April 21 - 27
Wives as Advisers
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Prov. 20:18.
MEMORY TEXT: "And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14b, RSV).
KEY THOUGHT: So lovingly intimate is the ideal relationship between husband and wife that the Bible uses a bride and groom as a metaphor, or symbol, for Christ and His church. Although men (often husbands) dominate the Scriptures, women (often wives) play a few major and many minor roles. Scattered throughout the Bible are occasional brief stories describing wives as advisers to their husbands.
WIVES FUNCTIONED AS UNOFFICIAL ADVISERS. Bible biographies tell mainly of menyoung and old, good and bad, king or slave, prophet or rebel. No doubt, many reasons for this exist, one being, simply, that the society in which the Bible stories took place was overtly dominated by men, in fact, only two books of the Bible are even titled with a woman's name. Yet women have had crucial roles to play in this great drama called Planet Earth, roles that will continue until the close of time.
This week we study wives who gave advice, both good and bad, to their husbands, thus advancing from a customary domestic role to that of spiritual, political, and moral counselor. What kind of advice did they give, and how effective was it? Did the husbands listen, and what happened when they did? What happened, on the other hand, when they did not? What lessons are here in the stories both for husbands and for wives? How little some basic things change, even after many centuries.
Biographers analyze people or events that impacted the lives of those they write about, often seeing great importance in brief encounters or experiences. These experiences, and how the people respond to them, are what make them worthy of biography. Both King Ahasuerus and David had high-voltage advice given to them by two very shrewd, prudent, and courageous women, Esther and Abigail, whose stories were deemed important enough to be placed in the biblical canon. Esther jeopardized her position as queen by instigating the events that led up to the advice she gave the king; by contrast, Abigail's advice to David resulted in her being chosen as a wife.
Foolish men, wise women. Both of these stories tell of men who were not acting with great wisdom but who allowed greed, jealousy, and anger to dominate their actions. In contrast, the stories also showed women who worked hard, even at great personal risk, to avert the bad consequences that could have come about because of these men.
Scan 1 Samuel 25 to get the background for the story of Abigail and how she worked with tact, shrewdness, sensitivity, and risk to try and mitigate something that a foolish man had done. In verse 24, when she approached David, she said, "Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be." What principle do we see in operation here, where an innocent person is willing to take the punishment for the guilty?
Esther, too, had to work with tact, sensitivity, and risk to prevent a calamity that could have been caused by a man who was allowing passion and anger to dominate. In her case, however, the issues at stake were much greater than in Abigail's, for the safety of her people was endangered. Haman had planned to wipe out the whole Jewish population simply because of his pride and arrogance.
Like Abigail, though, she was willing to take a great risk in order to give advice to her husband. Indeed, she had to stand before him, at the risk of death. The king listened to her advice, and Haman's foul plot was stopped.
|These two accounts reveal remarkable women who took great risks to attempt to avert evil. In both cases, they acted, in a sense, as intercessors, or even as saviors (with a small "s"). In what ways was what these women had done similar to what Christ has done for us?|
If Haman had heeded his wife's words, he probably would have spared himself an untimely and ignoble death: "Then his wise men and his wife Zeresh said to him, 'If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of the Jewish people, you will not prevail against him but will surely fall before him" (Esther 6:13b, RSV).
Given Haman's attitude toward Mordecai, why do you think he refused to heed the advice of his wife? Why do you think she was able to see what Haman himself couldn't? What lessons can we learn from Haman's blindness about allowing emotions to overrule common sense and good advice?
In the same way, if Pilate had followed his wife's advice, he would have saved himself a lot of grief: "'Have nothing to do with that righteous man,'" she said to him, "'for I have suffered much over him today in a dream'" (Matt. 27:19b, RSV).
The story of Pilate's wife's dream becomes especially poignant because of the insights of another woman who heeded the voice of God. Look at what Ellen White adds to our understanding of what Pilate's wife saw in her dream: "In answer to Christ's prayer, the wife of Pilate had been visited by an angel from heaven, and in a dream she had beheld the Saviour and conversed with Him. Pilate's wife was not a Jew, but as she looked upon Jesus in her dream, she had no doubt of His character or mission. She knew Him to be the Prince of God. She saw Him on trial in the judgment hall. She saw the hands tightly bound as the hands of a criminal . . . Still another scene met her gaze. She saw Christ seated upon the great white cloud, while the earth reeled in space, and His murderers fled from the presence of His glory."The Desire of Ages, p. 732.
|Augustine once said: "Sin is to nature what blindness is to an eye." In this context, why do you think Pilate refused to listen to the advice of his wife? What reasons, in comparison to Haman, did he have for his refusal? Isn't it easy to see how some of the same things that blinded Haman and Pilate to good counsel (indeed, some came directly from the Lord Himself!) can blind us as well? What steps can we take to prevent ourselves from falling into the same trap as these two unfortunate men? In other words, what things exist in our lives that are blinding us from seeing what we need to see?|
The closeness of the husband-and-wife relationship does not guarantee good advice. The familiar story of the original Fall leaves no doubt as to Eve's guiltand Adam's. Likewise, Abram and Sarai both sinned when he took Hagar as a wife. The lesson is clear: Those who influence others to sin are themselves sinning.
Sin in bunches. A single sin is hard to commit. It seems, as if by its demonic nature, sin rarely goes solo but instead clusters with other sins, each one feeding off the other. The case of Eve and the Fall exemplifies this principle. Her first error was wandering away from her husband's side. Next, she lingered around the forbidden tree. She then listened to the voice of the serpent, even daring to doubt God's words about not eating from the tree. Trusting her own judgment and sightas opposed to the clear command of GodEve ate from the tree. Then "she offered the fruit to her husband, thereby tempting him."Early Writings, pp. 147, 148.
After both fell, what was their first reaction? "The man said, 'The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.' Then the Lord God said to the woman, 'What is this that you have done?' The woman said, 'The serpent beguiled me, and I ate" (Gen. 3:12, 13, RSV). Why is it so natural for us to blame others for our sin?
What modern story can compete with the tale of the love triangle between the rich and influential Abraham, the beautiful but barren Sarah, and an Egyptian maid? The determined characters, the intriguing plot, the oriental setting, the conniving, and then backfiringall captivate the imagination.
The narrative started millennia ago with a wife's wrong advice:
"And Sarai said to Abram, 'Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my maid; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.' And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai" (Gen. 16:2, RSV).
|Both Eve and Sarai (even Adam and Abram) made the same fatal mistake: They trusted their sight, their reason, and their emotions over a clear thus saith the Lord. Why is it so easy to make the same mistake? How can we learn to trust God despite what our senses, or even reason, sometimes tell us, especially when our senses and our reason can so easily deceive us?|
Only two verses mention her. She merits no name except Job's wife. Yet the world knows her well, even if the Bible records just a few quick words she uttered in sheer pain: "Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God, and die" (Job 2:9b, RSV). In many ways, the poor woman has received bad press. Rememberall her possessions were just taken away too, all her children were killed, and that was her husband who was reduced from being "the greatest of all the men of the east" (Job 1:3) to a diseased, whining wreck left on a pile of rubble.
While her reaction wasn't rightit certainly is understandable!
Job responded to his wife like this: "You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" (Job 2:10, RSV). Though both his and her sufferings were terrible, what was the main difference in their reaction? What, possibly, could have caused the difference?
Job, clearly, had a hold on God that his wife, at least at the time, didn'twhich is why he overtly rejected her "advice." Though we are given no more information about his wife, other than her painful cry, the Bible does depict Job as a righteous, faithful man who continually worshiped the Lord (Job 1:1-5). No doubt his relationship to God and past faithfulness was able to sustain him during this crisis.
Job's wife uttered her words in the midst of a spontaneous outburst of pain, but Herod's wife's advice was calculated, cold, and pure evil. At first, Herod refused Herodias's sinister plot to kill John the Baptist, because he knew "that he was a righteous and holy man" (Mark 6:20, RSV). Unfortunately, in the midst of a decadent party (Mark 6:17-29), Herod gave in to his wife's words and had John beheaded, even though it went deeply against his conscience.
|Herod's story, in particular, shows how powerful the emotions and senses can be, even when pitted against conscience and reason. No wonder Scripture talks so much about keeping our bodies and sensual pleasures under control. Think of areas in your own life that could leave you open to the same disastrous mistake Herod made and ask yourself, What can I do to avoid the same folly?|
The Bible is not a book that ignores human flaws; on the contrary, it exposes themif not with lucid detail, then certainly with no gloss. Scripture makes no pretense to hide our faults, even the faults of the heroes of faith. How nice, then, when we're given examples of those who, despite the traps of lust, vanity, and pride, stand firm for principle.
The setting (read Esther 1, RSV). King Ahasuerus gives a seven-day banquet-lavish, long, and decadentfor his court.
The point of contention. Gorgeous Queen Vashti refuses to flaunt her beauty as commanded to the drunken audience. The refusal escalates to a national crisis: "For this deed of the queen will be made known to all women, causing them to look with contempt upon their husbands, since they will say, 'King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, and she did not come" (vs. 17).
The result. Vashti, standing on principle despite great personal cost to herself, lost her position as queen.
Little is known about this remarkable woman, Vashti, who, even in such a male-dominated culture, refused to compromise her modesty. In what ways could she have easily rationalized a decision to obey the king's order? Write down a few "good" reasons.
In comparison, there's also the story of Joseph and his master's wife:
The setting (Gen. 39). "So Joseph found favor in his [Potiphar's] sight and attended him, and he. . . put him in charge of all that he had" (vs. 4, RSV).
The point of contention. Because Joseph was "handsome and good-looking" (vs. 6), Potiphar's wife lusted for the appealing youth. "And although she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie with her or to be with her" (vs. 10, RSV).
The result. Potiphar's wife told lies about Joseph that caused him to be imprisoned.
In both cases, those who stood for principle suffered painful consequences. Think of people today who, because they refused to compromise truth, have suffered terribly. What lessons can we draw from their experiences?
FURTHER STUDY: Wives as Cooperators (Study passages below).
The following couples illustrate husbands and wives who functioned in agreement. Although the Bible records no explicit instruction the wife gave her husband, what is described suggests that there must have been intense discussions preceding their activities.
SUMMARY: If you think of witnessing as an activity you do alone, reflect on the couples studied this week, contemplating the compound impact each pair made. Their actions influenced othersfor good or for evilat the time they were initially done, and their behaviors still witness, either for good or for evil, as their Bible records continue to be studied by millions.
J. H. Zachary
Indonesia has been wracked with economic and political turmoil. Riots in the city of Solo left dozens dead and countless homes and businesses destroyed. However, God has brought good out of terror and destruction.
Melly had worked hard to build a profitable electronics business. Her customers liked her gentle ways and honest dealings. As the business grew, she spent more and more time in the shop.
"All I could think of was business, business, business," Melly said. She even became reluctant to leave her store closed while she attended church on Sunday. Often during worship service she found herself watching the clock and thinking about the customers that would be waiting for her to open the store.
Then the riots hit. Mobs of angry protesters ran through the city streets looting and burning automobiles, businesses, homes, and government offices.
Melly was not home at the time. She received a phone call from her frantic sister saying, "Don't come home! Everything is gone." Melly's electronics store, along with her home above it, was one of more than 200 businesses destroyed during the riots.
Out of work, Melly had a lot of time to think. She turned to God for answers and consolation. When she received an invitation to attend evangelistic meetings, she went. Night after night she sat on the front row listening, looking up Bible verses, and taking careful notes.
After several nights she testified, "I now understand that the loss of my business was a blessing. Now I have time for God; now I can study the Bible: now I have peace in my heart. I want to be baptized."
A few days later she joyfully announced that her sister, whom she had invited to attend with her, also asked to be baptized.
(continued next week)
Melly lost everything in the riots, but she found a new relationship with her Savior. J. H. Zachary is coordinator of international evangelism for The Quiet Hour and a special consultant for the General Conference Ministerial Association.
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