Sometimes obvious things are hard to see. Take, for instance, the fact that in the story of salvation God not only employed the gifts of women, but also did so at the most critical moments. This must say something about how God works.
First of all, there’s Miriam, whose significance did not end with the bulrushes. Exodus 15 introduces her as “Miriam the prophet” and describes her leading the procession of women celebrating their deliverance from bondage. Micah looks back and comments that God sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to lead (Micah 6:4). In Numbers 12 when Miriam and Aaron challenge Moses, God reprimands them but confirms their status as prophets. At what is arguably the defining moment of the people of Israel, the exodus, God employs a woman to lead.
At another supremely significant moment—the advent of the Messiah—God uses women to make salvation known. Mary, of course, carries the Word in her very body. Elizabeth in turn prophesies about the identity of Mary’s unborn baby, when she calls Mary “the mother of my Lord” (Luke 1). Considering that later on Jesus’ disciples witnessed his preaching and miracles, but were still uncertain about his identity, it is striking that Elizabeth recognizes the unborn Jesus as her Lord. Luke also writes of the prophet Anna who lived in the Temple for decades after being widowed (Luke 2). When Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the Temple, Simeon speaks prophetically over the baby, but Anna spreads the news of him to all who held messianic hope. In this stunning moment when God arrives in human flesh, God puts news of salvation in the mouths of women.
Again, when death is conquered, God entrusts the incredible news to women. In all four gospels the women who make their way to Jesus’ tomb are commissioned to go and tell that Jesus has been raised. In fact, Mary Magdalene was called the “apostle to the apostles” by some in the early church since Jesus himself charged her to tell the other disciples about his resurrection (John 20).
Finally, at the founding of the church, women participate in prophetic roles once again. Mary, Jesus’ mother “and the other women” were included in the 120 gathered in the upper room (Acts 1:14). Filled with the Spirit, they too preach on the streets of Jerusalem, which Peter’s use of the passage in Joel confirms. Joel predicted that when the Spirit was poured out many people, women as well as men, would prophesy, something Peter suggests was fulfilled on that Pentecost day.
The obvious but often overlooked fact is this: God chose to use the proclamation of women at the most critical moments in the history of salvation. If only men were supposed to carry the Word, then presumably God would not have inspired women to lead and prophesy, particularly at these important junctures. Thankfully, Scripture tells us their stories, so we know God welcomes the gifts of all.
Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash.