Women Who Made Jehovah’s Heart Rejoice
“May Jehovah reward the way you act, and may there come to be a perfect wage for you from Jehovah.”—RUTH 2:12.
1, 2. How may we benefit by reflecting on Bible examples of women who made Jehovah’s heart rejoice?
FEAR of God impelled two women to defy a Pharaoh. Faith moved a prostitute to risk her life so as to protect two Israelite spies. Sensibleness and humility in a crisis helped a woman to save many lives and to prevent the anointed of Jehovah from incurring bloodguilt. Faith in Jehovah God along with a spirit of hospitality moved a widow and mother to give the last of her food to a prophet of God. These are just some of the many Scriptural examples of women who made Jehovah’s heart rejoice.
2 Jehovah’s attitude toward such women and the blessings he bestowed upon them demonstrate that what pleases him above all else are spiritual qualities, which transcend gender. In today’s world, obsessed as it is with the physical, giving priority to one’s spirituality is a challenge. But that challenge can be met, as is demonstrated by millions of God-fearing women who form a large part of God’s people today. Such Christian women imitate the faith, discretion, hospitality, and other fine qualities demonstrated by God-fearing women mentioned in the Bible. Of course, Christian men too want to imitate the qualities shown by such exemplary women of ancient times. To see how we may do so to a fuller degree, let us consider in more detail the Bible accounts about the women mentioned at the outset.—Romans 15:4; James 4:8.
Women Who Defied a Pharaoh
3, 4. (a) Why did Shiphrah and Puah refuse to obey Pharaoh when he ordered that every newborn Israelite male be killed? (b) How did Jehovah reward the two midwives for their courage and godly fear?
3 At the Nuremberg trials, held in Germany after World War II, many who were convicted of mass murder tried to excuse the crimes they committed by arguing that they were simply obeying orders. Now compare these individuals with two Israelite midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, who lived in ancient Egypt during the reign of an unnamed but tyrannical Pharaoh. Fearing a burgeoning Hebrew population, Pharaoh ordered the two midwives to make sure that every newborn Hebrew male was killed. How did the women respond to that heinous command? “They did not do as the king of Egypt had spoken to them, but they would preserve the male children alive.” Why did these women not succumb to fear of man? Because they “feared the true God.”—Exodus 1:15, 17; Genesis 9:6.
4 Yes, the midwives took refuge in Jehovah, and he, in turn, proved to be “a shield” to them, protecting them from Pharaoh’s wrath. (2 Samuel 22:31; Exodus 1:18-20) But Jehovah’s blessing did not stop there. He rewarded Shiphrah and Puah with families of their own. He even honored these women by having their names and deeds recorded in his inspired Word for future generations to read, whereas the name of the Pharaoh has been lost in the sands of time.—Exodus 1:21; 1 Samuel 2:30b; Proverbs 10:7.
5. How do many Christian women today show the same attitude as did Shiphrah and Puah, and how will Jehovah reward them?
5 Are there women like Shiphrah and Puah today? Yes, indeed! Each year, thousands of such women fearlessly preach the Bible’s life-saving message in lands where “the order of the king” forbids it, thus risking their freedom or even their life. (Hebrews 11:23; Acts 5:28, 29) Impelled by love of God and neighbor, such brave women allow no one to stop them from sharing the good news of God’s Kingdom with others. Consequently, many Christian women contend with opposition and persecution. (Mark 12:30, 31; 13:9-13) As with Shiphrah and Puah, Jehovah is fully aware of the deeds of such excellent, courageous women, and he will demonstrate his love for them by preserving their names in his “book of life,” provided they endure faithfully to the end.—Philippians 4:3; Matthew 24:13.
A Former Prostitute Brings Joy to Jehovah’s Heart
6, 7. (a) What did Rahab know about Jehovah and his people, and how did this knowledge affect her? (b) How does God’s Word honor Rahab?
6 In the year 1473 B.C.E., a prostitute named Rahab lived in the Canaanite city of Jericho. Evidently, Rahab was a well-informed woman. When two Israelite spies sought refuge in her home, she was able to relate to them specific details about Israel’s miraculous Exodus from Egypt, even though that had occurred 40 years earlier! She was also familiar with Israel’s more recent victories over the Amorite Kings Sihon and Og. Note how that knowledge affected her. To the spies, she said: “I do know that Jehovah will certainly give you the land, . . . for Jehovah your God is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” (Joshua 2:1, 9-11) Yes, what Rahab learned about Jehovah and his deeds in behalf of Israel touched a responsive chord in her heart and caused her to have faith in him.—Romans 10:10.
7 Rahab’s faith moved her to action. She received the Israelite spies “in a peaceable way,” and she obeyed their life-saving instructions when Israel attacked Jericho. (Hebrews 11:31; Joshua 2:18-21) There is no doubt that Rahab’s works of faith brought joy to Jehovah’s heart, for he inspired the Christian disciple James to place her name alongside that of Abraham, God’s friend, as an example for Christians to imitate. James wrote: “In the same manner was not also Rahab the harlot declared righteous by works, after she had received the messengers hospitably and sent them out by another way?”—James 2:25.
8. How did Jehovah bless Rahab for her faith and obedience?
8 Jehovah rewarded Rahab in a number of ways. For one thing, he miraculously spared her life and the lives of all who sought refuge in her home—namely, “the household of her father and all who belonged to her.” Then he allowed these ones to dwell “in the midst of Israel,” where they were to be treated as natives. (Joshua 2:13; 6:22-25; Leviticus 19:33, 34) But that is not all. Jehovah also bestowed upon Rahab the honor of becoming an ancestress of Jesus Christ. What an overwhelming demonstration of loving-kindness toward a woman who had once been an idol-worshiping Canaanite! *—Psalm 130:3, 4.
9. How can Jehovah’s attitude toward Rahab and certain Christian women in the first century be encouraging to some women today?
9 Like Rahab, some Christian women, from the first century right down to today, have abandoned an immoral way of life in order to please God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) No doubt some of them grew up in an environment comparable to that of ancient Canaan, where immorality was rife and even viewed as normal. Yet, they changed their ways, impelled by faith based on an accurate knowledge of the Scriptures. (Romans 10:17) Hence, it could also be said of such women that “God is not ashamed of them, to be called upon as their God.” (Hebrews 11:16) What an honor!
Blessed for Her Sensibleness
10, 11. What circumstances involving Nabal and David moved Abigail to action?
10 Many faithful women of old displayed in an outstanding way the quality of sensibleness, making them a precious asset to Jehovah’s people. One such woman was Abigail, wife of the wealthy Israelite landowner Nabal. Abigail’s sensibleness contributed to the saving of lives and prevented David, Israel’s future king, from becoming bloodguilty. We can read about Abigail in the account recorded at 1 Samuel chapter 25.
11 As the story begins, David and his followers are encamped near Nabal’s flocks, which they protect free of charge day and night out of kindness to their Israelite brother Nabal. When David’s provisions are running low, he sends ten young men to Nabal to request food. Nabal now has an opportunity to show his appreciation to David and to honor him as Jehovah’s anointed. But Nabal does the opposite. In a fit of rage, he insults David and turns the young men away empty-handed. When David hears about this, he assembles 400 armed men and sets out to exact revenge. Abigail learns about her husband’s harsh response and acts quickly and prudently to appease David by sending a generous consignment of provisions. Then she herself goes to David.—Verses 2-20.
12, 13. (a) How did Abigail prove to be sensible as well as loyal to Jehovah and his anointed one? (b) What did Abigail do when she returned home, and how did matters turn out for her?
12 When Abigail meets David, her humble appeal for mercy reveals her deep respect for Jehovah’s anointed. “Jehovah will without fail make for my lord a lasting house, because the wars of Jehovah are what my lord is fighting,” she says, adding that Jehovah will commission David as leader over Israel. (Verses 28-30) At the same time, Abigail shows considerable courage by telling David that his pursuit of revenge, if unchecked, will lead to bloodguilt. (Verses 26, 31) David is brought to his senses by Abigail’s humility, deep respect, and clear thinking. He responds: “Blessed be Jehovah the God of Israel, who has sent you this day to meet me! And blessed be your sensibleness, and blessed be you who have restrained me this day from entering into bloodguilt.”—Verses 32, 33.
13 Upon returning home, Abigail bravely seeks to inform her husband of her gift to David. When she finds him, however, he is “as drunk as could be.” So she waits until he is sober and then tells him. How does Nabal react? He is so stunned that he is overcome by what may be some form of paralysis. Ten days later he dies at God’s hand. When David learns of Nabal’s death, he proposes marriage to Abigail, whom he evidently admires and deeply respects. Abigail accepts David’s offer.—Verses 34-42.
Can You Be Like Abigail?
14. What qualities of Abigail may we want to cultivate to a greater degree?
14 Do you see some qualities in Abigail that you—men as well as women—would like to cultivate to a greater degree? Perhaps you desire to act more prudently and sensibly when difficulties arise. Or maybe you want to speak in a calm and reasonable manner when the emotions of others around you are running high. If so, why not pray to Jehovah about the matter? He promises to give wisdom, discernment, and thinking ability to all who “keep on asking in faith.”—James 1:5, 6; Proverbs 2:1-6, 10, 11.
15. Under what circumstances is it especially important for Christian women to display the qualities shown by Abigail?
15 Such fine qualities are especially important for a woman with an unbelieving husband who pays little or no heed to Bible principles. Perhaps he drinks to excess. Hopefully, such men will change their ways. Many have done so—often in response to the mild manner, deep respect, and chaste conduct of their wives.—1 Peter 3:1, 2, 4.
16. Whatever her circumstances at home, how would a Christian sister demonstrate that she values her relationship with Jehovah above all else?
16 Whatever difficulties you may have to put up with at home, remember that Jehovah is always there to support you. (1 Peter 3:12) So strive to fortify yourself spiritually. Pray for wisdom and a calm heart. Yes, draw closer to Jehovah through regular Bible study, prayer, meditation, and association with fellow Christians. Abigail’s love for God and her attitude toward his anointed servant were not affected by her husband’s unspiritual outlook. She acted on the basis of righteous principles. Even in a household where the husband is an exemplary servant of God, a Christian wife realizes that she needs to continue to work hard to build up and maintain her own spirituality. True, her husband has the Scriptural obligation to care for her spiritually and materially, but in the final analysis, she must work out her “own salvation with fear and trembling.”—Philippians 2:12; 1 Timothy 5:8.
She Received “a Prophet’s Reward”
17, 18. (a) The widow of Zarephath was presented with what unusual test of faith? (b) How did the widow respond to Elijah’s request, and how did Jehovah reward her for this?
17 The way in which Jehovah cared for a poor widow in the time of the prophet Elijah shows that he deeply appreciates those who support true worship by giving of themselves and of their resources. Because of a prolonged drought in Elijah’s day, starvation stared many in the face, including a widow and her young son living in Zarephath. Just when they were down to their last meal, a visitor arrived—the prophet Elijah. He made a most unusual request. Although aware of the woman’s plight, he asked her to bake “a small round cake” for him, using the last of her oil and flour. But he added: “For this is what Jehovah the God of Israel has said, ‘The large jar of flour itself will not get exhausted, and the small jar of oil itself will not fail until the day of Jehovah’s giving a downpour upon the surface of the ground.’”—1 Kings 17:8-14.
18 How would you have responded to that extraordinary request? The widow of Zarephath, apparently recognizing that Elijah was Jehovah’s prophet, “did according to Elijah’s word.” In what way did Jehovah respond to her act of hospitality? He miraculously provided food for the woman, her son, and Elijah during the drought. (1 Kings 17:15, 16) Yes, Jehovah gave the widow of Zarephath “a prophet’s reward,” even though she was not an Israelite. (Matthew 10:41) The Son of God also honored this widow when he held her up as an example before the faithless people of his hometown, Nazareth.—Luke 4:24-26.
19. In what ways do many Christian women today reflect the spirit of the widow of Zarephath, and how does Jehovah feel about these ones?
19 Today, many Christian women reflect the spirit of the widow of Zarephath. For example, every week, unselfish Christian sisters—many of whom are poor and have families to care for—extend hospitality to traveling overseers and their wives. Others share meals with local full-time ministers, help the needy, or in some other way give of themselves and of their resources to support the Kingdom work. (Luke 21:4) Does Jehovah note such sacrifices? Absolutely! “God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name, in that you have ministered to the holy ones and continue ministering.”—Hebrews 6:10.
20. What will be considered in the following article?
20 In the first century, several God-fearing women had the privilege of ministering to Jesus and his apostles. In the next article, we will discuss how these women brought joy to Jehovah’s heart, and we will consider the example of modern-day women who serve Jehovah wholeheartedly, even in difficult circumstances.
• How did the following women make Jehovah’s heart rejoice?
• Shiphrah and Puah
• The widow of Zarephath
• How can meditating on the examples set by these women help us personally? Illustrate.
[Pictures on page 9]
Many faithful women have served God despite “the order of the king”
[Picture on page 10]
Why is Rahab a fine example of someone having faith?
[Picture on page 10]
What qualities displayed by Abigail do you want to imitate?
[Picture on page 12]
Many Christian women today reflect the spirit of the widow of Zarephath