What does it mean to be a woman? This is an important and frequently asked question. A quick Google search reveals more than 260 million results. It’s something people, especially women, have been asking forever. And as believers, we have a particular responsibility in answering this question, seeing the place of women in redemptive history. It’s pivotal for the health and flourishing of not only women but also the Church.
I think that when many women, specifically those of us who follow Christ, ask, “What does it mean to be a woman?” what we really want to know is, “Does God care about women?” We may be afraid to admit it, but this isn’t a question that should frighten us because the answer is a resounding and emphatic, “Yes.”
I’ll never forget when God clearly revealed the answer to this question to me for the first time. It was a normal evening at Home Group as we settled into our familiar spots and got ready to read, discuss and think on God’s Word. Our focus for the evening was Exodus 38, and as the narrative of the construction of the tabernacle unfolded, Exodus 38:8 stood out: “He made the basin of bronze and its stand of bronze, from the mirrors of the ministering women who ministered in the entrance of the tent of meeting.” Right there in front of me were five words that forever changed how I viewed God’s care and esteem for women: “the ministering women who ministered.”
But what exactly were these women doing? While there isn’t a significant amount of information about them included in the text, commentators believe that these were women who had taken precious trinkets on their way out of Egypt (Exod. 12:35-36). Having endured brutal years of slavery, they finally had a precious treasure all of their own. Yet, what did they do when there was a call for bronze to complete the house of God among His people? They gave up these precious tokens of freedom for a deeper sign of redemption.
From Eve to Ruth to Martha to you and me, God has included women in His redemption of the world.
These women have a clear place in God’s plan to redeem the world. Looking back to Genesis 1-3, the first man and woman rebelled against their Creator, ushering in brokenness from a cellular to a cosmic level. And yet, even amongst curses and difficult pronouncements, the foundation of the gospel is present. It is amidst this scene that Adam turns to the woman and names her Eve, mother of all the living. In God’s brilliant design, women are life-bearers, protectors and nurturers. Because of sin, this takes place in a context where threats to this work are constant and range from frustrating to menacing. But even in this broken world, Eve will bear life. As Gloria Furman puts it, to be a woman is “to nurture life in the face of death.”
A quick glance through the Bible yields many more examples of the love and esteem that God displays toward His daughters: the Hebrew midwives in Exodus 1 deliver Israel’s deliverer from certain death; Nehemiah 3 shows women playing an active role in rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem; the redemption of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba in Matthew 1 gives a startling commendation of how the Lord not only sees women, but sees women of marginalized ethnic backgrounds; Mary is chosen to carry the very Son of God in her womb; Acts is filled with women who usher in the kingdom of God through their lives, leadership and influence; and I even find a form of my middle name in Acts 17, when Damaris comes to faith. By the grace of God, the women He has drawn into His family take part in a magnificent legacy of “ministering women who minister.”
We also see God’s care and concern for women in the life of Jesus. Over and over, Jesus goes against the cultural norms of the time and interacts with women in a way that shows love, honor and dignity. Jesus meets the woman at the well marked by abandonment, and she becomes an evangelist in her community. The bleeding woman who touches His garment is declared healed in public, restored in the very realm where she has experienced disgrace. Jesus interrupts our favorite Type A personality, Martha, drawing her in to sit at His feet, a place where women simply were not invited at the time. And a woman with a poor reputation worships Him in a way that invites disgrace from others, yet she is commended by Jesus Himself.
From the “ministering women who ministered” in Exodus to the compassion and value that Jesus showed the many women He met during His ministry, we get an assuring answer to the question that seems to plague many women. From Eve to Ruth to Martha to you and me, God has included women in His redemption of the world. As made evident throughout Scripture, God lifts our heads and, with kindness, invites us into His rest. God sees and cares about His daughters, so much so that He covers us, champions us, defeated our greatest enemy and gives us grace to bear the fruit of ministry. Indeed, God cares about women.