“For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.” (1 Peter 3:5–6, NASB95)
In my slow progression through 1 Peter I did not plan today’s passage for today. It just worked out that I would sit down this morning to continue looking at what Peter had to say about wives on what is being celebrated by some as International Women’s Day. Looking to its origin here in this country I found that it was first observed on February 28, 1909 by the Socialist Party of America commemorating a strike that supposedly happened a couple of years earlier. Then in 1910 an International Women’s Conference was formed which drew in other nations, again as a socialist effort. In 1914 the date was moved to March 8 where it remains today, being formally recognized by the United Nations in 1977. Since its inception, it has continued to be largely recognized as a socialist/communist protest marked by demonstrations, marches, and strikes demanding equality (source: Wikipedia and other similar sites)
In stark contrast to these protests of the past and even today we have the words of the apostle Peter as he points to the example of women such as Abraham’s wife, Sarah. In the previous two verses, we read that a woman’s adornment was not to be merely external, but was to flow from her very core. He wrote that the real treasure of these women was found in the hidden person of their heart as evidenced by their gentle and quiet spirit. It is this character of the wife that Peter said is precious in the sight of God. Then he proceeded to state that we have examples of these women shown for us in many of the women of the Old Testament, specifically mentioning Sarah. Over the past few days I took some time to read the passages concerning Sarah, Rahab, Ruth and the woman of Proverbs 31. I was impressed with each of these women and how they responded to adversity. Not one of them was brought up knowing God, but each of them came to know God as adults as they learned more of Him and His character.
Sarah left her homeland with her half-brother-husband and suffered from some really foolish things on his part as she, herself, even did some of her own and then struggled with the consequences. But God made a promise to Abraham and Sarah, and Sarah at 90+ years of age gave birth to a son who she would live to love until her death at 127 years of age. Abraham loved his wife so much that he would not allow the land in which she was to be buried be given to him, but rather insisted that he pay its full value. And, in the years to come he was buried there himself along with several subsequent generations.
In the New Testament, we read of Sarah and Abraham, her husband, "(8) By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. (9) By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; (10) for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (11) By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised. (12) Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.” (Hebrews 11:8–12, NASB95)
Rahab, described as the harlot, had heard of the conquests of the Jews and the power of their God. When the spies were scoping out Jericho before its destruction, Rahab negotiated with them the safety of herself and her family for the safe escape of the spies. In Joshua 2:9-14, “and [Rahab] said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you. “For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. “When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. “Now therefore, please swear to me by the Lord, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father’s household, and give me a pledge of truth, and spare my father and my mother and my brothers and my sisters, with all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” So the men said to her, “Our life for yours if you do not tell this business of ours; and it shall come about when the Lord gives us the land that we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.”” (Joshua 2:9–14, NASB95) … “However, Rahab the harlot and her father’s household and all she had, Joshua spared; and she has lived in the midst of Israel to this day, for she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.” (Joshua 6:15–25, NASB95)
In the New Testament, we see three references to this woman. The first is in Matthew 1:5 where she is included in the lineage of our Lord. “Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David the king.…” (Matthew 1:5–6a, NASB95) Then the writer of Hebrews added, "(31) By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.” (Hebrews 11:31, NASB95) And James wrote, "(22) You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; (23) and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. (24) You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. (25) In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? (26) For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” (James 2:22–26, NASB95)
The last of the three specific women I looked at was Ruth. Not taking the time to review the whole account which is only four short chapters long, here is the encounter between her and Boaz when she discreetly came to him to ask him to fulfill the role of kinsman redeemer. “It happened in the middle of the night that the man was startled and bent forward; and behold, a woman was lying at his feet. He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth your maid. So spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative.” Then he said, “May you be blessed of the LORD, my daughter. You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich. “Now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence. “Now it is true I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I. “Remain this night, and when morning comes, if he will redeem you, good; let him redeem you. But if he does not wish to redeem you, then I will redeem you, as the LORD lives. Lie down until morning.” (Ruth 3:8-13) And, of course Ruth was also used by God in the lineage of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
All three of these women did bold things, and we know that some of what they did was not proper. But each of them evidenced an excellence of character that flowed from within such that their praise would continue even today. These are the women of old who set a path for women of God today. In closing I am going to include one snapshot and one longer glimpse into the Old Testament we read in Proverbs about what really should mark the heart and actions of a woman of God who stands firm in her faith even when times are hard.
On the negative side we read, “It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.” … “It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.” (Proverbs 21:9, 19, ESV)
Positively, “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.” (Proverbs 31:10–31, ESV)