Perhaps we ought to express amazement not only at the size and success of Promise Keepers, but also that the idea of someone keeping his promises should be considered so revolutionary as to start a movement! Perhaps we should pause to ponder what kind of church we have become, now that many Christian men seem to require their own books, videos, magazines, Bible study guides, conferences, seminars, support groups, even their own praise and worship music in order to find the motivation to lead lives of godliness and moral virtue.
In Eden we glimpse the larger purposes of God for humankind. These glimpses offer the framework within which the debate about the specific roles for men and women in the Christian ministry must take place.
The Old Testament teaches us much about the nature of God. It is the inspired record of God working out his eternal plan for us. From the Old Testament we learn about God’s long-suffering, loving, merciful nature. We see the beginning of his plan for our redemption. The God revealed to us in the Old Testament is the same God further revealed in the New Testament. Through Christ, we can see the promises of God more clearly than those who “welcomed them from a distance” (Heb. 11:13). Furthermore, in this era of God’s history, the Holy Spirit dwells in all who belong to his Son (Rom. 8:9). However, God is still the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. We need to remember this truth as we study the Old Testament.
Roles do not create identity. You are who you are no matter what you do, within your physical capacity. Men cannot bear children. Many women can. Yet a woman who could not bear children would still be a woman. Our human identity comes not from our roles but from our creation and re-creation by God.
Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the sons of Israel came to her for judgment. (Judges 4:4–5, NASB)
Who says dual leadership won’t work?? Who says some one person has to make the ultimate decision? This is not a “truth” that I find explicitly stated in Scripture, nor is it one that has panned out in real life in every case. I would suggest that it is in the category of “old-husbands’ tales” that have been taken as gospel truth for far too long.
In the vital story of God’s establishing his covenant with Abraham, we may think that Sarah played an almost passive role. She was the woman behind the man. However, at times Scripture gives Sarah a much more prominent place than we usually realize.
A number of years ago a Baptist men’s group in the panhandle of far West Texas wanted to have a ladies night. They invited their wives and girl friends, and they invited me to be their speaker. They assigned me the following rather traditional topic: “The Woman Behind the Man.” They thought that was an appropriate theme for Ladies’ Night with the Baptist Men.
The best example of a woman in leadership over Israel is Deborah, one of the judges, all of whom were responsible for keeping the Promised Land free of foreign domination. Judges 4 is the prose account of Israel’s victory over the Canaanites from Hazor. Judges 5 is the “Song of Deborah” which tells the same story in poetic form.