Women Ministering in the Tent

by Joseph Franks

Throughout most of history, women have been viewed as profitable possessions that should result in a clean house, a pressed wardrobe, a sexually gratified husband, and an abundance of children. If they found themselves unable to completely satisfy their husband and provide the desired lineage, it was expected they would find a suitable substitute and step aside for a bit. They were kept uneducated, illiterate, and uninvolved in the public arena. For some men, women were viewed as disposable possessions. For others, they were a collector’s item. Occasionally, one would find a wise man who treated his bride as a cherished possession, but such a man was in the minority, and such a cherished woman was still a possession. Women were a pitiful class. Such was the assessment of the fairer sex whether one was an Egyptian Pharaoh, an Israelite king named Solomon, a Persian tyrant named Xerxes, a first-century Jewish Pharisee, or an everyday Roman citizen.

However, as the Christian faith became revealed under Moses, women began again to be treated as God intended in the Garden of Eden. Women were Holy-Spirit-gifted servants of God, equipped to minister within the church. Consider Miriam. While following the leadership of Moses and Aaron, she was inspired by God and encouraged to use her spiritual gifts. She was a prophetess who received divine revelation and communicated it to the congregation. (Numbers 12:2)  Her most famous revelation was a song, received from the Lord, written by her, taught to the women, and then sung by the congregation. (Exodus 15)  So influential was this arrangement that the Holy Spirit included it in sacred scripture which teaches men and women today. So influential was this godly woman that she is listed as a fellow-leader of Israel along with Moses and Aaron. (Micah 6:4)  Miriam was no superfluous individual; no ministerial appendage; her importance and giftedness was not to be overlooked.

Miriam was not alone. There were many women who were to serve and lead in temple worship. Sacred scripture does not record much information about their particular ministry, but their ministerial posts are recorded. Moses writes of Bezalel, “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.” (Exodus 38:8; Also 1 Samuel 2:22)  Clearly, according to the regulations of God, and following the leadership of Moses and the priests, women were to play important public roles in the corporate worship of God.

When one arrives at the New Testament, one sees individuals like Anna. Her ministerial gift is that of a prophet. Her ministerial post is found in the Temple. (Luke 2)  And as the Christian faith becomes further revealed under Jesus Christ, one sees the role of women augmented further. In his parables, they are the heroes. In his traveling ministry, they are found accompanying Jesus, serving Jesus, supporting Jesus, never flinching, and standing by him till the end. Later, they are found praying aloud in the upper room with the Apostles, and they receive the prophetic gift of tongues along with the rest of the men. It was almost as if there is no longer any meaningful distinction between Jew and Greek, slave and free, or male and female. (Galatians 3:28)   Jesus and his Apostles realize the important role women should play in serving the people of God. They are intent on utilizing strong, godly, talented, submissive women in establishing Christ’s kingdom on earth.

Sure, there are regulations regarding how, where and when women should use their spiritual gifts and leadership abilities. (1 Timothy 2:8-15; 1 Peter 3:1-6)  According to God’s good design, women should not be “the head” or the final authority in teaching and authoritative matters in the church. At some point, they are to be silent. Additionally, Scripture presents that plural men are called by God to be the priests, elders and deacons of his church. (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1)  For some reason, strong gifted women are to submit themselves to strong gifted men. As Jesus submitted himself to the Father, so godly feminine leaders are to submit themselves to men of their choosing.

However, let us not take this too far. The same Scripture that teaches women should “be silent” in the church (1 Corinthians 14:33-35), also presents women praying (1 Corinthians 11:5), prophesying (Luke 2:36; Acts 2:16-18; Acts 21:8-9), instructing and discipling men and women (Acts 18:26; Titsus 2:3-5; 2 Timothy 1:5) serving as deaconesses (Romans 16:1-2), and being involved in evangelism and church planting (Romans 16:3; Phil. 4:2-3). Public church ministry is not the role of the man; it is the role of the Christian.

Therefore friends, let us worship more like Adam, Moses, Jesus and Paul. May we be strong men who lead with integrity. May we play the role of father, husband, elder and deacon well. But may we also be strong men who are wise men. May we surround ourselves with godly, strong feminine leaders. For according to Scripture, every garden, tabernacle, temple or church needs to have women ministering in the tent. May we not be found ignorantly and arrogantly denying the help of the helpers which God thinks we so desperately need.

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