Monday, August 29, 2011

Women of influence

"Dance of Salome" by Louis Chalon

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 14:1-12

TO CHEW ON: "...the daughter of Herodias danced ... and pleased Herod. Therefore he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. So she, having been prompted by her mother, said, 'Give me John the Baptist's head on a platter.'" Matthew 14:6-8

Doesn't this grisly scenario give you chills? Here we have a beautiful young girl, dancing for her mother's new husband. When she "pleases" him and he asks her what he can give her as a gift, she requests not royal stuff or pretty things but a head on a platter.

Herodias, the young girl's mother and the woman behind that macabre idea of a reward, is Herod's niece and former wife of his brother Philip. Herod has seduced her, then persuaded her to divorce Philip and marry him instead.

I can just see Herodias rubbing her hands in delight at this turn of events that gives her an opportunity to get back at the man (John the Baptist) who makes her new husband squirm. I hate to think what kind of woman Herodias' daughter grows up to become!

Herodias is just one of many women in the Bible who use their influence for evil:
  • Eve persuades Adam to join her in giving in to temptation - Genesis 3:6.
  • Samson's wife Delilah nags at him till he finally divulges the secret of his strength, which she then tells his enemies and Samson is captured, jailed, and eventually killed - Judges 16:1-20.
  • Jezebel suggests murder to King Ahab so he can have the garden of his desire - 1 Kings 21:7,25.
  • Haman's wife Zeresh has the idea to build a backyard gallows to execute Mordecai - Esther 5:14.
  • Job's wife suggests to him that he curse God after he is pummeled with problems and then gets afflicted with boils - Job 2:9-10.

Contrast these women with the women who use their influence for good:
  • Deborah's strength of character and personality elevate her to become a judge in Israel -- and one of the few women political leaders in the Bible - Judges 4:4.
  • Ruth leaves her native country and gods to stay with her Hebrew mother-in-law - Ruth 1:16. She becomes part of Jesus' lineage.
  • Hannah is a mother who prays for a son, promises him to God, and keeps her promise - 1 Samuel 1:20; 2:18-20.
  • Abigail's quick thinking keeps David from reacting in anger against Abigail's foolish husband - 1 Samuel 25:32-35.
  • Esther is a queen who is willing to risk her own life for her people - Esther 4:16.

As women, and men, let's be careful who influences us, realizing our own potential to influence our families, our churches, our communities, and the wider world for bad or good.

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to be a woman whose influence is good, in my family, my church, my community and wherever my presence is felt. Amen.

MORE: Bad girls have their own books

Liz Curtis Higgs has written several books  (Bad Girls of the Bible and Really Bad Girls of the Bible) that focus on some of the Bible's darker female characters. Her website describes the first book:

In Bad Girls of the Bible, Liz offers a clear-sighted, life-changing approach to understanding those "other women" in Scripture—Delilah,  Jezebel, Rahab, Lot's wife, and six more.  Liz combines a contemporary fictional retelling of their stories with a solid, verse-by-verse study of their lives and the lessons we can learn from them.

I haven't read these books, but they do sound interesting!

Bible Drive-Thru

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