MARTHA

MARTHA. With a name meaning “the lady” or “the mistress” Martha reminds us of the importance of perspective when we go about doing our work.


Martha is the sister of Lazarus & Mary, and lived with them in Bethany. We meet this family in the gospels of Luke & John, and quickly realize that it is rare for the Bible to chat about a whole family in the New Testament, so we should take a close look at them.

It appears that Jesus regularly stops by to visit with them when He is in the area, and on one such visit, Martha appears to be stressed about entertaining her guests, especially because her sister is doing something out of the ordinary for a Jewish woman. (More on that tomorrow). When she brings up her concern to Jesus, He speaks words she was not expecting to hear. That her sister is doing the better thing by listening to her guest, instead of worrying about meal preparations.

That would have hurt, if I had been Martha.

Later in John 11, Martha sends word to Jesus that her brother, his friend Lazarus is seriously ill, and to come quickly. We might think its to say goodbye, but her reaction when Jesus finally arrives well after Lazarus has died shows she did believe Jesus could have prevented her brother’s death, and believed Him when He revealed to her that He is the Resurrection and the Life, and that her brother would rise again.

Yet Martha couldn’t help but speak her thoughts when she commented to Jesus that Lazarus had been in the grave 4 days, and would smell accordingly. Jesus reminds her that He told her her brother would rise again. (In those days, they thought that was the rising of the dead to go to heaven). Imagine her shock and joy as she watched her brother come out of the tomb immediately following Jesus’ 3 words, “Lazarus, come out.”

Despite not being perfect, she is included in witnessing these two miracles. The first, that a woman is worthy of being educated by a rabbi (Bible teacher) and the second, the raising of her brother from the grave!

Martha reminds me that although being organized isn’t a bad thing, spending time with Jesus and getting to know who He is is the more important thing, and should be reflected in my to do list. I am ever so grateful that God included Martha’s story, as despite speaking her mind, Jesus continues to spend time with her and address her concerns.

#SheBelongs #sharingHope

MARY MAGDALENE

MARY MAGDALENE. With the name Magdalene referring to not only her hometown but meaning ‘tower,’ Mary reminds me that our past may try to tower over us, but as His beloved (the meaning of Mary) God will take us along new paths we could never dream of!

What is most notable about this Mary is that Jesus delivered her of 7 demonic spirits.  She is not mentioned as having been possessed by them, so we can know that like many of us, her background likely had her agreeing with enemy lies and being heavily influenced by them until Jesus sets her free. There is no confirmation in the Bible that she was a loose woman, but we can see she was a hurting one who encountered Jesus wanting to be set free. We also don’t hear about any family, so no wonder why she might want to follow the One who the spirits obey and learn more about Him!

Mary Magdalene ends up joining the group of women who travelled alongside Jesus and his disciples, serving them as Jesus travelled ministering around Israel.

What stands out to me the most about her? Jesus reveals Himself first to her on Easter morning when He rose up from the grave! Not one of his male disciples, but one who has faithfully been one of His followers. One who sobbed alongside His mother as He died on the cross, and likely cried & grieved as she with a few others went to help properly prepare His quickly buried body in the tomb. One of the few who the angel informed Jesus had risen as He had said He would.

I think He revealed Himself to her coz He knew she would spread the Good News without hesitation, because of her great devotion to Him. Even though the disciples didn’t believe her as she passed on His message, she not only believed Him, she was obedient to do as He asked of her. The first bringer of Good News after His resurrection!

Mary was also one of those waiting on Pentecost when Holy Spirit fell on them in power. I can only imagine how she continued to share about Jesus to anyone who would listen!

Mary Magdalene reminds me we can continue to draw close to Jesus for our healing and restoration, and follow wherever He leads, knowing He has defeated death and will be at our side, always!

#SheBelongs #sharingHope

MARY.

MARY. With a name meaning ‘beloved,’ Mary (the cousin of Elizabeth from yesterday’s post) certainly exemplifies this in her life!

We first meet Mary, engaged to carpenter Joseph, when her cousin Elizabeth (unknown to most at the time) is 6 months pregnant with her miracle.

Mary is visited by an angel, who informs her God holds her in high favor, she will become supernaturally pregnant & carry the long foretold Saviour.

Her response is to respond with wonder and accept the news to be true. I believe at that moment, Mary accepted without knowing what was to come, trusting the One who was putting His trust in her to be trustworthy to keep His word.

Wow!

We see that an angel also visited her fiance Joseph and informed him that the child she was carrying had been conceived by God, not another man like he was probably thinking and stressing over how to handle. Joseph married her, knowing she was carrying God with us within her, and ended up having taking Mary with him for the government census he had to do in Bethlehem around the time the baby was due.

Jesus arrives in a stable, as there was no room in any of the lodgings due to the census, and Mary’s world is turned upside down again in two new ways. She is now a mother, and has been charged with Joseph to raise the Messiah!

Right after the Magi (three Wise Men) visit her to leave gifts as they worship Jesus, whom the very stars have proclaimed to be King, they are warned by an angel to flee to Egypt until the earthly king Herod was no longer a threat to Jesus, and returned to Nazareth to raise their unusual son, & their other children.

Mary hid ALL the unusual things that happened raising Jesus in her heart. I think she knew that she would need these treasured memories one day, especially as Jesus began His ministry.

Mary was the first to ask Jesus to perform a miracle at the wedding in Cana, at the cross when Jesus died, and with the disciples on Pentecost when Holy Spirit fell upon them.

May we too be willing vessels for our Savior, and wonder at all the ways in which He moves in our lives, within and around us!

#SheBelongs #sharingHope

ELIZABETH

ELIZABETH. With a name meaning ‘God is my abundance,’ Elizabeth reminds me that trusting in the Lord never goes to waste.

We meet Elizabeth in Luke 1, where we are told not only is she the wife of a priest named Zechariah, she is also the cousin of Mary, engaged to Joseph.

By all accounts, Elizabeth and Zechariah are devoted to one another & God. Yet they did not have children during the usual time frame, and so were growing older together, just the two of them.

Zechariah gets chosen (a huge honor as a priest) to enter the Holy of Holiest to minister to the Lord, and when he does? He sees an angel who delivers unexpected news – not only will Elizabeth become pregnant, but they can expect to have a son!
Not only a son, but one who will be filled with Holy Spirit and be a prophet who will turn people’s hearts back to God. And one to be named John.

Zechariah questions the angel about how this could be, and is struck dumb until the prophetic word could come to pass. It was quite the shocker to the other priests and their community when Zechariah came out of the temple unable to speak!

Elizabeth became pregnant, as the angel said, and secluded herself for 5 months at home. (If I was her, I would not only be savoring this unexpected gift of a pregnancy, but concerned about staying pregnant as an older woman, and not being talked about while out in town.)

The next part of Elizabeth’s story is hinted at by the arm in today’s graphic, but more on that story tomorrow!

Elizabeth delivered a son! He was named John as directed by the angel despite the interference of those at his naming ceremony, at Elizabeth’s insistence. Immediately after, Zechariah’s voice returned, and he publically praised God & prophesied over John! (What joyful words were likely exchanged between Elizabeth & Zechariah after so many months, at least 9, of his silence! No more writing to communicate.)

Elizabeth’s story reminds me that staying true to my faith, even when things don’t go as I would have planned them to, can result in blessings beyond my understanding!

#SheBelongs #sharingHope

RUTH

RUTH. With a name meaning ‘conpassionate friend’, Ruth reminds me the depths of love possible between two people from different backgrounds
Her story also reassures me that what might be intended to harm me may make way for a new way for God to bless me.

Ruth married into a Jewish family which was living in another country due to falling on tough times. In a bizarre set of circumstances, all three men in the family fall ill and die. Leaving an older widow without her husband and two sons in a foreign land, and two young daughters in law without their spouses.

Certainly not the opening to the best story so far, is it? Grief and loss can squeeze the very life out of us if we aren’t careful, and Naomi, the older widow realizes she needs to return to Israel. She fully expects her lovely daughter in laws to both return to their families, but Ruth surprises her with one of the most love filled lines in the Bible.

“Where you go, I go.”

So to Israel they go, one returning Jew to her homeland and one foreigner leaving behind life as she has known it, adopting Naomi as her mother and following God as her Father, into the unknown.

Life is tough, with poverty and hunger a daily reality until Ruth is spotted, busy at work gleaming in the fields, by landowner Boaz, and someone points out they are distantly related, and how Ruth is so caring towards his relative Naomi.

He shows Ruth favor for her kindness, and Naomi realizes this might be a blessing to come despite their circumstances.

Long story short, Ruth, the foreigner from Moab, ends up marrying Boaz (son of Rahab & Salamon) and gives birth to future king David’s grandfather!

God wove this grieving foreigner into the tapestry of His story forever by not only restoring her but blessing her with more than she had lost.

One of my all time favorite books of the Bible, for I too have felt like a foreigner leaving home to marry, and endured sudden, unexpected loss & grief. Not exactly like Ruth, but enough that her story inspires me to keep moving on towards Him.

May we too keep our eyes on our Father and trust His ways even if we can’t see them in the midst of our current circumstances.

#SheBelongs #sharingHope

DEBORAH

DEBORAH. With a name meaning ‘bee,’ Deborah’s story reminds me to ‘be’ who God has designed me to be, even if it doesn’t look ‘normal’ to others!

Deborah was a judge back in the day before Israel chose to have their first king. The judges were chosen to lead during seasons of duress (usually after a period of turning away from God, where He allowed them to be oppressed by other nations until they returned to Him. Deborah was not only a wife and prophetess, but was the only female judge we are aware of in the book of Judges. (Her story is in chapters 4 & 5!)

Israel was currently being oppressed by the Canaanites, with a ferocious commander leading their army names Sisera. And in their cry to God to save them, Deborah got a word from the Lord which she passed on to Barak, of the Israelite army, that he was to head to the Kishon River where God would deliver Sisera & his army into their hands.

Barak replied that he would only go and do so if Deborah went with him.

Deborah replied very strangely (at least it appears so the 1st time you read her words) by saying because of his decision, Sisera would be delivered into the hands of a woman.

Very strange words in a time when only men went to war!

Everything happened as expected, with Israel defeating the entire Canaanite army – except for Sisera. His king had an alliance with one Moses’s brother on law’s relatives, Heber of Kenite, so that is where Sisera fled during the battle.

Jael, Heber’s wife, gave Sisera a drink as he requested, and was asked by him to tell no one he was there while he fell slept, exhausted after his ordeal.

While he lay sleeping, Jael took him out with a tent peg to his temple. And by doing so, she fulfilled Deborah’s prophecy that a woman would deliver Israel of Sisera. Barak arrived just in time for Jael to inform him of what she had done.

After the victory, Deborah and Barak sang a song of triumph and thanks to God, and interestingly enough Deborah & Jael were mentioned twice as much as Barak, certainly not the norm for a post war party in those days!

Deborah reminds me that I am free to be the me He has called me to be.

#SheBelongs #sharingHope

ESTHER

ESTHER. Her Jewish birth name Hadassah means “to do the right thing.” Her Persian given name, Esther, means ‘Star’ in Persian, but ‘hide, conceal’ in Hebrew.

Amazingly so, God made all these names come to life in this woman, who started off like Cinderella and ended up the rescuer of her people.

Esther was a teenaged girl who got caught up in the drama surrounding the Persian throne. The current King had just removed his Queen from her position, and was looking for a replacement. All the beautiful girls across the country were gathered up and taken to the palace to be groomed & trained for a one day meeting of the King. If he liked you, and you stayed overnight, you became a part of his harem, his property.

Esther impressed those training the girls, following every suggestion & tip they offered. The King was delighted with her, and made her the new Queen.

There are two other players in this story worth mentioning. Esther’s uncle Mordecai, and a chief official named Haman.

In a nutshell, Haman wanted Mordecai to bow down to him, which as a devout Jew, Mordecai wouldn’t do.

Because Haman took this as a personal snub, he made an edit (official announcement approved by the King) to kill all the Jews in Persia, not just Mordecai. Not knowing that the Queen herself was Jewish.

Esther, after a period of fasting and prayer, set out to do the most dangerous thing she could do – approach the King without being summoned. In those days, you could die for this. The King extended his scepter and asked her to speak. She invited he & Haman to a banquet. And so pleased the King he offered her up to half his kingdom. She then invited them both to a second banquet, where she revealed the edit, the fact she was Jewish, & the instigator was Haman. The King left in a range, and retuned just in time to see Haman groveling & appearing to molest the Queen.

The King promptly had Haman hung on the gallows he had built to kill Mordecai, & modified the edit to give the Jews the right to defend themselves.

For such a time as this, Esther stepped up as only she could, and reminds me to do the same as He leads.

Esther impacted her people’s history in a way that could only have come to pass if she did as God prompted her to do.

And God included the book of Esther in His Word to remind women everywhere that He can use them, wherever they are!

#SheBelongs #sharingHope

RAHAB

RAHAB. With a name meaning ‘spacious,’ her story reminds me that God can bring anyone into His story!

We first meet Rahab at the inn she is running in Jericho, which explains why we would see two visitors to town check in. It is likely she either ran a brothel out of the inn or offered her services on the side as a prostitute. Usually these places are not in the best areas of town.

Either way, the two Jewish spies in Joshua 2 impacted Rahab, when she decided to help them hide from the authorities.

What is clear – although she is not an Israelite, she had become a God fearing woman as she heard the stories about Israel conquering their promised land, and knows in her heart that God & His people will be victorious in taking her city.

God knew she was the one to save his spies, and in return the y make an arrangement to rescue her and those in her Inn if she hangs a red cord from one of her windows.

That red cord ended up saving her section of the city from bring destroyed! What a miracle Rahab gets to experience first hand as she puts her faith in God!

Rahab not only survives the fall of Jericho, she ends up marrying an Israelite named Salmon, and becoming the mother of Boaz… and part of the lineage of King David!

Rahab reminds me that when I come to God, He can take the ugly ashes of my history and shape something beautiful of me despite them, as He weaves me into His wonderful story of redemption! Just as He brought Rahab out of the inn into a new spacious place of freedom!

#SheBelongs #sharingHope #hopefortheharddays

ABIGAIL

ABIGAIL. With a name meaning “source of joy,” Abigail’s story is a reminder of the importance of doing the right thing at the right time.

We first meet Abigail, the wife of Nabal in I Samuel 25. David and his band of outcasts are on the run from King Saul. David comes across some shepherds he has protected in the past and he sends a blessing, a reminder and a request via messenger to their master, Nabal, a miserable yet very wealthy land owner.

Nabal insults them in his response. And so enrages David that he and 400 of his men prepare to attack Nabal in response.

One very wise servant goes to Abigail, and informs her of the now dangerous situation.

In verse 18, Abigail raids her stock room, and sends out food supplies ahead of her as she prepares to meet David and his men.

Not only apparently was Abigail wealthy, but she is described as intelligent and beautiful. I would add brave to that list as well!

Without telling her husband what she is doing, Abigail humbles herself before David, asks for forgiveness for Nabal’s offense, apologizes for not responding sooner and speaks blessing over David and his men.

Her quick action spared the lives of everyone who lived in her household, and yet Nabal was unaware of this fact until the next morning. For her husband was busy getting drunk, partying like nothing had happened.

Abigail wisely waited to inform him of what she had done until the next morning. Nothing like hearing you could have died due to your foolishness to sober you up, but in Nabal’s case, it appears he had a serious heart attack or stroke, went into a coma and passed away 10 days later.

When David heard Nabal had passed away, he sent for Abigail and asked her to marry him. Likely a strategic move due to needing financial backing, but I like to think Abigail captured his thoughts with her bravery, not only her beauty & money. She married David, and gave birth to his second born son, Chileab (also known as Daniel).

Had Abigail not heeded the prompting to intervene, this source of joy would likely have been slaughtered due to Nabal’s foolishness.

May we too like Abigail step up when God prompts us to act!

#SheBelongs #sharingHope
#hopefortheharddays

MIRIAM

MIRIAM. With a name meaning “bitterness,” Miriam has taught me that not dealing with our emotions can cause a train wreck of epic proportions in our lives.

We first meet Miriam in Exodus 15, in the story of her youngest brother, Moses, when her mother assigns her watch duty over him as they “hide” him in a waterproof boat in the Nile. Miriam was obviously quick thinking, for when an Egyptian princess pulled him out of the water, Miriam offered to find a wet nurse for the child, aka. his very mother!

That whole scenario, watching her brother grow up in the lap of luxury obviously left a bitter root deep within Miriam, ministering as a prophetess and singer amongst her people, yet still a slave.
Somehow Miriam felt overlooked despite her giftedness. Yet that bitter root didn’t show up until much later in her story. She and Moses sang one of the most beloved songs in Israel as they left Egypt. Her brother Aaron was Moses’ right hand, and instead of focusing on being part of His plan for redeeming her people? Miriam allowed that bitter root to become full blown jealousy and spurred Aaron on to rebel against Moses while he was up on Mount Sinai receiving the 10 Commandments for their people. Her rebellion not only cost Israel thousands of lives, but God’s displeasure and the most embarrassing visible sign of that displeasure – leprosy. (Numbers 12:12)

Leprosy would have immediately caused her to be an outcast, and have a lot of time on her hands to face the consequences of what she had done.

After a week, when Moses and Aaron prayed to God on her behalf, God healed and restored her body. What we don’t see is Miriam returning to ministry after this life altering incident.

How many times have I held on to a real or perceived offence due to jealousy, and caused myself inner harm as I strained a relationship? Miriam reminds me that a bitter root left unchecked can derail me from what God has for me, and to take every thought captive as soon as I can!

#SheBelongs #sharingHope #hopefortheharddays