in the book of Joshua in chapter 17 where the writer tells us the following:tribmap

1Now this was the lot for the tribe of Manasseh, for he was the firstborn of Joseph. To Machir the firstborn of Manasseh, the father of Gilead, were allotted Gilead and Bashan, because he was a man of war.  2So the lot was made for the rest of the sons of Manasseh according to their families: for the sons of Abiezer and for the sons of Helek and for the sons of Asriel and for the sons of Shechem and for the sons of Hepher and for the sons of Shemida; these were the male descendants of Manasseh the son of Joseph according to their families.

3However, Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, had no sons, only daughters; and these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah and Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah.  4They came near before Eleazar the priest and before Joshua the son of Nun and before the leaders, saying, “The LORD commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our brothers.” So according to the command of the LORD he gave them an inheritance among their father’s brothers.  5Thus there fell ten portions to Manasseh, besides the land of Gilead and Bashan, which is beyond the Jordan,  6because the daughters of Manasseh received an inheritance among his sons. And the land of Gilead belonged to the rest of the sons of Manasseh.

That’s it?  That’s what you set us up for?  One sentence of “The LORD commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our brothers.”  What is so radical about that?  Well, I’m glad you asked, but to tell the story most effectively we must first look at the immediate context.

Now remember, the historical books are not usually just simply a “record” of the events that took place with certain characters, i.e. Joseph, David, Samson, Joshua, etc.  No, the writer is telling the story, but he is also telling the story with a purpose and choosing the order of events and arrangements of the information to help us along and lead us down a path of understanding.

So, broadly, the book of Joshua is about “entering the land”, “conquering the people in the land” and “settling in the land” of promise.  It is a great unfolding of God’s faithfulness to keep his promise to both give Israel the land and to wipe out the inhabitants (       ).  Along the way, and under Joshua’s leadership, the Israelites entered the land and stood up to the numerous and overwhelmingly strong chariots and horses of the inhabitants.  For the most part the Israelites were faithful to believe God and faced these mighty armies only to overwhelm them, but not with the strength of human numbers, but the strength of God.

Now, in chapters 17 the conquest is over and the tribes are being given their allotted portions of land.  Each tribe is identified, a sentence or two describes their land allocation followed by a few comments…and as you read these comments you begin to realize that all is not well in the Israelite camp.  The strong and mighty Israelite army that acted so faithfully is now being disbursed and now we find out that there is failure, much failure taking place…

Failure #1

Notice the following verses…with my emphasis underlined…hebrew_slaves_pulling_ropes

63Now as for the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the sons of Judah could not drive them out; so the Jebusites live with the sons of Judah at Jerusalem until this day. Joshua 15:63 ( NASB )

10But they did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites live in the midst of Ephraim to this day, and they became forced laborers. Joshua 16:10 ( NASB )

12But the sons of Manasseh could not take possession of these cities, because the Canaanites persisted in living in that land.  Joshua 17:12 ( NASB )

So, rather than finish the job that God had given them they began to give up and rationalize their actions by saying to themselves, “Hey, why kill them when we can use them as slaves?”  Now, where would they get a thought like that?   And, although God had told them specifically…

33“They shall not live in your land, because they will make you sin against Me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.” Exodus 23:33 ( NASB )

…they still failed miserably.  What is sad is that we don’t have to wait until Judges to see the failure begin and take root.

The main problem was that they  began to lose their vision. They had the power to expel them from the land according to God’s Command (Word) but they chose to retain them for their own advantage…

Failure #2

That was the first arena of failure, but there is also another story of failure a little later in the 17th chapter of Joshua…(Joshua 17:14-18)

It is time for Ephraim and Manasseh to claim their allotments, but instead we find them frustrated with God’s Gift and complaining.  Listen to their whining…

14Then the sons of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, “Why have you given me only one lot and one portion for an inheritance, since I am a numerous people whom the LORD has thus far blessed?”

In other words they were saying, “We are too big a people to only settle in one allotment”…Wah…Wah…Wah…

I love Joshua’s reply…

15Joshua said to them, “If you are a numerous people, go up to the forest and clear a place for yourself there in the land of the Perizzites and of the Rephaim, since the hill country of Ephraim is too narrow for you.”

But notice their response…

16The sons of Joseph said, “The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the valley land have chariots of iron, both those who are in Beth-shean and its towns and those who are in the valley of Jezreel.” complaining 17Joshua spoke to the house of Joseph, to Ephraim and Manasseh, saying, “You are a numerous people and have great power; you shall not have one lot only, 18but the hill country shall be yours. For though it is a forest, you shall clear it, and to its farthest borders it shall be yours; for you shall drive out the Canaanites, even though they have chariots of iron and though they are strong.”

In simple terms, these two tribes are complaining that God hasn’t given them enough room.  But we must note here that God is sovereign in casting lots.  So their real complaint wasn’t  with Joshua, it is with God – “God you didn’t do this right, we need more land.”

But when  you think about it and look at all Israel, every tribe has increased; so all the tribes, no matter their size, would have to settle in their allotments.  What Ephraim and Manasseh were claiming was nothing more than a smokescreen, and vs. 15 lets us know what is really going on:

15Joshua said to them, “If you are a numerous people, go up to the forest and clear a place for yourself there in the land of the Perizzites and of the Rephaim, since the hill country of Ephraim is too narrow for you.”

Here is the issue – although God had commanded the completion of the conquest these two tribes didn’t want to do the work and didn’t want to do the fighting necessary to be faithful to God’s command.  They just wanted to be given the land.

It was another failure, so soon after great and heroic acts of faith…

Faith

But, into the context of failure come five faithful ladies, all sisters who have no brothers.  They are a breath of fresh air in the midst of all the failure and jump out of the passage to slap us in the face and draw our attention to God, His goodness, faithfulness and care.  They are five women who are very bold indeed.

woman_1-black-worshipping-godNow, the statement by these ladies, “The LORD commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our brothers” is really the “punch line” of their story, and their story begins in the book of Numbers, approximately 20 years prior, before the conquest of Canaan and while Moses was the leader of Israel.  Her is what we find in Numbers 27:1-11

1Then the daughters of Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of Manasseh the son of Joseph, came near; and these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah, Noah and Hoglah and Milcah and Tirzah.  2They stood before Moses and before Eleazar the priest and before the leaders and all the congregation, at the doorway of the tent of meeting, saying,  3“Our father died in the wilderness, yet he was not among the company of those who gathered themselves together against the LORD in the company of Korah; but he died in his own sin, and he had no sons.  4Why should the name of our father be withdrawn from among his family because he had no son? Give us a possession among our father’s brothers.”

Wow, now that is really bold!  In the context of male leadership and responsibility they find themselves in a place where they have no caregiver or protector over them and are facing losing the rights of their family to any property in the allotments, simply because there is no patriarch to carry on the family name.  It is a real problem, and one that would have rippling effects on their tribe.  So, what we read next is so amazing…

5And Moses brought their case before the LORD.   6Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  7The daughters of Zelophehad are right in their statements. You shall surely give them a hereditary possession among their father’s brothers, and you shall transfer the inheritance of their father to them.  8“Further, you shall speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘If a man dies and has no son, then you shall transfer his inheritance to his daughter.  9‘If he has no daughter, then you shall give his inheritance to his brothers.  10‘If he has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his father’s brothers.  11‘If his father has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his nearest relative in his own family, and he shall possess it; and it shall be a statutory ordinance to the sons of Israel, just as the LORD commanded Moses.'”

Isn’t that amazing?  In response to the faithful initiative of these sisters God told Moses to change the law concerning property and inheritance in the nation.  Their faith literally shaped future generations protecting them from the same predicament they found themselves in.

But that was 20 years earlier that God promised them the inheritance.  Now, in Joshua 17, after waiting in faith through the conquest these sisters stand before Eleazar, Joshua and the leaders of the nation to remind them of God’s promise.  The appeal they make is to the Word of God spoken through Moses, which is recorded in the book of Numbers, which Joshua has in his possession.  So, Joshua responds in faith and validates the judgment of Moses as true and then he assures these daughters that the land will stay in their family.

praying_girl_eliz_1_copy150135105_stdIn essence, these women are reminding the male leadership of the nation of Israel that God is committed to inheritance rights for women!!!

It is an amazing story that teaches us some great lessons through these precious sisters.  And I want to highlight six characteristics that I appreciate about these radical women:

  1. First, the Daughters of Zelophehad were women of Respect – Everything that they do shows us that they trusted God and trusted His sovereign order regarding the care and protection of the nation being laid on the shoulders of the men.  Their issue wasn’t that they were being mistreated, but that the cultural order of the day put them, their families and their tribe in peril.
  2. Second, and closely linked to the first, the Daughters of Zelophehad were Submissive – Every step of the way we see them not only respecting the male leadership but being submissive to their guidance, counsel and decisions.  We don’t see them manipulating or overstepping authority in any way.  They came to Eleazar, Joshua (Moses) and the leaders of Israel and entrusted them with their predicament.
  3. Third, the Daughters of Zelophehad were Bold – it must have been intimidating to go before Moses and the leaders of Israel and appeal to them, but they did.  And twenty years later, they did it again.
  4. Fourth, the Daughters of Zelophehad were women of Faith – They believed what God had promised.  Can you imagine the conversations that took place in those households as the sisters talked and talked about God’s promise to them.  I wonder if the twenty year time frame brought some discouragement to God’s promise;  or maybe the transition of leadership from Moses to Joshua.  Would Joshua uphold what Moses established on that day?  But they came, nonetheless, exercising faith in God’s promise to them.
  5. Fifth, the Daughters of Zelophehad were women of the Word – How could they be respectful, submissive, bold or exercise faith?  What fed all these qualities in these women?  I submit to you that it was that they had a love for God and for His Word.  If their God, the One True God gave them a promise then they would believe it.  They stood on the security and sufficiency of God’s truth.

Wow! What a group of ladies.  What an example!  And I am convinced that in our churches (in my church, CVFirst) we have many whom I can consider as the Daughters of Zelophehad.  They are women who love the Lord, who want and need the care and support of the men and leadership of the church.  They pray for their Pastors and Elders and want to serve the Lord boldly by faith and in the joy of the Lord Jesus Christ.image2

Let me give you a few examples of what I am talking about (knowing that I risk hurting people by omission, so I am asking for grace and forgiveness if I don’t give you the attention I give others):

  • Leanne Fosdahl – She is an amazing example of one woman willing to listen to the burden of the Lord on her heart, walk through open doors and see God grow an opportunity into a ministry.  She now enters one of our local prisons and holds a Bible study for a group of female inmates who are being saved, evangelizing their families and growing in their walk with the Lord.
  • Cherylann Sammons – Her heart is so big for the plight of women (poverty, abuse, neglect, etc) of the world, in particular in India and Indonesia.  She has spent many hours on planes, in meetings holding services and ministering the Gospel and the strength of the Lord throughout those regions.
  • Pauline Butler – I mention Pauline not because she has a dynamic ministry like the ladies already listed, but because she is a “paraklete”.  She is an encourager, comforter and one who is willing to come along side other women in their struggles.  Many women are like Pauline, happy to use their gifts, but behind the scenes, yet no less important.
  • Gini Monroe – She is a stately woman of God, whom I love and have served alongside with joy on a number of occasions: teaching seminars, mission trip, etc.  Gini is an evangelist who is bold with God’s Gospel and fearless to speak the truth in love.  She is a gifted teacher, counselor and mentor.
  • Carolyn Nystrum – Carolyn seems to always be one step ahead when it comes to the care of others in the church.  She always knows who is sick, in the hospital, hurting or simply needing some encouragement.  She is a “stealth minister” who is working hard behind the scenes.
  • Liz Fosdahl – Liz has been teaching a Women’s Bible Study in our church called “Women of the Word” for 19 years.  She is a gifted teacher and her persistence and consistency has helped to fashion and shape many women in our flock and many others too.
  • Selina Castaneda – When it comes to music Selina is a workaholic.  She plays in the band, sings solo’s and duets, leads worship for the ladies retreats, VBS and during our second hour Sunday School Class.  She is always full of joy and loves both the Lord and His precious Word.
  • Imogene Lyrla -She, along with a crew of women have fitted the hospitals and and Senior rest homes with throw quilts that they make week after week.  It may seem a small thing to many, but it is an act of love dispersed in our community that says to those recipients, “You are important and we at CVFirst want you to know that.”

And I could go on for we have so many ladies who are faithfully serving the Lord.

  • But, there is one Daughter of Zelophehad, however, that must get the spotlight for she is my very own wife, Elia Phillips – She not only serves as the director of the choir at CVFirst, she is also married to me.  She is a solid pillar of faithfulness to the Lord, hunger for God’s truth and getting behind her man, who happens to be the Sr. Pastor.

These are all my Mothers and Sisters (and a wife) who are the Daughters of Zelophehad in our church – may their tribe increase and abound!

They are the Daughters of Zelophehad – they are the “DZ”

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Be Ye Glad

Every once in a while I pull an ancient cd from my shelf from my years around college and listen to the kind of music that God used to get me through the evenings and late nights…  I know!  I know!  You are probably surprised to hear me say ancient CD’s aren’t you, and not “I pulled out my old 8-Tracks” to listen to…  Well, back in my dinosaur years the CD was just coming in and was cutting edge — truth be known, however, It was really the Cassette that was in vogue and it was only later that I purchased CD’s as my Cassettes were all worn out, plus I ruined and hated the ritual of finding an No. 2 pencil to wind the Cassette up when it got all funky in the player…but I digress…

Well, truth be told, there is one group that fed my soul and was acceptable music for my time in College and Seminary…and it is the group by the name of “Glad”.  Now, for their time they were not only the rage, but a bridge from a more traditional style of music to a more contemporary expression, and, although they were primarily an Acapella group – which means that they sang without instruments, just voices — (as Rush Limbaugh would say, for those of you in Rio Linda), they were also an excellent band.

So, for your viewing pleasure here are a couple of their songs, but I must admit, they sound much better than they look — and please, not comments on the Mullett’s…

But, in all that they did, there is one video that I want to draw your attention to.  It is masterful and prophetic in nature and causes you to think, “If Glad were still in their prime, what would they do now?”  That question will be made evident if you take the time to listen to the video…and please do, you won’t be disappointed!!

Now that was fun wasn’t it?

So, here is one song that they are remembered for the most…cheesy outfits, but the song is great…