Friday, October 20, 2023

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional: Anonymous Women - Wise Woman from Abel-beth-Maacah

New York, London, Paris, Rome, Tokyo, Singapore, Dubai, what comes to mind about these cities? Business, fashion, art, gourmet food, progressive architecture? What about advice? That’s right! What city in our modern world is known for its wisdom? This was the case for the city of Abel-beth-maacah[1].  This town was located in northern Israel between Lebanon and Syria. It was situated in a location of major highways that connected Mesopotamia to Egypt. It was known as the Via Maris[2] (by the way of the sea) as it traveled along the coast of Israel. Much like the 101 is the major highway that runs along California’s coast connecting Los Angeles to Olympia, Washington.


This story is found in 2 Samuel, chapter 20. At that time, David was king over Israel. Earlier, his son Absalom tried to take the kingdom from him. In this chapter, a man whose name was Sheba, the son of Bicri from the tribe of Benjamin was out to do the same. He was a troublemaker. To make a long story short, most of David’s men who were not of the tribe of Judah left him to follow Sheba. The king told Amasa (who was his nephew who had been involved in the coup against David when Absalom tried to take over) to mobilize an army and go after Sheba. But Amasa drug his feet and waited three days. David then tells Abishi how serious this situation was. It makes one wonder if David said this to Abishi because he knew he would go after Sheba. That’s exactly what he did and he invited Joab to go with him.  Joab was David’s sister’s son, another nephew who was a warrior.  Abishi and Joab meet up with Amasa along the way and Joab stabs his cousin, Amasa and he dies. This act gives us a clue that Joab is a “take charge” kind of guy. Probably someone who acts on impulse.


In the meantime, Sheba ends up hiding out in the town Abel-beth-maacah. This city was known as a “mother city” as most cities were considered “daughters” of “mother” Israel. This place was important because the Israelites from all over would go there to get advice to settle an argument because the people there were known to be wise.  Joab hears the news that Sheba is there and goes to hunt him down. He begins attacking the town by building a siege ramp against its fortification and begins battering the wall of the city (2 Samuel 20:25). Towns at that time had walls surrounding them for protection, and because Abel was along the major highway where people from all over traveled, so the wall was important. It probably made the people afraid and angry that Joab would do this.


This is where our anonymous woman comes in. There is nothing written about who she was, except we can see in this story she has “hutspah” which means confidence and audacity. She has the courage to reach out to Joab, especially as women didn’t usually have a prominent place in society. She may have been a mature woman as it says in Job 12:12, Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to the old.” (NLT) She recognizes Joab and approaches him in humility, referring to herself as a servant. This wise action gave her Joab’s ear. He was willing to listen to her.  She tells Joab that their town was important to Israel and that she was peace loving and faithful. Instead of rebuking him, she asks him what they could do to help him. Joab responds by telling her to hand him over to him. She replies with “we will throw his head over the wall to you.” (2 Samuel 20:21) She keeps her promise to Joab and the people kill Sheba and throw his head over the wall (2 Samuel 20:22). This seems pretty extreme, but it not only saved her town, but ended the possible takeover of David’s monarchy. It was through her wise advice that also gave Joab a promotion. The king makes Joab the commander of the Army of Israel (2 Samuel 20:23).


We can learn a lot from this woman. Wisdom is the key to living, especially these days. There is evil everywhere. When we look back at Genesis, we see God wanted to wipe out the evil that had spread with the flood. It wasn’t long after, that two cities Sodom and Gommorah (Genesis 18:16-33) had become sin-filled and God wanted to destroy them. But Abraham pleaded with God not to if he found one man who was righteous enough to save it. We know what eventually happens to these two cities. God wanted to preserve His people so generations later, He would instead send one righteous man, His son Jesus to save not one city, but the whole world.


As we read from the book of wisdom which is Proverbs, we discover that Jesus is the embodiment of wisdom. It’s not something, but someone. When we invite Him into our lives, the Holy Spirit then dwells within us and gives us access to the way of thinking in of the Kingdom of God. The more we spend time reading God’s word, the more understanding and knowledge we gain of living in humility, peace, and love. This is so different from this world’s ways which is pride, strife, and fear.  James 1:5 says, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” (NLT) It’s God’s pleasure to give us wisdom. It is what separates us from the world.


The wise woman of Abel-beth-maacah is encouraging. It’s a reminder that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). This woman saved her town from destruction. As children of God, when we walk in wisdom we can bring change to our own families as well as our communities.  Even more importantly, we can lead people to Jesus, who is wisdom. It’s the voice you hear that lets you consider other actions that you won’t regret later. As it says in Proverbs 4:5-7, “Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you. Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefor, get wisdom.” (NKJV)


Scriptures that lead us to wisdom!


Proverbs 1:7, NKJV:  The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction.


Proverbs 2:10-15, NIV:  For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, who have left the straight paths to walk in dark ways, who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways.”


Proverbs 2:20, NLT: So follow the steps of the good, and stay on the paths of the righteous.


Proverbs 3:3-4, NLT:  Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart. Then you will find favor with both God and people, and you will earn a good reputation.


Proverbs 3:5-6, NKJV: Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.


Proverbs 3:27-29, NKJV:  Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, When it is in the power of your hand to do so. Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come back, And tomorrow I will give it,” When you have it with you. Do not devise evil against your neighbor, For he dwells by you for safety’s sake.


Proverbs 10:19, NLT:  Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.


Proverbs 16:23, NKJV: The heart of the wise teaches his mouth, And adds learning to his lips.


Proverbs 19:20, NIV: Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.


Luke 8:16, NKJV: “No one, when he has lit a lamp, covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed, but sets it on a lampstand, that those who enter may see the light.


*This information was complied by the R.E.A.L. Women Bible study out of Hills Church in Laguna Hills, CA. 




Friday, October 6, 2023

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional: Anonymous Women - Phineas' Wife/Eli's Daughter in Law

The year is approximately 1024 BCE. The Philistines are at war with God's people in Aphek. Aphek was a Canaanite royal city near the headwaters of the Yarqon River.[1] At this time Israel is being governed by judges as they don’t have a king. The Ark of the Covenant is in the Tabernacle in Shiloh. The high priest at the time is Eli, who is also a judge.


If there had been a newspaper, on this particular morning the headlines of the “Shiloh Times” may have said something like this: 30,000 ISRAELITES DEAD AND ARK OF THE COVENANT CAPTURED BY PHILISTINES! The article would have continued with more bad news. It would have mentioned that the death toll included the sons of Eli, Hophni and Phineas. When the men on the battlefield got the idea that if they brought the Ark to Aphek, like it was some good luck charm, that would help them because they had already lost 4,000 men. (1 Samuel 4:1-4).


Hophni and Phineas, were Eli’s sons and priests in the Tabernacle there in Shiloh. The brothers obviously didn’t consult God about moving the Ark of the Covenant. God had given the Levites specific instructions on how it was to be moved, but Hophni and Phineas were arrogant men and had no respect for the Lord. They were considered wicked as they didn’t follow the rules of sacrifices. They also seduced young women assisting at the entrance of the Tabernacle. These men were rebellious and had no regard for anything pertaining to God (1 Samuel 2:12-25). When the men arrived in Shiloh with their great idea, the two brothers joined them, probably thinking they would be praised as heroes for allowing and going with the Ark to Aphek. Instead, they were killed.


God’s people were living in a dark time. It didn’t take long them to adapt to the godless culture and begin “doing what they thought was right in their own eyes” and defying God’s boundaries for protection. They weren’t living within the guidelines of the Ten Commandments that God had given them in the wilderness. They were constantly fighting with the Philistines.


Eli gets word that both of his sons have been killed and the Ark has been captured, and in his shock, falls back in his chair and breaks his neck and dies. What went through his head as he heard this news? Did he feel responsible because he hadn’t been a more intentional father with his sons, teaching them the things of God? Eli may have been so consumed with instructing Samuel that he neglected his own sons.


This brings us to Phineas’ wife. She is not named, but at this time is pregnant, and close to her due date. She may have married Phineas because of his status as a priest, but we also know in those times, marriages were arranged. It could possibly be that Eli had chosen her because she was righteous and hoped she could influence his evil son. She must have lived heartbroken knowing her husband was unfaithful to her with the young women at the Tabernacle. She probably lived a miserable life and most likely lived in fear.


When she hears the news of the death of her husband, her father-in-law, and that the Ark of God had been captured, she goes into labor. The shock of it all leaves her in despair and no hope for the future. As she is giving birth, the midwives try to encourage her by telling her not to be afraid, that she has a baby boy. But that was not enough for her to press into her pain. She names the baby Ichabod, which means “Where is the glory?” Her last words are “The glory of God has departed from Israel, for the Ark of God has been captured.” Then she dies in grief and hopelessness. (1 Samuel 4:19-22)


Her story is only a couple of verses in this chapter, but her short story is important. We can learn so much from this woman who lived in an insecure marriage, during a dark time in Israel’s history. She may have come into this union with Phineas with joy and faith, but as she lived it out, realized it was a mistake. Maybe she felt her pregnancy was a mistake. We discover later in 1 Samuel 14:3 that Phineas had another son, Ahitub. The scripture does not say who his mother is. Maybe he was this woman’s first born or possibly a child from one of his affairs. The scripture is not clear except that he is a son of Phineas and a grandson of Eli.


In our world today, we hear of fallen pastors whose wives who become a casualty of their husband’s indiscretion. This is possibly what happened to her over time. She had lost her trust in God because her husband had not been a good example of a godly man leading his household, let alone as a tabernacle priest. She then may have placed her hope in the Ark, where God’s glory dwelled, instead of God Himself.


Phineas’ wife was living under the old Covenant. If this tragedy would have happened after the new Covenant was established, she probably would have had a different outcome. We can learn so much from her. We see the theme of this story is hopelessness. Thankfully, we don’t have to live today in this same kind of despair. We have Jesus who IS our hope. He said in the last days sin would run rampant upon the earth. He gives the Good News that the one who endures to the end will be saved (Mathew 24:12-13). God’s Spirit no longer dwells in a wooden box, but when we invite Jesus as our Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit then dwells in us and His glory is made known through us. The apostle Paul says this, “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, NLT). “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18, ESV)


Maybe you recently received bad news or are currently walking through a difficult season, unlike Phineas’ wife/Eli’s daughter-in-law, and we have hope. The good news is our hope is found in Jesus Christ who has set the captives free, paid the debt for sin with his life, and gives us victory over death. Jesus said in this world we would have trouble, but to take heart because he has overcome the world (John 16:33). Don’t lose hope in your circumstance, but trust God with your future because He holds the future in His victorious hand!


Good News to Headline Your Day!


Psalm 33:20-22, NIV: We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. 21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. 22 May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.


Deuteronomy 31:6, NKJV: Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”


2 Corinthians 4:8-9, NKJV: We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—


Psalm 34:18, NIV: The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.


Isaiah 41:10, NKJV: Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’


Isaiah 43:2, NLT: When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.


Psalm 46:1-3, MSG:  God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him. We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom, courageous in sea-storm and earthquake, Before the rush and roar of oceans, the tremors that shift mountains. Jacob-wrestling God fights for us, God-of-Angel-Armies protects us.

Psalm 9:9-10, ESV: The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.


Habakkuk 3:17-18, NKJV: Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls—18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.


Psalm 37:5, NLT: Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you.


Romans 15:13, NIV: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.


*This information was complied by the R.E.A.L. Women Bible study out of Hills Church in Laguna Hills, CA.