Holy Women Of God, Holy Men Of God
Holiness - Incorruptibility
It is very important that we consider that which is incorruptible, because if there are incorruptible features connected with ourselves individually and our gatherings collectively then there will be an adequate testimony rendered for God's pleasure and for the blessing of all concerned. The moment we allow corruption of any kind to come into our lives or into our companies then things are lost for God.
Let me remind you of one incident in the scriptures that proves this. When Moses went to the top of Mount Sinai to receive the law from the hand of God the people below asked for a golden calf to be made, Aaron made it, and the people bowed down and worshipped it. God's word to Moses was, "Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves" (Ex.32:7). What a sad moment that was in the history of Israel. God was displaced in their lives and in their affections, and judgment came into their midst instead of blessing.
I have read 1 Peter 3:1-7 and 2 Peter 1:19-21 just to draw attention to two things, holy women and holy men - and that takes account of each one of us.
The Holiness of the Lord Jesus Christ
Before we speak about that, I want to speak a little about our Lord Jesus Christ. In the tabernacle system, the ark of the covenant was made of shittim wood overlaid with pure gold - references to the Humanity and Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ respectively; two natures in one glorious Person. The shittim wood is a beautiful type of the imperishable, indestructible human nature of the Lord. It was not only that he did not sin, but he could not sin. Someone might say, 'If he could not sin, whatever was the point of the temptation? There was no real testing in that', but there was. The first man was innocent, he was in the most congenial circumstances, he was tested and he failed. The second man, out of heaven, was not innocent, He had perfect knowledge of good and evil, and He was in the wilderness, the place where Israel was tested and failed, but under every temptation He was victorious. Shittim wood is incorruptible wood; there was no inlet into the faultless life of purity. No decay could attach itself to the shittim wood, it was impervious to the attacks of insects, and so in that sense was a beautiful figure of the spotless life of our Lord Jesus Christ.
When He was born it was said of Him "That holy thing that shall be born......" (Luke 1:35). It did not say, 'that innocent thing', but "that holy thing". He was intrinsically holy. There was no spot or blemish attached to Him in any way. In His lifetime He was referred to as "the Holy One of God" (Luke 4:34, see also Acts 2:27, 3:14, 4:27), and He was just as holy when He died on the cross as when He was born into this world. He was the spotless Christ. It was His blood that cleansed us from all our guilt and sin.
In the boards of the tabernacle, we find the boards were made of the same kind of material, shittim wood covered with gold. This is to remind us of our standing before God, and the same kind of nature that we share with the Lord, enabling us to represent God for His pleasure. So we commence speaking about this great subject of holy women of God (1 Pet.3) and holy men of God (2 Pet.1) from this standpoint, that we have the same ability as Christ had, and I say this reverently, to live lives here that are pleasing to God, He, of course, in perfection, we very much in imperfection. Nevertheless, the same kind of features can be expressed in us as were expressed in our Lord Jesus Christ. We would also remark that all the persons of the Godhead are marked by this great feature of holiness.
The Father is referred to as "Holy Father" (John 17:11). The Holy Spirit is often referred to as such, some 93 times. It is His characteristic name, and the Lord Jesus, as mentioned, is referred to as the Holy One of God. So we are in the realm of holiness, that which is so pleasing to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. It is impossible to think of any sin attaching to them, they repel sin, it has no inlet into their ways, sin is perfectly kept at bay in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. But then we ask ourselves, is this true of us? Can it be said of us that we are walking in this world in a holy way that meets with the approval of God, and keeps at bay those evil influences that so sadly affect the testimony? This is what we desire to speak of for a few minutes.
Holy Women of God (1 Peter 3:1-7)
Peter gives the holy women a very good commendation, a commendation that every sister should covet. This meek and quiet spirit is most precious in the sight of God, more precious than all the outward adornments, however nice or valuable they may be. God said to Samuel "man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" (1 Sam.16:7). Here is something that God wants from every dear sister, a life of devotedness to the will of God, a life not of outward show but a life of inward reality, a life that is pleasing to His eye (and His eye can discern as no other eye can discern). He looks into the heart, the conscience and the mind and what He approves of is a meek and quiet spirit in His sight. These holy women hoped in God.
I am going to refer to a few women in the Scriptures who exhibited this feature. While we are speaking specifically about women, that does not mean that those of us who are men are exempt from this exhortation, not at all, because it says in connection with the women "let it be the hidden man of the heart" (v.4). So this takes us all in.
1. The Hebrew Midwives in Egypt (Exodus 1:15-17)
The first women that I want to speak about are the midwives in Exodus 1. The king had passed laws that all the male children of the Israelites were to be slain, and it took a great deal of courage to go against the authority of the king. Killing all the male children would destroy the nation, but these midwives "feared God" (v.17). They accepted the authority of God above the authority of the king, and this has always been so in the history of the testimony, whether in the Old Testament or in the New, that while there is an authority that we bow to where it is legitimate and right and proper, there is a higher authority that we bow to, the authority of God.
These women feared God and they protected the male children. When the nation grew strong it was partly because of their efforts and the power that God gave in protecting them. Dear sisters, what an encouragement to pray for and to protect the children that grow up amongst us, to teach them, to give them an example, to help them in the things of God, because that is what I believe is involved for us. They were protected from the wrath of the king, they were protected from the cruel law and they were protected for God that they might represent Him.
Thank God for the Christian homes where the things of God are maintained, where the children are taught and grow up in an atmosphere where they learn to fear God and stand for the things that are really worthwhile. Thank God there are many such homes. So we look for midwives, midwives who are courageous and do not fear the wrath of the king, but who are prepared to protect the children and help them and be a blessing to them.
2. The Mother of Moses (Exodus 2:2-4, Hebrews 11:23)
The mother of Moses made a little basket and put Moses amongst the reeds, not in the centre of the river Nile (which was a god in Egypt that was worshipped). She did not put him in the midst of that which was idolatrous, but just in the bank where he could be protected from the current of the river, and there he was until the moment came when he was secured and grew up to be a man of God. What potential there is in every boy or girl, if they are schooled correctly, if they are guided correctly, if they are handled properly, to be men and women of God and to be a testimony to the Lord if He does not come before they grow up.
3. Sarah (Genesis 21:7-12)
Sarah is a delightful woman in many ways. She was not perfect, neither was her husband, and this is true in our homes. Husbands are not perfect and wives are not perfect, but it is good to see husband and wife pulling together in connection with the things of God. In some cases the wife can be more spiritual than her husband, as Sarah was in this particular incident. Abraham desired that Ishmael might live before God (Gen.17:18), but Ishmael was no good for God, he did not come of the right line, he was the son of the bondwoman. It was the promised seed Isaac who was the one to whom the blessing was to come. Sarah said, 'That child has got to go, he is a bad influence, he will not help, there will be no blessing through him'. And Abraham said, 'I cannot do that, he is my son, my flesh'. The power of nature was strong in Abraham. He did not realise at this time what the mind of God was. Sarah was more spiritual and that juncture. Abraham bowed to that instruction and Sarah proved herself to be a woman of discernment, a woman understanding what the will of the Lord was.
So dear sisters, you can encourage your husbands because sometimes they can be wrong, and if you discern that they are wrong put them right from the word of God, and be a help and an encouragement to them. Sarah feared God, she was desirous of doing what was pleasing in the sight of God. Abraham often failed in nature, great man of God that he was. He failed in relation to his father (Gen.11:31-12:1-5), failed in relation to Ishmael (Gen.21:9-12), failed in relation to his wife (Gen.12:11-20, and 20:1-18), because the power of nature was so strong in him; but he succeeded in many other ways, and at the end, when that supreme test came, he soared above the power of nature and was ready to offer up his well beloved son Isaac (Gen.22:1-19, Heb.17:17-19). What a man of God! However, in this particular case, Sarah was indeed a holy woman; she understood the mind of the Lord when Abraham did not.
4. Deborah (Judges 4:4-9)
What a sad day it was in the history of Israel when there was not a single man with any initiative, with any energy or desire to do right. So Deborah arose, a prophetess indeed in Israel, sitting and judging Israel under a palm tree. It is always a sad reflection upon the brothers when a sister has to take the initiative and show them what is right. Yet it was so in the days of the judges, but then the book of Judges shows a day when everything is upside down, nothing is as it should be, nobody seems to know what to do.. So it was in Deborah's day, but she arose and took the initiative, she gathered the army together and she gave direction to Barak, and what a wonderful triumph was secured for Israel in her day. I believe that this shows a holy woman of God with some idea of what is necessary, some idea of what is needed to be done. Thank God that Deborah was able to do it. What a wonderful woman! The result was that the enemy was discomfited and overcome and a great triumph was secured amongst the people of God. Deborah was a holy woman.
5. Hannah (1 Samuel 1:1-7, 19-28, 2:19)
Hannah is another delightful woman in the Old Testament. A woman who was habitually in the worship of God with her husband. She was beside him taking her place with him year by year when they went up to Jerusalem according to God's will. It is a delightful thing to see husband and wife together in this connection. The time came when she entered into a very, very severe exercise. Oh how much she longed for a son. Her enemies rebuked her and sneered at her again, and again because she had no son so she prayed and God heard her prayers. She got what she wanted, what she had prayed for, and she gave the son that meant so much to her heart, the son that she had she weaned, back to God. What a sacrifice marked that dear woman. We sometimes sing together
"The dearest object of our love
compared to thee but dross."
Just place ourselves in Hannah's position, would we have given up that little boy? Would we have sacrificed him? There is no doubt that he was the dearest object of her love. Oh, how she longed for him and she obtained him yet willingly, without reserve or reluctance, she was prepared to sacrifice. I believe holy women sacrifice. They sacrifice time, they sacrifice the things that would hinder so that they can be for God and give to God their time, their talent, their prayers, and their exercise. What a woman Hannah was; one of the links between the promises and the actual fulfilment in the providing of David the king.
6. Ruth and Naomi (Ruth 1-4)
The exercises of three remarkable women, Ruth, Naomi and Hannah all paved the way for the advent of David, the mighty conquering king of Israel. It is delightful to see the exercises of Naomi. She made her mistakes. She was governed by her husband who had no appreciation of what belonged to God, and she submitted to his wrong guidance, and suffered bitterly for it. She went out full and she came back empty. I have not the slightest doubt that, in her association with Ruth, she unfolded again and again the God of Israel, the history of Israel, and all the great things connected with Israel so much so that Ruth said, "Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee; for where thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God, my God. Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried; the Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death part thee and me" (1:16-17). In Ruth we see a holy woman full of devotion and purpose of heart who never turned back. She was obedient and she did the will of God.
7. Phoebe (Romans 16:1-2)
Paul wrote a letter of commendation in relation to Phoebe and exhorted the Roman saints to receive her. Letters of commendation are very serious things. I trust that they will not lose their place with us, that being a Scriptural teaching, they are things that we will hold onto. If people come and present themselves among Christians then it is better that they have letters of commendation, that they can identify themselves to the company as persons who are worthy to remember the Lord, because it is so easy to be beguiled or deceived.
What a letter of commendation Paul gave to Phoebe. She was worthy because she had been a helper of many. She was a servant and she was worthy to be accepted as a saint. What a wonderful woman she was in Paul's mind. It does not say precisely what she did, but it does say that she was worthy of reception because of her practical service amongst the people of God. The term saint has at its base the thought of holiness. Here was a woman who was a member of the sanctified company, not only was she a saint by name, thank God, she was a saint by practice. What a wonderful thing when such a person can be commended and received, and what glory there is for God.
8. Lois and Eunice (2 Timothy 1:5)
Sometimes it is said that the third generation gives things up, however, I find in the Scriptures a third generation that is very, very strong, that is Timothy. His mother and grandmother were noted for their faith and Paul says, "and I am persuaded in thee also". Here was a third generation that was strong and healthy in faith and Paul had every encouragement from that young man. Faith is not hereditary but, thank God, the teaching of faith can be carried on through the generations. This is what happened in the life of Timothy.
These were women of unfeigned faith. Their faith was not hypocritical, it was not just an outward show, but they had faith that worked, that operated. These two dear women were marked by this kind of faith. What a wonderful thing that it was also in young Timothy. Paul appealed to that, saying, 'The faith that I have seen in your grandmother and in your mother is the faith that I want to see operating in expression for the glory and pleasure of God in you'.
The Practical Effect of Holiness in our Lives
There are many, many more that could be mentioned, women who were holy women, who feared God, who showed forth features that we could all take to ourselves, features that were so pleasing in the sight of God. These practical features kept corruption at bay, they kept the enemy at bay, they overcame the obstacles that existed, they overcame the weakness and difficulties and they presented that which was positive. Every positive act in our lives that is pleasing to God is a defeat for the enemy, and every time that we succumb to sin, to the world and to the flesh it is a victory for the enemy. So what the Lord wants is holy men and holy women who will combat the enemy in every possible way and preserve what is precious and what is holy in the sight of God.
We are reminded in psalm 93 that "holiness becometh thine house, O Lord, for ever" (v.5). Holiness is the antithesis of sin, and when holiness is in activity then sin is repelled. There is no inlet into a person's life when they are living and acting in holiness. Holiness is abhorrence of sin. Just think of that. If we go through life with an abhorrence of sin in our minds it would mean that we run away from it, we would not play with it, knowing that Satan is a powerful personage and he can delude us and can lead us by his wiles into ways that are dishonouring to the Lord. But if we are desirous of being holy, as we should be and our members brought into bondage to holiness to God (Romans 6), then we are acting in a normal Christian way.
Holy Men of God
1. Joseph (Genesis 37:2, 39:7-12)
We have talked about quite a few holy women of God. Now I want to speak briefly about a few holy men of God. The first holy man of God that I want to talk about is Joseph. When Joseph was a young lad, the object of his father's affection, he brought to his father tales about his brethren. He was not a tale bearer, he was not a slanderer, he was telling his father that his father's interests were being affected because the sons were not attending to their work as they ought to have been doing. This matter was no doubt put right.
Later on in life Joseph was himself subjected to temptation. It is all very well to point out the failure of others, but when the test comes to himself, how is he going to react? Seduction by an evil woman was a serious test. Thank God, he fled. He did not stop to say, 'I am Joseph, I am a man of God, I can withstand this sort of thing', well he knew the power of nature, well he knew the power of evil, and he fled leaving his garment in the hand of the evil woman. He really proved himself to be faithful, not only drawing attention to the failures of his brethren, but when it came to the test himself he was proved a holy man of God. "Should I commit this sin against God?" are the words of a holy man, a man who above all things esteems the glory of God rather than anything for himself.
2. Moses (Hebrews 11:24-27)
When Moses had everything at his feet, every opportunity open to him to make his way in this world and be a man of great prominence, a man of great fame and power, he gave it all up saying, 'I would rather suffer reproach with the people of God than be in the forefront of Egypt's power and Egypt's gold and glitter'. What a decision to make. It is to Moses' credit that he never turned back. Those whom he led might turn back, and turn back they did in their hearts, but never Moses. Moses kept going on, a holy man of God indeed. He maintained his life and his pathway for God in such a way that God could speak to him face to face, "My servant Moses..... is faithful in all mine house" (Num.12:7). Oh how affectionately God spoke about this servant.
3. Phinehas (Numbers 25:6-13)
What a sad day it was when the children of Israel were going astray because of Balaam and those who followed his teaching. Phinehas stood up, and with a javelin he slew the couple that were bringing such dishonour upon Israel and God commended him for his action. As a priest he ought not to have had a weapon of war in his hand, there were others to do the fighting, but sadly they were found wanting, so Phinehas stood up, jealous for God, jealous to do that which was right for God, and he acted in such a way that merited God's approval. Sometimes to stand for what is right means taking drastic action in our own lives as well as amongst the children of God. There are influences which, if they are allowed to develop, would destroy the things of God. This is the kind of day that we live in.
Some people, unfortunately, do not see the consequences of the principles that they seek to bring in amongst the people of God, they only see the particular thing that they are concerned about and they do not see the logical outcome of such principles being followed, but many with discernment can see, and so it requires drastic action to stop these principles being followed in order that that which is pure and holy according to God might be preserved. Phinehas was such a man of discernment.
4. Noah (Genesis 6:1-9, Luke 17:26-27, Hebrews 11:7)
"Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations" (Gen.6:9). It was a day of mixture and corruption, the sons of God were connected with the daughters of men. There are those who believe that this was a peculiar corruption where the angels left their first estate and were connected with the daughters of men upon earth. This apostasy of the angels is referred to in Jude (v.6). This is a difficult thing to understand. Many brethren have written dissertations to show that the heroes of Greek and Roman mythology are descended from this intermingling, this is where they got their origin "there were giants in the land in those days" (v.4). This progeny of this evil association was a serious and wicked thing. It resulted in God's judgment of the flood, God removing them all. But in the midst of all this there was one man that God could look down upon, a man who was just and pure in all his generation. What an evil day it was.
What a wonderful thing it is, dear saints of God, to lead a life of purity in a scene of corruption like we know today. I know we are not perfect, nor will we ever be perfect in this life, but thank God for right desires, not just to be upright and respectable (there are many unconverted people who are upright and respectable), but to live lives of holiness according to God, according to the standard that He sets, and that means that every feature of our lives must be brought into obedience to His word. What a triumph that it should be so. "Thee only have I found just".
5. Enoch (Genesis 5:23-24, Hebrews 11:5)
Enoch lived before Noah, he walked in his day and he had this testimony, said the writer to the Hebrews, "that he pleased God". What a commendation! Just think of us tonight if we were able to receive communication from heaven and God saying to each one of us "I am pleased with the way you are living your life", what a testimony, what a commendation. Would we not be proud? Not in a selfish or fleshly way, but proud in the sense that we are doing what is pleasing to God. We can be sure that, as we obey the word of God and keep clear of sin and wickedness, we have this testimony, that we please Him, just as Enoch did.
6. David (1 Chronicles 22:6-16, 29:1-5)
David made sad lapses, but how quickly he recovered himself, got back into communion with God and did the things that were pleasing in the sight of God. As a young Christian I used to hear the old brothers in Port Seton saying, 'Keep short account with God'. If you fail, get down on your knees, confess it to God, have communion restored and continue in the pathway, do not give up because you are a failure. David never gave up.
I want to say to you elderly saints, keep going on, because David's best years were his last years. I have been saying this in many meetings now, if the meetings depended upon our young people we would not have any Bible readings in some places, nor any ministry meetings, nor meetings of any worthwhile character, you, dear brethren, getting on in years, Lord's day after Lord's day, you maintain those meetings. Keep going on, do not give up. You will preserve something for the young when they decide that there is something worthwhile in our meetings, there is food for them if they want it, preserve it, maintain it, and make sure it is still there when they get disillusioned with the worldly ways they may be seeking to follow. There is food, there is spiritual help to be found in the meetings, and you dear brethren are the ones who are going to maintain it until the Lord comes, by His grace.
David's best years were his last years. How do you make that out? Well, he prepared all the materials for Solomon in his affection, in his power and in his energy. What vast amounts of material he collected, gold, silver, wood, iron, stone and unenviously he collected it so that his son might do this great service to God. David was a man of God right to the end. In an unwearying way he provided, in his latter days, all this so that God might be worshipped. What a wonderful end when we read in 1 Chronicles that wonderful ascription of praise that he gave to God, "All things came of [God], and of thine own have we given thee" (29:14) and what a full heart he had. David was a holy man of God.
7. Paul (Philippians 1-4)
What a life of persecution Paul lived in relation to those who loved Christ. I am sure he regretted all the havoc that he had caused amongst the children of God before he was saved. He made them blaspheme, think of that, making someone blaspheme, making someone say something that is dishonouring to God or to Christ! Would you not be sorry for it? Paul made many blaspheme, he put them in prison, he murdered them, he gave his vote against Stephen when he was slain, what a persecutor he was. Suddenly it was all changed. He met the Lord Jesus Christ and came under His Lordship. He made mistakes, but not many, he went on not deviating one way or the other, but straight on; he was a holy man of God. The consuming desire in his heart was to please Christ. In Philippians 1 he said, "According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (vv.20-21). In other words, 'If I have to die, let it be for the glory of Christ, and if I am to live, let it also be for the glory of Christ.' His whole life was spent in this way. "What things that were gain to me, those I counted loss for (or 'on account of') Christ" (3:7). He was ready to sacrifice the very best that he had in order to live for Christ.
Now, dear brothers and sisters, if our meetings were made up of such persons as I have mentioned this evening, what happy meetings they would be; people who gave up all that they naturally were connected with or desired, people ready to sacrifice to God, people ready to devote their energies to God, people who lived lives that were separate from sin and the attractions of this world, people who were thoroughly committed to God. Oh, how powerful the meetings would be.
Such a meeting was, I believe, at Corinth when it began, but corrupting influences soon crept in. There were those who brought in bad doctrine, 'there is no such thing as resurrection' some said (15:12), and so Paul corrected them, there was a man who did the most degrading, evil thing, incest, and had to be expelled from the company (5:1-8), there were those who were following leaders, forming parties (1:10-12) - terrible things amongst the people of God. These were corrupting influences and they ought not to have been there, and Paul addressed each one of the Corinthian assembly and he said, 'Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, you should be holy, you cannot join yourself to anything that is evil, the Holy Spirit indwells you, and so you ought to be holy in practice' (6:19). And to the company he said, "Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit"? So the company, and the individuals who form the company, were to be holy, holy in the sight of God and holy in all their ways.
Oh, what a wonderful thing that would be. How many things creep in amongst the people of God that prevent unfeigned brotherly love in practice (1 Pet.1:22-23). Petty envyings, jealousies, lack of confidence and suspicion, all creep in amongst the people of God and create barriers against the free flow of love. Holiness keeps all these things out, every one of them, and there would be that condition and atmosphere that would create the free flow of love in every possible way, but more than that, because it is far more important that God or Christ should be honoured and worshipped than that we should be blessed. Too often we talk about our own blessings, and when we should remember that an assembly is there for glory to be given to God and to Christ in the power of the Spirit. As holiness is in an action amongst the people of God there will be this response, glory to God, glory to Christ, a testimony to the world, and the salvation of precious souls.
Paul says to the Thessalonian believers, "Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblamedly we behaved ourselves among you that believe" (1 Thess.2:10), and the Thessalonians were converted to God. So you see, dear brethren, this matter of incorruption is an extremely important one.
May we be encouraged to be holy women and holy men until the Lord comes, for His name's sake.