I am seated in a building that is quite large. There are dozens of rows, thousands of seats. Stadium seats. Comfortable. The air temperature is pleasant, but it still feels cold inside. Sterile. There is a large, in fact very large, stage.
On the stage I can see musical instruments. There are many guitars in their stands. A keyboard. Microphones. There is quite the drum kit, too, cased behind a plastic screen. The lighting and sound system is immense. For just a moment, the setting on the stage has a difficult task holding my attention; for on either side of it are massive, tall windows with giant pine trees, rocks, and quaint, lovely manmade waterfalls on the outside.
A gigantic, white screen descends on the back wall of the stage. The crowd gets quiet in anticipation. A well-dressed man takes the stage.
I am in church.
I have spent over 35 years in different churches under the Protestant Religion all around the US and Europe. Reflecting on this, I feel like something was lost through most of these years. I think it was intimacy. Of course, my theology has changed dramatically since my first days following after my Master. Yet I have never stopped seeking Him. How thankful I am that He doesn't require perfect theology in order to do so. I get to figure life out as I go.
Something I desperately needed to figure out was a subject of major proportion. Equality. And not just any equality. Equality within the church.
Over the years, sitting in my comfy seat, I have been taught that I am equal; I have rarely felt equal. Maybe being equal isn’t what I thought it was? Perhaps I am confused as to how exactly God designed equality.
Women are taught to be silent in the church. What does this mean? Why did the Apostle Paul say it? Is it a word for woman around the world today?
And so begins the journey.
I have never been very good at being quiet. Even so, plenty of my burning thoughts and questions on the subject of woman and equality in the church have stacked upon one another because I never addressed them, not knowing where to start. Together they have formed layers that, quite poetically, have constructed a huge barrier. This wall, constantly under construction, had gotten so big, so thick, that nothing could penetrate it. So the years began stacking as well. I just let the confusion, the controversy, build. Along with it something I did not recognize began building, too. Resentment.
Inevitably, I had to recognize and reckon with it. To deconstruct it. To tear it down. Then I had to repair my thinking. This took concentration, research and prayer, not to mention time. Lots of it.
For me, this journey was fascinating. Spending so many hours with my face pinned to my laptop, the Holy Spirit was dropping one answer after another, taking me further back in time all the way back to the Creation itself, to the dawn of humanity. For many months I walked around with this feeling of overwhelm, so eager to form all I had learned into something concrete and credible.
In reality, so many events over the course of history have changed the way women are treated.
Today there is so much missing in a person. A well being or wholeness is vacant. The web and Internet have opened up huge opportunities for women around the globe, and for this reason the Internet is a good thing. But the young generation is so addicted to modern technology, believing they need it, and thus spending most of their lives online. Social skills are missing. The value of life is missing. Where did the breakdown of relationships and the meltdown of families begin?
I am fascinated by the history of the family and the household, life in antiquity, the love for status. Even though my visions of life back then are probably inaccurate, I still romanticize. The little I have learned has transferred into the first stages of this book. I can see how rapidly this knowledge has furthered me. These truths I have acquired have become my anchor for healthy thinking, for understanding why I have been created and what my duty is as a woman.
I am not interested in exploring every facet of inequality that I have witnessed and observed in my life in the church; I just want to know why it is acceptable. It is vital to get my head around this so that I may move forward to begin to apply what I have learned and to allow it to heal me.
I must teach myself to concentrate on what I have discovered. I sought the answers to the things I needed to know and so much more was revealed. For me to begin to understand what God was doing between a man and a woman, I had to reference human nature.
To understand human nature, it is essential to delve deep into creation and the existence of man. God had a conceptual idea in creation. He spoke; because He is awesome with all power, in an instant, things were put into motion. He had a vision, an idea. He spoke it out. That is all He had to do for this world to begin. This is why God cannot lie. He only has to speak, and something begins.
Consider this extraordinary fact.
God's law was never created to be a means of salvation. It exemplifies the limits or execution of His grace and human understanding. It reveals His desire for justice and sets a rule as we wait for the revelation of all men unto Christ Jesus. It is imperative to understand that God was designing a code that would provide boundaries or framework of the corrupted state that man was in.
The Law was set to the standard of living that men had established after the fall. It was constructed to protect the innocent. The creation narratives in Genesis tell of a world created by God. Humanity is God's crowning achievement within creation. Upon completion of creation there is perfect shalom between the triune God, humanity, and creation. Then humanity rebels. Shalom is deeply marred. Human beings are separated from God and from each other. They find themselves in a life and death struggle with nature. This is against what God had purposed, against His design.
Instead, what is present is man outside the garden, no longer intimate or walking with God. The beginning of Genesis portrays humanity where the heart of man is constantly overtaken with the desire to overpower and dominate. God created mankind to be the head of the animal kingdom and to dominate all created beings that dwelt on the earth; the only being he could not dominate was God. After the fall, away from the presence of God, with the knowledge of good and evil, man then decided to try and dominate man.
City dwelling began after Cain, the biblical representative of ungodliness, was banned from the rest of the tribe upon killing his brother, Abel, the representative of godliness. Cain’s descendants went on to develop the first civilization, a city surrounded with walls. This idea was never God's. The cultures that stemmed from this era went on to create and establish their own versions of creation through myth, legend, customs and politics. The struggle began to prevail in their eternal present as people began to destroy anything that threatened their dominance and means of survival.
But God is Sovereign; His ultimate plan for man will prevail. Before the breath of man came into life, God had already separated the light from the darkness. He constructed such a master plan as to reunite humanity to Himself, through Himself. In Genesis, we see the start of this strategy when He separates a people for Himself. Enter the covenant with Abraham.
The Mission Triangle developed by Christopher Wright, is a good representation of Israel and the Promised Land and how the blessings of this chosen nation stretch out to include all humanity and the earth. This is the mission of God.
Israel was to be a beacon to the Gentiles, drawing them to God, thus expanding the triangle. But Israel rebelled and turned inward, even to the point that by Jesus' day, God's mission had come to be misinterpreted by the Jews. They believed YHWH desired the destruction of the Gentiles. At this point in history God took center stage in the person of Jesus Christ, who through His birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection, expanded the called community to include Jew and Gentile alike. The Apostles were then sent into the world to give witness of the atonement that was achieved in Christ. They pointed to a day where mankind would regain shalom with God and invited others into their community of faith and faithful living.
Time has anchored around the life of Christ. What a great master plan God had unfolded that no created being ever saw coming. And no being could stop it. Indeed, what God has put into motion, no one can halt. Redemption.
Since the dawn of man, humanity has needed some set principles to govern it. If the law was transgressed, God had set additional guidelines and regulations for atoning the guilty one’s failures. As the population increased, so did the laws, for the total wellbeing of mankind, spirit-soul-body. Patriarchy was born. Men holding authority and power.
Women in this patriarchal system were considered by men to be their property, as were children and slaves. But this is the opposite of God's heart and in opposition to the message of the Torah, which is actually a message of liberty and how to prosper in it. God sets the law to protect His people until He ushers in Eden restored. When Eden is restored, women will regain what God destined for them at the creation of humanity.
Because people have strayed so far from God since the fall, and so many millennia have passed, we do not understand Mosaic Law and the culture during the time it was given. This leads us to misinterpret the Law to be a demand instead of a command. What is the difference then?
I really desire to know not for the sake of gaining such knowledge in itself; I am desperate. I need a rescue. I need my wellbeing. I want the misconceptions to be carved out of me and the truth to be set in me. Truth sets free.
Looking at the covenants of God in the Old Testament, we can see the evidence that God wants to be involved in every aspect of our lives. He is not simply setting a list of laws and orders and abandoning us in them, eagerly waiting for us to fail so He can execute judgment. The functional foundation of the Mosaic covenant is the Abrahamic covenant, where the blessings of the Kingdom begin. Such laws and promises were not an end in them, but possessed eschatological dimensions and foreshadows. When the Jews kept the law, and rejoiced in it, they were ultimately glorifying and enjoying the God who gave it. So it is the same today as we await the final revelation of Christ Jesus.
Did you understand that?
I will say it again. When we are down here on earth with our boots on getting gritty in the mud, slugging it out in this battle against good and evil, struggling from day to day in all of our challenges, awaiting for the Lion from the Tribe of Judah to return, if we are in Christ Jesus, we are glorifying God! Remember that! If you are having a bad day, remember that. You are still glorifying Christ Jesus, unless you are in sin.
To understand these laws in the Old Testament, it is necessary to understand the patriarchal system (I will explain this more later) and that sexuality is linked to the entire family. If a man united with another married woman, the whole universe of both families was shaken regarding the household. As the head of the household, a man was considered the CEO, so to speak. The woman was under this authority, as he was the chief provider for the household. We must keep in mind that under Judaism, the man was responsible for being connected to God and His law and to guide his household in this law.
But here is a groundbreaking truth; it was the wife’s sexuality that was owned by the husband, not her entire being! Learning this little bit of information was so liberating for me. I gained so much insight and clarity just from this fact alone, and I was able to comprehend other passages in Scripture more. Track with me on this and learn more.
Before she married, a woman's sexuality was owned by her father. Her sexuality was actually a commodity, because she could bear children. And this right was purchased with it a bride price giving her family a profit. This commodity had to be protected. If she were to become widowed or divorced, she then owned her sexuality. This meant she could use it as she pleased, but if she had any close surviving male relatives, they would most certainly advise her (pressure her) in such affairs.
Did you know it was considered lawful for any man to sleep with a prostitute, even in the Jewish custom? The sexuality of a prostitute was her own; any man could sleep with any woman whose sexuality belonged to her. If a married woman, however, was allowed the same privilege, should she get pregnant, it would have caused chaos in the family; no one would know to which clan's business the child belonged. For this main reason, a married woman's sexuality belonged only to her husband.
It was a world system made by men after the fall; it chiefly suited men. What a burden it became for women. And a tragedy for all. For God had given humanity so much more, He had given us paradise.
How disappointing it must have been for Him to support a system far inferior to His. This is in no means saying that God was surprised by the fall. But imagine, just like a parent watching his beloved child fail time and again, the hurt the parent feels, as well as the desire to help the child. God did just that. Even so, it must pain Him to watch us in our inferior world and the mess we made of the perfect world He made for us.
This is helpful to understand. It is also helpful in understanding that God is not playing favorites. What a relief! God was not elevating the male seed or stating Adam was superior to Eve or suggesting she was the greater offender in the fall. On the contrary. His laws were instituted to protect the vulnerable. It was man who elevated himself.
I have in mind the verse in Genesis 3:16 where the woman receives God’s foresight that her husband will now rule her, and she will struggle with his domination. This was not a punishment as much as a declaration and entire doctrines should not be based upon this verse. This is not a verse prescribing male domination and saying that is how God wanted it to be; it is how He said it would be.
It is the consequence. And God is allowing it! Women, remember that. It is vital to our wellbeing. We don’t understand His economy, but we must believe He is going to make everything beautiful in time and He has us in His sight. Fear no evil.
Is your church pressing women to be submissive? Silent? Under subjection? Do they continue to preach it from the pulpit? It is a poor interpretation of Scripture and a lack of understanding.
So it may be, but do not fear it.
God warned Adam and Even not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge because He knew what their consequences would be.
Now that I have learned that Mosaic Law came into place to give boundaries to a nation YHWH was raising and to make men accountable, it has freed me in so many ways. It has been a release to know that the patriarchal system was not put in place by God. God has simply honored the free will He gave man across the ages. He has intervened to give order and to protect His chosen people, just like a good parent. Mosaic Law is in no way male favoritism.
Perhaps we need to begin to comprehend a bit more of the culture in the Old Testament. We will take a look back at the beginning to unpack some verses with the intent to comprehend why God set up the laws as He did. It would be wise for the reader to have the Bible handy, because I will refer to Scripture verses frequently to base my conclusions. There are several online versions available at websites like Bible Gateway or the Sword Project.
Give Genesis a read from chapter 1 through to where Adam and Eve are banned from the garden, then read I Corinthians 11:9, "For indeed man was not created for the woman's sake, but woman for the man's sake."
This is a key verse to look at because of the way it has been translated in English. The Hebrew word "dia" has been translated here into English to mean "for." This then reads like the woman came to meet the needs of the man, to serve him. "Man was not created for the woman's sake, but woman for the man's sake." This suits most religions that interpret Eve as the "helper" or "ezer" to man. Many people feel supported by this translation and have the idea that she is to be subordinate.
Interesting, though, that this same word "ezer" is also used in the Bible to refer to God as a helper. It is found in Psalm 115:9-11 and calls God our helper. Is He then subordinate to me? By no means! In the same way, woman is not subordinate to man. What might "ezer," or helper, suggest, then? What is a better interpretation?
Perhaps it is better understood that one with different means or understanding comes to the aid of one. How could Eve possibly have different wisdom than Adam, which was suited to help him?
She was made in the garden. In a purer place than Adam. Even so, there is no mention of hierarchy in Genesis between Adam and Eve. He was not subordinate to her; she was not subordinate to him. Adam did not need a servant; he needed a partner suitable for him. So because of Adam, Eve was created. It seems she was also given something special that could help him. I think it was intuition. It seems that woman was given a deeper understanding of different things for the sake of supporting man. And to be his companion, because he was lonely.
"The Bible is unique in its depiction of women’s valued status as a complementary companion. No other ancient text from the Middle East offers commentary on the creation of women. It is in the Bible that we learn of the important role women have had since the beginning of human existence," says gotQuestions.org as they answer a question pertaining to how a woman was made suitable for a man.
It is interesting that Adam, who was created from the dust of the earth, could have received his Hebrew name from the Hebrew word “adamah” which means, “ground.” And the term “woman” was given to Eve as she was taken out of the rib of man. Here is something more.
Eve was not given a name until after the fall. Notice that before Eve was created, Adam named the other created things. Why? Because he dominated them. He names Eve to now dominate her as well.
Wow! I marvelled at this when I first came across it in my research. God named Adam. Adam named the animals. Then Adam named Eve. Eve was given a deeper insight to help Adam. Bring it forward to today. Doesn't it seem like all women still possess this same insight or perception to some degree? Have we inherited it through Eve? Most men I know would agree that women are made with an extra or sixth sense. The man, knowing the woman is made this way, still wants to dominate.
Perhaps because women are not always right. Even with divine insight, when a woman is not in tune, she can mess up. Eve did. Sarah's idea to help God bless Abraham by giving him a concubine was clever, but not wise. In fact, it was destructive; Israel still suffers from it. One could ascertain that God did not institute, nor delight in, polygamy. He gave Adam Eve, Abraham Sarah and Isaac Rebekah. Another point to mention, after Sarah died Abraham birthed many more children through his concubine, Keturah, and the offspring from her and Hagar brought many sorrows upon Israel.
The system of a union between a man and woman should be ideal. It should be. God designed it to work well, creating man and woman with different strengths to make a perfect fit. But after the fall, something was broken. The fall wasn't just the banishment of humanity from the Garden, and it wasn't only death of all living things, even though separation from God was the ultimate punishment. Outside the garden, every evil was at work.
This evil wreaked havoc on the relationship between man an all living things, especially man with woman.
It is incredibly hard work, and sometimes impossible, to communicate well and feel understood, to build each other up in relationships.
What happens commonly is that resentment builds, forcing a wedge to go deeper, causing distance. Trying so hard to please one another can be exhausting and cause a chasm between self and God. The best of my energy can be spent on trying to keep my partner happy.
This is a deception, because that was neither the role of Adam nor Eve, to keep each other happy. Consequently, it is not the role of God, either. But most people who profess some belief in God or a Supreme Being live their lives as if they believe God is failing when humanity suffers, or more personally, when they don't get their wants met. If I do not examine myself to see if I am behaving like it is God's job to make me happy, and indeed I walk my Christian walk feeling as if God has let me down, I will struggle.
So, why did God create mankind?
In Genesis, at the very start, God says He will make "man" in His image. To whom was He speaking? Why did God want to do this? One should understand the "image" of God in man is spiritual. The fact that man was made from the dust is his dignity, not his humiliation. This is how God is manifested in the earth, through His substances, this including man. All creation needs salvation after the fall, when death began.
Before the flood, man lived over 700 years. In other cultures besides the Jewish culture, there is documentation of men keeping record through their fathers, and it was said that men were living incredibly long lives until a great flood devoured the earth. In the garden, Adam was designed to be eternal. I think of how rich the soil must have been, and the plants in the garden, so full of nutrients to provide life without end. Even 700+ years seem eternal to me today!
I should not be mistaken, the Bible records, in II Peter 3:15-19, the earth has been destroyed by water and it is being saved for its final destruction through fire. If there is global warming, it is God's doing, not man's, and what God has begun man can ever reverse. There is no need to try and stop the earth from heating up. It is already destroyed. People today and all those who preceded them have never seen the earth in all her splendor! The greatest of nature, the most powerful waterfalls, the most spectacular views, the crashing waves of the sea, the most beautiful sunset, nothing compares to what it was like before the catastrophe of the flood. After the flood, the normal lifespan globally dropped significantly to 40 years. Due to science and medicine, the average lifespan is now around 70 years in developed countries. The air, the soil, the water have been destroyed and do not provide the nutrients they once did. Try and get your head around it.
I have witnessed some of the most breath-taking things in my travels around the globe. But it is nothing compared to what it must have been. At the moment Adam knew he was naked, which happened the second he sinned, the death of his union with God was instant.
Jesus came as the last Adam to reconnect the relationship with humanity, the creation and God, the Creator. The flesh of Adam was composed from the dust of the earth. The flesh of Jesus was begotten through the hand of God and the womb of Mary; all other men born have come from the seed of man. Through the entire Old Testament the Incarnation is foreshadowed with an anthropomorphic view of God, with God having a body like man. Though the Western world would choose to avoid the subject, I am sure that since the dawn of creation angels appeared to men when the conditions were suitable. Angels have the power to manifest at will. Angels both good and bad. Paul warns of this in Ephesians 6. Men can communicate with "other worldly" beings by putting themselves in a certain state. And it is with these beings man battles.
Man was constructed to have affinity with the earth and everything in it. Heaven is God's dwelling place, and man is welcome there by invitation. Hell was created for the devil. And earth was created for man. Because it is God's creation, God is manifested across the earth, but He manifests His Spirit within man only by invitation. God breathed into the body of man to give him physical life; Jesus Christ breathes the Holy Spirit into a man to give him spiritual life.
There are many spirits that roam the earth that will keep a man dead. Many. All of these help man to gravitate towards the devil, and this is in full force today, in these last days. But only the Holy Spirit breathes life.
I am aware that there was a battle in the heavens before the days of man, and "God separated the light from the darkness." And Satan and his host were thrown down to the earth, and the angels cried, "Woe to the earth! For Satan has come down to you!" And then God did something amazing that made the entire heavenly host stop in awe.
He made man.
The heavens rejoiced. Satan thought he could thwart the plan. And then laughed. Humanity was exiled from the garden. But the story didn't finish there. Try and conceive Adam in his glory. His spirit-soul-body in connection with God, walking in spiritual light, in the likeness of God, in perfect harmony. What a wonder it must have been! I cannot even create any sound idea in my head of the world Adam must have dwelled in.
Imagine Adam and Eve walking with God! Never did they debate His existence. Never did they argue religion. No one could walk into his or her world and say, "there is no God..." No! Satan did not tempt them like this. The Scripture says Satan tried to deceive Eve by making her believe she could be God. Realize Satan was in some beautiful form in the garden. The most stunning of beings. Then he was thrown to the earth and cursed into crawling the earth in the body I now picture today when I hear the word "serpent."
Recently, I saw a program on the wonderful anatomy of the boa. The presenter was dissecting this massive creature and trying to give proof to evolution, showing that the snake once was like a lizard and had hind legs, then, after not needing them any longer, the snake evolved and the legs withered into stumps inside the body.
My theory is a bit different. Perhaps in the garden, before the fall, this once exceptionally stunning creature walked or crawled on legs. I know from Genesis that God bans the creature from Eden on his belly. Thus, he was no longer in the same stunning form.
Why did the serpent go to Eve? Forget the petty arguments that would entangle us today about the differences between man and woman and imagine Adam and Eve in their primal sense. Adam was created instantly, outside of the garden; Eve was mediated through the flesh of Adam in the garden. Adam represents the side of God that is kingly. Eve represents the soul, the feeling side, sympathetic to the other creatures surrounding her. She may have had more compassion and been easy prey. The record states that the serpent was "subtle."
Something else to note, the Bible reads that Eve was deceived. Adam was not deceived; he knew he was being disobedient and sinned deliberately.
Remember that our Deliverer entered the world through the flesh of a woman. She, yet a virgin, conceived the second Adam. It was the seed of the woman and not the man partaking in Redemption. In essence, Adam and Eve combined are the likeness of God. The sense, then, is not that Eve is inferior, but that she is standing side-by-side with Adam. So they complete the image of God.
This is vital to understand, because everything changed after the fall. Suddenly, every living thing experienced death. Adam and Eve were banished from the garden, banished from the presence of God into the darkness. Here is where every trial I now face began. Again, I say, this was not God's plan. But God alone solved the greatest problem that ever existed. He had foreseen it, too.
"If our problems can be solved by other men, they are not problems at all," says Oswald Chambers in Baffled to Fight Better.
And in Biblical Psychology he states, "Man is the climax of creation. He is on a stage a little lower than the angels and God is going to overthrow the devil by this being that is less than angelic. God has, as it were, put man in the open field, and He is allowing the devil to do exactly what he likes up to a certain point, because He says, ‘greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.’ This is also the explanation of my own spiritual setting. Satan is to be humiliated by man, by the Spirit of God in man through the wonderful regeneration of Jesus Christ.
"Man, then, is the head and the purpose of the six days' creation. Man's body has in it those constituents that connect it with the earth; it has fire and water and all the elements of animal life, consequently God keeps us here. The earth is man's domain, and we are going to be here again after the terrestrial cremation. ‘Here-after,’ without the devil, without sin and wrong. We are going to be here, marvellously redeemed in this wonderful place which God made very beautiful, and with which sin has played havoc, and creation itself is waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God. "
Closing prayer for chapter one:
"Abba, thank You for giving me Your law and Your word. Thank You for taking the time to invest in me, Your creation, to protect me. I am thrilled that You want to be so intimately involved in every aspect of my life. Thank You also for giving me the understanding to know Your heart for creating both Adam and Eve. As the years go, may You increase my knowledge of Your word ever more. Write on my heart the truths You want me to remember. Carve them in. I invite You to be manifested in me, and that I may live in a manner worthy of You in all respects. Thank You for giving me clarity and setting me free from the deceptions of the world. Amen."