For centuries they’ve inspired, enlightened, and empowered us. With their unadorned faith, the women of the Bible continue to teach us how to live authentic, God-touched lives. No matter what our spiritual traditions are, we can find ourselves in their stories.
Here are five biblical women whose lives are as relevant today as they were when they were first recorded.
1. Eve, the Mother of All Living
God created Adam and found him wanting. Enter Eve, formed from Adam’s rib, made of the same raw materials as he, and given the power to choose between good and evil. In the creation story we find a strong, interdependent Eve, fully engaged with the world around her. She explored the Garden, dialogued with a serpent, decided on the forbidden fruit and liked it enough to share the experience with Adam.
Eve’s story reminds us that women can be both creative and destructive. She teaches us to weigh our choices carefully, tempering our desires with wisdom.
2. Ruth, the Lovely Friend
Their names say it all. Ruth, believed to be a short version of “retut,” or lovely friend, was the widowed daughter-in-law of Naomi. Naomi, also a widow, was exiled from Moab because of a famine and had returned to Bethlehem after the death of her sons. She told old friends, “Call me Mara, for the Lord has made it very bitter for me.” What Naomi missed is the sweetness of a special gift: Ruth. Naomi had released her grieving daughters-in-law to return to their people, but Ruth declared, “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”
Fortunately for Ruth, Boaz, a close friend of Naomi’s husband’s family, noticed her charms and blessed her. That got Naomi’s attention, which goes to show you: a lovely friend can turn the heart of a bitter woman. Naomi hatched a successful plan to bring her kinsman, Boaz, and Ruth together. The couple later had a son, Obed, the grandfather of David. Ruth disappeared from the story, only to be remembered later as one of four women named in Matthew’s lineage of Jesus.
Ruth’s lesson to us? Steadfast love and loyalty may just lead you into a glorious destiny.
3. Hagar, the Stranger Welcomed by God
After God promised He would make of Abram a great nation, Sarai, past childbearing age, suggested he impregnate her maid, Hagar. Be careful what you ask for. Once Hagar was pregnant, Sarai regretted her scheme, and heaped so much abuse on Hagar that the weary woman fled.
Off in the wilderness, the slave, whose name means, “stranger,” received a comforting message. “The Lord has heard you. God has answered you.” Hagar returned to her abusive mistress with a promise that her own son’s descendants would be too many to count.
If you are disenfranchised, despised or despairing, listen for the voices of angels. You may find your courage is only a prayer away.
4. Mary, the Mother of Jesus
Much has been said about accepting Jesus as the personal savior, but no one accepted him in a more personal way than Mary, his mother. She literally “fleshed out” the unthinkable: Immanuel, God with us.
The Scriptures tell us that the young virgin, betrothed to a carpenter, Joseph, was granted a very special favor. “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David … and of his kingdom there will be no end.” What is most notable is not the miraculous visitation; it’s that she said an unprecedented “Yes.”
Mary was the first disciple of Christ. She had to believe in Him before anyone else. Her faith in Jesus was not a product of her extraordinary actions. It was a gift. Her lesson to us is that we must let go of the notion that we create faith based on our works. God gifts us with faith, which makes our good works possible.
5. Mary Magdalene
Poor Mary Magdalene. St. Gregory the Great ruined her reputation suggesting she was a prostitute. Scholars have since rejected his thesis, and today Mary Magdalene is seen as one of Jesus’ most powerful allies. Sure, he may have had to cast seven demons out of her, or at least healed her of an undisclosed illness, but the grateful woman of means in turn led his female disciples and offered Jesus financial support.
The four Gospels cite Mary as following Jesus to the end of his life, while his male disciples scattered. It was she who was brave enough to go to the guarded tomb of a convicted felon and chat with angels and she who first encountered the risen Christ. She became the Apostle to the Apostles, when she ran, not walked, to the men by proclaiming the good news, “I have seen the Lord.”
With Mary as our example, we can follow our passions with everything within us, fearlessly, no matter what obstacles we encounter.
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