It was the famous author Harriet Beecher Stowe who said that “she had in mind to write a novel  about slavery – but the baby cried too much”.  One woman has commented that it would have  been more plausible had she said “but the baby  smiled too much”.

The point is, many women find that if they are  blessed with marriage and motherhood, the role  is so fulfilling they find no time for other things.  Obviously, Harriet Beecher Stowe eventually found  the time to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

But for many women, they remain voiceless, by choice, because they are content.

Occasionally a woman will step out of her arena  if she feels passionate enough to comment. Please let the following comments be viewed in that light. The  role of women is not confining, but for many of us we  find that God sets us “in a spacious place” (Psa 18:19).

There is also the risk of alienating women who do  not fit in, due to circumstances such as being single, childless, unwell, disabled, and other situations in which a woman may find herself. I hope that these women can bear with patience another article  relating to a situation she does not find herself in, and  cannot relate to. Sometimes she has had no choice.  Remember, “he setteth the solitary in families” (Psa  68:6), and it is our duty as nurturers of the ecclesia  to remember and include such sisters.

Woman created second

It is in the Genesis record we are introduced first to  woman. She was created second. This is a Biblical  fact. It does not mean she was inferior, she too was  created in the image and likeness of the Elohim. We  need to see that being second is not second best.  God wanted to make a point about the purpose of  her creation. It is obvious He knew that man would  be lonely and unfulfilled on his own.

Woman created out of man

But He didn’t create man and woman together, like  the animals of the field. He already had a distinct  role for woman as a “helper” for man. Like it or not,  this is fact, and it is my belief that if one doesn’t  understand this purpose of woman’s creation one  will forever be discontent.

Universal laws

These are not only Biblical facts, these are universal  laws. Across cultures and times, women have taken  a supportive and secondary (in the sense that it is  less public) role to man. This was partly due to the  curse. Once God “greatly multiplied her sorrow and  conception”, woman found herself bound to childrearing  simply because she had to be. There was no  option. This is still the case in developing countries.  But with the advent of birth-control motherhood  became an option and a choice. Birth control may  be in some cases a blessing, but it has resulted in  a situation where questioning God’s principles is  possible, whereas in the past there was no question,  because there was no choice either.

It is true that in some cultures women have been  subject to terrible degradation and the violation  of the most basic human rights, but that is also a  result of the curse. This secondary role has created  a situation where men can abuse their power, but we  know that true Christian men do not treat women  as inferior. Rather they acknowledge their benefit  and even superiority in many areas.

Women’s rights movements began in the 1800s  – part of the unclean spirits like frogs, “liberty,  equality and fraternity”, which have croaked their  way up to the 21st century until they are now a  deafening roar. These groups attempt to blur the  boundaries of the roles of women and men, with  some success, but to great loss.

The equality of our reward

So man and woman were created equal, although  woman was created second. She was created “for  the man” although it is acknowledged all men are  created “by the woman”. They are interlinked and  interdependent in contrast to the majority of the  animal world. There is a mutual need by both sexes  for each other. How blissful it must have been to  tend the garden of Eden in that perfect state.

It is obvious that in the Kingdom, women and  men have an equal reward. They will both receive  eternal life. There will be no marrying of saints, and  each of us will receive our reward according to our  works. It matters not in what sphere we work, we  will be rewarded according to our faithfulness in it.  Doubtless there will be some women who have been  more faithful than their male counterparts, and will  occupy places higher than some men. But what could  be greater than immortality? We echo “the sons of  Korah” when we say we would rather be anywhere  in the Kingdom than outside of it (Psa 84:10).

It appears that there will be some kind of  hierarchy in the Kingdom amongst saints, as there  is with the angels now. It was the mother of Zebedee  who asked Christ to give her sons a place on either  side of him. As Christ responded to her, it was not his  to give that hierarchy, but his Father’s. It was after  this Christ gave the discourse on people who exercise  authority over others – but how that his way was to be  servant, and we are to be likewise (Matt 20:20–28).

The curse on the woman

It is seen in Genesis 3 that the woman was “first”  in the transgression. She took the lead in listening  to the serpent’s lies, then encouraged Adam to  follow her example. As a result of this sin she was  punished: “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and  thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth  children; and thy desire shall be subject to thy  husband and he shall rule over thee” (v16).

As she had taken the lead in the first sin, God  now made it a feature of her punishment. Now  she would be subject to her husband. In matters  where they disagreed, she was to submit to his will.  The wife was now placed in a position where her  husband would “rule over her”. This grates against  the independent spirit, but we cannot “kick against  the pricks”. We need to submit to the will of God  in this as in all things.

This curse is consistent with New Testament  teaching on the subject. We are told that women are  to “keep silent” in the gatherings because Eve was  created second (1 Tim 2:12). She was not to exert  any authority over man which a public teaching role  would necessitate. This is an interesting argument,  because there is no comment about the content of  the public speaking, but rather the argument is based  on the woman having “authority” over the man.  The strength of the argument is in her audience,  not her teaching. She is not permitted to teach a  man due to the divine order and subsequent curse  of Genesis 3, “as also saith the law” (1 Cor 14:34).  Under the law, if a woman vowed a vow unto God,  she was exempt from the vow if her father, or later  her husband, overruled it (Num 30:3). We do well  to pay attention to the divine order of things.

Even though the women of the New Testament  may have been talented speakers and also possessors  of the Holy Spirit, they were not to teach when the  ecclesia gathered. It is clear that women did receive  the Holy Spirit gifts and that they “prayed and  prophesied” (1 Cor 11:5), but in light of 1 Timothy  2 and 1 Corinthians 14 it is clear that they were not  to speak in gatherings of the ecclesia.

Rather Paul says to Titus that they should preach  privately to their own sex about being “sober,  (loving) [phileo] their husbands, (loving) [phileo]  their children … discreet, chaste, keepers at home  [house managers], good, obedient to their own  husbands [as distinct from respect shown to men  other than their husbands], that the word of God  be not blasphemed” (Titus 2:3–5). Here Paul uses  the Greek word hupotasso in the middle voice.  This way he is requesting that wives voluntarily,  willingly and actively be subject to their husbands.  Their good behaviour could also be a means of  leading disobedient husbands to God as in the case  of unbelieving husbands (1 Pet 3:1).

It would be remiss not to dwell in some measure  on house management, as this is the task which  largely occupies us. Most women are good house  managers, and some are not, but being a household  manager is about so much more than keeping a  clean and tidy house. As Sister Roberts wrote in  her beautiful article about “fine houses and wasted  time”, there are many worthwhile things outside of  a home that a sister can engage herself in rather than  occupy herself solely in keeping a house clean and  tidy. “A sister’s calling required her to regard her  house as a convenience in this wilderness state, and  not as a thing she is to live for. It is not with her a  principal object of attention. She will be careful to  keep a clean house and a comfortable house, but  a stylish house she has neither time nor taste for.  What God requires of her will demand the time, and  the skill, and the means, which a fine house would  consume of her hands.”

Apparent inconsistencies

Some may see the teaching of Deborah and Huldah  as exceptions to this rule which create a precedent.  But the book of Judges is full of how God can use  whatever is available to fulfil His purpose – if there are no men willing to teach then He will  use women. The ass’s jawbone, blind Samson,  Jael’s tent peg – all were used to fulfil God’s will.  Deborah’s prophecy, “God will deliver Sisera  into the hand of a woman”, was evidently a cause  of embarrassment and shame to a great warrior,  in just the same way today if a woman were to  outmanoeuvre a man in the great chessboard of  war. It is Deborah who gave us the beautiful phrase  “a mother in Israel” – so Deborah arose as a busy  bee, determined to save Israel’s villages. “Village  life in Israel ceased, until I Deborah, arose, arose  a mother in Israel” (Judges 5:7 niv). Rather than  setting a precedent of leadership for women, the  book of Judges and the story of Deborah show  God’s capacity to use whatever is available and out  of weakness be made strong (Heb 11:34). Deborah  acted, not as a champion of women’s rights, but as  a protective mother.

Additional thoughts

We should not copy Eve, who wanted to climb the  status ladder to be equal to the angels, but follow  the example of Sarah. Sarah called her husband  “lord” in her heart, which shows that it was her  habitual reference to him. We do not obey our  husbands simply because they are right; we obey  them because they are Christ to us. Men need  respect. They feel encouraged by a woman who is  respectful and appreciates their efforts to handle  the responsibilities of life.

Here is a beautiful thing – because obedience  to husbands is a command of God, then, instead of  focusing on whether our husbands are deserving or  undeserving, in faith we submit, not just to them,  but to God, Who set down the principle. How much  higher is submission when seen to be submission that  is not dependent on her husband’s behaviour, but on  the wife’s belief in God’s laws. She needs to judge  what would best promote godliness in her husband.

It may be harder for women to submit to  husbands who are less intelligent and less capable  than they are. But whilst her job is hard, she is given  no ‘loophole’, only examples like Abigail to follow.  She is commanded, with the rest of us, to submit to  her own husband.

It is hard for us to deal with the whole principle  of submission. Submission is not a natural thing.  It is about as welcome as the idea of childbirth. It  has to be learnt, although there are some who seem  happily meek from birth! Remember, meekness  is strength under control. There are some women  (as there are some men) who are independent and  struggle with boundaries like these. Make it your  ambition to learn submission. With much prayer  and reading, God will help you to achieve this. He  “gives us the desires of our heart”. This is not a  problem peculiar to women. Men are also required  to submit, perhaps in their employment, to an  employer, but definitely in the ecclesia – “Yea, all of  you be subject to one another” (1 Pet 5:5; Eph 5:21).

A woman may be very gifted, very intelligent,  very self-assured and possessed of many talents,  but she is not to use these in usurping God’s laws.  For a woman like this, the laws of God may seem  restrictive, but be assured that in her submission to  them she will receive a crown that never fades away.  Some may feel that a woman possessing talents like  these is not reaching her full potential. But we must  be assured of God’s creative omniscience, and that  He knows best. Let her concentrate on achieving  full potential in the areas God intended.

It is easy for women of ability to achieve  recognition and success. Far, far harder is it to  submit. This is the beauty of it. God has not based  His credentials on ability, or on intelligence, He  has based them on moral behaviour, the hardest  battle. But these moral attributes can be achieved by  anyone. You may be a doctor, or a dentist, a cleaner,  or a house manager, but if with the Father’s help  and grace you cannot conquer your own flesh, you  will not stand in that day.

There is much wrong in the current world. There  are increases in all sorts of sin, seeing lawlessness  abounds. Could it not be possible that at least  part of this is a side-effect of children not being  reared correctly? Child-rearing is an enormous and  sometimes thankless task.

Children, and we are all the child of someone,  thank your mother for the countless tasks they did  for you, but especially for preparing the ground that  the seed of the sower could fall into. We should not  underestimate the great power that lies in our hand  for domestic happiness. Much of the happiness of the  home lies in its heart, the woman whose home it is.

A sparrow is a homely bird, and a swallow more  exotic. But as sisters, we all, whether sparrow or  swallow, find a place of refuge in God’s courts, a  place where we can raise our young in safety.

“Even the sparrow has found a home, and the  swallow a nest for herself, where she may have  her young – a place near your altar, O Yahweh  Almighty, my King and my God” (Psa 84:3 niv).